Friday, May 8, 2009

Goals and Deviations

My publisher had a couple of anthologies with deadlines in mid-April that I was sort of casually working on stories for. I hadn't made any promises and so hadn't committed to anything; it was a matter of, "Humm, that theme sparked an idea -- let's see where it goes." The wordcount limit was 8K in both cases, and as has been happening more and more often lately, as I got into each of the stories it started looking like they were going to be longer. In one case, I think it's heading for novella-length, which is significantly more than 8K. [cough]

So the deadlines came and went and I shrugged and set the stories aside. No big deal; I can finish them and submit them as stand-alones whenever, at whatever length they end up.

I'd promised myself I was going to get my urban fantasy novel done and submitted (and hopefully published) this year, so I turned to that and started working on it with great energy and determination. I was doing well and had added almost 15K words to it since mid-April and I'm thinking another 15K or so (give or take 5K) and I should be done and ready to break out the sandpaper.

Then a couple of days ago my publisher said that they were still looking for stories for the pirate anthology, and they were also running low on stand-alone short stories. The anthology was the one where the story was looking at novelette length rather than novella, so I figured I could rip out a subplot and bring it in under 8K. Good deal, right? I have another shot to submit this story and I help out when my publisher is feeling a little squeezed.

So I set the novel aside (again) and I've gone back to working on the short. It's a fun story, pirates with a twist, and it's looking good; I have a better idea where I'm going with it now -- letting it simmer in the back of my subconscious has done it some good -- and with the modifications I have in mind, it should come in within the length limit.

Of course, my novel is still sitting there, staring at me with an accusing typeface. [wry smile]

It's said that whenever you get onto the right track, the universe will conspire against you. When you set out to make a major change in some aspect of your life, to move away from some self-sabotaging behavior you've been stuck in, when you're making some real progress, "things" will turn up to try to shove you back into your old patterns. Weird things. A meteor will hit your dog, as Steve Barnes says. It's not always a matter of lame excuses either -- often it's a matter of being tempted away from your larger goal by opportunities to achieve smaller ones, if only you'll set the larger goal aside. Or something will come up, a lost job or moving house or a family emergency which takes up all your time and attention, which is a good excuse, not a lame one. These things are important and have to be dealt with. But still, it's a delay in achieving that big goal.

I've been having a pretty lousy year, writing-wise -- actually longer than a year. I had a short story come out in December of 2007, then another in October of 2008, then one in January of 2009. That's really pitiful. I mean, if they were novels I'd be really proud, but shorts? :/ I wrote very little in '08, almost nothing for the first nine months. That 40K words in two weeks in October was awesome, but that novel (different one from the one I'm working on currently) is still unfinished.

I finally determined to buckle down and get back to writing regularly and submit more this year, including the urban fantasy novel. And I was making good progress on it when the call for short story help went out from my publisher, and I figured, Hey, I've got some things I could work with, I can help with that. So it's a good thing, right? If I finish this short for the anthology and it gets accepted, that'll be another publication this year, and I can get back to the novel after.

But I'm kind of wondering whether something else might pop up after I'm done with the pirate story.

Having a novel published has been a major goal of mine for a very long time. I'm getting closer to accomplishing it than I've ever been in my life, but right now it's stalled. Publishing another short would be very cool -- and it'd be my first anthology contribution -- but it's still a deviation from my larger goal.

I'm focused on the pirate story and I'm approaching the home stretch. I'll finish this one and submit it, and we'll see what happens with that. But then the plan is to get back to the novel. We'll see whether any other really good opportunities to help someone out pop up at that point.

Anyone else bucking the universe? What's popping up to distract you away from your goals, writing or other?



laughingwolf said...

wow... you have a ton on your plate, angie!

keep at it, you seem to get better each time you put something off for a while :)

the pup i was hoping to have home next month was not born, the mother absorbed them all into her system... the next litters will be late summer/early fall... maybe for the best, since my older daughter and i plan to visit family for a week or two, and this means not having to take the pup along in the car....

Charles Gramlich said...

Hum, well early in your career I think it's probably important to take as many opportunities as you can. All of it is training and experience for the bigger novel later.

writtenwyrdd said...

You have a lot going on, that's for certain! I agree that sometimes you have great reasons for letting yourself be seduced by some other short term goal, and that it can be hell to get back to the main one. With this whole diet/exercise/improve health thing I have to deal with, it's distracting me heavily from writing. I read somewhere that a diet can take about 20% of your attention while at work, making for decreased inefficiency; so I figure that anything that takes the preponderance of your attention/focus is going to distract you that badly. Make it two or more things, and you can become pretty unproductive on the writing front!

Angie said...

LW -- if that's true then by the time I finish this novel it's going to slip itself right onto the Nebula ballot or something, LOL!

About the pup, major suckage! The mother reabsorbed the puppies again?? It sounds like they've got some kind of major issue going on up there with that breed. This is just way too much coincidence for me to buy as pure happenstance. :/ Have you thought of contacting a breeder (way) out of the area?

Whatever you do next, good luck. [crossed fingers]

Charles -- right, the anthologies tend to sell pretty well and it'll be a new audience, so that's a good thing. The thing is, even good things can keep you from achieving your goals. :/ Although this one's been sitting there waiting for me for a couple of years, so I guess another week won't make too much difference. I just can't let it go on much longer.

WW -- well, I've been dieting (intermittent fasting, actually, but close enough) and working out like crazy, so yeah, I guess that's yet another distraction for me too. [nod] I'm not about to stop because it's working, both my total weight and my body fat percentage are going down, but it is something else to think about, and the work-outs are definitely time-suckers. [ponder]

I'm just going to have to figure out some way of keeping my focus where it should be. We'll see what happens once this short is done. :)

Good luck on your own diet/exercise/health thing. I hope that's going well for you. [more crossed fingers]


laughingwolf said...

no-no... just the one time :(

dunno if she's been bred this time, but their other bitches have been

here's hoping :)

as for your writing, you KNOW it's all good ;) lol

Angie said...

LW -- ahh, good. I mean, not good but at least it didn't happen to the same bitch twice in a row. :/ I'll keep a set of virtual fingers crossed for you. {{}}