Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lists and Goals

Before I began querying, I made a list of my most important goals. I keep it in a file labeled "silly crap."

But there's nothing really silly about it. To me it's a way of putting my wants out there, like an adult version of a letter to Santa. The act of writing these things down gave them weight--something that casting them to the air and hoping for the best could never achieve.

There seems to be a mindset amongst some writers that publishing is a crapshoot, a game of chance, like a lottery. Manuscripts are tickets and the more you have out there, the higher the chances of winning.

That's simply not true.

You have to have goals right from the beginning beyond "I want to be published." You have to take serious steps towards fulfilling them. Hoping is lovely, but it's most effective when it walks hand in hand with hard work. You have to create something worth selling. It's not easy. And it's not a lottery.

One of my early goals (one I kept in my head) was to write something commercially viable. I wanted to shoot for as broad a spectrum as readers as possible, which meant steering my story down a different path to the one I might have taken if I'd gone SFF.

My next goal was to find representation with an agent who loves (and sells) Commercial fiction. So I made another list.

Lately, I've been called "lucky" a lot. I can't deny a certain number of things lined up in such a way that a wonderful opportunity came my way. But a lot of hard work went into creating that luck (and not just on my part. Anyone who questions whether or not they need an agent, or whines about that percentage, has no idea how hard agents work). And it all began with goals scratched onto a list.

My list has eight items. I've acheived three so far:

- Get a great agent.
- A contract with a fantastic publisher for at least two books.
- Enough money to keep writing.

Do you like lists? If so, what's on yours?


  1. 1. Finish NaNo.
    2. Finish NaNo.
    3. Close my web browser and open Word.

    But enough about me. What else is on your list?

  2. I can certainly relate to number 3. :D

    My other goals are basically things you'd expect: The NYT Best Seller list, a self-imposed deadline for the first draft of my WIP, that sort of thing.

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  4. I don't understand embarking into authorship without setting some short-term goals at least. I take this seriously, it's my CAREER, not a fun hobby. At the moment, I only have three goals because they all take huge effort.

    1.)Finish novel #1 until I can read and not itch to revise.
    2.)Find a suitable, dependable, reputable agent.
    3.)Establish a schedule between kids and husband nobody hates.

  5. Luck always plays a roll -- after all, do you really think that guy planned on the piano falling on him? But, if you're not in a position to take advantage of luck, then it's wasted. An agent could be sitting there desperately trying to find that really good, dystopian commercial novel and that opportunity (luck if you will) would be useless to you unless you'd put the work in first. You put the work in.

  6. Amy, I agree. But some people seem to hurl themselves into it and hope for the best. Like you, I've always taken this as seriously as I would any career.

    Good luck with your objectives.

    Eric, I definitely believe we make (most of) our own luck. Sometimes, though, we're the beneficiaries of the luck someone else is making.