Writing Craft

The Muse & I…

One of the basic points of Holly Lisle’s “How To Think Sideways” class is to get the two halves of your brain to work together so you can have all the muse’s magic AND all the editor’s skills. One of my exercises was to “call down lightning 3 times.” In other words, get my muse to give me 3 viable story ideas…on command. I wasn’t allowed to recycle old ideas, they had to be brand new. Lots of interesting stuff led up to this assignment, and I thought I’d done it well.

Uhm…Guess again, cupcake!

When I asked my muse the suggested questions,  all I got was:

“I want colored pens.”
“Why don’t you have any colored pens?”
“When are you going to get me colored pens?”
“I NEED colored pens!”

I ignored this, because that’s what I do. I ignore impulses to spend money unnecessarily. Besides, I hate writing by hand, so why would I NEED colored pens?

That’s when it hit me, my logical self was explaining away my muse’s request…just like it had taken over the exercises that were supposed to be the foundation for this exercise.

I asked my muse to do something, but I’d ignored her attempts to communicate and refused to give her the tools she wanted–no, I believe her word was NEEDed–in order to carry out the assignment *facepalm*

I bought colored pens…and had a blast drawing colored mandalas! Until my muse delivered several GREAT ideas. Sometimes, you have to feed the muse in unusual ways 😀


Are your yearly goals in place?

I’m not talking resolutions, I’m talking GOALS. What do you want to accomplish this year? Do you have an action plan in place to act as a road map to accomplishment? If not, today is a great day to put one in place.

First, let’s talk about S.M.A.R.T. goals. You know, the realistic kind. The ones you have control over. Writing, revising, submitting…those are all controllable goals. Being published, getting an agent, being offered a multi-book contract…those are in someone else’s court. They’re great ambitions, but they’re not goals. The S.M.A.R.T. acronym is a great goal test:

  • Specific: Goals need to be specific, not some loose, vague, impossible to quantify statement. “I will write better this year″ is not a specific goal. “I will write 2 pages a day” qualifies.
  • Measurable: Goals need to be measurable. Again, a concrete goal is far better than an amorphous wish. You need to know whether or not you achieved it! “I will write for 45 minutes a day” is a measurable goal.
  • Achievable: Goals need to be reasonable and achievable. Don’t set yourself up for failure by shooting for the moon. “I will complete the first draft of my 90,000 word novel in 6 months″ is much more achievable than “I will write a 90,000 word novel in January.” Also, as I mentioned above, make sure your goals are within your control. “I will write the first draft of my novel” is achievable and within your control. “I will secure the services of Dream Agent” is not.
  • Realistic: Goals need to be realistic. Evaluate your time and your lifestyle. Be honest with yourself. Set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, and realistic for who you are and how you live.
  • Time-Bound: Goals need to have a time frame. Lots of people dream of writing a novel…someday. But without a deadline, a time pressure, there’s no reason to do anything today. Put a date on your goal and then get started on it today. When you reach that date, you’ll know whether or not you accomplished your goal.

Now that you’ve designed your S.M.A.R.T. goals, you need an action plan. I like to use a calendar for this part.

Pull out a calendar (mine is a Word document…I don’t write with a pen unless forced *LOL*) and think about your work and family commitments. The first thing I did was to go through and cross off major holidays and family events that require my time and attention (birthdays, anniversaries, family reunions, etc.)

Next I looked at my goals, made arbitrary decisions as to anticipated page counts (YA = 180 pages, ST = 375 pages…your mileage may vary) and tried to anticipate how much time would be required for revision and polishing drafts. For planning purposes I chose a goal of 5 pages a day, 5 days a week. Then I simply plugged my numbers into my calendar.

I made notes in an empty cell as to how many pages I expect to write each month on each project with running totals in another cell. Leaving time for polishing the first draft, sending it out to my beta readers, and then tweaking it per their comments, I figure I can write one YA and two single titles in a year.

Now, we all know that nothing in life goes according to plan, but it’s also true that if you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know when you arrive. So…I’m planning to write three books this year. If something wonderful (like an agent and a multi-book contract!) comes along and knocks my plans askew, I’ll adjust. But for now, I have goals and an action plan in place and I’m ready to shine!

How about you?


For additional articles on the craft of writing, please visit my Craft Category!