Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Goals and Dreams

Last year I watched with amusement as Ellen DeGeneres set out to entice the elusive George Clooney onto her television show. She eventually succeeded. This year Ellen set her goal to be on the cover of Oprah’s magazine. It was almost too easy. Then Ellen needed a new goal.

Goals are a very hot topic in life. We all know about New Year’s resolutions, which are just a different term for goals. Weight loss is always associated with targets or goals. And who hasn’t been asked in a job interview about their short term and long term career goals?

Writers talk a lot about goals. Some make themselves sit for a certain amount of time each day, writing words—whether they’re publishable words or not. Others force themselves to write a certain number of words per day, no matter what. Ever wonder if some days they write #*!!**# over and over?

Often writers give themselves one year (or two or more) to finish a book. They talk less about what the term “finish” means. Is it 80,000 words, perfected, proofread and ready to publish? Or is it an unedited stream of narrative, description and dialog that will need another year (or more) of revisions before it can be marketed?

When I decided to write a book, my goal was to write a mystery that a publisher recognized by Mystery Writers of America would deem worthy of publication. (Note that my goal was not to be published—that’s a goal fraught with peril, IMHO). For Better, For Murder will be released in September. For Richer, For Danger will follow in 2010. The third book in the series is ready for market, too.

Now I need a new goal. It can’t be too easy, like the Ellen/Oprah magazine cover. And it has to be measurable, reasonable, and attainable. Otherwise, it’s not motivating, and a goal should be motivating. And fun, because life should be fun.

I could write more books in this series. That would be fun, because I love these characters. They talk to me in the shower and the car and sometimes even when someone else is talking to me. But I don’t see any point to it yet, so it’s not motivating. Maybe if the sales on my first book go wild by year end, I’ll get busy on book four. Still, I need a goal now.

I could set a goal to write a different standalone book or series. Now here’s the rub. I don’t feel like it. Plus the characters from my Broken Vows mystery series might get jealous and stop talking to me.

I’m thinking about a goal to write a saleable screenplay. I have no experience or training in writing one of those either. But I love movies almost as much as books and I bought a book on how to write screenplays. That’s a start. And I understand and appreciate formulas, which seems to be what Hollywood is sticking to at the moment. Who can blame them? Formulas work.

And if my screenplay should by some miracle get the green light, maybe I could get Ellen to set a goal to entice George Clooney to star in the movie.

Dream big, right?!


Alan Orloff said...

I say go for it! You are correct, if you're going to dream, might as well dream big.

Of course, you could set more than one goal. Screenplay and a new series or standalone (or book 4).

By the way, what's wrong with writing &@&*% a few dozen times in order to reach your daily quota?

Anonymous said...

Goals are important to stay on track. I gave myself 6-8 months to write my first book. Took two full years. Initially, an unrealistic goal.

But I still begun with the end in mind, and by not having a gaol, I never would have finished. This time around, I have a goal of 12 months to finish my second book. I'm going to make it. Its easier the second time around.

Steve Tremp

Keith Raffel said...

How about having your book promo work pay off by hitting some local bestseller list?

Lisa Bork said...

Just writing down this goal was motivating for me. I posted this morning then typed up a whole list of scenes and plot turning points for the movie script.

Alan, book four is always percolating. I need to go on a little research field trip in September before I can write it. And I can only write one thing at a time. Have to see it, live it, etc.

Steve, my second and third books in the series were much easier and faster to write. I knew the characters so well by then.

Keith, all authors want to be bestselling, don't they? Can it be a goal if it's a given?

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Lisa, as seen on this blog, I'm a big fan of setting goals with target dates. If you want to write that screenplay - then DO IT! My motto is: Unless you challenge yourself, you'll never know what you are truly capable of.

What's the worst that could happen? You don't sell it, but you spend time honing your writing skills in a different area? Still sounds like a win to me.

G.M. Malliet said...

See you one day at the Sundance Screenwriters' Lab.

Why not?

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Your goal-setting is obviously working really well for you. I'm with Alan--go for it!

Mystery Writing is Murder

Keith Raffel said...

Lisa, getting on a bestseller list is more than a wish. It can come from hard work on promotion.

Deborah Sharp said...

Ooooh, George Clooney. Sorry, Lisa ... I got distracted there for a minute. Good post on goals. Wish I were better at setting them.

Kathy Whelan said...


You're amazing. I'm often afraid of setting goals for fear of not achieving them. I need to look at all the work I will get done even if I fall a little short of a particular benchmark. Thanks for the reminder!

Shame usually works for me. If you get that screenplay done before I finish my work-in-progress (can you still call it that when you've made no progress lately?) - now there's a thought to motivate me!