• Reading & Writing Goals: 2021

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 64 comments
    Jan
    9

    Discussion questions: What are your literary goals for this new year? Whether tangible or intangible, let us know what you’re hoping to accomplish and how. And if you don’t have any–which I considered for myself–I want to hear about that, too. Let’s chat about 2021 in the comments below. 

     

    Another year, another post where I nag you to tell me what you hope to accomplish in the new year. What are your goals as a writer? What are your goals as a reader?

    I hit pretty much zero of my goals last year; thankfully that’s no longer relevant. Onward from 2020!

    Here’s mine, to keep me honest:

     

    1) Read more than I did in 2020

    It’s not just about numbers, but I read fewer books last year than I ever have as an adult. Books kept coming in, books that had my attention before they even arrived, but I banished most of them straight to the shelf and never returned.

    I did read almost every issue of the New York Review of Books, my favorite publication. And that’s always fulfilling.

    And now that I think about it, I read thousands and thousands (and thousands) of pages of new writing from my wonderful WriteByNighters (you know who you are). Which is far more satisfying than reading a book off the shelf.

    So, scratch this one.

     

    2) Write more than I did in 2020

    I also wrote less than I have in any year going back a long, long time. My novel went almost nowhere, I didn’t finish any of the short stories I’d started in 2019, my nonfiction book is caked in dust, and I started nothing new.

    Then again, I wrote dozens of blog posts and hundreds of (or more?) comments in our ensuing discussions, along with no doubt thousands of emails talking books and writing with you lovely WriteByNighters.

    Y’all are saving me!

    So, scratch this one, too. I’ve got no complaints, and it took writing this post for me to get there.

     

    3) Improve as a writer

    This is all we can ever really hope for, right? To get a little bit better every single year?

    I don’t have any measurement for this. I’ll know it if I see it.

    I hope I see it.

    And I hope you see it in yourself!

     

    david blogWriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast, and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2020 writing project you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coachingprivate instruction and writer’s block counseling services. If you have a manuscript that’s ready for some editorial care, check out our various critiquing, editorial, and proofing servicesFor your FREE writer’s diagnostic, “Common problems and SOLUTIONS for the struggling writer, join our mailing list

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    Lenore

    I’d like to decide whether to pursue a life-long goal of writing fiction. As a clinical psychologist, I focused on scholarly articles and many painstaking reports demanding clarity and precision. I’ve put creative writing on a back shelf, taking it out a couple of times and then returning it, with sadness, due to time constraints. Like many people I have a couple of novels in my head, springing from a very interesting career. I’m semi-retired now. Is this the time to begin? Or did I mislead myself for 30 years?

    Brigitte

    Yes, begin. I am a creative person and I find if nothing else the idea of being creative is very rewarding! There is no time like the present!

    Lenore

    Thanks, Brigitte.

    Brigitte

    Oh, you are very welcome. Just for fun I am going to see about entering a writing contest. It gets the creative juices flowing. If it is fun and you are not hurting anyone-then why not write whatever you feel? Have fun writing. I always write and love it. It also keeps me fairly sane in this insane world.

    Brigitte

    Hi again, I do not enter that many writing contests. But I sometimes google FREE writing contests. The other day my publisher sent me a link to a local writing contest where you write these one hundred word short stories. I think they are called Drabbles. I am still debating whether I will attempt to enter that one since the deadline is so close. Anyway… I need to see if I am up to it. If I think about setting small goals and not on winning the contest…it would really help me out alot. I think one of my writing… Read more »

    Elissa Malcohn

    Terrie Leigh Relf at Hiraeth Publishing holds regular Drabble contests in the speculative fiction genre: https://www.hiraethsffh.com/drabble-contest The current contest runs through the end of January.

    Brigitte

    Oh, wow. I never wrote a Drabble before. It might be fun for me to practice writing them before I enter a contest. Have you ever entered a Drabble contest? Are they hard to write? I think making things so condensed is harder then making a longer story. Comments are always welcome. Thanks for the information! Grateful.

    Elissa Malcohn

    I’ve been in three Drabble anthologies. Terrie edited them when they were put out by Sam’s Dot Publishing. The need to condense really helps hone the editing (and storytelling) process — and they’re great to just have fun with.

    drabblercovers10-11-12-500.jpg
    Brigitte

    What do you mean you have been in 3 Drabble anthologies? Your writing is in those books.?????
    I must read them.

    Elissa Malcohn

    I suspect they’re out of print. The publisher is defunct.

    Brigitte

    Oh.
    Well,it is always nice to connect with other people who have an interest in writing too. Thanks again for connecting with me!!

    Elissa Malcohn

    Our exchange inspired me to draft a drabble (thanks!). Took me about a half hour of actual writing after I spent some time thinking up a story line. My steps were: 1. Think up a story arc that can be developed and resolved in a few words. Keep it simple. 2. Craft the story without counting words, but pay attention to the story’s general length and shape. Concentrate on wordsmithing. 3. Check the word count and tweak as needed. This could mean rephrasing, condensing, cutting nonessential details, and/or adding detail to further shape the story. For example, I cut a sentence that was nice but that… Read more »

    Brigitte

    I am so glad our exchange caused you to write a Drabble. What a great experience! Keep me posted on what is happening. Stay connected. Brigitte

    Barbara Mealer

    One of my favorite teachers is Margie Lawson who was a clinical psychologist. You can do it as you know how to read people and see the emotions on their expressions and movements which is something the rest of us struggle with in our writing, so you have a step up on that. No time like now to start.

    Lenore

    Thanks for your advice, Barbara!

    Elissa Malcohn

    It’s never too late! Listen to your characters. As a psychologist, you may already be familiar with Mary Watkins’ wonderful book Invisible Guests: The Development of Imaginal Dialogues. If not, I especially recommend Chapter 7: “‘The Characters Speak Because They Want to Speak:’ The Autonomy of the Imaginal Other.” That chapter and the full book are available for free download from her website: https://mary-watkins.net/books/

    Lenore

    Thanks, Elissa. I’ll check it out.

    Lenore

    Wow, what a great question: process vs. product? I hesitate to write because I don’t understand why I want to write. Thank you for that, and for the link to a fascinating discussion! I don’t know the answer but for me I think it’s about the process. Mostly. I want to write because I think I can. Or to show myself I can. And for the enjoyment as well as the challenge. I remember that, during my short periods of fiction writing, the characters conversed in my head and needed to be heard, and I couldn’t wait to sit down… Read more »

    Sid Kemp

    In 52 years of writing, all I can say to this is that my reason for writing only becomes clear if I am writing. And when it does, that feels wonderful!

    Lenore

    Great.

    MJ DelConte

    Great post. All goals accomplished with a little extra credit earned along the way. I’ve never been busier as I have over the past few weeks. I decided to become an indie author, and moved forward with the publication of my novel, “Catalyst.” I’ll take “Improve as a Writer” for 2000, Alex. It is one thing to write a 300+ page novel. The real fun begins AFTERWARDS. Publishers like KDP, D2D, IngramSpark and understanding their guidelines and services; ISBNs and barcodes (the latter I’m not using); crunching pricing and cost analyses; and searching for a graphic designer to create a… Read more »

    MJ DelConte

    THANK YOU for the eagle eyes. I took almost 3 weeks off of work and crammed my education into publication as if I was about to take a final college exam. During that time, I was getting about 4 hours of sleep a night. So, I am having a good, hearty laugh at my own expense trying to figure out where the hell Catalyst came from. It appears to have started about a week ago. Out of the blue I started typing Catalyst instead of Cataclysm. Too funny! I unplugged by the weekend. I did nothing but (safely) hang out… Read more »

    MJ DelConte

    Let me know your thoughts on it, if you do. I would start with James Patterson first. He not only gets down and dirty with his process – he is big on outlining, he also shares the outline for one of his novels. The guy is down to earth, says it like it is. His, Dan Brown, and Baldacci are my 1-2-3 in order.

    Raymundo

    I actually met my writing/reading goals for 2020 in spite of the spiritual downer that year was for me. There may be a “driven by the Literary spirits” aspect in that. Though I am very anxious about 2021 at the macro level, I find I’m still drawn down the literary path and certain goals suggest themselves. Such as: 1. Self-publish my novel and promote it as best I can. 2. Start the next novel, be it the next in the post-apoc series or something else. 3. Read 20 books and review them all. 4. Blog regularly on my new WordPress… Read more »

    Raymundo

    It’s out there. I Ray-viewed the Cobra Kai series:
    https://rayviews439505474.wordpress.com/2021/01/10/tv-series-review-cobra-kai/

    Raymundo

    A lot of original cast members and themes from the Karate Kid movies are featured in all three seasons.

    John Liebling

    2020 took a lot of activities away. Zooming is not the same. Depression is a creative killer. Coupled with the fact I retired at the end of 2019. The routine I grumble about I soon missed. Being around people I missed. But hell, even if I didn’t retire at the end of 2019, Los Angeles schools started to close down mid-March. I pride myself in being able to push through whatever crap life throws my way…but depression has taken away that skill. So today is a new day. One of many. Where I tell myself to get up and do… Read more »

    John Liebling

    Yes, the cause of the depression when I was younger was very different than now. I am at heart a justice warrior, and got caught up with a powerful and cruel principal, with no principles. The blow back was huge, almost derailed my career, those were stressful times, and there was a time when I was in excruciating pain…We are all need human contact, and zooming is not the same, when it goes on and on for almost a full year, and there is still no end insight. Enough vaccinations to the general population might not take place until March… Read more »

    John Liebling

    I changed the title of David Sagacious: That’s Life to David Sagacious: Immortal Mortal And though I want to get back to my editing. For now I’ve decided to brainstorm ideas for my second. Tentatively titled David Sagacious: His-tory future, present, past. As you know my first book is science fiction with a sparkling of historical/political. I’d like my second book to be historical/political with a sprinkling of science fiction. As you know creating and editing uses different parts of our brain…both are necessary I find the creating much more enjoyable compared to the editing, though there is plenty of… Read more »

    Brigitte

    Happy New Year to everyone! I noticed this question and felt compelled to respond. I usually ATTEMPT to set a few goals and somehow, I get upset because I FAIL to accomplish the goals I set. Therefore this year I need to try something different. When I went to college I learned about this acronym. It is called SMART goals. S may stand for SPECIFIC. Let’s say every morning I set my goal for at 5 a.m. But the alarm clock does not go off and instead I wake up at 8 a.m. Now, I blew the entire goal. What… Read more »

    Brigitte

    I am going to see how it goes. I agree that if I can even track progress towards a set goal,it gives a sense of accomplishment. I am not sure what is going to happen with this new approach…but for today..I did not do much writing and in the past, I may have not even seen responding to your message as significant…but it is indeed writing and it is important to connect with other writers. So, I am going to jot down I read your message and wrote back.

    Barbara Mealer

    I didn’t get everything accomplished for 2020 but I did learn a lot about editing. As for reading, I’ll use the lame excuse that I worked way too many hours out side of the house along with moving, working on my office (put on hold for the cold winter) and generally needing to take care of myself with some down time. I’m back in full swing with editing, taking a couple of short classes and generally setting reasonable goals like learning how to market my books while planning on getting one book out during the summer and hopefully the other… Read more »

    Barbara Mealer

    I was hoping to have it usable by now, but crap happens. I did the first chapter and turned it in for critique. I told them to rip it apart so I could put it back together again. I’m not good writing about myself, so this is a whole new avenue of writing for me.

    Sid Kemp

    Warning! With over 20 years in the field of project management, I think a lot about goals, goals, goals. I think to much about goals. Does it make sense to set a goal of thinking less about goals? So what goals do I already have? My biggest one is subtle: I already write almost every morning, even before I’m fully awake. But until today, I’ve been writing things of less importance, things that don’t need my very best clarity of mind. Then, of course, I never get back to the most important things before my day gets busy. I guess… Read more »

    Elissa Malcohn

    Happy New Year, everyone!  David, I love your conclusions re your goals, and I am especially thankful for the ways in which you have tackled them. Reading: I completed 78 (if you count Erich Fromm’s Escape from Freedom, which I began in 2020 and finished after the New Year). That’s a bit shy of the 85 I had read in 2019, but considerably more than I had read in prior years. What blew me away the most in December: The Lost Book of Adana Moreau by Michael Zapata. I don’t set reading goals, I just see what catches my eye. I found the Zapata… Read more »

    Elissa Malcohn

    The leap year was incidental. The driving force was your fantasy, which inspired me to take up the challenge. That would have been just as applicable if you’d revealed it coming into a 365-day year. So, thanks again!

    Elissa Malcohn

    No worries. This type of challenge fits my current creative needs (read: balance) perfectly.

    frances hill

    I resolve to read over the three books I have written (not published) and perhaps actually get the nerve to publish!

    Sid Kemp

    Awesome, Frances. I’m sure many future fans will be glad when they get out into the world!

    Tadd

    I need to make time to write. End of story (no pun intended!). I have a month where I write nothing, and then this week I’ve written almost 3000 words. I am still not sure what it is, sometimes I get inspiration and blast words onto the page, and then other times I know what I want to write but my brain kinda lags about how to translate it into words. Then video games…lol Though I have created an author page on Facebook in hopes to (sometimes) keep me accountable, keep me pushing! Other times I wonder if the time… Read more »

    Last edited 17 days ago by Tadd
    Sid Kemp

    And you can, too, Tadd. One thing I did back in 2005 really helped me become a steady writer. I committed to write 500 words a day, minimum. Now that could be a journal entry or article, not fiction. Anything beyond routine emails, tweets, and texts counts. I tracked my results weekly. I went a bit overboard. I was writing a book on statistics that year, so I did graphs. But what matters is that I learned I can write 2,000 words a day steadily, 5,000 a day at times, and 8,000 a day if I am okay with getting… Read more »

    Tadd

    Thank you :D

    Tadd

    In that case I’ve put in a lot of hours…LOL! I’m not sure if its necessarily the ‘time’ to write, rather getting my brain to actually ‘write’. Thank you!

    Jennifer Pommer

    Good news! I was able to write more on my ideas this past year than in the preceding 5 years, thanks to staying home more and a writers’ group. I hope to keep the momentum going this year, but there might be a pause as I am hoping more to move. Right now, I’ve been working at organizing my journals to seek out those kernels that I have researched and have written about through the last few years (actually about 20). Like you David, I haven’t been reading as often the things I used to regularly read, but my notebooks… Read more »

    Susan

    I will finish my middle-grade/y.a./child-hearted adult/ very long story (aka novel) or, at the very least, love the journey it is providing me. I did write a book of children’s verse and have made no effort to publish it but was thrilled by the very heartfelt and unexpectedly sensitive reaction to it from a 12 year old boy I’d never met before, the son of a co-worker. This boy has also agreed to be a reader for the first draft of my current work, and that increases my motivation,about a hundredfold, to finish it. As for reading, I have 20… Read more »

    Elissa Malcohn

    Loved his book and the way it shows how the sausage is made, along with his thinking process and reflections. Looking forward to Volume 2.




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