2010 is nearing the half-way point, so I've been taking stock of my writing goals and thinking about course-corrections so I end up where I want to be by the dawn of 2011. Here's how it's going:
Goal: Finish "Tales from Table Rock," and start the publication quest.
Progress: Nearing completion of the manuscript, need some factual data to fill in the gaps. A short-story excerpt from the manuscript won the 2010 Bess Streeter Aldrich short-story contest, and I have a request for the full manuscript. WOOHOO! But, that leads me back to my goal of getting the damn thing done and out the door. So, what am I doing about it?
Action Plan: Ummm, write? Yes, I know this goes without saying, but it is really amazing how many times writers can sabotage themselves by not applying the butt to the chair and doing just that. I am no exception to this behavior. So, I add layers of accountability. I belong to three writing groups, The Critique Ladies, who meet about every two weeks, and do lots of e-mailing/cattle prodding if need be in between, the Nebraska Writers Guild, (the group many of my Nebraska literary heroes belonged to) and I recently added the Nebraska Writers Workshop, a group that will celebrate its 25th birthday on June 2nd. NWW meets weekly in Ralston, which is an hour away from Lincoln. Why do I belong to these groups? The reasons are many, but there are a couple of biggies. First of all, there is an exponential difference between good and great, so I depend on my fellow authors to provide an objective ear to polish the story. Another big thing for me is the accountability. I’ll be damned if I’m going to show up for a meeting without having something new written! (Back to the butt in the chair thing)
Research time and writing time are at a premium for those of us with families, and JOB’s, tend to get in the way. So as of 8 pm tonight, I am on a sabbatical. I’m using a week of vacation, plus my days off to give me a ten day block of time to focus on researching and writing. Yes, I’ll go cuddle the brand-new granddaughter while I’m off too, but I’m going to be trekking through Southeast Nebraska in search of history to fill the historical novel. Incredible, huh? I’ve even lined up some fellow-writerly assistance to help me ferret out information, and have a list of things I want to find out while I’m there.
The other important thing is to enjoy the ride. I’m quite goal-driven, and sometimes I forget to do this. So far in 2010, I’ve won an award for my writing. Held a book in my hands with my writing featured inside. Signed autographs. Done an interview with a reporter about my writing. Cashed a check payable to me as an author. Read a short story aloud to a packed room of fellow authors and had them gasp and laugh at all the moments I hoped they would. Read my name in a feature in the Broadside publication of the Nebraska Writers Guild, a publication that will end up at the Nebraska State Historical Society for perpetuity.
Wow. Even I’m pretty impressed writing that last paragraph. See, I told you I don’t usually take time to enjoy the ride. But trust me, I’m not ready to sit on my butt and do nothing. (Sitting on my butt to write, now that’s an entirely different thing…) I can see the finish line, which means it’s time to wrap up this goal, and start setting the next one. Revising and polishing the manuscript is a given,so I’ll use all the feedback from my writing groups to polish the prose until it leaps from the page and sears itself into a reader’s soul. Then on to marketing strategies. (I’ve already got some great ideas for this too) I’ve got seven other manuscripts awaiting my return, so we’ll start the whole process again.
Back to that accountability thing: I just told you all my goals and plans for the next six months. That means I give you permission to make sure that I’m holding up my end of the deal! Will it guarantee a book sale? Of course not. But it will mean I’ve done my part of making it happen, and that’s really what it’s all about.
There is a level of irony at play here. The woman who rolls her eyes and whines like a baby when told to write action plans at work just wrote an action plan—and even used that exact phrase! Okay, so maybe sometimes it does work…