Goals for 2016 by Brad Windhauser
I’m a scheduler, and setting goals (both large and small) keeps my work on track. Part of developing this particular skill means setting goals that are both important and reachable. This year, I have ensured that my goals are designed to accomplish my long term writing goal: be a more successful writer. So, this year, I’ve committed myself to channeling my writing energy into a few significant projects.
First, I will finish two short stories I’ve sketched out. I was hoping to have these done last year, but as I was drafting, I couldn’t discover the spine of the story, and rather than force a story onto these rough sketches, I tabled them (actually, I tacked them to my bulletin board) in order to allow whatever they turn out to be to happen when they’re ready—in terms of both plot and character. If I rush a story, I end up with a draft full of ideas rather than an honest exploration of character(s).
I will also complete a first draft of a novella. When I was plugging away at a batch of short stories last year, one in particular lent itself to something larger—I had more to say. The test for me here will be avoiding turning it into a novel—as if stories are either long or short (short story). Rather, I will test myself to draft a 50-70 page story and see how I do with this particular form. I haven’t tested myself in a while, so I’m hoping this experiment yields a new opportunity to tell a story and shape characters.
I will also revise the first draft of my third novel. I completed the first draft last year, and since I let it sit for six months, I can hopefully return to it with fresh, critical eyes and revise it into a draft I can begin shopping. It’s a book I’ve had on my mind for 10 years, so I am excited to see how it turns out. If nothing else, the tone is less uptight than the more literary work I’ve written in the past. It’s always good to branch out.
Last—but certainly not least—I will finally crack the find-an-agent code. My long-gestating second novel is worthy of a publishing home, and I hope to finally secure an agent who will help it find one. My biggest weakness as a writer appears to be how I represent it (i.e. pitch it) in short form—like reducing a novel to a paragraph or a 1-page summary. Writing is, after all, a business, and this particular skill is one I need to master in order to succeed in publishing my work. Once I do, I hope the skill pays off, for merely writing a book is only part of the process.
I might not accomplish all of these goals but I will at least get all of them moving forward. In the end, this is crucial, for always having at least one project in development keeps my creative juices keep flowing. When asked in an Entertainment Weekly interview in April of 2015, about the progress of writing the sixth book in the Game of Thrones series, George R. R. Martin complained how setting his writing aside to work on other responsibilities killed its momentum. He said, “The iron does cool off.” Everything I produce might not be gold, but at least the ideas are flowing, yielding raw material with which I can continue to work.
…oh, and I plan to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens a few more times.