Guest Post @ The Flash Fiction Chronicles
I have a new post up at The Flash Fiction Chronicles, the blog for flash fiction ezine Everyday Fiction. It’s all about writing classes–why they’re important, and what to do when you get there. Check it out here.
For most of us, writing is a somewhat solitary pursuit – after all, it’s hard to actually work on a story if you’re chatting to your Mom, IM’ing your best friend, or grabbing lunch with hubby. But there comes a time in every’s life when a certain kind of company becomes necessary.
A certain kind of company? I know, it sounds very Eliot Spitzer-ish. But choosing who to talk to about your baby novel is a fraught process. Will they like it? Will they hate it? Will they think it’s-actually-very-funny-or-realize-I-stole-all-my-jokes-from-ten-year-old-Leno-shows?
Read the rest at FFC, here. And when you’re done, read the rest of the blog, too! It’s filled with excellent advice on every aspect of the writing life.
Come the end of December, I take some time to think about my goals for the year. I make lists–tangible evidence of what I’ve achieved, then settle down over a cup of coffee and congratulate myself on my awesomeness. Once that’s over and done with (honestly, musing on my awesomeness can take hours!), I think about the goals I haven’t yet reached, and spend some time thinking about why. This, believe it or not, is the fun part.
I like hitting my goals, I really do. And I’ve achieved almost every goal I’ve set myself over the past few years (I also do a mid-year goal evaluation). I also like a challenge. And I love lists.
This year, the goal I haven’t reached is running a 10k. There are a few reasons:
- When the Tufts 10K rolled around, I opted not to do it. Why? My parents and Joe’s parents had just left, and it was a long weekend I wanted to spend with Baby and Joe.
- I had Baby in July. 5 months isn’t long to train when you’re short on time, let alone when recovering from giving birth.
- I started working again 2 months after Baby. Granted, it’s only part-time, and I’m working from home, but my days are still pretty full.
Looking at the list, part of me wants to say, “So? You should have worked harder!” The other part, though, the more forgiving, squishy part, tells me these are all valid reasons. And, although I can’t yet run a 10k, I can run a 5k in 30 minutes, and have lost 22 out of my 32 lbs of pregnancy weight. These, that forgiving, squishy part says, are evidence that I will get to 10k level sooner or later.
Once I’ve settled my lists for this year, I start the ones for next year. First, I sketch out my writing goals (Joe and I work on family lists together; my freelancing goals are separate). This is also fun–it lets me see how I’m doing on my current projects, and anticipate finishing things. I love finishing things!
My 2010 writing goals look a little (I’m still working out the kinks) like this:
- Finish revisions on Listen, my YA contemporary, by the end of April.
- Write at least one piece of flash fiction per month
- Find 6 agents I’d like to query
- Submit something for every second critique session
- Take at least one writing class
- Read more – I’m working on a list of books I’d like to read throughout the year.
Are these crazy big goals? No. But having them helps me not just plan out my time, but have confidence in myself. This year, I’ve built many more connections as a result of my goals, had positive, personal feedback from a couple of agents, rebuilt my blog, and am starting a book reviewing gig (more on that soon). Without my goals, I’d probably have spent the better part of the year trying to figure out what to do next.
Want to get started with your own writing goals? It’s as easy as 1-2-3. Seriously.
- Write down the things you’d like to achieve.
- Break those into manageable pieces. Be honest about what you can do–sell my book and get a 7 figure advance is not realistic.
- Add the numbers. Put time limits on things (by April), or minimum efforts (at least one class).
And you’re done!
Tip: don’t set goals that depend on others. Things like “get an agent” or “get published” rely on someone else–and set you up for failure. Querying, polishing, and finding ways to make yourself more agent/publishing worthy are not just much more useful goals–they’re much more satisfying.
The takeaway: setting out goals helps build confidence, and helps us grow as writers. It’s also okay to not meet a goal–just make sure you’re still traveling along the right path.
Do you set writing goals? Do you write lists? Or are you a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants kind of writer?
Last week, I attended an author talk by Sherman Alexie (more about his talk later in the week). One of his tips (for more author tips, check out this recent post from my friend, Amitha) was to consider the everyday. Look around for ideas, and note everything down. As a short story writer, I love this idea, but I have to admit, Baby curtails my note-taking abilities. Here are four ways I jot down my story ideas.
1. My phone
I have an iPhone (it’s a marvelous way to document Baby’s every day) and use the voice record function every other day. With the addition of a headset–kept in an easy to reach pocket in my purse–the phone becomes a nifty little mp3 recorder. So, while on my walks with Baby, I tuck the phone into a pocket, open voice recorder, and walk with one headphone looped around my ear. Whenever I see something worth noting, I just tap to record.
No headset? No problem. Just speak into the phone as usual. An iPhone isn’t necessary, either–most phones have a voice record function.
2. Index cards
Here’s a tip I picked up from Anne Lamott–slip a couple of index cards in your pocket. They’re small, thin enough to stop you feel bulky (always a good thing), and perfect for jotting down notes. I carry a small pencil (pinched from Ikea) with mine, though anything will do. (In moments of desperation, I’ve been known to grab restaurant matches and strike a couple to make charcoal. Anything for the idea, right?)
I live near Harvard, and my husband’s a grad student, so I’m always scooting through the campus. Whenever I’m out on a walk, sans phone and index cards (16 week old Baby = 4 hours sleep a night = a forgetful Peta), I head for the law school commons to shoot myself an email. Most universities have public access computers around, as do local libraries.
4. Talk it out
It’s hard to remember lists, and single facts. It’s easier to remember conversations. So, when I’m out with Baby and have no other way to keep track of an idea, I tell him about it. This verbal brainstorming helps me get a better grasp of the idea–and the more fleshed out it becomes, the easier it is to recall when I get home. It’s also the most successful–ideas I talk out make it into story form much sooner.
One final tip–organize your ideas for later. Try labeling notes by type of story, and/or genre. I use a story-only gmail account for mine–it’s my backup of works in progress, ideas, and contact information. Using gmail’s labels, I can find the notes I made for a short story, or the revision ideas I had for a piece of flash fiction with just one click.
How do you keep track of your story ideas? Do you revisit old ideas?
Flash fictioning your way through that novel – Rumjhum Biswas explains how over @ the Flash Fiction Chronicles
Artist admits using key AP photo for ‘HOPE’ poster - Shepard Fairey may have violated copyright law with his iconic poster of the President. An interesting discussion of fair use.
Sweat beads on the drum, catching on my fingers, coating them in rough animal smell. “It’s deer,” the dealer tells me, ”from hunters in the north. They don’t waste nothin’, them hunters. Meat for summer, jerky for winter, leather an’ all for me.” He leans in close. “Betcha you can guess who gots the better deal.” I try not to gag at the stench of ale on his breath; it isn’t hard. After ten years of Ewan and his drink, I’m used to it. I was used to it the day after we were married.
Handing over my coin, I take the drum and head home. In my other hand are instructions, fresh from Herself. The words are hard to make out, the paper streaked with smoke and charcoal stains. I scratch at them with my nails, but they’re too ragged to make a difference. I set the drum down carefully, then beat the tattoo ‘til blood rises to my cheeks and I know it’s time.
Kicking up clouds of umber, I follow the instructions, stepping left then right, kicking forward, forward, back. Herself’s sketches are crude, but they do the job. Sinking farther into the movements, I start to enjoy myself. Storm clouds scud across the sky. My heart races.
I wonder if he’s feeling it yet – if his heart beats with mine, if his skin is growing ruddier with the effort of each breath. In the house, there’s a thud, followed by a low groan.
I go home.