Around the middle of May, I read a strand of Tweets from Delilah S. Dawson, who in my opinion is the most relatable and real person in this industry online. Covering body image issues to publishing missteps are just a couple of her topics, but the strand I’m talking about for this post are goals.
Last year, I challenged my fellow writers (and myself) to create an author business plan. Lay out your career goals, mission statements, how you’re going to accomplish those goals, and how to brand your business. I love goals. They drive me from day-to-day and writing them down over and over isn’t unheard of for me to keep them fresh in my mind.
And in her Tweet strand, Delilah S. Dawson asked her followers to go over those goals (really, you should go over them every couple of months), but she added a few conditions to her list.
Did you catch them? Pros + cons. I’ve actually never done this before. I always know what I’m working toward, but pros and cons? Those have never been a consideration for me. However, I’m seeing the point now.
Because this week I realized my goals have gotten in the way of my art.
I’m in the middle of an explosive new draft I can’t stop thinking about. The characters have unbelievable tension, the plot has me tapping my toes on the floor while I plot, and I’m up all hours of the night thinking how great this book is going to be.
That excitement is how I feel my art should be. I should be in love with every idea I plan on drafting, if only for the time I’m drafting. Because I’ve learned to see the difference in my writing when it’s forced and when it flows easily. And so can editors/publishers.
So the problem? I stopped writing.
For the past two weeks I haven’t been able to add a single word to this manuscript already sitting at 7k. And the worse part? I hated the words I’d already written. I was bored, I hated the heroine, and I couldn’t add to that crap. Every scene I finished only built on the horrible-ness of it all.
This wasn’t how I’d planned on bringing this exciting new idea to life. And I just stopped writing, beating myself up every day I failed to meet my word count yet again.
I couldn’t put my finger on it. What was the problem? I was so excited for this book—for this series—and the inspiration just left! I’ve never had this happen before. While I have a few things going on in my personal life right now, I use writing as an escape from the real world and my stress. But now my passion was turning against me. What changed?
In the middle of this betrayal from my inspiration, I decided to take Delilah S. Dawson’s challenge by listing my pros and cons for each goal of mine.
If you’ve read this blog then you know that over the past couple years, I’ve slowly transitioned romantic suspense as my main genre to write because paranormal romance is a really tough sell right now. And as part of that transition, I’ve made a couple goals as to where I want these books to be submitted.
Here’s a quick look at my very real and very personal goals for my career:
- Write quality romantic suspense (meaning I put everything I can into each individual book instead of rushing through)
- Write for Harlequin Intrigue
- Get an agent
From there, Delilah asks her followers to list the pros and cons on each goal to really get down to the nitty gritty, so I wrote mine down, which looks something like this:
- Writing quality romantic suspense
Cons: won’t be able to publish multiple novels a year
- Write for Harlequin Intrigue
Pros: smaller word counts, established readership
Cons: focuses on mystery rather than romance, harder to impress editors, different voice, characters don’t really match what I write.
- Get an agent
Pros: support system, editing, submission control
Cons: 15%-20% of sales
If people are not laughing at your goals, your goals are too small. – Azim Premji
Two weeks of not being able to work on this brand new series was affecting so much more than my work. I stopped taking care of myself, I drove myself to write at least a sentence to this awful manuscript every day, and started stressing without restraint.
So this last weekend, I decided to sit down with a book I’ve been looking forward to reading for a couple months now. Usually while I draft a new book, I’m not reading much, but I didn’t know what else to do. Reading always gives me inspiration to work on my own projects, so what could it hurt to see what happened? I had nothing else to lose.
So I brought up the book [Edie Harris’s Crazed] in my Kindle app, ready to fix all my problems.
I read one sentence.
That was it. That was all it took. Suddenly, I knew exactly why I haven’t been able to write, what I was doing wrong, and how I could fix it.
It all had to do with my goals. Specifically, writing for Harlequin Intrigue. You see, I planned on submitting this new book and its series proposal to HQN this fall. So I researched my butt off with their latest releases, analyzed how many scenes/chapters/points of view were in each book in a spreadsheet, and forced myself to match the voice this line uses in these authors’ books. Just like I’ve been doing for the past two years with another romantic suspense project.
I hated every single word of the manuscript because it didn’t sound like me. I hated the heroine because she was more of a damsel in distress rather than the kick-ass, strong women I usually write. I hated the hero because I was trying to force him to see past the romantic conflict so I could fit the whole story in 55,000 words. All to fit in with this specific line at Harlequin.
But really, I just hated this book. So I did what I’ve never done before and had just talked to romantic suspense author Katie Reus about a couple weeks ago:
Yep. I scrapped the entire project and started over. I started the book where I wanted to start it. I used my voice for style. I wrote the heroine how I envisioned her. And I bet you can guess what happened. The story flowed easier, I didn’t have the writer’s block or dread rearing its ugly head every time I sat down to write, and I felt good about the project. Finally!
I’m an advocate of researching a publisher before you submit your work to them, but in this case, I believe I took my goals too far. I was actually changing my art in order to fit those goals and fit that publisher’s needs. And it wasn’t healthy. For anybody.
In reality, I realize now my art didn’t betray me. I betrayed it.
Since I’ve corrected said infraction, I’m feeling a lot more hope, even more excitement for this project than before, and a sense of right. And I’ve taken writing for Harlequin off my goals list. For now. Something may come along in the future that works for them, but not at this point and not with this project.
Have you gone through a similar revelation? I’d love to hear your story.