As we begin a New Year, I thought I’d take a moment to look back, and plan ahead. What are your writing goals for the year? Do you have any?
Marcy and I are great friends. We met at Write! Canada in 2004. We happened to take the same fiction intensive class and became instant friends. At Write! Canada 2008 we decided to begin writing together about a mutual experience we knew needed to be told. We hoped that by combining our credits and experience we could get closer to our ultimate writing goals. While at the conference, we were able to pitch several editors, land a few assignments and also began writing regularly for Maranatha News doing book reviews.
And we haven’t looked back.
What are our ultimate writing goals? Well—we’d love to have our fiction published (is it too vain to want people to read your fiction too?). We write articles to pay the bills, get clips and gain experience, but our first love is fiction. To that end, we’ve both written a few fiction manuscripts that may never see the virtual shelves at Amazon. And that’s OK. But I keep writing. We keep writing.
I like to go back every year and look at my past work and see how far I’ve come. I look at those early manuscripts and see everything I did wrong, and realize how much I’ve learned and improved. That’s encouraging for me. I’m getting closer.
And while I continue to work on my own freelance career, working with Marcy over the last year and a bit has taught me a few things I’m not sure I would have learned any other way.
I do not like planning. It’s boring, tedious and I just don’t like doing it. Give me a blank document and I’m happy to go from there. Marcy is a planner. Give her a blank document and she stares at it totally lost. She needs an outline. Working with Marcy has taught me the value in doing some planning—and I hope that working with me has taught Marcy that “pantsing” (writing by the seat of your pants – no planning) also has its merits.
Nothing makes you examine your own work, and scrutinize every word, more than knowing your writing partner is going to make your page look like a red pen vomited all over it. Marcy, and a number of the editors I’ve worked with, taught me the value in accepting an edit. It’s hard to let someone look at your work and tell you everything that’s wrong with it, but ultimately it makes your work better. As a writer, this process has forced me to know why I chose that word, that quote, that statistic, so when it comes up in the editing process I can decide whether something stays or goes.
Working as a staff writer taught me to really examine who my audience is, and how to write for them. When I wrote for Teen Challenge, I had in my mind a picture of the typical couple who were Teen Challenge sponsors. This couple became the testing group for every word I used. Would they know what that meant, would it mean the same thing to them that it means to me? Asking myself those kinds of questions was incredibly valuable and beneficial.
Working with someone else gives you greater accountability. You always have editors that require you to meet deadlines, write clean, do your own fact-checking, etc. But when I hear about a new assignment that Marcy’s landed, it motivates me to keep digging and sending queries. We push each other to always write better and not be satisfied with just doing enough. Writing is such solitary work, having others there to encourage you is invaluable. I’m also a member of a local writers group that meets monthly. Join a local writers’ group, or an organization like The Word Guild, Inscribe, or the AFCW. Find like-minded people who will do more than pat you on the back, but actually push you to be better.
Heading into 2011
And as I’ve looked back on the things I’ve learned and my various achievements, I always try to keep in mind where I’m going. There are so many volunteer opportunities and distractions, I’ve become ruthless with my time. I ask myself, will this help me get where I want to go?
Marcy and I have ambitious plans both for our freelance careers, and our fiction endeavours—including working on a manuscript together. But this year, I’m also striving for balance. As a wife and mother of three busy elementary school-aged children, I need to do better at turning off the laptop and spending quality time with my family too. Deciding to work from home was one step in that direction.
So, tell me your writing goals. What’s helped to encourage and motivate you to keep at this writing business?