Mark Terry

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Writing Goals

October 19, 2006
While walking Frodo this morning--it's a damp 50 degrees with a chill wind--I got to thinking about writing goals. Let's see if I can reconstruct how I got to that point. You see, I'm scheduled to interview bestselling author Vince Flynn this afternoon, a guy I interviewed about a year ago. I was thinking about the questions I was going to ask him and thinking about the last interview and something stuck in my mind that he had said, sort of ruminating. I had asked him about his writing schedule, and Vince does a lot of research--a LOT of research. He writes action/espionage, and his books often take place outside the US, and Vince often goes to those countries--like Jordan and Saudi and Switzerland--to do research (yeah, life's tough). And he commented sort of off-hand something along the lines of, "I'd like to try writing two books a year, but I'm so busy with research and promotion I don't have the time. Maybe in two books. I'll probably have made enough money by then to..."

I wonder how much money Vince thinks he has to make to cut back on research and promotion. I won't ask, but it was an interesting concept.

You see, before I started getting my novels published, I always would write out these lists of writing goals, typically around New Year's Eve, and number one on that list was invariably:

1. Get novel published.

Although I don't think "get novel published" is necessarily a given these days, it seems like I'm in good shape for a few years with that goal, and now I need to develop some more writing goals.

As I was walking Frodo, my mind shifted to Joe Konrath's 500 bookstore tour, thinking that even if Joe's crazy (okay, apparently his ambitions show very few limits and his energy in this area is kind of awe-inducing), he did a very smart thing--he set a goal. It was a very ambitious goal, but he set a goal--visit 500 bookstores.

My marketing goals aren't quite as glorious, but I've got a list of 35 or 40 bookstores in the state and I've hit 13 of them so far and hope to make it most of the way through my list by December or so.

But those aren't actually the goals I have in mind now. The goals NOW have something to do with book sales and dollars. That is, like Vince Flynn, I've got some sort of notion of how much money I want to make writing novels (and how much money I want to make writing in general, but that's slightly off topic). Or I sort of do. Because until I get royalty statements next spring I won't really know how to judge.

So is that a goal? It seems somewhat out of my control, actually, and I think it's more useful to have a goal if attaining it is something that is within your control.

Something like:

1. Complete book proposal for medical thriller and send to agent by December 1.

That's on my goal list and I think it's do-able.

2. Complete 4th Derek Stillwater novel by October 1, 2007. That's more than a goal, that's written into a contract.

3. Get a contract for the Jo Dancing novel. Ah, now there's an interesting thing. It's just like my old goal of "get novel published." There isn't much more to be done about that than I've already done. I've written it. My agent is marketing it. It's out there being read by editors. What more can I do there? (Pray?)

4. Write better.

Well, yes. Continue to work on my craft. Listen to what readers say and my agent says and my editors say and try to continually make the work better. Make it more vivid. Deepen the characterization. Pay attention to the little writing quirks we all have and try to fix them. Work on grace and clarity and effectiveness. Do more research.

What are your goals?

Mark Terry


Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

That's a tough question. Most of us have *get published* as a goal for so long it'd hard to shift focus and realize there are goals beyond that.

Long ago, before I realized there were various levels of publishers, *get published* meant a big publisher that would have the books in any bookstore one went into. So maybe, in a sense, my goal is still *get published*! Of course I can't do much about that since the biggies won't look at unagented stuff. So maybe my goal is *get agent*. Sigh. I thought that came before *get published*. It's too confusing!

1:14 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

I have to say Eric that I sort of startled myself into this topic. I had "get published" for so long, and "make a living as a writer," that when I "got published" and "started making a living as a writer," that it didn't occur to me right away that there might be other goals.

I made a goal for 2006 that I wanted to make $10,000 more than I did in 2005, and I've smashed that goal by about $7000 so far this year although I would be oddly elated (and maybe shocked) if I even duplicated 2006's income in 2007. At least, I'm not expecting it.

But in terms of my novels, I thought, "Oh, well, it really would be helpful if I made set some goals to work towards in terms of marketing and sales instead of my usual, 'I'll do some stuff and see what happens.'"

Maybe today I just wanted a little focus in my life.

p.s. if you're reading this, I'd be open to reading the ms.

1:57 PM  
Blogger spy scribbler said...

Write a novel for a NY publisher; create website and blog for my pseudonym; promote said pseudonym; write like he-- for pseudonym for a little more royalties; quit day job in June and live off of pseudoynm (and DH); get an agent; get NY published under my real name.

Oh yeah! Write better and read more.

Congratulations, Mark! Smashing a $10,000 goal by $7000 by October is great sign! Sounds like you're doing awesome! (Great blog, btw!)

5:06 PM  
Blogger Rashenbo said...

I think writers must have goals. Writing is a self-driven expression. Writers also tend to be dreamers... "I'll finish the novel, send out 100 queries, get a deal, then do this and then do that..." There needs to be a balance of goals. You need some short-term reachable goals... like (I need to finish researching X by Y) or (I need to write 5,000 words by x) or (I will create a timeline of events for X). At the same time, you need some of those long range goals like (I'll complete and polish the manuscript by December 31).

As for me... My number one goal is to finish my novel in the next six months, (not polished/revised) just finished.

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