Category: goals

Fiction-Writing Goals For 2013

Last year, I had two fairly simple goals for my fiction writing: (1) write 500 words each day; and (2) concentrate entirely on short fiction. I certainly managed to achieve the second goal, but I was very, very far from achieving the first. Still, I had my best year ever in 2012, in terms of store sales. I have no less than seven things coming out this year. These pieces, half fiction and half nonfiction will appear in places like Analog and Lightspeed and the Beyond the Sun original anthology. In addition, I sold a story to Daily Science Fiction in 2012. That makes this paragraph from last year’s goals a resounding success:

Sell a story to each of the following places: Analog, Asimov’s Lightspeed, Daily SF. For Analog, it would be my second story sale. For each of the others, it would be my first. I’d like to be the kind of short fiction writer who can sell to a variety of markets.

I didn’t sell a story to Asimov’s but neither did a submit a story to Asimov’s in 2012.

Still, that paragraph represented ideals, not goals. And this year, I feel like my goals are shifting a bit. With the small successes that I’ve had in the last year, my concentration is shifting from attempting to sell stories to various places, to getting back to having a good old time writing them. That sometimes gets lost in the process. I, for one, can get easily distracted by the numbers: happy when I beat my goal of 500 words a day, and very disappointed when I don’t. Over time, this has the effect of making writing about meeting arbitrary numbers, instead of the reason I got into writing in the first place: because I love telling stories.

So this year, my goals are a little different and a little more difficult to measure. My primary goal for 2013 is to have fun writing stories. I want to get back that feeling of joy putting stories together. I want that thrill I get when I story takes a turn that I didn’t expect it to take, or where the ending comes together in some unexpected way. For a while, I worried that the types of stories I wanted to tell were not really the types of stories that readers wanted to read or editors wanted to buy any more. I like those old-fashioned science fiction stories, stories that bring me, as a writer at least, a sense of wonder.

I’m no longer worried about that. In 2013, my focus will be on writing short fiction that I enjoy. I’ll send it out, as always, and maybe I’ll even sell a few stories. But the stories that I write this year are going to be the kind of stories that I most enjoy reading. More than ever I am convinced that I am a short fiction writer. Any interest I had in writing novels–regardless of my lack of talent in that direction–has waned completely.

My fiction-writing goal for 2013 is simply to have as good a time writing stories as I can possibly have. I’m not going to set any benchmarks, I’m going to try not worrying about the numbers. If I manage to have a good time producing one story this year, I’ll have met my goal. Because, when I get right down to it, I write these stories for me first. I love writing science fiction. I love the short fiction form.

In 2013 I plan to have a blast doing what I love.

Goals for 2012: Conventioneering

I have a lot of fun going to science fiction conventions. People who have been my heroes and who I’ve enjoyed reading for a very long time have become my friends. There is a camaraderie that is difficult to explain to others outside the genre. So I look forward to going to these. My goals for conventions in 2012 are pretty straight-forward.

1. Attend a couple more conventions as a participant

Last year I attended Readercon and Capclave as a participant as opposed to just a regular attendee. It was a lot of fun and I hope to do it again in 2012. So far, it looks like I’ll be a participant in Readercon. Hopefully I’ll get to do it again for Capclave as well.

2. Attend my first WorldCon

I’ve already purchased my membership so it’s just a matter of working out the scheduling logistics (not as easy as you might think with 2 kids). But at this point, I expect to be at ChiCon. I’ve requested to be on panels at WorldCon but I don’t know if that will happen.

3. Attend the Nebula Weekend

It was so much fun last year, I plan to be there again in 2012. And it’s even closer to my house in 2012 which makes it all the more easier to get to!

Goals for 2012: Novel reading

Because of my focus on short fiction, novel reading has taken a backseat the last few years, and I imagine that will continue for the next few years. Novels are more of a time investment and with everything else going on, something has to take a backseat. That said, here are a few goals for my novel-reading in 2012:

1. Get current on George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire

In 2011, I read the first 3 books in the series and enjoyed them all immensely. I’d like to catch up with the last two in 2012. Finding the time to do that might be tricky, but given what I’ve read in the first three, I think it would be worth the effort.

2. Re-read Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land

Michael Burstein’s recent post convinced me to do this. It took me 3 tries to get through Stranger the first time and after I finished it, I decidedly didn’t like it. But my experience has broadened and my attitudes have changed in the dozen or more years that have passed since I read it. I think it is time to give it another try.

3. Start Stephen King’s Gunslinger series

Enough people have said enough good things about it that I think it’s worth taking the time to read at least the first book in the series.

4. Read some Mike Resnick

I’ve never read a Mike Resnick novel. It’s about time I corrected that. I know that he and Jack McDevitt have a collaborative novel coming out in 2012, but that doesn’t count. I want to read a good, representative Resnick novel. And I’m open to suggestions on this one.

Goals for 2012: Short fiction reading

I’ve written about how I love short science fiction. Back in September I gave myself a goal of reading a piece of short fiction a day. In other words, 365 stories a year (or in 2012, 366, since it is a leap year). I’ve done pretty well since September and so my short fiction reading goals for fairly simple for 2012:

1. Read 1 story each day

Well, on average anyway. There are days when I am too busy to squeeze in the short story reading. But there are other days when I’ll read 2 or 3 stories. If it all evens out, I’d like to have read about 350 stories by this time next year.

2. Try to learn something about the craft from each story

Currently, I make a short 1-sentence note about each story I read to remind me of the plot. When you read hundreds of stories a year, it is sometimes hard to remember them all. This has helped a lot. In 2012, I’d like to add a second sentence about how the story taught me something about the craft of short story writing. I imagine this won’t always be possible, but it is something to aim for.

3. Diversify

Right now I read stories in all sorts of magazines. But my reading patterns–how I choose the stories that I read–often fall into something like this: (a) it’s by an author I love; (b) it’s about something I enjoy; (c) lots of word-of-mouth about the story or author; (d) it’s by someone I know personally.

In 2012, I’d like to try and spread out a little more, read stories by people I’ve never heard of, stories that are maybe out of my normal comfort zone. For instance, I generally don’t read the fantasy stories in F&SF but it might be something worth trying–it’s outside my comfort zone. Ditto with steampunk stories. I’m not talking about moving away from what I enjoy reading, but instead, doing a better job as sampling a wider array of stories and authors.

Keep in mind that in some respect I already do this: in my Vacation in the Golden Age, I read issues of Astounding cover-to-cover and often encounter stories that I might not have chosen to read, but I read them because they are part of my Vacation, part of the history of the Golden Age and I see value there.

Goals for 2012: Blogging

I had a surprisingly good year on the blogging front. Not only did I exceed my goal of tripling the visits to my blog, but my blogging lead to other interesting gigs, including a column at SF Signal, and two story sales to 40K Books. I’m not sure it would be realistic to think that I could triple my visits again in 2012. So my focus this year is less on increasing my readership and more on providing interesting and entertaining content to the readers I already have.

1. Post at least 24 new Episodes of my Vacation in the Golden Age

In 2011, I posted 29 Episodes. So why only 24 in 2012? Well, when I started my Vacation, I was doing one issue a week. That turned out to be too much for me to handle so I switched to a biweekly scheduled which amounts to 26 Episodes/year. However, life has a way of interfering sometimes, witness my recent bout with an ear infection that prevented me from getting much done for a few weeks. So I’m aiming for 24 Episodes to allow myself a couple of places to take a break if I feel I need them (e.g., I’m sick or on vacation or super-busy with work or family).

24 Episodes is a nice round number because it is two complete years of Astounding. (Actually, 25 would be better because it would mean finishing 2012 with the December 1943 issue. But I’ll stick with 24.) I would be nice to get more readers and get the word more widely spread about this project, but that kind of thing is mostly out of my control. Reading the issues and then writing about them is a lot of fun for me. I’d do it even if no one read the posts.

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Goals for 2012: Fiction writing

I’ve learned a few things about setting goals for writing over the last few years. One is that they need to be realistic. The other is that they need to be entirely within your control. The last few years I realize that I’ve set not only unrealistic goals for my writing, but also goals that require some kind of outside intervention to come to fruition. For instance, I had a goal last year of selling 4 stories to professional markets. Writing 4 stories is an achievable goal that is completely in my control. Selling them is another matter because it requires something outside my control: an editor willing to buy them.

Given these lessons, I have a few fairly simple goals for fiction-writing in 2011:

1. Write 500 words of new fiction every day.

Why 500 words? I learned during my experiences with NaNoWriMo that I have the ability to write a little over 2,000 words in 2 hours. But with two kids and a full-time job, it is getting more and more difficult to carve 2 hours out of every day for writing.

That said, I can write 500 words in roughly half an hour and half an hour isn’t a large chunk of time. Of course, if I slow down and try and be more deliberate, it might take a little longer to get out those 500 words, but not much. In other words, it is much easier for me to find 30 minutes in the day than it is an hour or two hours. It is also easier on my family. It think it is a good compromise. After all, 500 new words of fiction every day amounts to 183,000 words of new fiction in 20121 which is far more than I’ve ever done before. The trick is making it a habit, working it into my routine, and protecting that 30 minutes.

This is also an easily measurable goal. At any point in time, I can tell if I am meeting my goal or not.

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  1. It’s a leap year so we get an extra day.

Year in review – 2011: Conventioneering

One of my goals in 2011 was to “attend at least one [science fiction] convention as a participant.”

I started attending science fiction conventions in 2007 after the sale of my first story to Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show. The first convention I attended was RavenCon in April 2007 and it set the bar rather high. I got to meet the editor of IGSM, Edmund Schubert, as well as meet and have dinner with Robert J. Sawyer.

Since then, I’ve attended close to a dozen conventions, all of them on the east coast or mid-Atlantic somewhere. But until 2011, I’d never attended as a participant. I am pleased to say that changed this year. I attended 2 conventions as a participant in 2011. The first was Readercon in July. It was there that I sat on my first two panels, on as a panelist, the other as the moderator (and the person who selected the topic for that matter). It was a lot of fun, but I have to admit I think I make a better panelist than moderator. Maybe I just need more practice at the latter.

Then, in October, I was a participant at Capclave, and I was on 2 more panels, again, one as a participant and one as a moderator.

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Year in review – 2011: Novel reading

Let me just confess up front: reading more short fiction in 2011 cut into the novel reading time. If you look at the list of books I’ve read since 1996, you’ll note that in this year, much of my reading consisted of issues of Astounding. In the past, I never added magazine reading to the “books” list, but I chose to do so this year because I was reading the magazines cover-to-cover and therefore treating them like collections of short stories. From that list, you can see that most of what I read this year were those Astounding issues, leaving little time for much else.

But some time remained.

This year, for instance, I started reading George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. It took only 2 episodes of the HBO series to get me interested in the book. After reading the book, I wrote about how George R. R. Martin made me a fan of epic fantasy. I read two more books in the series before taking a break.

However, if we are sticking to just novels that were published in 2011, then two really stand out:

  1. 11/22/63 by Stephen King. I was looking forward to this book when it was first announced and I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading it, but I absolutely loved it. It was not only a well-done time travel story, but it was just plain good fiction.
  2. Firebird by Jack McDevitt. I think I’ve said before that Jack is one of my favorite writers today and his Alex Benedict novels are guilty pleasures for me. I love the universe he has created in the far future. I love Alex and Chase. Most of all, I love the mysteries they attempt to solve. This one was pure fun.

I know there were lots and lots of great novels published this year and I barely read any of them. But at this point, my focus in both my writing and my reading is with short fiction. And the truth is, so is my heart. I suspect it will continue this way next year as well.

Tomorrow: my review of science fiction conventions I attended in 2011.

Year in review – 2011: Short fiction reading

I have said that we are in a golden age for short science fiction and fantasy. There is so much good short fiction out there it is difficult to keep up with it all. I had no specific goals for short fiction reading at the beginning of 2011. Reading short science fiction is probably my favorite type of reading. And yet I never seem to be able to find the time to read enough of it to keep up with all of the good stuff out there.

This year was a little different. Because of my Vacation in the Golden Age, I ended up reading a lot of short fiction. In fact, to date, I’ve read 192 stories in the years spanning 1939-1941 in Astounding. This has proven valuable in more ways than I could have imagined:

  1. It has allowed me to fill in vast gaps in my reading from a period of time that I enjoy. I get the good and the bad, but it is all valuable.
  2. It has taught me how to read short stories with a more critical eye. In my Vacation posts, I try to remark in some detail on each story and that means thinking about the story as I read it, how it relates to other stories and the genre as a whole.
  3. It has helped me as writer in numerous ways: from teaching me what works well in a story, to what doesn’t work, as well as what tropes have been overused from the dawn of modern science fiction (and therefore, what to avoid, or approach in a new light.)

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Year in review – 2011: Blogging

If my fiction-writing in 2011 was something of a disappointment, my blogging turned out to be something of a surprise. In my goals for 2011, I made mention of only one item relating to blogging:

Triple the traffic to my website by providing more relevant content, more frequently. This means more content about science fiction and writing. It means getting some external recognition of the stuff that I post, either through science fiction news sites or Twitter retweets, or word of mouth. I’m not looking to become John Scalzi’s Whatever, but if I can go from an average of 35 hits/day to an average of 100 hits/day, I think that will be a good sign of success in this endeavor.

In December 2010, I averaged about 35 hits/day to this blog. (For the entire year in 2010, my average was 15/day.) I figured that tripling those hits to get to 100 hits/day would be good growth for the year. But I did far better than I imagined.

As of this moment, my blog averages 258 hits/day taken over the course of all of 2011. If you look at just the month of December, that number is closer to 1,000 hits/day. Instead of tripling my hits, now have something like 7 times the hits I had back in December of 2010. These numbers don’t include RSS feeds. I haven’t even started to look at this year’s Feedburner data. How did I manage this?

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Year in review – 2011: Fiction writing

I didn’t do so well meeting my writing goals for 2011. I now have some idea of why that may be, but I’ll discuss that in due course. First, let me review my fiction-writing goals from 2011 and see how I measured up in reality.

My writing goals for this year included some elements that weren’t directly related to the writing of fiction. I’m going to exclude those from this review and include them where they might otherwise belong. For instance, I had goals related to my writing career, like attending a convention as a participant. But since that isn’t related to fiction-writing, I’ll include that in the conventioneering post.

1. Make 3 short fiction sales to professional markets

Well, I made 2 short fiction sales this year, but none of them were to professional markets as defined by SFWA. Both were to 40K Books in Italy and while they did a professional job of putting out the first story, their payment model is not one that makes them a professional market by SFWA standards. That aside, I’m still thrilled that I made those sales. The first of the stories, “If By Reason of Strength…” appeared at the end of September. The second story, “In the Cloud” has yet to be published.

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