Friday, 13 November 2009

Writers block, not always a bad thing

Realised a few days after starting this blog that it conflicts with my current main goal of writing a novel. I was hoping it could compliment it and maybe it will but the last fortnight I have suffered the dreaded writers block and am only now beginning to work through it.

Still, I have wanted a vehicle to give progress updates and so here goes...

(For a detailed look at my progress, check out the web page for my novel: http://www.fallenwarriors.co.uk)

Goal 36 was to complete 50,000 words by 31st December this year. I'm now thinking that was just too ambitious and that by end January 2010 is more realistic.

The reality is that I have only written 1300 words in the last two weeks. Over a third of that today! If I have 30 writing days until the end of the year, I would need to write 429 words a day to meet my original goal. I may manage that but my problem this month has been that I've realised I can't continue writing unless my plot is mapped out in more detail. Quite simply, I've been worried the pace is too slow and the sections I've been writing are in danger of becoming disjointed.

And to get on track, I've needed to spend more time thinking and less writing. And, I suspect for the next month or two, I'm going to continue to need to spend time plotting and developing the story line in detail if I'm going to achieve my other goals of writing a novel that will be enjoyable to read.

Verbalising so many goals for this novel has forced me to think whether I am working towards them or not. Until I published my 100 goals, I had been aware that I was not satisfied with my daily word targets but uncertain what to do about it. Now I feel I have set a completely different type of goal which has forced me to take a step back and examine why I want to write this novel and think about what sort of novel I want it to be. Not to say these things had not crossed my mind before but I am now beginning to place them as higher priorities and hope this will be a better read for it.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

I wanted to be a writer

I can remember at age eight that I wanted to be a writer, fascinated by the adventure and science fiction stories I had begun to read. I spent many enjoyable hours as a child dreaming up worlds and stories.

But, as a goal, it was only a vague notion. It was only in my early twenties that I wrote and completed my first short story. I made one attempt at publishing it and despite receiving a rejection letter that, with hindsight, gave good advice, struggled to see how I could improve on what I had written.

I have always been driven to write though and in my mid twenties completed over half a dozen short stories. But, I did not have a plan for how to write in a way that would get me published.

I tried signing up with a course by The Writers Bureau and have to credit them with giving me some good insight into how to get published. Through that course I did end up being paid for several short articles. My main mistake though was choosing during that course to focus on non fiction writing which was never my original goal. I also allowed another goal to take priority and I felt that to work on that other goal I would have to give up my writing ambitions temporarily.

Several of my heroes are authors, either because their stories have been immensely enjoyable or the story of how they became published has inspired me to never give up.

One of my heroes is Orson Scott Card. His novel, Enders Game is my all time best read. When I disovered he had written a sequel and that the sequel ended with a cliff hanger, I wondered if he had written a third book and started searching on the Internet to find out. Card has his own website a fascinating section where he has answered readers questions. The article on whether a writing career must mean writing novels has contributed to my current goal: http://www.hatrack.com/writingclass/lessons/1998-07-16.shtml. Quite simply, Card places a strong argument for any aspiring writer to aim to write novels.

In 2007 I resurrected one of my oldest story ideas from childhood as I had always conceived it would be a novel. I began writing and discovered that I had finally begun to understand that story telling is primarily about relationships and how characters develop. But, once more, I had no actual goal, no deadline, no targets and when another idea popped into my head, I found myself switching tracks and concentrating on the concept for Fallen Warriors instead.

I'm sure I have always known that I would not be able to write a novel unless I stuck at it but I have always found the creative spark intoxicating and enjoyed the rush that comes with a new idea.

My work took a lot of my energy in 2008, from designing some new systems to eventually embarking on a new role early autumn. Starting at a new company, I was allowed access to some online libraries and actually given an allowance to download some eBooks. I downloaded some techie books I thought would be useful but one non techie book has literally transformed my life: 100 ways To Motivate Yourself by Steve Chandler. Since it was an eBook, I was able to download it onto my phone and read the two page chapters anywhere, even on the bus, or while sitting with my youngest daughter as she went to sleep.

Many of these chapters spoke about goals and how to go about achieving them but he mentions one technique in particular which resonated with me, four circles. I have to admit that it was weeks after first reading about the technique and while half daydreaming during a church service that something our pastor said clicked and I decided to actually use the tecnique to enable me to finish my novel.
  • In the Leftmost circle I wrote my ultimate goal and target: to complete my novel Fallen Warriors in four years and to be at least 100,000 words long
  • To achieve this I would need to write at least 25,000 words a year, and this I wrote in the next circle.
  • To achieve this I would need to write at least 500 words a week, and I wrote this in the third circle.
  • To achieve this, I would need to write at least 100 words every week day. This went in the fourth circle.

I now had a definite goal and a way of achieving it that was possible. All I have to do is write 100 words every week day. I then made myself accountable to a close friend and asked them to check up on me.

Since then, at the time of writing this, I have written 35,000 words in less than a year, have created a website that makes me publicly accountable: http://www.fallenwarriors.co.uk/ and have begun to expand on my original goal while still maintaining the deadlines I have set.

Looking back through my 100 goals ten of them are directly related to the goal I describe above.

1    To write an enjoyable, bestselling novel
2    To change and influence people through my writing
7    To write and sell a screenplay (I orginally conceived of Fallen Warriors as a screen play)
36    To have written 50,000 words for my novel by 31st December 2009
37    To write characters that people can identify with
38    To create emotional connections with readers
81    To direct a movie
83    To own the screenplay rights to successful novels
84    To earn a living as a writer
100    To publish Fallen Warriors

I know that I am only on the beginning of a journey but the more I learn about goal setting and apply it in my life, the faster I am achieving my goal and the more excited I become.

What goals have you set for yourself and how have you gone about or are going about trying to achieve them?