February 5, 2010

Setting Goals

I realised the other day I feel overwhelmed: I have 5 short stories in the works (3 drafted a few times and 2 first drafts), 1 novel I want to work on but haven't touched since writing the first draft, and about 8 poems. It's good. I have a lot of material to work with, but it's a lot of work to get them up to scratch to think about publishing. I'm still in the learning process right now and I'm satisfied I've already improved significantly since last November. I've still got a lot of work left to do though.

I started writing short stories to teach myself to write and edit. I felt that until I could master the short story, I should not touch the novel - build the houses, then the city.  Slightly different crafts, but a lot of the learned skills can be applied to both.

So I've tried to split up my writing tasks into different deadlines. I like deadlines - I work well under pressure. At the moment these are split into the days when I plan to hand in my WIPs to the writing group. Some of my stories have already been critiqued, but still need working on and others I haven't even edited yet. It does help to focus my priorities.

Also I've set a date to resume working on the novel - 3rd of April. If I don't start working on the novel by that date - please kick my ass.

Another relevant goal is to up my reading. A huge part of writing is reading! As I mentioned before, reading is a great tool for learning to write. I read more than the average person on the street, but not enough. So my plan is to read about 3 books a week... depending on the length of the book that is. I'm not going to make it through a thousand page novel in a week. I'm going to be reasonable and realistic. Also I plan to diversify the type of books I read.

1. Fiction. I intend to read a lot of fiction, but I guess that should go without saying. I plan to read the classics, good modern literature and even some trash. I think badly written novels have a lot to teach us along with the good ones i.e. what not to do. Also they are ego boosters - they make you think "I can write better than this bozo!"

Also I think a balance between modern literature and the classics is needed. When I was younger I was an intellectual snob: only reading classics by dead white men. The trouble is, the books you read tend to influence your writing, and while the classics are classics for a reason, it might not go down too well if I try to write in the same style in the modern literature market. It's good to learn from the best, but prose should still be fresh and modern - that's just my opinion. Modern literature has a lot to offer, so striking the balance between the two is healthy and useful.

2. Fiction in different languages. My aim here is not so much to help with my writing, but with my language skills. My Hungarian is rusty, and I also want to improve my Spanish. Reading in a different language is perhaps one of the best ways to level up in a language. Also, I think seeing how prose is approached from a different linguistic perspective helps with writing too. I think it helps to see literature from a different view because reading in another language makes you slow down and focus on words, sentences and details.

3. Non-fiction. This wont help me become a better fiction writer, but knowledge is power. I think learning a lot about other areas helps equip you with tools to write with better authority. I think being well educated and knowledgeable in many areas can help add depth to writing. Although I am including a few "how to write" books in the mix here as well.

So there it is - my writing goals. Whether I'll stick to them or not is now another question, but at least writing them on here means I'm more likely to keep to them otherwise I'll look like an idiot. Will see if I'm all talk and no trousers soon enough.

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