30 December 2011

2012 Goals and Challenges

A couple of days ago, I got together with two of my close friends for a little holiday socializing. At the end of the evening, I wished our hostess a happy new year, and wished her luck with any resolutions she might be planning.

"Oh, I don't make resolutions," she said.

"Me neither," said my other friend with a look of distaste.

I should say that these are two super cool women. They are anti bandwagon, independent thinkers. They are not into the collective madness that is all too often a part of the new year. I think in a lot of ways, they have reason to despise the whole resolution trip. I once disdained it too. I figured that because I was already working pretty darned hard at everything I did, there was no reason to set goals or make a plan at the beginning of the calendar year. You get stuff done, you're happy, no reason to set goals, right?

That was how I used to feel. In that moment, though, I realized that I'd become the kind of person who looks forward to the new year as an opportunity to choose new goals, make new plans, and even, dare I say it, resolve a thing or two.

Sometimes one feels left out.
How did this happen? I decided that writing mattered to me. Gone are the days when accountability to others - my angry thesis committee, impatient clients, or needy students - made me hop to it and apply myself. When it comes to my writing, it's all about internal motivation now, and I have to say, I suck at internal motivation. Left to my own devices, I would be facing the spectre of large chunks of time in 2012 with only the vague idea that I would maybe like to write something at some point. It is not enough.

This will not be me in December 2012.
So, goals and challenges! Or even Goals and Challenges 2012! Something I learned about myself this year is that I do well when I rely on grandiose writing challenges, the more outlandish, the better. Here are some things I'm planning to fold into my writing plan in 2012.

Write 1 Sub 1. This year I'm planning to do the weekly challenge. Write, edit, and submit 52 stories in 52 weeks. I tend to work spasmodically, in concentrated bursts followed by long periods of rest, so this mega marathon challenge is going to be interesting for me.

Story a Day in May. What it sounds like. I did it last year and it was great.

The Race. This is more a motivational trick than a goal. Your score is determined by how many different pieces you have submitted, one point per short story. If a story gets published or rejected, you lose the point. Novel sample chapters and complete ms. are counted differently. The idea originated with the incredibly prolific Dean Wesley Smith, but the also incredibly prolific Deborah Walker explains it in a pithy fashion at Flash Fiction Chronicles. I've got a few pieces to sub before I meet my 2011 submissions goal (tomorrow), so I think I'll be starting the year with nine race points? I'm aiming to hit 50 at some point in 2012. The whole idea is to sustain a large number of pieces out at a time, because, as Dean Wesley Smith notes, "It is also always stunning how the writers with the most points make the most sales. Always happens for some reason."

NaNoEdMo. National Novel Editing Month, aka March. I've got this behemoth of a novel manuscript sitting in a file beside my desk. I plan to spend January and February doing some research to answer some technical questions I couldn't during November while I was writing. I've got a short reading list to help me make sure I'm not goofing on some of the broad, sweeping questions I have, mostly about ethnic minorities in medieval Europe. There are a few missing scenes to write. By March, I should be ready to edit.  

Camp NaNoWriMo. I would love to write another novel at some point other than November. Camp NaNoWriMo runs June and August. I might participate in the June challenge. I've got a sequel to my current novel planned, but I might try to put together a standalone project.

NaNoWriMo: Without National Novel Writing Month, November would just be a crappy descent into the darkest, rainiest, blandest time of year.

Other goals:

Raw Word Count. I usually set a word count goal for myself at the beginning of the year. Unedited, first draft, loosey goosey words count here. I'll probably use the same number I did in 2011 (225k). This is one way to measure progress, but this year it will be more for fun than anything else. Mainly I want to focus more on getting work out there than on how long any individual piece is. With what I've got planned, I don't anticipate falling short of 225k.

Reading. There are a few of us over at Stringing Words who, inspired by Eileen Wiedbrauk of Speak Coffee to Me, resolve to read 52 books in a year. My brain was glitching on reading at the beginning of 2011, and I fell behind almost immediately, which is shameful. I'll try it again in 2012.

I've devised another reading goal for this year, a short story a day. You read that right. I'm becoming more aware that the art of short story writing is quite distinct from novelling, and yet I mostly read novels. Reading shorts is a way to immerse myself in the form. It is not that hard to fit in a piece of flash fiction if you're pressed for time, and on days when you want to kick back with something more substantial, you can. I'll focus some of my short story reading on collections and anthologies, so they'll count toward my 52 books.

I'll be tracking my goals and challenges at Stringing Words this year. You're more than welcome to join us if you would like a place to talk about what you're up to and track your projects, word count, and / or reading from week to week and month to month. Plus there's still a little bit of time to enter our holiday giveaway and win a $20 Amazon gift card.

Happy New Year, everybody. All my best in 2012.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I know someone who does Write1Sub1 and had twenty-five plus short stories published last year. Good goal!
If you'd like to add the A to Z Challenge, we'd love to have you.

Deborah Walker said...

It sound like you've got an incredible year planned, Elizabeth. I am so pleased you're doing the Race. it' a fabulous tool. And I'm looking forward to seeing you on the W1S1 boards.

Happy New Year.

Elizabeth Twist said...

@ Alex: I will be there and be square.

@Debs: I am looking forward to the year, so, so much. See ya at W1S1.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Elizabeth! Thank you for sharing such a great meditation on why New Year's resolutions are so important to you!

I've added some of my own thoughts and linked back to you - I even managed to fit in Harry Potter's approach to essay writing! ;)

May you have a very Happy and productive 2012.

Folly Blaine said...

Your goals sound achievable and actionable and everything good and I will be rooting for you. (I will also be participating in Write 1 Sub 1 Weekly.) Happy 2012!

Unknown said...

Those are super goals. I hope you have great success. I'm like you, I look forward to the new year to start afresh. I'm going to check out Stringing Words.

Unknown said...

Oh, by the way, is that your dog? So cute!

Anonymous said...

You're going to be busy Elizabeth, off to read some of your stories now. All the best for 2012

Elizabeth Twist said...

@kelworth: Yay! I liked your essay, Chris. It is challenging to balance goals and expectations and abilities and and and. We do our best. I'm sure 2012 is going to be a great year for you.

@Folly: Yay! Write1Sub1 is intimidating but have you seen some people's results? I am fueled by an equal mix of enthusiasm and jealously as I work on my first story of the year.

@Clarissa: I hope you find Stringing Words useful. It's a great place in so many ways. Yes, that is my dog. That's a puppy picture, but he's just as ridiculously cute now. He's a Boston Terrier, named Dizzy. Every day when I wake up and look into his lovely brown eyes, I can't believe I share my house and life with such a weird, magical, gassy, snorty creature.

@susanjanejones: Welcome, SusanJaneJones! I am loving saying your name allinarowreallyfast.

Unknown said...

I envy you guys who can write flash fiction. I can never seem to contain my characters to so few pages. Good luck with you 2012 goals.

Hart Johnson said...

You do indeed have a VERY ambitious year planned! I admire the short story submission stuff. i can't write short stories well, and seem to lose momentum on my novels if I turn my attention.

If you are interested, either in addition or instead--my writing group does a Novel month in June, too--BuNoWriMo--this will be year 3, so it was before NaNo started their summer camp, but it is nice to have some support for a second novel month.

Cathy said...

Best to you in 2012. If you get even a fraction of your goals accomplished, you will still have accomplished a lot. Good luck!

Bluestocking said...

I'm definitely impressed by the write 1 sub 1 folks. I'm not a *fast* writer, but maybe this is a good way to get there. Best of luck with all your resolutions!

Mary Rajotte said...

Hi Elizabeth!

Your plans sound a lot like mine. Besides the monthly Write1Sub1, I also have NaNoEdMo, CampNaNoWriMo and of course NaNoWriMo on my list, as well as reading more.

And hey! You're in Hamilton! I'm in T.O. Hi, neighbour!