2020 Author Goals

2020 Author Goals.jpg

One of the things to remember when setting goals is that less is more. If I want more productivity, then I take more off my plate rather than add to it whilst budgeting my time into complex micro-amounts in an attempt to tackle it all. With this said, last year was a year of focusing on my novel. This year I want so much more. We’ll see if I can have a lot more without breaking my goal-setting rule of less is more.

Writing Goals. 
My goals for this year include editing my completed novel, editing my dialogues, and to work on two new novels.

Whoa, Randal, that’s way too much. When you said you wanted “so much more,” we didn’t expect your “more” to be that much more than last year.

Okay, yes, I admit this doesn’t look like a run-of-the-mill full plate, but an over-the-top heaping plate. However, I have a plan.

AnalogClock

Daily Routine.
I intend to tackle all of my writing goals this year by splitting my weekdays into two manageable chunks.

I really wanted to work on editing my dialogues last year, but I rarely got around to touching them. I think this is largely due to the fact that I intended to make evenings my editing time. These intentions were thwarted by my enjoyment of evening reading, chores, and spending time with my wonderful wife. So now I know that if I want to actually edit what I’ve written, I need to edit during the day.

The daily routine will consist of half writing and then half editing. I’ll spend half the time working on a new novel and then the other half of the day editing, using lunch as a mental reset button.
Writing_Habit
Specifics.
Starting next week, I’ll begin outlining a new novel. And, yes, I said outlining. I know what I want my next novel to be, and it’s going to require a little more plotting than the last two novels. We’ll see how this goes. I’m a little leery of plotting since I feel that the weakest parts of my last novel were the ones I most heavily outlined. In the end I may just plunge into composition, but I’m going to try and start with a framework if possible.

For editing, my priority is to finish typing up the hand-written zero draft of my recently completed novel. Once I’ve done that, I will set it aside and work on my dialogues, both so I can actually finish editing them and so that I can come back to my novel with fresh eyes.

YouTube Binge
Weekends.
I don’t always utilize weekends to their full advantage. I have a weekend job that—while not exactly a sinecure—gives me a lot of free time to devote to whatever I want. What I want most of the time is to binge YouTube. However, I also read, socialize, and even write during this time. In fact, everything I’ve ever written at work was published within days. So quality doesn’t seem to suffer. Still, the easier pleasure is YouTube, and I have freely indulged.

Adjusting how I use my weekends is perhaps my biggest 2020 author goal. The adjustment to my daily routine is simply a matter of learning to shift focus. Changing how I spend my time while at work on weekends is not just a shift of focus, but will be a total shift in behavior. I’ve trained myself pretty well at seeing weekends as a time to plug into the internet. Outside of livestreaming my writing, I pretty much avoid being online during the weekdays. If I avoid going online at home, I can avoid going online at work, right? Well, we’re about to find out how easy it is to retrain this lazy habit I’ve built for myself.

So what am I going to be doing with my weekends? Answer: I want to try an experiment.

You may have noticed that in my writing goals above I mentioned working on two novels. The experiment involves one of these.

An idea popped into my head shortly before Christmas for an experimental novel built around a refrain. This book is really calling to me to be written. I do feel it’s important to write something a bit more accessible, which is what my weekday novel will be; yet, I don’t think I should ignore this pull I feel towards this strange narrative. So in order to make sure I’m not just writing hard-to-sell experimental works, but also not ignoring my creative impulses, I’ll be working on the refrain book during the weekends.

The experimental part of this weekend project isn’t just the fact that it’s an “experimental” book. I am kind of comfortable with experimental writing at this point. For me, the experiment is to try and write a novel solely on the weekends and to also try and write the zero draft on my work computer, using something like Google Docs perhaps. I’m going digital on this one for convenience’ sake (no lugging my laptop, no forgetting a physical manuscript or flash drive).
creative flow
Social Media. 
To stream or not to stream, that is the question. 

Okay, so I finished writing my latest novel while livestreaming, which was really cool. But I’m not sure I want to continue to stream while I write.

Here’s what I like about streaming while writing:
1) It’s totally motivating to get in as many hours at the desk as possible.
2) I take shorter coffee breaks because I have an audience to entertain.
3) It’s a pretty unique thing to do.
4) By watching me write for hours and hours, I can hopefully inspire other creatives to devote time productively, helping them to quit their own procrastination by joining me while I write.

Here’s what I don’t like about streaming while writing:
1) I haven’t found a feasible way to use my standing desk while livestreaming, though this certainly isn’t an insurmountable problem, just a technical one.
2) The quality of my writing goes down due to distraction from my viewers.
3) While I am grateful for the viewers, especially my regulars, I am not actually reaching the audience of creatives (especially fellow writers) I am specifically creating content for, which in the ends means I am doing more chatting and much less actual writing than I’d like.
4) By far this is the biggest issue: I am struggling to get into the flow or the zone. I don’t think flow is necessary for writing—even good writing. However, flow not only feels good, it is a sign that one is in a state of intense concentration and growth. In some sense, it is necessary to be striving toward flow because this is the main signal of overcoming the obstacles of the kind of striving that makes you grow as a person. I believe that achieving this kind of flow is necessary to living well. But with people dropping by to chat and ask questions (and maybe even to donate a dollar or two), that flow state isn’t reached for me. If I’m not reaching a state of flow ever, it’s possible I’m failing to grow as an author and as a person.

It’s mainly due to the last point that I feel that my experiment with livestreaming while writing on Twitch is probably over. Nonetheless, I am entertaining an attempt at livestreaming on YouTube. The audience may be more receptive of things that failed to garner positive attention on Twitch, such as my silent writing streams. However, even with an audience of authors, I’ll still have an audience to engage with, meaning that flow isn’t likely going to be achieved.

Speaking of YouTube, I still want to keep making YouTube videos (aka: AuthorTube videos). It’s the addition of these kinds of social media projects that start to make my plate feel full. Luckily, I don’t feel like I’ll ever consider my main job to be creating video content, meaning that this can be done on an as-I-desire-to basis.

Mondays are usually a day off for me when it comes to writing. So I think that if I want to make a video, Monday will be great for recording and/or editing. I have a long way to go when it comes to creating good looking and sounding videos. Strangely, the YouTube video I uploaded looks and sounds fine when I play it on my laptop. But it doesn’t seem nearly as good when I play it on my work computer. So I have some more adjustments to make before I do my next recording. And while I don’t expect perfection of myself, I’m hoping that with each new video, the quality will continue to increase.

And, while I’m trying not to overdo it, I’m also still working on an educational YouTube concept. We have multiple people involved in this project, including an amateur filmmaker, so quality won’t be the issue it is with my personal videos. The biggest hurdle we have had is in the script writing.

We started out writing scripts for one conception for the show. The concept was fine, but as we continued to talk, the idea grew and became something else. Me and the other script writer were not satisfied with what we wrote for the new concept, so we tabled the idea for a long while. Well, I recently revamped the idea once again and will be writing a new script and presenting it sometime this month. There’s no guarantee that we’ll all like it and agree to green light the project, but I’m hopeful.

Like I said, this is possibly too much for my little mantra, but at the same time it’s something my best friend and I have wanted to do for a long time, and I can’t pass up the opportunity for collaboration—a rarity for book authors like me.

giving you books

Let’s see, editing two completed books, writing two new novels, plus creating content for two YouTube channels . . . Less is more. But more is also more. I’m giving you four books and (hopefully) some AuthorTube content. And I’m giving myself a reasonable schedule, which is why less is more is still my motto for productivity.

Please do let me know your 2020 author (or creative) goals. How do you manage your time? Have you been successful at reaching your goals in the past? Does the concept of less is more ring true for you? Let me know in the comments.

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WIP Wednesday #4: Am I a Novelist?

Work in Progress

When I began writing Descriptions of Heaven, though I did intend to one day become a novelist, I never intended this narrative to be of book-length. The thing grew from a single scene into a story composed of chapters. It, in fact, unintentionally took the place of a book I was writing about a son dealing with the decline of his mother’s health due to Alzheimer’s disease.

Descriptions of Heaven 3D image black background.

Even with this book published, I had never been quite certain that I legitimately was a novelist, since my first book is what many call a novella. However, I have come across writing just as short as my novella where the publisher calls it a novel in the blurb and foreword. So I was either a novelist who wrote a little novel (novella) or a short story author who wrote a long short story.  Either way, my book was published as a standalone piece, just like any novel—big or small. Yet, I still kept asking myself, Am I a novelist?

Novelist contemplating©2004-2019 wredwrat

When asked what I do all day, my default answer is no longer “I’m a writer” or the only sightly less vague “I write books.”  Instead, I’m more apt so say “I’m a novelist” (though saying I’m a short story author is equally true, short fiction work isn’t a part of my quotidian practices).

There are two primary reason I’ve embraced the term novelist:
1) Recently, a friend on my Literary Fiction Writers Facebook group, during a discussion about the demarcations between a short story and a novel, pointed out that the real difference isn’t word count, but structure and flow. Novels and short stories are extremely different in that respect. While I’m not willing to discount word count as playing a central role in their difference, I’m apt to agree that rather small word counts can still be structured as novels. Descriptions of Heaven has under 35 thousand words, but it is structured as a novel and does not flow like a short story.
2) I have to admit that in this past six months I’ve become much more focused on my novel-in-progress, spending less time on my short fiction, which I often used to write, edit, and submit in lieu of working on my novel. Not only did my computer go kaput, as I explained in a previous WIP Wednesday post, making this kind of productive “distraction” less available, but I’ve also been spending every free day I have novel-writing for as long as I feasibly can. While it’s often not as much as I want, I can honestly say I am spending large chunks of my weekdays writing a novel.

©2016-2019 TheGraphicNovelist
©2016-2019 TheGraphicNovelist

So, there you have it. I have already written one little novel, and most Tuesdays through Fridays I spend my hours after breakfast until lunch writing my next novel. I am a novelist, both a published and actively working novelist.

Real talk time: I think a lot of novelists suffering from impostor syndrome or whatever, suffer a lot not because their book is too small, but because they don’t write as much as they can. No one should spend all their time writing, and in your life there are likely other things that take precedence over creative work. But a lot of us have the time—have in fact painfully carved out some small hours to focus on creativity—and yet we feel like impostors because we haven’t developed a good writing habit, thus we don’t use the time as we should. Consequently, we don’t feel like writers, let alone novelists.

The truth is, I haven’t developed a consistent habit of getting back to the desk after lunch. I can’t even blame it on a honey-do list, since I don’t let chores distract me anymore. My problem is that writing’s been going so well that I often finish my intended writing goal for the day or complete a long scene before the hours I’ve carved out for myself are used up. So I often stop writing because my brain feels like it needs a reset or some time to think about what’s next (yeah, I’m not a huge plotter).

On the one hand, I don’t mind these breaks because I’ve felt productive and hit my goals. On the other hand, I want to make a living as a writer—as a novelist—and in order to do that, I’ll probably want to be putting out a book every other year. Stopping for scene changes isn’t going to cut it.

Maori Sakai writer's life

© Maori Sakai

Here’s four things I’m doing to try and keep it going:
1) During lunch, I don’t turn on the radio or watch any TV. This lets my mind linger on my work, keeping me in my novelist zone or at least letting me transition back there faster.
2) I just get right back to the desk after my break and write. It’s been years since I’ve had to be in a mood or needed the Muse to write. So why I think I need to be calibrate my brain for the next section of my novel, I don’t know.
3) If I don’t have so much as a bullet point on a sticky note or general idea of what comes next, I’ll let myself go on a walk and think about it. I write when I get back. This isn’t something I want to become a habit since I won’t be going on walks come our long Midwestern winters, so I’ll only go out for a walk after serious creative thought. If nothing comes, I’ll let myself head out into the neighborhood for an hour or so.
4) I’m building a habit by writing every day I can, starting as early as I can and staying at it until 3:00pm if possible. Yet there’s this thing called real life that gets in the way sometimes of that good habit, so I’ve been trying to write daily regardless of the time. If needed, I’ve started at 11:00am, which is really late for me. I’ve even resorted to writing in the evening if I didn’t get a chance to during the day. While it cuts into family and reading time writing so late, it also shows my commitment to making a living from my books, continues to build my writing habit, and literally gets me a few pages closer to my goal.

This book is getting done. And, while I am a novelist, it’s forming the habit of novel-writing that’s going to let me someday be a career novelist (and occasional author of short story collections).

author novelist short story writer

© Elias Stein

 

Do you consider yourself a novelist whether you’ve written a novel or not? Or a poet, even if you haven’t made a collection of poetry? What are your writing habits like? Are your habits working or can you improve upon them? Let me know in the comments below.