5 Questions To Help You Set Your Writing Goals

Yuna Final Fantasy X-2

I think one of the hardest things to do as a writer is to figure out your goals. Last year, I had to balance what I wanted to do with what I could do and what I did (and didn’t) get paid for. Your personal situation may be different because you may not have the same financial or time considerations that I do. Maybe you’re trying to figure out what genre you want to write or maybe you want to find a critique partner. Maybe you’re scheduling your first convention appearance or your fiftieth. Regardless of your situation, I’ve come up with five questions that might help you explore not only what you want to achieve in 2012, but how.

1. How Does Your Past Support Your Future? – Think of where you’d like to be as an author. Now, review what you’ve done the past five or even ten years. Can you pinpoint what you’ve done to transform you into future-you? If it takes you longer than ten or fifteen minutes to immediately recognize the clear and actionable steps you’ve taken, then you may want to think about what that means to you. Maybe you revisit that long-term goal. Maybe you make smaller goals that do support your future-you this year. Maybe you get depressed and whine about what you haven’t done. And that’s okay! There’s a lot of emotional investment tied up in being an author because it’s a creative work. There’s going to be moments where you piss and moan, but also cheer and celebrate!

2. What Are You Willing To Sacrifice? – Every author gives up something to make a career out of it. Every. Single. One. For some, it’s social interaction. For others, it’s nights and weekends or having new furniture. I don’t watch TV. I get my pop culture trends from Twitter or Google. I watch even less TV now that I started making jewelry again, which ended up being a huge blessing for me. I get the camaraderie of a regular beading group, the ability to learn something new in a non-threatening environment, and the wonderful “art” that results from it. I’m not in shape (something I need to change) but I’m on schedule for achieving what I have to (and what I want to) in 2012. Next week, I’m going to hit the timer again hard to make sure I stay on track in spite of traveling. The point I’m trying to make here, is that becoming an author is more than just putting fancy words on a page. It takes a lot of work and because of that, because of the hours and hours involved, something has to give.

3. What Are Your Strengths/Weaknesses? – I talked about this a little bit when I wrote the debut column for Adventure to Dice Castle, but it’s still appropriate here. It’s impossible to be realistic about your goals if you have no idea what you can and can’t do. Think about this in terms of an RPG character. If the quest is to find the magical macguffin in a hidden tomb, then you’ll need skills that will help you find out where that tomb is, deal with any NPCs along the way, and survive the encounter. A lot of people find this part to be really hard, because there’s a lot of “I don’t know’s” that are often thrown around. Find out! Do you write better consistently or, like me, plan everything and then let the words flow out in a big heap? On average, how much time do you need to write a short story? Novel? Are you better at writing action scenes or romance? What’s the biggest reason why you haven’t finished your novel? What life-related things get in the way of your writing? Health/money/love/family/job problems?

4. Are Your Drawbacks Manageable? – There is no way that you will ever get rid of your negative traits. It just won’t happen. Instead, you have to manage them. Addicted to caffeine? Over-committed because you can’t say “No?” Insecure as hell? Procrastinate? Jealous of other writers younger than you? Don’t finish what you say you’re going to? These are tendencies ingrained into your personality for whatever reason. Embrace them, don’t beat your self up over them, and figure out how to manage them to help you keep focused on your work. Maybe that means you get help. Maybe that means you have to, like me, use a timer or blog for accountability. Whatever your tricks are, find them. Your drawbacks will never go away, not when you’re successful, not when you’re published, not even after you’ve achieved every goal you’ve set out to do, because you are you. Writing is a solitary act. No one else can put those words on the page for you. To get those words on the page, you’ll need to face yourself and deal with the parts you like and don’t like to achieve your goals.

5. How Much Money Can You Make versus Want To On Your Writing? – I’ve often talked about how every writer’s path is different, and money is a big reason why. Some authors have a spouse that financially supports them, so they don’t have to have a second job. Others have insane medical bills and work-and-write full + overtime hours. As much as writing is an art, it’s also a job for many, many, many professionals. I feel that some writers forget that, because the dream of becoming a successful novelist is rarely detailed. Many people are enamored with Cinderella at the ball, but being that abused, half-starved, over-worked girl? No one wants to be treated like crap, nor do they want to willingly go through the crucible to get back to the ball. Don’t get me wrong: some authors find success comes easier to them than others. That’s the way of the world, but that isn’t true for everyone. Right now, the paying markets are continuing to shift and change as digital media sorts itself out. The number of copies sold for an anthology and for first-time novelists has dropped. For every success story you can name there are literally thousands who never do.

I hope you didn’t think I was being overly negative by bringing these questions up. I’m not trying to say: “Don’t write. It’s scary. Oooooooo.” What I’m attempting to convey here? “Plan to write. To do that, you’re going to have to make changes in your life. Some you’re going to be okay with. Some you’re not going to. It’s up to you to figure out what that means in the end, but when you do? You will become future-you.”

    Mood: Post-Christmas recovery. Day Four!
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Two with a chance of BBZZZZzzzzZZZZ.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: I suck. This is the longest post Christmas-recovery ever.
    Word Count Logged Yesterday (not including day job): 2,000
    In My Ears: Movie Soundtrack playlist on iTunes. (Currently listening to Harry Potter)
    Game Last Played: PicCross 3D
    Movie Last Viewed: Limitless
    Book Last Read: The Encyclopedia of 500 Spells
    Latest Artistic Project: Crystal Medallion pendant in gold
    Latest Release: Strange, Dead Love for Vampire: the Requiem

Monica Valentinelli is an author, artist, and narrative designer who writes about magic, mystery, and mayhem. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore near you.

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