Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Clarion Dare Goals, and Thoughts On Writing Priorities

(Note: because of the big drag on my time that fell in the middle of this Write-A-Thon, I'm giving myself some extra time to meet these goals -- 50 days. I'll be calling it done at midnight on the 14th of August.)

The Clarion Write-A-Thon is 42 days long. You have to apply to participate, and of course, it's a fund raising event. More about Clarion and the great work they do next Wednesday.

I would like to set an uber-ambitious goal, but I have a lot of editing to do in this same period of time, so I need to be reasonable. Therefore I'm going for 50k words total. Not only is it a good goal, but it's the default setting on the NaNoWriMo sidebar widget I use to track progress.

GOAL: More than 50,000 words (approx 1200 words a day) on the following projects:

  • Finish The Man Who Did Too Much as soon as possible and get it to alpha/beta readers.
  • Write some short mystery stories to submit to Janet Hutchings at EQMM, because she said she wanted to see more of my work.
  • I have a bunch of Mick and Casey Novellas and Novelettes which are more than half done... must FINISH the darned things, and publish them.
  • I need microfiction and flash stories for my blog's Sunday Story feature. (Note, this one may change, I'm thinking of posting chapters of The Misplaced Hero this fall, and using the story notes to continue the "blogging my progress" series about how I create it.)

Of course, I will continue to do my artwork -- but I can confine most of that to the work I'm doing for the Day Job, with some set aside time for the "Creating a Cover" series in my off-hours.

For the duration of the Dare (mid-August) I'll be reporting on progress of these dares on Saturdays and Wednesdays.

Some thoughts on long term goals:

I also want to mention my latest thinking in terms of my longer term goals. You could call these the goals behind the goals.

At the moment I have two conflicting priorities:

*Body of Work. I need to have multiple books in each of my genres and series. That's the foundation of a writing career. If someone discovers a book of mine, there should be other books for them to go to right away -- and in the same series or genre.

*Income streams. Aside from a Day Job, income can trickle in from interest on savings, dividends, odd jobs, and of course, you get income from books -- except for one thing. The books have to be published to become an income stream.

That's where the conflict comes in.

Priority One is all about larger projects which take a long time. It's also about quality and branding, and doign things right. These projects include things like planning out sequels several books in advance and getting them out there, and filling out the selection of each genre.

Priority Two, on the other hand, favors smaller projects which can get out there quickly. While overall success may depend on branding and consistency, the emphasis in any passive income plan is on diversity and volume, and doing things now.

These projects could involve things not related to fiction writing at all. It used to involve my SEO articles (may eHow rest in peace), and t-shirts at Printfection, and script analysis. Currently it involves short fiction and novellas -- and submitting them to commercial magazines, as well as self-publishing. It also includes some ideas I have for non-fiction. For instance, I used to run a blog called Reading Chinese Menus, and I am thinking of collecting the existing posts and offering them as a cheap little e-booklet. Maybe adding a little more material to flesh it out, but mostly just seeing if it flies. And if it does fly, I would have to consider reviving the blog. I could also do a collection of some of Daring Novelist posts.

Although there is a lot more on my plate than that, I really have to make major progress on these two goals in the next two years. So how do you balance the conflict?

I think you have to look at it like you're badly in debt. You have fifty credit cards, student loans, an underwater mortgage, and two sets of car payments, and you have to save for your kid's college, and your retirement and also get some serious dental work done. What do you do?

Now, the usual, logical way of doing this is to do the math and try to pay off the biggest debt with the highest interest first. However, Dave Ramsey, the personal finance guru, has a concept called the "Debt Snowball."

One of the big problems people have with debt is being overwhelmed. No matter how much they do, nothing ever seems to get better. They receive bill after bill. (Doesn't that sound like how it feels to have too much work on your plate as well?) His advice is to stop worrying about what is smartest in terms of the math. You've got to make progress. So the first thing you do is to go after the things you can get done quickly. If you only owe a small amount on your student loans, then it doesn't matter if that's your lowest interest loan. If you were to just pay the minimum on everything else, you could pay the sucker off now.

One down. Out of your hair. Put all that energy into paying off the next easiest one. Bam. Gone. Fewer bills to worry about. A sense of accomplishment. With each bill out of your hair, you have more money -- and more energy -- to deal with the bigger problems.

So for a writer with a lot of projects and ideas and work, the first thing is to create a kind of "writing snowball" to create your own momentum. Prioritize first on what you can get off your plate.

Sure, some of my smaller income stream projects fit that bill, but so do several of my partially done novels. The Man Who Did Too Much is probably three-quarters done if I go by word count. I have a fantasy novel, Moon Child: Ready Or Not, which just needs some editing. That one will take less time than the Chinese Menus booklet will.

So for summer, the goals of the Clarion Dare (plus the editing of Moon Child) are the first leg of this Snowball Plan. That's two novels off my plate, and a bunch of short fiction to submit to various magazines, or publish.

I may not get back on my goal to publish 12 works this year until fall (no, I haven't forgotten that goal) but I hope to make up the difference once summer is over.

The next set of low-hanging fruit may be some non-fiction. I'll probably be struggling to keep up with the blog again by the end of the dare, so I will probabably take a little time to write up a bunch of posts for fall. And I'll probably do the Chinese Menus thing, and maybe some collections from this blog.

I hope that by October, though, I'll be able to get back onto major projects.

Tomorrow, a little more about how search engines work, and Why You Should Stop Worrying and Love the Algorithm.

See you in the funny papers.

No comments: