May goals update

May 12, 2012

Well, after doing National Novel Editing Month in March, and Script Frenzy + A-Z challenge in April, I went back to picking my own stretch goals in May, and I think that they’re going pretty well so far…

Back to ‘How to Revise your Novel.’ It’s taken me a little while to get back up to speed with where I left off in this Holly Lisle course, but I’ve finished off lesson 14 and done the reading for lesson 15 now. They’re both relating to timeline stuff: 14 talks about the ‘simple’ chronological timeline and the importance of getting that straight, and then 15 suggests different exercises with complex timelines to see what they can add to your book – flashforward openings, flashbacks to the beginning, backward scene-by-scene chronologies, and parallel structures where you go through each character’s timeline one by one. I’m not sure that any of those are the ticket for ‘Children’, but I want to go through the exercises and see if I can make any of them tell me something new about my story.

Drafting short stories. I’m still not quite crazy or confident enough to try ‘Story a Day in May’, but I’ve committed to writing three new shorts in May, and as of tonight I’ve finished two, including one that I submitted to the SDMB short fiction contest! 🙂

Cleaning my apartment. I need to keep on with this too, but I’ve gotten a good start – my kitchen is pretty much in good enough shape that the air conditioner guy can get some work done in there, which is very important at this time of year.

Reading and critiquing stuff. Doing fairly well. I’m all done with my slush pile responsibilities for James Gunn’s Ad Astra, until a new batch of submissions comes through. I’m keeping up with ‘two stories a week’ for Elizabeth Twist’s short story reading challenge, and – well, I’m not sure I’m going to get anything in for this week, but I’m going to do some critting before May is over!

Preparing for Kansas workshop. Some progress – I have my new passport, which was important as the old one would expire before I had to fly. I’ve sent in my registration form for the workshop session and the dorm room. Still need to – book flights, send in payment to the University, and revise the stories that I want to get workshopped. 🙂

How much have you accomplished so far this month?

Stretch goals versus the history of success

May 7, 2012

There’s an email from Holly Lisle – something from her ‘Holly’s Tips’ newsletter, that’s been sitting in my Gmail inbox for just over a month, and bugging me the whole time. In it, Holly tells a story from her past as a newbie writer, and how she set an incredible goal for her writing output in a fit of super-motivation. That didn’t really work out so well for herself, she wasn’t producing her best work and wasn’t loving it, and on some advice from an agent she lowered her goals. The lesson learned, she tells me, is to set your goals to what you already know you can achieve and thus create ‘A History of Success.’

Now, I’ve learned many lessons about goal setting myself, and I can understand where Holly’s coming from. Setting truly Herculean targets for yourself and failing to come near then could crush anybody’s spirit, and for some people, setting achievable targets, and then, as she says, “writing extra for the sheer joy of doing it” might be the best way to self-motivate. If your motivation is completely proportional to the level of success you feel, then why not?

Myself, I’m not always like that. For one thing, I don’t always blow past my limits just because I feel the joy. Sometimes I might, and sometimes I might be lazy and say “Okay, I’m done for the month now.” More importantly, I don’t always feel discouraged because I’ve set a big goal and don’t quite reach it. It isn’t too hard to turn that around and say “So – I didn’t finish a Holly Lisle lesson in April, or clean as much of my apartment as I hoped. And I didn’t quite finish reading my fiction slushpile that I wanted to have done by now. But I got my summer workshop situation sorted out, I won Script Frenzy, and I rocked the A to Z challenge!”

That’s the beauty of the stretch goal. It gives me all the motivation of setting really high targets for myself, but I don’t have to get down on myself for not going all the way when time’s up, because I was stretching myself. Sometimes I’m stretchier than I thought, and sometimes I’m stiffer than I’d like to be. (Especially my knee – ouch. 😦 ) And I may not be creating a history of success the Holly Lisle way, but I’m looking forward to finding out what I’ll achieve in May!

How about you. Would you rather build up a history of success with goals you know that you can reach, or try a stretcher with me? I’d love to hear from you whichever answer you have. And a big shout out to Elizabeth Twist, whose post on ‘Permission to Fail’ and the Story-a-day-in-May challenge nudged me into finally writing this. Good luck, Elizabeth!

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