New World of Publishing: Shifting Goals in This New World

The Second of the “Goals and Dreams 2012 Series”

A Dream:

An objective in the future that is out of your control.

A Goal:

An objective in the future that is totally in your control.

Basic and very simple. Selling to a traditional publisher is a dream. Mailing manuscripts to traditional editors is a goal.

A person sets goals and works toward them in the hopes of achieving dreams.

This concept must be very, very clear or you just ask for a ton of pain and disappointment when the people you can’t control don’t do what you want them to do when and how you want them to do it.

The first third of this series was about failure and how it must be accepted and built on. Sadly, so many writers wrote me saying they had “failed” by only getting three of four novels finished in 2011. Or only 200,000 words when they wanted more. Or something similar. Holy smokes, folks, let me simply say that thinking is very, very messed up. You wrote THREE novels. That is total success. Claim it as a success for heaven’s sake!!!

It’s one thing to accept failure and live with it, but my point, or part of my point of the first third of this:

Success is often buried in what seems like failure.

Type that up and put it on a sign on your office wall. If you only do 1,000 words in a day instead of your 1,250 word goal, climb back on the horse the next day (never try to catch up) and get the 1,250 words of your goal the next day. And be happy with the success of getting the 1,000 words you did get done the first day.

I wrote 32 original short stories last year because of my challenge. Sorry, that’s success. No matter what I set out to do a year ago. In fact, I couldn’t give a crap at this point what I set out to do, I wrote 32 short stories in 2011. (Plus three, actually.)  That is a damn fine short story year.

So in other words, quit calling writing a failure just because a year ago you set a goal and came only close. Dig in and find out what you did, how much you actually wrote, and that is success.

Call it that.

The Point of a Goal

The point of a goal is to help set guidelines on work and maybe deadlines on that work that help drive the work forward.

That’s pretty simple. But how do you set goals that are right for you? That gets a lot more tricky.

So let me run you through a step-by-step worksheet to set a goal.

Step One:

Move away from the computer, go to the couch, and let yourself daydream. In your fondest daydream, what kind of writer would you like to be? (I am using writer here, but this works for any dream.)  Do you want to be rich, write one book per year and get waited on by publishing staff on your book tour? You want to do commercials for your own books like James Patterson? You want to write the great literary novel and win a ton of prizes?  You want to sell 100,000 books per day on Kindle alone. All good dreams.

Of course, no one knows the exact path between that couch and having those dreams come true.

What we do know about writing is that it will take a ton of practice, a lot of years, and many miles of words written while walking in deep publishing forests filled with evil monsters that always jump out at you when you least expect it. In other words, there is no chance can you see a road that leads from that couch to your dream. None of us can.

But there is a road and the first little bit of it can be seen if you know where to look. But first you have to dream! And dream big!

So assuming the dream is to be a bestselling, rich writer with millions of readers waiting for your every book. What next?

Step Two:

Analyse what the writers who have attained yourt dream did in their early years.

For example: Koontz wrote under a dozen or more pen names as fast as he could, practicing his writing while fixing up houses to make enough money.  King wrote nine novels before he sold one, teaching high school English and working in a furnace room. Nora wrote and published upwards of fifty or a hundred novels before she became a bestseller. Patterson worked for decades in advertising writing. So did Cussler. Bradbury wrote up to a short story per day for years. And so on and so on.

In essence, they all wrote a great deal, practiced, studied what they did, and just kept going. That’s a pretty uniform trait of all mega-bestsellers in publishing. (Except for a few lucky modern ones. Jury is out on if they will be around in ten years, so stay with the long-term writers in your study. You want to be good and stable, not just lucky.)

Got that?

Step Three:

Now look at your own schedule for the upcoming week, upcoming month, upcoming year. With your job and family, how many hours per day or per week can you carve out safely for your writing? Talk to your family about this. Make them part of the process right here.

Write down the number of hours so that after a week or a month you can check back with the number to see how many hours you actually were able to carve out for your writing. You can adjust at that point.

Step Four:

Time your writing speed. If you tend to do about 250 words every fifteen minutes like most of us, just use that. One thousand words per hour is pretty good pace. No big deal if you are slower or faster typist. No one cares. You just need the amount of fiction you can type in an hour comfortably.

Step Five:

Tricky part. Using your speed of writing and available hours, figure out how many words you can write in a week. Safely!

However, if you are being too safe because of fear or need to rewrite or need to research or some other silliness, catch yourself and refigure.

Your writing hours are not for rewriting or research, they are for creating new words.  Protect those hours like a mother animal protecting cubs. Especially from yourself. That is the only way you will actually move down that path toward your dream.

Step Six:

Convert the number of original words you can write in a week into some unit of measure that works for you. Or leave it as words. I tend to like short stories or novels as units of measure. Actual word count means little-to-nothing for me. Everyone is different, find your own comfort measurement.

Step Seven:

With all the information, set your goals for the year. Talk about them with friends and family or not. Put them on your blog or not. Up to you. Just get them set.

And written down.

In Your Control

What you have just done is set a goal that is completely in your control. A writing goal.

You can then use the writing you will produce to set other goals. Goals such as mailing stories or books to editors or indie publishing your own books. Go through the same basic steps of figuring time needed and time you have to give to those new goals.

Caution!!!!  Never take writing time for rewriting, publishing, mailing, or anything else. Writing time, the production and practice of creating new stories is the only real way you will move along the road toward your dream.

There are a thousand disappointments every year in this business, usually from the outside directed inward toward you and your writing. If you TAKE CONTROL of what you can control, which is your writing and writing time, and protect it and meet your writing goals, the outside disappointments won’t be as bothersome.

An Honest Warning

What seems so simple in this section is actually very, very hard to accomplish. It is like I am telling you to follow Heinlein’s Rules. Those rules Heinlein set out are basic and simple and almost impossible for most writers full of myths to follow.

Well, setting writing goals, producing new words at a consistent basis seems simple as well. But it takes a driven person to accomplish even a percentage of the set goal. Most writers set goals in January and forget about them by April. The writing myths are very powerful in this area. For a little help with myths, read the chapters under the title Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing under the tab at the top of the page.

And if you do manage to hit a monthly goal with your production of new words, celebrate!

And don’t be surprised when the world decides that your writing isn’t going to get done, no matter how much you want it to get done. That happens all the time to all of us. And that will be the subject of the third part of this series: Climbing back on the horse and helping you get a goal all the way through a year.

When this series is done, I’ll post my new challenges and goals for 2012 so you all can follow along. I fell off a ton of horses in 2011, even though I ended up having a pretty fine year.

Time to mount up again.


Copyright © 2011 Dean Wesley Smith

Cover art copyright Philcold/Dreamstime

This chapter is now part of my inventory in my Magic Bakery.  I’m giving you this small slice as a sample. I’m giving you a taste, but not selling any of the pie.

If you feel this helped you in any way, toss a tip into the tip jar on the way out of the Magic Bakery.

If you can’t afford to donate, please feel free to pass this chapter along to others who might get some help from it.

And I would like to thank all the fine folks who have donated over this last year. The donations and the comments both after the posts and privately are really keeping me going on this. Thanks!

Thanks, Dean

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39 Responses to New World of Publishing: Shifting Goals in This New World

  1. J.A. Marlow says:

    I already have my goals and dreams written down for 2012 in a writing and publishing business plan. It’s a document open behind the windows I’m doing other working in. Every so often I bring it forward and look through it to see if it’s still what I want to achieve. I do know one thing. I’m keeping it more open-ended this year than I did the previous year.

    One thing I’ve learned this past year is the need to be more flexible. If a series is selling I need to be able to jump on it and produce another book in the series. If a short story suddenly inspires a series of short stories in the same world, I want to be able to jump on it. You can’t do that if the plan is nailed down to every last project planned for the year.

    So, this year is is word count and a handful of series I would like to have new stories written for. That’s general enough that I can shuffle it around if need be. It also leaves plenty of room for a lot of new stuff unrelated to anything else I’m currently writing. On top of that, I’m using weekly goals instead of daily goals so that even achieving regular word count is more flexible.

    I’m feeling really good with the writing business plan this year. On top of that I’m excited to see what I can do. Talk about joy in the process. What new stories will come out of this little brain in 2012? I’m not sure, but I can’t wait to find out!

  2. Jeff Ambrose says:

    Once again, Dean, your post is speaking directly to me. Here I am, just a few days away from the end of 2011, with my wife home from work for the week along with my kids, and instead of enjoying time with them, I’m STRESSED OUT because I’m about 5,000 words short of my 2011 writing goal of 400,000 words. The first 395,000 words — 65,000 more than I wrote last year — don’t matter. All that matters are these last 5,000 words. What the hell is my problem?

    “Success is often buried in what seems like failure.”

    Yep. That’s it. I’m looking at what I didn’t write — a mere 20 pages — and I’m shaking my head thinking I failed. Then I look at how many words ended up being false starts or abandoned projects, and instead of seeing the the 37 titles I got up this year, or thinking about how much I learned from those false starts and abandoned projects, I just wonder how I’m ever going to make it in this business being so undisciplined. And yet …

    “It takes a driven person to accomplish even a percentage of the set goal.”

    Yep, again. I have no idea where I fall in the spectrum of writers when it comes to work ethic, but knowing how many goals I’ve set in the past that I forgot about in a matter of weeks or months, I have to think I’m a fairly self-disciplined writer. Or at least very driven. And even though I say that now, it wasn’t how I viewed myself until I stopped and thought about what you were saying in this post. Really, the idea that I’m a driven writer just came to me in the last 15 minutes. Amazing how messed up my thinking’s been!

    A few weeks ago, I laid out my 2012 writing goals. My dream is to support my family by writing. I suppose that’s a fairly modest dream when compared to becoming a best-selling writer, but the thought of being rich doesn’t fill me with the same drive or sense of pride as the thought of having my wife be able to quit her job and me being able to support the family from writing.

    I realized the only way to make the dream a reality was to write my butt off. You can’t bank on a few home-runs to win this game, so I’m focused on getting as many hits as possible. I sat down, figured out how many hours I had to write, was very, very conservative with how much time I had and how much I could write per hour (one page only some hours of the day, 4 pages other hours) and realized that a safe and conservative goal would be about 15,000 words a week the nine months the kids are in school — then another 7,000 words a week when the kids are off school.

    That just blew my mind, by the way, to think that 15,000 words a week is playing it safe. But it is. If I pushed myself, I could probably write about 20,000 words.

    At any rate, my goal is 600,000 words this year: 400,000 to novels, 100,000 to short fiction, and 100,000 to three nonfiction projects.

    Thanks again, Dean, for these posts. Can’t wait to read about your 2012 challenge!

  3. John Walters says:

    I just wrote a post on my own blog about resolutions and how much I hate them, but the motivation was some life issues that prevented me from accomplishing as much as I wanted to. Because so many things come up almost all the time I am hesitant to commit myself to a goal that will only discourage me. But I like your attitude, Dean. You aimed for a hundred stories and hit thirty-five or so, and thirty-five is that many more than you used to have. I managed some good original work this year: a novella, some stories, a memoir on Greece, and so on. I would like to have done more, but will celebrate what did get accomplished. Perhaps I will set specific goals after all. They can always be adjusted. As I said in my post: we are not meant to serve goals; goals are meant to serve us. As the saying goes: Shoot for the stars and you might at least hit the ceiling. Aim for the ceiling and you might get no further than the floor.

  4. Gerhi Feuren says:

    I agree with the notion of not really counting words. Nobody buys a book to read the words. Nobody feel cheated if there is a couple of thousand more or less words in a good book. And 100 0000 words don’t make a novel.

    Much better to count your progress in something more tangible. You said you have a sign above your computer reminding you to write scenes. Maybe if you want a small number to track progress it should be how many scenes you have written. And at least scenes can be strung together in some semblance of order.

    Just words are a dictionary out of order with no definitions.

  5. First thing I get this morning is that I must read this post. Now I have a headache.

    I totally agree with you on the goals and setting a plan in action for the upcoming year. I have some from previous years on my computer.

    My plan this year is to write, write, write. I am taking into account that I MUST write new stuff daily. Then…and only then, go to the extra stuff, editing, proofreading, etc., etc., the list goes on.

    Thanks for the headache Dean, it must be recognized, then resolved.

  6. Kenneth says:

    It’s interesting how many people’s perceptions have changed. For many, one novel a year would have been a lot. Now, I regular hear about people doing 12 or more! This is a totally different world we live in from back before e-books became big. There are no rejections and no limits aside from what you can do.

    For instance, I’ve written 1 x 40,000 word novel (or long novella), 1 32,000 word collection, 1 x 30,000 word collection and a few short stories to tie up old series THIS MONTH and, hopefully, 20,000 words of a new novel. Now, sure, I’m on holiday and I’ll go down to half that when contract season starts in mid-January, but the above tells me a lot about what I can do.

    No rejections, no limitations. Welcome to 2012!

    • dwsmith says:

      Kenneth, you are right that “perceptions” of the masses have started to change. But trust me, they have not in traditional publishing. In most genres, they still think you are writing “too fast” at over a book per year. (That means if you work longer than 15 minutes per day average, you have overdone yourself.) An agent just told a friend of mine to slow down and stop writing so much stuff. Not kidding. It’s still out there and solid in place. So caution.

      And there has always been people like me who have ignored the traditional “rules” and just wrote as damn many books as I wanted in a year. And even though that made me a “hack” in the eyes of some people in New York, if they needed a book done quickly with another author’s voice and level, they called me. They had no respect for me, but they needed me. If the author could have written the book in a year, they would have waited for the author, but when the author couldn’t do it, and I could write the same exact book the author could write in a month or less, I got no respect, but I got hired.

      So don’t go thinking that just because a few indie writers on a few boards are okay with a ton of books being produced that you don’t have to still hide any ability to sit in a chair longer than most writers when dealing with the traditional world. You do. Traditional publishers and editors HATE the idea you might be able to work more than 15 minutes per day. Unless you are James Patterson and Nora Roberts or Dean Koontz. Those writers have told the publishers to take a flying you-know-what and just do what they want. (grin)

  7. I’ve read every post you’ve left on this site for the last 3 months, Mr Smith, along with every comment after each post. I’ve also read a good deal of the archive. It’s been a late education and I’ve appreciated it.
    You motivated me to try publishing my novel on Kindle, which I did on Christmas Day. I didn’t tell anyone I was going to do it or had done it.
    It’s also on the USA Amazon of course.
    Just as I was about to publish, there was a bit of anxiety going on in the online forums about Kindle Select…I thought I would try it as an experiment, but I doubted there was much point. After all, how could anyone even download a free copy of I did the free promotion. They would never find my book unless it was in the Top 100 etc
    But something made me want to experiment so I set KIndle to make my book free for 5 days starting midnight yesterday (today?)…(it was Pacific Time USA and I’m in Scotland, so unsure)…I told no-one I had published or was doing the free “promotion” for 5 days.Wanted to experiment and see if any strangers would find my book. (I didn’t think they would)
    Result is my book is up to Number 25 now, out of Amazon Uk top 100 free bestselling literary fiction
    And ranked 1402 on the uk bestseller kindle list now,(including all paid books) up from 350000 or so yesterday.
    I wasn’t expecting that.
    I’d signed a contract for this book with a good London literary agent in summer 2010. He had considered the book “a certainty” he told me later. The book also had the complete support of another agent in the Agency (this is Anne McCaffrey’s old agency)…and of the film consultant who had been responsible for discovering Slumdog Millionaire as an unpublished manuscript.
    For a year my agent tried to sell it. Editors replied saying how much they enjoyed it, or loved it…”a really powerful book, told compellingly” one said…”I love books like this, that have the pace and excitement of a thriller but the voice and emotional depth of a literary novel” said another, but the sales depts, my agent told me, were not going for the book. In one case where editors “loved it”, the sales dept said I “reminded them of a guy we published 2 years ago and we lost money on”. And so it went on for a year, until my nerves were honestly shredded.
    To come that close, but then have nothing again, after 22 years of work, was getting to be about all I had in me to face stoically.
    Then I found this website, and J Konrath’s blog.
    Ar first, I wasn’t sure if what worked in America would work for me here in Scotland.
    But something happened today…this morning…well, 8am my time…midnight Pacific USA time…I had readers again, for the first time since my last story sold, in 2005, to Picador, for £400.
    7 years I’ve gone, without readers. Oh, I had literary agents and film consultants, and editors and sales depts reading my work, and that was a revival…but then I would also have phone calls from my agent where he’d have to read 20 rejection emails down the phone to me and then I wouldn’t know who to be sorrier for, me or him.
    But the worst part, I realise today, wasn’t the fact that London editors did not buy my book…it was that I was being prevented to get my book to readers.
    Thank-you Mr Smith for the posts here, and to all the commenters too…reading it all gave me the courage to self-publish this book on Christmas Day.
    John A. A, Logan

  8. One twist that helps me is to shorten the time frame for the goals. While a year is traditional, my goals are quarterly because it’s easier to tweak them based on what happened last quarter or on what’s coming up in the next three months. For example, last year, I set a modest goal for the first quarter (3 short fiction stories + 3 business articles). I had them completed by the end of February because I’d underestimated my writing speed. So I ratcheted up the goal for the second quarter. Then, for the third quarter, when my daughter was born, I eased my goals back.

    The result is that it’s easier for me to deal with life rolls and keep moving. It’s also easier to keep moving and not hit those moments of despair when it feels overwhelming or my dreams seem forever away. I’m only looking a mile ahead at a time.

    The result was that in 2011, I wrote 76,000 words of fiction, which is ~50% more than 2010 (50,000). Those went into fifteen short stories plus some not-yet-finished works, which is again a new yearly high. Two of those sold to traditional markets, five of them are self-published, two were released for free (works in another writer’s universe), and the other six are in circulation to editors and various markets.

    Not bad for a quarter at a time.

    • dwsmith says:

      John, I agree, the quarter system works and is natural business. But so many people this time of the year just look out a full year. But I tend to look at quarters more myself now, especially with the checks coming in from indie publishing.

      John A. A .Logan, thanks for the kind comments and congrats on getting the book up and out. Keep up the battle. It’s great fun.

  9. Mercy Loomis says:

    My goals for next year involve getting back to *writing* on a regular basis, so this is very timely. :)
    I had originally planned to write at least one new novel this year. Instead, my writing group convinced me to give my trunk novel one more go. (It needed a ton of work, and I couldn’t see the trees for the forest anymore.) But I ended up getting into a great workshop, did a ton of rewriting, and got it to the point now where I just re-read it (for the print proof) and I am really happy with it.
    So I did a ton of editing and rewriting, but not a lot of new writing. I wrote a few short stories, sold a few, published a few, and a few are contract-pending. But most of what I really consider my accomplishments for this year are learning publishing skills that I will be using going forward. I learned formatting and layout for digital and print. I learned to do my own covers and took classes in Photoshop. I made more than a dozen covers and self-published twelve titles, including the novel. I set up my own publishing business, made my own logo, learned about fonts, and probably more stuff that I’m forgetting. SO MUCH RESEARCH. OMG. (And thanks, Dean, you were a huge help there!)
    But, unfortunately, not much of that was writing.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m really proud of everything I got done this year. But next year, I’m splitting the publishing goals and the writing goals, or I’ll end up spending all of my time on publishing stuff.
    So for publishing, my goal is to publish one short story every month, either self-published or in an anthology. I’ve got four (I think) stories coming back to the bakery next year, and possibly two stories going into anthologies, so I’ve got a head start there. Plus I want to publish at least two 5-story anthologies.
    Writing-wise, I’m shooting for 4000 words a week. With my schedule, I think that’s pushing just a little, but I need to push. Out of that 208,000 words, I want to have one 100,000ish word novel (which may end up as a serial, just because it’s naturally split in fairly even segments), one YA novel, a novella, and some short stories.
    Yeah, that sounds like a plan. :)

    • dwsmith says:

      Good luck with the year, Mercy. It seems clear that you understand you went down a very dark path last year with all the rewriting and “anything but writing.” Key is to keep the writing new and fresh and regular. Rewriting is not writing.

      But great job seeing into the darkness about what you did learn last year. Great attitude. Have a great new year writing new and fresh.

  10. I should add–when I estimate “how many hours are available to write in a week?” the answer is between one and four. That’s just the nature of my day job and family life (2 kids under age 4). But I still cranked out the equivalent of a novel in a year. It can be done with perseverance.

  11. Ty Johnston says:

    I’m all over the place with daily word counts. Some days I only write 250 words. Other days I write 5,000. On a rare day, I’ll get out 10,000.

    I’d like to increase my output, and am setting goals to that end for 2012, but I still wrote about 300,000 words total of new fiction in 2011, and for me that’s not too shabby.

  12. Adam Riser says:

    Happy to say that I’ve written about 200,000 words between August and now. I didn’t write very much during the first part of the year due to some drastic life (and lifestyle) changes. I look at this year as a success, though, because I’ve completed around forty short stories and have written more in these past five months than any other year in the past four years.

    Next year will be even better.

  13. Great post Dean. Just yesterday, I wrote a post on my blog setting out my writing goals for 2012. They take the form of challenges. The first challenge is to write (and publish) 50 short stories by the end of the year–just about a story a week. I already have five books (including three nonfiction contracts) that I started this year that will be coming out the first half of the year so my goal is to add another five books (fiction, hopefully) by the end of the year. So, the overall goal is to get ten completed and published. I have one book I’m wrapping up today (maybe tomorrow at the latest) that will be published next month. I am off to a great start even before the year begins. Thanks for this end-of-the-year series.

  14. B.C. Young says:

    Love this post because it solidified my thinking for 2012. I’m going to be posting my goal on my blog this week, but I’ll let everyone in on the secret here.

    This year I learned a lot and the culmination of it all is a goal to write four novels next year. They are both from a series I started, this year. So two for the one series and two for the other. I estimate it will be close to 300,000 words I’ll write which will take me over this year mark of 185,000 words (this count is based on what is for sale, not blog posts).

    At the end of last year, I didn’t have a goal, yet I wrote that much. It’s funny what goals and practice can do. I never imagined I would write 185,000 words this year and setting a goal of 300,000 at this time last year would have made me laugh. Yet now I sit here and think it is a totally attainable goal.

    Can wait for 2012!

  15. DeAnna says:

    Thanks. I was going through what I accomplished last year, comparing it to my goals, and getting down on myself. Irrational but true.

    I need to get out of the habit of sitting on books and not getting them out the door, so I’m using my writing time to polish, format, and publish. I feel like I’m punishing myself, because I’m getting less writing done, but it doesn’t do any good to keep writing these damned things if I don’t get them out somewhere. Why stories are easy to publish and novels not, I have no idea.

  16. Jamie D. says:

    I love these posts – the “goals = within your control” is something I learned years ago, and I’m always amazed at how many people still just don’t get it. But this year, instead of writing it all out on my blog to “justify” my resolution-setting, I’m just going to link to your posts, since you’ve gone into so much juicy detail for writers. :-)

    I’ve managed to meet most of my goals for 2011, even with changing them up a bit mid-year. The one major writing goal I didn’t meet isn’t a failure exactly, just a story that needed more time than I realized until I was in the middle of it (and really, that’s a “non-planning”/too large a plot for the space allotted issue). Which means I’m one novelette short this year, but it’s all good. I’ll adjust accordingly next year. And in the writing of this particular story, I feel like I’m exploring new territory as a writer (in terms of exploring deeper character & relationship motivations), so it’s worth the extra time.

    I did a lot of other stuff in 2011 that didn’t even make my goals list last year…mostly because I have a bad habit of hearing/reading about something new that sounds like fun and running off to explore it, rather than biding my time. One of my goals for next year will be not to get distracted from my main goals, in a general sense anyways. Flexibility is one thing – constant distraction is just distraction. ;-)

    I’ll look forward to your list this year…as well as your 2012 posts!

  17. Cyn Bagley says:

    Thank you for this motivation to set goals and the know-how on how to keep them. I have been writing for many years now, but this is the first time I have seen a pragmatic schedule that would work for me.

    Yours, Cyn

  18. Nancy Beck says:

    With all the information, set your goals for the year. Talk about them with friends and family or not. Put them on your blog or not. Up to you. Just get them set. And written down.

    Agree that it’s important to write down your goals somewhere. Mine are already up in a blog post.

    Caution!!!! Never take writing time for rewriting, publishing, mailing, or anything else. Writing time, the production and practice of creating new stories is the only real way you will move along the road toward your dream.

    Agree, after learning it the hard way. I worked on an historical fantasy for years, only to have it keep collecting dust on a hard drive (the perfectionist/rewriter/overthinker thing). I spent way too much time on research and not enough time on sending it out to someone. Not going to happen this time. I’ll work on the research for it in between other stories that don’t require any historical research. (I have a thing for history, yes. :-))

  19. Nancy Beck says:

    I’m about 5,000 words short of my 2011 writing goal of 400,000 words.

    @Jeff – Holy crap, that’s fantastic! I hadn’t thought about it, but I wrote a little over 100K words this year. :-) 3 novellas/short novels and 2 short stories; I’ll be doing more than that, since I’ll be writing novels next year (a series and a standalone).

    Can’t wait to get started! :-)

  20. James A. Ritchie says:

    Best post ever. There’s always more work involved than we think there will be, and as Lawrence Block put it, “Levitation is easy. Just jump in the air. . .and stay there.”

    But If ever I read anything that holds strong promise, that gives any writer the best chance of success, it’s this post.

  21. My goals are planned out a year in advance, with a check-in every 3-4 months. They’re written on a white board built into my desk :)

    I normally agree with the research does not equal writing, but I will be breaking that rule in 2012 for one book as it’s a history book. Not a historical fiction book. An actual history book :) (My parents are gleefully cheering me on…finally! That history degree is getting some use!)

    I made a joke this week that my goal for 2012 is to have my science fiction short stories rejected by every single semi-pro and pro SF market in North America. There was a lot of laughing, when the business person of the group said, “That isn’t a goal. That’s a dream.”

    One thing I missed in 2011 was my lack of fun. I didn’t do any new and shiny projects. Everything was finishing, preparing, completing, editing projects from before. The year was productive, but it lacked the fun of new and shiny. I built in space for New and Shiny in 2012.

    Good luck everyone in 2012. :)

    • dwsmith says:

      Krista, and your business person was right, of course. (grin) And no point in writing if it isn’t first fun, and second if you are not doing new stuff. It’s the new stuff that matters for the future.

  22. I think one of the reasons people are reluctant to call their shorter term dreams “dreams” is because it implies that it’s unrealistic. They think it’s like winning the lottery — barely a chance in heck that it could ever happen. Calling it a dream feels like giving up.

    So they call it a goal in order to feel it’s obtainable (which it is — it’s just not in your control).

    That’s the big nasty our culture seems to teach: if it’s not in your control, it’s hopeless — other than by magic (i.e. “all you have to do is believe and the abundance will magically happen to you.”)

    The real magic comes in realizing that you have to convert that belief into a real pragmatic plan.

    Me? I’m going to quarterly goals this year. I joined the “A Round of Words in Eighty Days” (ROW80) challenge–which fits my style perfectly. I really do have to write two books this year, along with the miscellaneous smaller projects. We’ll see how that goes….

  23. Big Ed,

    I hear you about the kids. We have three: 4, 2.8, and 13 months. Fun fun, busy fun! :) And my wife keeps saying we should have a fourth. Oy… I’m trying to show her the error of her ways in that sense. Of course, I haven’t been able to in any other area yet, so I may be doomed. :P

    Thanks for another great post, Dean. I’ve started thinking about my goals for the new year. Some of them are already made for me: write the next installments to the two series I began this year and continue submitting to Writers of the Future, to name a couple right off the top of my head. As for the rest…not sure yet. But I will be. :)

    One thing is for sure. It’ll be fun!

  24. Dean, FYI (you may want to share with your readers after checking it out):

    Amazon/Kindle has (accidentally, it seems) has just reset a whole bunch of people’s payment options–including MINE–to receive payment in mailed =checks= in =multiple currencies=. (This emerged in a Kindle Boards discussion which was repeated to me by a friend, not via a mysterious email urging me to “click this link.”)

    So anyone who arranged to be paid in US $ by automatic deposit, go check your Amazon/Kindle account. If the settings have indeed been changed, you can reset them (by reentering your automatic deposit banking info). NOTE: You will need to reset your account for ALL countries/markets, not just the US.

    This is not a hoax. Like I said, my account had been reset. It seems to be completely random, though–mine was changed; but the account I set up for a friend was NOT changed. More info here:,97152.25.html

    And pass it on. This is probably affecting thousands of people.


    • dwsmith says:

      Yup, the Amazon site crashed for a very short time on Christmas, more than likely from overload, and not all of it went down. When they brought it back up, it had reset some, not all, settings for KDP customers. Thanks for mentioning that here. No big deal, just need to get it fixed before next month.

  25. Tori Minard says:

    Thank you so much, Laura, for passing that on. My account had indeed been changed and is now fixed.

  26. I saw this on kindleboards, too, and double-checked my account right after it was first reported. Yep, my US and UK payments got reset to pay by check.

    Fortunately, Amazon got their December payments out early, so my EFT income arrived before the glitch.

    The bad news is: sh*t happens.

    The good news is: indie authors have each others’ backs. :)


  27. Laura Resnick, I owe you a debt of gratitude (in whatever denomination you prefer) for passing on that tip. I went and checked, and yes, my payment options now are set to payment by check, which I didn’t want. I would never have noticed this if you hadn’t mentioned it. Thanks!

    This time of year, I look backwards as well as forwards, to see what changed and what needs to change. The biggest change is that this time last year, I dismissed with contempt the very idea of “vanity publishing”, as I thought all indie publishing was. Now I have a company, several novellas and a couple of novels up as both POD and e-books, and am 4000 words short of finishing a 130,000 word novel. I have five more simmering on the back stove. I can’t wait to get to them.

    I have never felt so free as a writer, so empowered, so liberated. I can write what I want. A novel that crosses genre lines? Can’t sell it to New York? Screw it, I’ll put it up myself. A novella told in rhyme or letters or quoting Klingon opera? Whatever we want, we can put it up there and LET IT FIND ITS AUDIENCE. This is so wonderful. I almost want to cry with relief. No more bitting fingernails over whether an agent or an editor likes my book. No more agents telling me to write like Janet Evanovich or James Paterson.

    I say nothing about sales. I gave up the idea of making a living at writing years ago. I don’t even expect to recoup the minimal cost of publishing an ebook, at this point. I just want to release these stories into the wild, and hope that in some distant age someone will read them. :) When I waver, wondering if I should go back to trying traditional publishing, I remind myself that Walt Whitman set the type for “Leaves of Grass” himself, that Percy Shelley had to pay a publisher to print his wife’s novel, “Frankenstein”, that Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” was turned down by every single publisher before he self-published it. Did these authors make any money? I doubt it. But we are still reading their works, and that’s what counts, for me. So I tell myself that rather than bucking the tide, I am surfing an ancient wave, getting back to the way publishing used to be done.

    So my resolution this year is to not just finish but PUBLISH four novels. The ones I have in mind are half-way written anyway. I am setting myself a goal to publish both POD and e-book versions of each one, one per quarter. My secondary goal is to get them out early enough in each quarter that I spend the rest of the quarter writing short stories and sending them out to magazines. Never in a million years would I have thought I could spend that much time and effort on writing, but like I said, this indie experience has been both liberating and empowering.

    Thanks a million, Dean, for your writing and your optimism all year. I literally would never have gotten into this indie stuff without your columns and Kris’s. I owe you both a debt of gratitude as well. May your New Year be healthy and prosperous!


  28. Sarah Allen says:

    These are so, so great. I especially like the analyzing what other writers did in their early years tip. Great idea. I hope you know how much I appreciate your generous, sage advice.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  29. Nancy Beck says:

    I don’t even expect to recoup the minimal cost of publishing an ebook, at this point. I just want to release these stories into the wild, and hope that in some distant age someone will read them.

    @Sarah – That’s what I’m hoping for with my stuff; just have to get more out there! :-)

    And I was just wondering…you did the POD thing right away. Have you seen any sales there? I’d dismissed POD for now, because I think it’s too soon in my writing gig to offer dead tree books. But now I’m wondering if I should.

    I know it’s only $39 to do CreateSpace, and I had planned on taking the 3 novellas that route, but not until a later date. Just like to get some feedback on that, if you have the time.

  30. Tori and Sarah,

    What outrages me about this situation is that I (and other people, too, I’m assuming) sent an email to Kindle’s “contact us” link early yesterday morning saying, in effect, “Hey, this is going on, and don’t you think YOU should make AN ANNOUNCEMENT to everyone publishing on Kindle, rather than let us hear it on the grapevine?”

    More than 24 hours later… Amazon/Kindle has not made any announcement, sent out any notificiation (or acknowledged my email, though that’s a moot point–NOTIFYING PEOPLE is what they should bloody well be doing!)

    • dwsmith says:

      Sorry, don’t much agree. It’s a business and they were not trying to short you or anything. A choice you had made on payment, nothing more, got reset to base because of a partial glitch. Here you are upset that they haven’t told you by December 30th, when in reality their focus should be on absorbing millions of new devices and getting our content to them. They can inform their providers on January 15th, weeks before the next payment, and there would be no harm done. It’s just business. Give them a little time. They were nice enough to get out many of our payments before Christmas and they sure didn’t have to do that. Not becoming an Amazon defender, just thinking real world business.

      And this is the end of this discussion here. Anyone want to take out petty problems with a bookstore, take it to another site.

      But one point to EVERYONE. If you are giving your agent ALL YOUR MONEY and ALL YOUR PAPERWORK FOR THAT MONEY, you have no basis to complain about this minor glitch from Amazon. You have much, much bigger problems in business to solve with your own money. Get some perspective.

  31. Colleen says:

    Good stuff, Dean. I love practical and tangible things like worksheets :) That said, I think one of the best goals I can make is not to compare myself to other writers because I pretty much always come up short, while at the same time challenge myself to do better than I did before. One goal for sure in 2012 is finishing my historical novel, which I have been struggling with for some time. Others I will think about. At least I don’t have to come up with 9-10 goals like I had to do at one of my former workplaces! Not unless I want to :) And I will definitely read all of your Sacred Cow series. There may be myths I subscribe to without fully realizing it. Good luck to all in the New Year. And thank you.

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