First, some news. I'd been waiting to announce this until I knew more, but these people don't mess around and it turns out it's already happened without me knowing. Last fall, I signed a deal with Audible to do audiobooks of the Enchanted, Inc. series, and it looks like the first three books are already available. The rest will be coming. I could swear it was just before Christmas that they e-mailed to ask how my name is pronounced. So, if you've been looking for something to listen to on your commute or if you have a friend who only listens to audiobooks that you can now hook on the series, then there you go! They show up in the listing at Amazon, and you should also be able to get them via the Audible subscription service. I know there's a lot of worry about Amazon and its subsidiaries in the publishing world, but as I said, they don't mess around. They move at Internet speed, while the rest of the publishing world makes glaciers impatient.
I'm kicking off my writing posts for the year. In case you're new, I do posts about writing every other Wednesday (aside from holidays, travel, etc.). You can read them on my blog, or subscribe to get them via e-mail at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/writewithshanna/. I'm always open to suggestions or questions, as long as I think I can contribute something on the topic. Since this is the start of a new year, when we're all full of enthusiasm and trying to live up to resolutions, I thought I'd first tackle the topic of setting writing goals.
The tricky thing about writing a book is that it's a big project, a long-range goal. It's something you can work on for months without finishing. If you resolve to write a book this year, that gives you a lot of leeway, which means it's easy to give up. As with most big projects, it helps to break it down into chunks so that you can feel a sense of achievement and completion along the way, and that then motivates you to do the next part. Whether you set daily or weekly goals depends on your life. I see a lot of advice to writers about how you have to write every day or you're not a real writer, but that always seems to come from bestsellers whose job is writing. I write full-time, and I still sometimes have trouble writing every day because life gets in the way. If you can only write on weekends, then set goals for each weekend. Take into consideration your other obligations and schedule when setting goals. If your life is sporadic and you don't know when you can write, set weekly goals so that you don't have to worry about any particular day as long as you get it done eventually.
Writing is also a lot like exercise, in that it requires some preparation and development before you can go all-out. You don't run a marathon or compete in the Olympics the first time you decide to do something physical. It requires training and practice. There are some people who can just plunge into a novel with no idea of where they're going, but for most of us, we're a lot more successful and a lot less likely to fizzle out in the middle if we have even the slightest blueprint of where we're going, so it's worth it to take some time at the beginning to think about your book -- who are the characters, what is their conflict, etc. Once you start writing, start with smaller goals you're sure you can achieve, and then you can build from there. Whether your goal is an amount of time spent working or an amount of work produced is up to you. Starting with time might be a good idea until you get a better sense of what you can produce, since you can control how much time you devote, but it's harder to produce a certain number of words on command. Once you have a deadline, you may have to set productivity goals, but until then, committing time is the important thing.
Set rewards for yourself, even if it's just allowing yourself to goof off once you've met your goal. Allow yourself to celebrate when you've met a milestone. It sometimes helps to make your progress visual -- something like one of those fundraising thermometer graphs that shows how many hours you've spent working, or sticking gold stars on your calendar for each day you meet your goal.
It can sometimes be difficult to get other people in your life to buy in to your commitment. If writing is something you do in your spare time, it looks like a hobby, and others may feel that should take a lower priority or is something you can just drop if something more fun comes along. Even with writing being my job, I do sometimes have to deal with people who think I have tons of free time and can take off whenever I want. That's because it's such a solitary process and other people only see the results, not the hours of work it really takes. You have to take your work seriously before you can expect others to take it seriously, so you may have to be firm or set particular hours that you treat like an appointment.
I have to say, there's nothing like the feeling of hitting "the end" on a novel, so keep at it until you do.