Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Goal Setting

Hello again!
Well, the New Year is well under way. Did you make any resolutions for this year? How about setting some goals?

I'm certain you're aware that a large step toward success with any project is setting achievable, manageable goals -- and this is no different with writing a book. You may be familiar with the SMART system for goal setting. SMART is an acronym which stands for:
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic and
  • Timely
Let's start with an example. Say you've been mulling over an idea for a sci fi novel for some time, and you've decided that 2012 is going to be your year. First of all, that's great! Good for you for making that decision. If you've never really written anything before, or never really seriously attempted a bigger project, you will most likely be doomed to failure if you sink into your desk chair, open up your word processing program...

...and stare, increasingly disheartened, at the blank page.

This is where the goal setting comes in. What is it specifically that you want to write (bullet #1!)? A 75,000-word science fiction novel. Now if I were to ask you how long you thought it would take you to write this novel, what would you say?

A month?
Six weeks?
Half a year?

The answer here depends on a few things, namely how quickly you type, how much planning you've done, and your goals. For most people, 1,000 words a day is quite manageable (bullet #2!). That equates to four typewritten pages (double spaced), and most can even do this in an hour or so. So if you estimate that you'll write five days a week, that gives you 5,000 words in that length of time, and approximately 20,000 words in a month.

Does that seem a little more realistic (bullets 3 and 4!)? Sure it does, right? At that rate, your novel could be complete in three and a half months. You could even be generous and give yourself four or four and a half months, but if you're serious about this novel and about writing books as more than a fun hobby, you certainly wouldn't want your goal to be a year or more (bullet 5!).

What if you don't type that quickly, or don't think you could manage 1,000 words a day? That's not a problem, as long as you take the other factors into account. Only 500 words a day? Seven months to your novel. Or maybe you're envisioning a sweeping epic saga of 150,000 words or more, or a novella of 25,000. Whatever it is, tailor your goals to your skills and you'll be more likely to achieve success.

Good luck!

Next time we'll talk about other types of goals, and other things such as pre-writing material and plotting, and when life gets in the way!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Friday Reads

Hello again!
I hope you all had a lovely, restful holiday. Things were crazy as usual in our household, but much fun was had by all!

Fortunately, I was able to spend some time reading over Christmas and New Year's, and I finished a rather interesting book by Sarah Winman called When God Was a Rabbit. Truthfully, my reading tastes tend toward genre fiction (fantasy, sci-fi, romance, etc.) rather than literary projects, but I always find myself intrigued by the occasional title that causes a stir in whichever circles. I usually find these books difficult to read because the characters are so broken and damaged, or are put through such horrible events that they remind me too much of real-world events. I prefer a healthy dose of escapism with my fiction, thank you!

Regardless of all that, the one thing that happens with these stories is I find myself thinking about them at random moments, long after the cover has been closed. So it can't be said that these books don't have an effect!

This story recounts Elly's childhood in '70s England and the way she, her brother Joe, and her friend Jenny Penny deal with various traumatic events and secrets that lie just beneath the surface of their lives. They navigate a path through a world full of loss and heartache, the dark and damaging side of love and sex, and the ties -- however twisted sometimes -- that bind a family together. The characters' actions sometimes frustrated or confused me, but people in real life don't always act the way we want them to, either. I can't say I liked or disliked the book, only that it left me feeling somewhat ambivalent. I did find myself at times unable to put the book down, which is a good thing, and the characters were quite well drawn. I can't quite put my finger on what I would have liked done differently, however.

If you like coming-of-age stories that are slightly askew, this one is for you.

Have you read When God Was a Rabbit? What did you think of it?