Tag Archives: Good Advice

My Reverse Resolutions

On New Year’s Day, I drove past two large groups of cyclists; perhaps two dozen all told.

The following day, I passed 6 joggers, not a one of them daunted by a cold winter drizzle.

Even in a fitness-conscious community like Chapel Hill, these are statistical anomalies. The explanation, naturally, is New Year’s. If you visit a YMCA this week, you will find it packed with rigorous exercisers. Weight lifters, treadmill joggers, swimmers, tennis players, cardio fiends.

By April, they will be gone.

New Year’s resolutions aren’t permanent. This is why you shouldn’t make them: you should set goals. Year round.

This year, I’m making zero “resolutions”, but I do have goals. An ongoing goal from prior years is to become published in fiction.

This has led me to make two counter-intuitive, or “reverse” resolutions:

  1. To blog less.
  2. To get rejected by publishers more.

These both sound bad, don’t they? Like I’m striving to be lazier, less productive, or lower the quality of my work.

The first resolution is especially strange. Time and again I’ve renewed the blog, came to the table with new columns, new schedules, new requirements to impose upon myself.

These were in part due studying what makes blogs successful for career bloggers. I even met a guy last year who explained, in detail, how to take a blog from zero to hero: 3 readers to 3,000. I was following much of his advice, as well as common sense. Guidelines like post regularly, post on time, determine specific topics.

All good advice.

But the truth is, I have no interest in being a career blogger. Generating additional readership via the blog would be a nice bonus, but the people who blog full-time are doing what they wanted to do. I would much rather have my work garner readers who then stop by the blog — if they want.

So I am ignoring all the advice and methodology for generating blog readers. This blog is not to make me a successful blogger; it’s to keep my fiction and non-fiction readers informed about current projects.

What I want is to write fiction, and tying myself to blog columns takes time and effort away from fiction. So it’s out. Gone.

I will post when I post, and it will be on whatever I want to write. If people like it, fine. If they don’t, who cares? Those who really want to know will RSS me and so it won’t matter if I post every Wednesday or once a year.

The second Reversolution, to get rejected more, is probably more understandable. No writer has ever broken in without rejection. And often, the more numerous or harsh the rejections, the better the later career.

The fact that I’m not getting rejected more is proof that I am simply not submitting enough. So the goal isn’t actually rejection: It’s publication.

But rejection is a reality. All of the most successful authors have been rejected, some of them thousands of times. It’s time for me to get on the same track.

This seems doable, but arbitrary.

writing-towards-a-word-countSince my pseudo-New Year’s resolution to actually write this year, I have stayed tightly focused on only a few projects:

Short stories all.

Novel and non-fiction book ideas have floated into the window, settled on my desk and sneezed twice, at which point I squeezed them into my hard drive in some fashion or other.

They remain unstructured, unrefined, and most of all, incomplete.

I should finish one.

And it’s been said that without milestones and deadlines, a project will never be finished. What’s the deadline? What are the milestones?

I asked my grandboss (that’s “boss’ boss”) who used to work at the Times what he thought good deadlines for a novelist would be. As he began to answer, I had to cut him off:

No, no, not deadlines for a novelist whose job is being a novelist. Deadlines for someone with a completely unrelated day job. Someon like…and of course we’re just speaking hypothetically, because I love this company and would never leave…me.

He didn’t know. His wife didn’t know. Everything from “take your time even if you only write a page/year” to “spend every free waking moment writing” seems equally viable good advice on the subject.

I think a reasonable deadline in my case would be the end of 2009. I started off the year with the purpose to write more; this would fulfill that purpose. And it doesn’t give you the cramped-lack-of-quality produced by NaNoMo, where the goal is to finish the novel within a month. Yikes.

So today I did some rusty math. (Footnote: Any math performed by me is rusty; I’m a words man.) To finish a 100,000 word novel, which is a relatively short novel (but I’m aiming for a tighter style than my wordier compatriots anyway), I would have to write 500 words a day.

That’s not a lot. 500 words is about 2 pages double-spaced. I’ve written articles here which were three and four times that length without too much effort.

I immediately thought: HA! I can do this!

…or can I?

A novel is more than a loose collection of words. Writing stream-of-consciousness non-fiction (hereafter to be referred to as either “blogging” or “crap”) is far easier than serious fiction.

Before I know which scene to write next, I have to know the characters, the circumstances, the upcoming events, the past events. I have to reread what came before, I have to visualize what comes after. This means researching, outlining, brainstorming, and in general a lot of activities which are equally part of the writing process, but don’t add to the word count.

Nevertheless, 500 words/day seems like a reasonable goal. To help relieve pressure for all the outlining, I could try to write non-chronologically for me, which has always been a barrier I’d like to overcome. Whatever scene I want to write that day, that’s the scene I write.

Will it work? I have no idea. Will it produce quality fiction? I have no idea. Will it result in publication? I have no idea.

Will it put words on a page?

…yes.