At the recent Antioch Writers’ Workshop, director Sharon Short asked me about my goals concerning my novel-in-progress. I think my expression was akin to looking at her like she had a bucket full of wombats on her head.
I haven’t set goals for the novel, I told her, fighting the urge to hang my head as though I’d committed a writing-related felony. My only goal has been to get up early every day and write…which I’ve done far more often than not. Yay for me, I tell myself.
Goals are good to have. When you are trying to achieve something that is going to take you a long time, you need some way to measure your progress. However, with this book, I decided when I began that I wouldn’t put that pressure on myself.
I did the math early on, and discovered that at the rate I was writing, it would take a minimum of two years to complete the first draft. Yikes.
While my initial reaction to that potential timeline was to somehow try to cram another four hours of writing into each already-filled day, one only has so much time to do whatever we need and want to do. Rather than lament my lack of available time or establish a goal I couldn’t reach (setting myself up for failure) I chose to set my expectations lower…thus my only goal of the moment is getting up early and progressing daily.
Looking at the bigger picture, there are certain goals for the book. Long-term goals are publication and book tours. Short-term goals are finishing the first draft, and then subsequent drafts, until I have a complete and polished manuscript. Within those short-term goals, there is the research needed on such topics as the Cincinnati Subway, the process of building ships-in-bottles, and discovering exactly what my protagonist will do when confronted with a life-or-death situation (that sounds like a good and possibly productive writing prompt. Hmmm).
Those are enough goals for at least six World Cup soccer games…but too many for me to consider at this stage of writing the book. For now, I’ll stick with getting up early. It works for me, and the novel is getting written. It’s the one goal that leads to accomplishing all the rest, which makes it the only goal I need…the winning goal.