I probably won’t say anything here you haven’t heard before, but sometimes it’s good to hear the pep talk again, especially if you’re feeling discouraged.
I am, indeed, very goal-oriented. Even when I’m reading I always look ahead to see when the next chapter’s coming up. Earlier in my career I used to count pages when I wrote (not words as it was mostly screenplay writing then). But now that I’m focusing on prose, I still don’t specifically count pages or words. That said, I do like to see progress in terms of page count.
I’ve always had goals when it came to writing. Sometimes conscious, sometimes under the surface. But there nonetheless. I might not always achieve those goals, or not achieve them in the timetable I’d set, but it still helps to have specific goals, so you know how and where to focus your energies.
Of course, one goal is always to write the best thing I can from all aspects of the writing. But that’s a given, so leaving the writing itself aside, the obvious early goals were to get recognition and get paid. I sent out a lot of stuff and got a lot of rejections. That created a lot of angst. I used to comfort myself with aphorisms about writing and rejection. Things like “Literature is an occupation in which you have to keep proving your talent to people who have none,” from Jules Renard.
Focus your energies. If you’re writing short stories, what magazines or anthologies are you aiming for? Read the publications you want to get into and write for those markets. What are their requirements? For example, what does Ellery Queen like? You need to fit their needs ’cause they’re sure not going to cater to you. Even if you get rejected, the experience of writing for a specific market will help you hone your writing skills. Do your research and carefully consider whether what you’re writing is appropriate for the market you plan to submit to. And if you do get rejected, submit that story somewhere else. The important thing is to get exposure for your writing. Everything builds on everything. With each publishing success you learn something new that you can apply to the next writing project.
If working on novels, do you want an agent, will you be happy as a mid-lister at one of the major publishers – because let’s face it, there’s few Dan Browns or Gillian Flynns. Or do you want to go for a small press or even the autonomy of self-publishing? Also, you might want to win or at least be nominated for certain awards or shoot for a certain amount of money (don’t hold your breath on that one) as additional goals. I’m not trying to shoot down anyone’s dreams, just being realistic, which is something we need to be. It’s okay to shoot for the moon, but realize there’s very few people who hit that goal the first time out, or even ever. Enjoy hitting the tree tops or mountain tops.
My friend Scott Adlerberg recently wrote a piece on whether or not agents are necessary today. You might want to check that out ( http://www.mwany.org/2016/04/how-hard-should-you-try-to-get-an-agent/ ). You might find that you want an agent, but you also might find that maybe you don’t.
The first thing I got paid for was a piece about John Lennon on the one-year anniversary of his death. It’s ironic that that would be my first paid writing because I’ve always been an unreconstructed Beatles fan. And in a different world it would have been great to have my first paid writing be for something on one of the Beatles. But in this world I wish it could have been for something other than about his death. So I was happy to get paid and sad that it was for a piece on that.
Over time, I’ve slowly been achieving my writing goals. Of course, I wanted to start at the top, selling to Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock, but reality was that I started small, selling to various smaller publications or even getting into some unpaid anthologies. But eventually I did reach those other goals – getting into the WGAw, Ellery Queen and one of the Akashic Noirs (St. Louis, coming out in August, 2016) and only just found out as I was writing this piece that Alfred Hitchcock has accepted a story. My first for them. Yea!
So, I figure if I live long enough I might achieve many of my goals and so might you. The key, as I’m sure you’ve heard before is don’t give up, be persistent, go back to the drawing board, don’t take criticism personally. Just go for it!
Learn More about Paul's Work or buy Vortex or his award winning novel, White Heat. Amazon