Sunday, December 4, 2011

Easy-Does-It vs Middle-of-the-Road vs Oversetting

Today's post is a binary post. As in, there are two kinds of X: Y and Z. Since this is also a beginning writer's blog, I am naturally going to tell you which of the two kinds of X works for me.

But first you might want to know what, exactly, X--and thus our subject--is, hrmm? You might also wonder why I'm being so obtuse, and rightly so. The answer to that question comes later.

Today's post is about goals and goal-setting. Humans naturally set goals; every time someone decides to do something, they've set a goal. Generally, these short-term goals are easy, or at least not too difficult. Writer's example: I'm going to sit down and write for a while (an hour, 1k words, a page, a chapter.)

When we set clusters of medium-to-long-term goals (termed a Challenge), we get into more difficult territory. This sort of goal-setting  requires more determination, discipline, and effort. Writer's example: I'm going to write 1k words a day (a short story every week, 4 novels this year, win NaNoWriMo.)

Challenges are a great way to get your butt in gear, by giving yourself a concrete set of attainable goals to work towards. The best Challenges also have the added benefit of having a plan-of-action built in. "Become a better writer" is a difficult to measure, and thus "win", goal. "Write a short story every week" is clear and measurable.

Different personalities do better with different forms of motivation. Some people might do best by setting their goals low (easy-does-it.) This ensures that they succeed, helping to build confidence. I like to set my goals at the highest level I think I can achieve, but not unrealistically out of reach--a middle-of-the-road approach. I know others who set their goals ridiculously high, knowing they won't make them, but also knowing they won't accomplish anything if they don't "overset."

Yes, I know I said all that binary stuff at the beginning. And here I went and gave three different kinds of goal-setting (trinary?). This is why I am a writer and not a mathematician.

Once you understand what kind of goal-setter you are, you can tailor your Challenges to what suits your personality best. The important thing is that you are setting Challenges. Writing is like exercising; your writing muscle needs to be worked out, not just maintained. And especially not allowed to atrophy.

Personal updates and lessons learned this week:

Writing my NaNo novel has taught me that I can create suspense and plot hooks by leaving little mysteries in my writing, to be explained later. Even if the explanation is something innocuous, holding a little back for later helps maintain interest. And sometimes, silly little mysteries morph into major plot points, because I gave myself something to work with early on.

I still haven't finished my MS. I know the gist of the rest of the story, and only have a few chunks left to write, but life (and burnout) has been getting in the way. Which is a shame because I am so looking forward to celebrating my first completed MS (first completed zero-draft, to be clear.) I will be done by next Sunday, I am sure.

In fact, small challenge--Micro-NaNo. Or NaNoFiWe (National Novel Finishing Week.) I will finish my MS (at least 4 chunks and 8k) by next Sunday.

Coming up: Once NaNoFiWe is done, I plan on starting a regular self-epub challenge, details TBA, as well as starting a write-by-voice-recorder daily challenge (for short stories.) Finally, I plan on re-outlining my zero-draft, in preparation for rewrites to make the MS a coherent, readable story.

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