How Not To Make New Year’s Resolutions & My Writing Goals for 2014

If you missed my past blog posts on this theme, I hope you’ll give this one a read.

The problem with most resolutions is that they’re typically open-ended. “I resolve to lose weight in 2014.” That kind of resolution is doomed to fail because it lacks a target and a time period. Better is: “I resolve to lose two pounds a month until I’ve lost twenty pounds by eating salads instead of sandwiches for lunch and by engaging in aerobic exercise for at least one hour at a time three days a week.”

One of the benefits of time and target-specific goals is that you can make adjustments during the year. In the case of losing weight if you come up short at the end of January, you can change your formula, for example, by eliminating deserts except on Saturdays for one month to see if you can catch up, or if you achieve your goal earlier than expected, you can adjust the goal, for example, by setting a new target of losing twenty-four pounds during the year.

That said, here are my writing related goals for 2014:

By March 13, the day I leave for the West Coast for a two-week vacation, I plan to have finished a first draft of the final two parts of my heroic fantasy novel, the working title for which is The Chains of Time. To achieve this goal by that date, I need to write draft four chapters or approximately 10,000 words a week.

That is an achievable goal, but it is also a stretch goal because I haven’t mapped out those chapters yet or thought through how I’ll end the book. I need to finish some work on an earlier part first, so my goal is to I can do that and then map out parts five and six by January 1.

After I return from my West Coast vacation, my next target will be to have completed my own revision of the entire book by Memorial Day, which revision must meet the standard that I feel comfortable showing it in its entirety to potential agents.

By Memorial Day I also expect to have identified half a dozen agents to whom I will write query letters with full knowledge that agents are being bombarded these days and that response time can take months.

My goal for June 2014 is to decide what project I’ll work on for the remainder of the year

I’ve been thinking of completing my Albany trilogy, bringing back Shannon Lynch and Jake Barnes to work a case with a political theme, since Albany is after all a political concerns first city. The alternatives are a contemporary novel set in the year 1968 that I’ve been playing around with in my mind for several years or one of two multi-volume fantasy novels that I started years ago, both of which would probably take two years to pull off.

Meanwhile, I’ll try to exceed my Goodreads record of reading 62 books next year. My “to read” list currently runs over forty titles, including some non-fiction. If you’re not on Goodreads, I recommend joining. It’s free and it’s a great way to share what you’re reading with friends and family.

Notice I haven’t said anything about book sales. I don’t set any concrete sales targets for my books. Why? The truth is that it’s extremely difficult to market self-published novels. I’ve pretty much given up trying to induce additional bookstores to carry them, but will continue to work with the half dozen I have a relationship with.

I’ll have two hours on Saturday March 15 to sell my books in one of the authors’ tents at the Tucson Festival of Books, but my expectations for sales at this kind of event are low. If I sell six books during those two hours, I’ll be happy. I will give out as many bookmarks as people will take, which can also yield future sales, but it is extremely difficult (I think I said that already) to stand out in this market place.

Other writing-related goals for 2014

  • Continue to participate in the Baltimore Science Fiction Society critique group. The feedback from this group been extremely helpful and I hope my participation is helpful to the other writers in the group.
  • Develop two new critique partners with whom I can share chapters of the books I’m working on. Perhaps one or two of my classmates from the Eckerd College Writers Conference, which I’ll be participating in January 18-25, will want to partner up.
  • Review a dozen or more works by beginning writers. I feel a duty to offer useful feedback to folks who aspire to become successful fiction writers. In some cases I post my reviews in my blog, but in many cases I won’t make my critiques public, not wanting to embarrass those who have not yet risen to a standard that deserves public attention.
  • Post a minimum of 26 columns in my blog which is attached to my website. I use the blog mainly to post book reviews and information about my own writing journey, but I occasionally comment on issues related to the publishing industry. Anyone interested in the blog can get an email notice each time I add a new column.

2013 was a great year. I published two novels––Last Stop on Desolation Ridge, a short suspense that was fun to write and In the Game, a murder mystery featuring Jake Barnes a retired Albany, NY police detective. Both have gotten very good reviews and I hope show increased skill and range. Self-publishing is like a movie teaser. The teaser makes one think the movie is going to be great, when in fact it contains story flaws, weak acting and a lousy ending. Self-publishing promises a boat-load of readers when in fact one is virtually shut out of libraries and bookstores, meaning one has to find readers one at a time wherever you can find them. That’s why my major goal for 2014 is to find a traditional publisher to take The Chains of Time, a multi-book heroic fantasy novel, written in the tradition of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time.

I wish each of you the best of luck in achieving your goals for 2014 and hope you’ll write out your goals, set specific targets and dates and share them with friends and family.

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2 Responses to How Not To Make New Year’s Resolutions & My Writing Goals for 2014

  1. Conniejo December 29, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

    Peter,
    The process of developing goals/resolutions for the next year are well defined and and thoroughly explained…….more of us could work at this process, me included.

    Have a healthy, happy, productive New Year.

    Be well,
    conniejo

    • Peter Pollak December 29, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

      Thanks much. I learned much of this the hard way. Best to you and Albi as well.

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