What are your goals as a writer?

One of the most important things I have learned about the writing business is that you should be clear about the goals you want to achieve. Your goals determine how you approach your writing career . . . or your lack of one.

As an example, the writer who wants to publish only one book will have to approach the writing business differently from the writer who wants to make an entire career out of writing. The writer who wants to publish one book need only think short term, whereas the writer who wants to make a career out of this writing thing has to think long term, as in five, ten, or more years.

I’ve already written about my goals as a writer before. These goals–to be great and to make a living off my fiction–inform nearly every decision I make regarding my career as a writer. If a decision will not help me become a better writer or help me make money off my writing, I generally don’t do it.

Notice how my goals don’t include:

-Getting on the New York Times Bestseller List
-Becoming a household name that everyone knows (but not necessarily loves)
-Writing The Great American Novel
-Selling a million copies of my first novel
-Writing a book that becomes a classic
-Being published by a big publishing company
-Becoming a creative writing professor at a prestigious university
-Getting a blockbuster movie made out of one of my books
-Having my stories analyzed in creative writing classes across the country
-Appearing on every late night talk show whenever I have a new book out
-Getting represented by a literary agent from a famous literary agency
-Being invited to speak at campuses, writer’s groups, libraries, and bookstores around the country

There’s nothing wrong with wanting any of that and if any of it does happen to me, hey, I won’t complain. Those just aren’t my goals at the moment. Perhaps I may aim for some of those later on, but right now all I want to do is become a great writer and make a living off my work and I can do all of that just fine without any of that other stuff.

You might differ. Maybe you want all of that or only some of that or maybe you want something else entirely that I didn’t even mention. Maybe you have the same goals as me. Whatever your goals may be, it is important to be clear about them. If your goals are muddled and confused, then don’t be surprised when that happens to your career.

I’ve notice that a lot of beginning writers don’t have very clear goals. They talk about making a career out of their work, but get obsessed with one book or don’t try to learn business or anything that could help them long term. I used to be that way, too, until I realized that writing is a business as much as an art and that if I didn’t want to get screwed over by agents, publishers, or anyone else who tries to take advantage of unsuspecting beginner writers, then I needed to learn that business.

If you do not care to make a career out of writing–maybe you only do it as a hobby or simply want to do it as a side thing to have some extra coffee money–that’s fine. It means you will have to approach the business differently from how I or other writers like me do, but again that’s totally fine. As long as you are clear about what your goals are and don’t try to pretend your goals aren’t what they are (such as publishing only one book and claiming that’s enough to constitute a career, for example), then you will probably do fine (‘fine’ being relative here, of course, depending on your goals).

To Rewrite or Not to Rewrite

Recently I’ve been reading the Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing blog series by author Dean Wesley Smith. Like his wife’s articles on the business of writing, there is a lot of good information, both on the business and art of writing, and I highly recommend them to anyone who is serious about starting a long-term writing career.

In particular, Smith’s post on rewriting (which you should read, by the way, because it’s quite excellent) got me thinking about how I usually approach writing. Normally, I do what is apparently called “redrafting”; that is, I write three different drafts of the same story (at least for novels, anyway). After that, I’ll go through and edit the last draft three times before I decide to show the story to anyone else.

This method usually works for me and I generally enjoy it, but reading Smith’s article on rewriting, I wonder if I should try being a “three draft” writer sometimes. His process is as follows:

First draft I do as quickly as I can, staying solidly as much as possible in my creative side, adding in things I think about as I go along, until I get to the end of the draft. Again, I try to write as fast as the project will allow since I have discovered a long time ago that if I just keep typing, the less chance I have to get in my own way and screw things up.

Second draft I spellcheck and then give to my trusted first reader.

Third draft I touch up all the things my first reader has found and then I mail the novel or story.

If my first reader hates the story, I toss the draft away and redraft completely.

It sounds like a recipe for mediocre work, don’t it? But apparently it works for him quite well (he’s traditionally published over 100 novels and hundreds and hundreds of short stories). And not just him, either, but he says that other professional writers use a similar approach and have similar success in publishing and making money off their work.

Of course, I’m not Dean Wesley Smith. As he says, every writer does it differently, so what works for him may not work for me and vice versa.

Still, I would like to try this method out sometime, just to see if it will work for me. It sounds like a lot of fun, if a bit scary. Maybe I’ll use it for my next novel, just to see see how it works for me. I might be pleasantly surprised.

What are your thoughts on rewriting? Share your thoughts in the comments!

-Tim

Snow

When I woke up this morning, I was greeted to a thin layer of snow on the ground around my house. Snow is extremely rare here in Texas; in fact, this is the first snow of the winter, so I’d say it’s pretty special in that regard.

It’s not a whole lot of snow, though. It’s not like the amount of snow they get in the northern states, where so much of the white stuff falls I hear they have to close down schools and businesses sometimes. It’s not enough snow to build a snowman, although you could probably have a snowball fight if you wanted (though don’t expect to make anything larger than your fist, if even that).

Still, it is snow. White, wet, and cold. I hope to enjoy it as much as I can today because I am not sure if we’re going to be getting more anytime soon. On the other hand, it’s so cold outside right now that I am probably going to stay inside and do some reading or play some video games (been playing Pokémon X recently, which is a fantastic game. Highly recommend it to anyone who likes Pokémon, even if it’s been years since you last played a game from the series).

-Tim