How To Choose A Writing Target

Dear writer,

What are you afraid of?

I’m Afraid I’ll Never Accomplish Any REAL Writing

Well, let’s define what ‘real’ writing is, shall we?

I Don’t Know; That Sounds Kind Of Intimidating And Scary

I promise we will take as long as you need to feel comfortable. Let’s just talk for a few minutes about what you mean by ‘real’ writing. Do you mean that you write every day? Or that you get offered a book deal from a huge publisher? Does it mean that strangers stop you in the grocery store, and ask to shake your hand because you are the author of “Super Awesome Book You Wrote”?

Well, I Really Just Want To Feel Like I Count

Real writing is writing that counts. All right. What are the criteria you need to meet in order for writing to count, in your eyes? Do you have to write fifty books? Do you have to win a money award? Do you need fifty five-star reviews online? When will you count?

Well, I Never Really Thought About That. I’m Not Sure

Let’s do a little exploring. If you picture yourself in twenty years, and you look back on your younger self and say, “This was the period of my life when I had not yet achieved my thing that I wanted,” what is that thing? Describe it to yourself.

For me, I picture myself as a fit, attractive person sitting at a dark mahogany desk in a tidy office. There is a window in the wall in front of my desk, and I have my nice laptop and a neat stack of paperbacks (that I wrote) sitting in one corner of the desk. There are some papers and notes on one end of the desk that pertain to new stories I’m working on. There is a slew (by which I mean, maybe 25) of mail in my inbox from fans and admiring authors, and my Kindle Reports page has a robust, exciting height in the beautiful red sales graph.

What does success look like to you, right now?

I Just Want To Really BE Somebody

All right, can you give me some examples of ‘Somebodies?’ Like, does Sir Conan Doyle count as somebody? Or J.K. Rowling?

Well, That’s Probably Unrealistic. I’m Not That Good

There seems to be a range that you’re comfortable inside of. Not too big and important, but just big and important enough.

Well, Yes

Good. Just to practice, let’s try setting a small goal. What is something that a mediumly-important person who is a real writer would be likely to accomplish? Remember, your answer can change later; this is only an experiment.

Okay, Um. They Would Have Several Books Published

Great! For the experiment, let’s narrow down ‘several’ a little bit more. Give me a number. It can be a range, if you like. What is a number that represents ‘several’ to you?

Um. Now I Feel Pressured. Six?

Does ‘several’ translate to ‘six’ in your mind? Do those two words fit together comfortably in your mind?

Sure

Great! So in order to become a real writer who is really somebody, you need to start out by writing six books. Now, before you stop breathing and close the browser in a panic, let’s look at the numbers. Let’s say you have half an hour to write every day. And let’s say you could manage to write 500 words in that half-hour.

Let’s be conservative, and say that you’re going to take Saturday and Sunday off, because you have a life, and many other important things to take care of.

500 words, 5 days a week for 52 weeks adds up to 130,000 words. That’s more than a book. Depending on your genre, that’s very nearly two books.

But setting aside half an hour for five days a week, (and, admittedly, writing to a basic outline so your work makes it to a final draft), you could achieve your real-person-who-counts-as-somebody goal in less than six years.

I Don’t Know, Victor; Six Years Is A Lot

Yes, it is. What would happen if you wrote 1,000 words a day? Suddenly, those six years become three years. Three years is a much smaller time frame than six years.

I’m Feeling A Little Overwhelmed Again

You know, that’s just fine. Let’s take a break; we can talk about these types of goals again on Monday. For now, here is another writing sample. This time, we’re looking at the effectiveness of scene-immersion when compared to a style of straight-from-the-hip narration. You know, old-fashioned folk tale versus vicariously living an adventure.

Bad Writing (Folk Tale):

Once upon a time there was an evil sorcerous who concealed herself as a kindly herbal woman on the top of a hill. She spoke to all the travelers, and even built extensions onto her house, so that many young people could come there and rest on their way to the great cities beyond.

The old sorcerous pretended to befriend the young people; she made them soups and special elixers that she claimed would be strengthening, and give the young people protection against evil folk in the cities. The elixers and soups were laced through with a special poison that the woman had crushed from the skulls of tiny animals, and when she fed them to the young people, her guests, they grew ill, and had to stay in her house for many weeks. She pretended to nurse them to health, and all the time she gradually leached from the young people their vitality, and stored it in jars that she kept in a shrine in the back of her house.

Good Writing (Immersive Narrative):

Hagatha crushed the sharp-smelling leaves together with her wooden trestle. The chatter of voices from the room next door were, to her, like the twittering of young birds. Hagatha breathed in the tart aroma of the poison garun-plant, and added a pinch of boiled snake skin. She raised the bowl to her lips, and spat in it. A twist of yellow and gold magic spun around the leaves, and then drifted softly away.

Hagatha smiled, and dumped the toxic concoction into the vat of stew that bubbled merrily over the fire. She put two thick pads over her hands, and hefted the stew into the farther room.

“Hagatha made stew!” one of the young men shouted. The other young people at the table cheered, and two of them sprang to their feet, and helped her place the heavy vat in the center of the dinner talbe.

“Violet’s going tomorrow morning,” one young lady told Hagatha, after the many hands had settled into regular scooping. The contented champing of many mouths made a peaceful rhythm in the house.

Good Luck, And I’ll See You On Monday!

Remember, your goals are often within reach once you clarify what it is that you mean by specific things you say to yourself. Clarity always helps. If you spend a little time asking yourself what you want, and then define what your terms mean, you will be in possession of greater information, and have more power over your future life.

You’ve been reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My books are here. Aaaaaand, it’s Friday!

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