Habit 2: Begin With The End In Mind

Or, The Goals, They Burnssss Ussss Preciousssss . . . .


Habit 2 is all about the goals. Goals for life, goals for dreams, goals for writing. What is the most awesome thing you can do this year? Where do you want to be in five? How do you plan on getting there, Padawan?

Back in November I experienced my first taste of Being Published. There were highs, lows, and all the betweens. I wondered if it was worth the roller coaster, and if I really wanted more of it. Being a roller coaster junkie, the answer was a resounding YES.

So how do I get more? How do make it my full time job? I begin, of course, with the End in Mind.

Careers advisors in high school used to ask us what we wanted to be when we grew up, and then provided The Plan on getting there, usually involving going into debt for anywhere from four to eight years to pay for college so they could meet their quota. Thankfully, I successfully evaded their blandishments.

But the fact of the matter is, it’s no good deciding that the dangerous world of professional Word Wrangling is the bee’s knees, and then waiting expectantly while the universe gets to work on your behalf. “Here’s your whip, your chair, a flaming hoop or two . . . off you go, have fun.” It’s equally ineffective to write a single story without doing your homework or polishing it up to the best of your ability, and wait for everyone to do all the work for you and offer you a gazillion dollar contract for the privilege.

Word Monkeys are craftsmen, and we work hard to become so. Ideas are a dime a dozen, possibly even cheaper. Moving into full time Word Wrangling is a difficult, exhausting, poorly-paid with no benefits job. In other words, a prospective Word Wrangler has to really, really want it in order for it to work and be worth it. Is it possible to become the next Stephen King? Sure. But the odds are greater to win the lottery, which is better paid and requires less work.

The Effective Writer Gets Specific

So you still want it. You’re burning for it. You scoff at Word Monkey’s well-meaning attempts to scare you off. Good for you. You still need a plan to get there.

For example, I know that if I want to retire from Evol Daye Jobbery within five years (the goal), then I am going to need A Plan of Epic Proportions in order to meet it. I am going to need to write, say four novellas a year to boost that income stream, since I already have a publisher and Enthusiastic Editor to take them two. I also need to squeeze in one novel per year, written and edited, and put it on submission track to agents and editors.

Sounds like a Plan, right? Except it’s still not specific enough. Now I have to drill it down to what I need to do this year. Which ideas am I going to develop into novellas? I want at least two for my Keepers of the Flame series, so I have a trilogy to be getting on with, but what about the other two of my allotted four? Which idea am I going to develop into full-length novel? What it’s going to come down to is which ideas I am most enthusiastic about, that will have the staying power to keep me excited throughout the process.

Once I have my ideas in the pipeline, I need to prioritize and come up with some deadlines for myself. I can estimate that each novella will take me approximately 90 days (3 mo) for R&D, storyboarding, drafting, and editing. That gives me one per quarter. A fantasy novel will take me about a year to implement the same process.

The Effective Writer Gets Their Groove On

Professional Word Wrangling is a tricksy business—tricksy like hobbitses. Not only do we word monkeys need to Begin With The End In Mind when it comes to our wider goals for Word Domination, Beginning With End In Mind helps tremendously when it comes to story development.

Word Wrangling doesn’t always mean knowing every step on the journey, but it helps to have an End Game in mind so we know where we want to get to in the end. Say we have a hankering to drive across country. We don’t just jump in a car and go. Where across country do we can to end up, and how many states are we going to hit on the way? What’s the midpoint of our journey, so we know we’re half way there? Are we going to New York? Boston? Florida? If wanted to start at Disneyland, and wind up at Disney World, what is the route we need to take?

I utilize a massive White Board of Story Development (also known as the Board of Awesome). On it, in black gaffer’s tape (or electrical tape, for the non-theatrical folk), I have rather large rendering Aristotle’s Incline marked out so I can erase stuff without losing my lines. It references my key scenes, location notes, character jottings and pictures, Notes to Self, etc. I have a smaller version of the Board of Awesome (aka Board of Lesser Awesome) for shorter works like novellas. They hang on the wall I face when at my computer.

 Then I have to block out certain hours of my week to devote to writing, and nothing but writing. Novella writing happens during the week, while larger blocks of time on the weekends are develop to novels. During my lunch hours at work I try to prep for my writing time that evening. I also make a point to find down time to spend reading and paying attention to the Darling Spouse and generally taking care of business. But my writing time is sacred, and I treat it as such. If I don’t, who will?

Next week: Habit 3—Put First Things First


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