Shiny New Year!

With 2010 barely in the door, many writers are setting goals for the year.

“Sell a book.”

“Finish a manuscript.”

“Find my dream agent.”

I can write a nice long blog post about setting reasonable, achievable goals, but I’m not. Maybe I’ll save that for later. Today, I’m going to talk about one of the major problems with forming goals that’s plaguing me: The “OOH, look! Shiny!!”

I know of plenty of writers who are often tempted to stray from a WIP and play with the new plot bunny that’s hopping through his or her mind. This seems to be especially tempting when I’m stuck at a difficult part of a WIP. It’s so easy to abandon it and explore a new possibility. The problem? About 8 half-finished manuscripts.

One of the biggest tests of a writer is finishing what you start. You can’t sell that book or find a dream agent if you don’t have a complete, revised manuscript to show. And in order to land that contract with an agent or a publisher, you need to show that you have the discipline to finish what you start in a reasonable amount of time. Many contracts these days are for multiple books. When you sell a book based on the proposal, you’re obligated to finish it, no matter how much you hate trudging through the difficult parts, and your editor won’t wait three of more years for your next book.

For this reason, I’m trying to be very careful about what I set as my goals in 2010. Usually, I try to keep it vague. EX: “One novel and two novellas.” I try not to commit to a title (one of the joys of being unagented and not under contract). But now that I have a series in progress with Samhain, I’m unofficially committed to continuing it, so I know the 2 novellas I plan on writing will be for that series. As for the novel, that’s where the “Ooh, shiny!” comes into play. I have about 5 different ideas for novels, and I’m having a hard time choosing where I’ll concentrate my efforts this year. Do I go with what I think is the “breakout idea”, even though I’m very enthusiastic about it? Do write the next book in the series that I’m shopping around with agents? Do I go with the one with the strongest “voice” (which would be the easiest to write), even if the idea may border on cliché?

How do you choose your goals for 2010? What are some things you’ve learned to keep you focused on the task at hand and not be distracted by the “shinies!”?


6 Responses to “Shiny New Year!”

  1. 7 January, 2010 at 12:09 am

    I admit, I’m a shiny-aholic and I’m still trying to beat them back. I write about 3k on a shiny, then go back to my wip. It gives me a nice start when I’ve finished one wip and I’m looking for the next.

    For the first time, at the of 2009 I had to finish a book that was contracted on the partial. I admit, it was a killer and every word was like pulling teeth. I finished it about 5 days ago and it was a massive weight lifted when I pressed send on the email. It probably didn’t help that it was a 63k novel, when my comfort zone is 20-30k novellas! lol

    Right now, writing to a contract again would terrify me. I need to get into a rhythm of writing and finishing to deadlines – my own or submission calls. And writing longer. That’s my goal for 2010.

  2. 7 January, 2010 at 1:05 am

    You are preaching to the choir on this one. I’m keeping my goals for the new year small and (I hope) obtainable. I have two novels scheduled to write this year. One is dark fantasy, which suits my voice and practically writes itself. The other is paranormal, which is my great love and a struggle for me to get on paper.

    Call me stubborn, but the paranormal piece is up to bat first. It will be written, revised, submitted, and contracted by the end of this year.

    As to sequels for series I’ve gotten started… *backs away from blog slowly*

    • 4 C.
      10 January, 2010 at 4:05 am

      LOL — I know the feeling. I have sequels plotted out for a book I’ve written, but I can’t bring myself to write them until I know the first book has been contracted. Strange, eh?
      Good luck with your projects this year!

  3. 7 January, 2010 at 10:15 am

    I only work on one project at a time. I tried the other way and that’s when I found I couldn’t finish anything. Stay focuced on only, it helps.

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