Voirey Linger · writing advice

Goals and Deadlines

Voirey Linger

I’m going to finish four books by the end of May with an estimated word count total of 200,000 words.

Don’t choke. Breathe through it. You with me? Okay then.

Please note, I didn’t say I was going to WRITE four books. The books are already on my hard drive, partials left languishing while I let life leave tread marks all over me in 2013. This spring, I’m FINISHING those books.

My estimation is that I started the year with about half the needed words for each book.  I’d plugged away on them and for one

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos
Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

reason or the other — some reasons very good and some reasons very … not — I’d set the book aside with the vague plan to get back to it later. Only, I didn’t get back to any of them. I just walked away, added them to my list of unfinished books.

As part of my annual New Year self-assessment, I took some time to look over that list, that horrible, terrible, no-good list of unfinished stories, and I promised myself I would finish them. Some are so close to done that I can’t even remember just why I set them aside. Some are vague ideas I’d jotted down, letting them stew and grow into fully-formed stories. All of them had been left waiting.

My files probably have enough partial stories to keep me busy for a couple of years. I took my time looking them over, pulling out the four that I wanted to finish first. Two are old stories, fully plotted and just a bit away from finished. One of those will be likely be self-published. The other I’m using to query agents. The remaining two are stories that will flow quickly, shorter stories I know I can have out as self-pubs or on unagented submission before my self-imposed May deadline.

When I looked at this file, at these books and all the unrealized potential in them, it occurred to me that this was my career, sitting undone and worthless in so many computer files. I could have already sold these, published them, been earning royalties and advancing my writing career with them. Instead, I let things slide, stopped writing for days, weeks and even months at a time.

Here’s where the great revelation kicks in.

I can’t make a career of my potential.

I have great confidence that I am a good writer, a marketable one. I believe wholeheartedly that the people who read my books will enjoy them. But for that to happen, I have to finish the darn books.

I know, it’s so simple it’s stupid. Writers write… career authors finish and publish.

But at the same time, it’s easy to fall into that groove, to plan great books and get sidetracked, to plan more and let it fall away. It can happen over and over, so quickly and easily you don’t even realize it’s happened until you stop and take a look at your files and see there are five or a dozen or a hundred books there, waiting to be finished. All that potential, neglected and wilting.

This year will likely be spent finishing stories. I want to see the potential of these books realized, to get them finished and off my hard drive.

So, if you try to email me about something, it might take me a little while to get back to you. I’m going to be busy finishing stuff.

How about you? How much potential is languishing on your hard drive?

5 thoughts on “Goals and Deadlines

  1. Hey, I resemble these remarks! I’ve got a lot languishing on my hard drive. Some of them were finished, garnered serious editor attention from publishers, but never sold, so I’m self-publishing them this year after running them past an editor I hired. All said and done, I hope to have 6 releases this year and finish at least another 2-3 projects. So far, so good. I’ve published two that were finished, working on a third, have a novella and short story anthology with my editor. Third novel cover is done and anthology cover is almost ready. Like you, I kind of “woke up” to the realization that I couldn’t build a readership if I didn’t continue to produce finished works and get them out there.

    I wish you the best of luck, but know you won’t need it. You’ll get ‘er done!

    1. Thanks, Annie. It’s hard looking at all these files and realizing that’s my career, sitting there doing nothing, especially when I really need them to be doing something.

      And in a funny way, I needed this kick in the pants again, too. I’ll write blog posts a few weeks or a couple of months in advance. Since the time I scheduled this one, I’d started to slip into slacker mode again. I need to post these goal where I see them daily, because I’m determined that this will be a good year for me.

  2. Voirey…your post hits home with many writers, me included. While I don’t have the volume of unfin/unpub/pubbed works you have, my dilemma is one of many ideas and how to expand them into books. I have a saying posted on my corkboard from UNKNOWN…”Don’t be upset by the results you didn’t get with the work you didn’t do.”

    How apt.

    1. Are you a plotter? I’ve found having the basic plot points help. I can focus on getting from A to B to C instead of a whole book at once. Starting with short stories also helped me. No pressure to create 95K of fabulous, I just had to focus on a single, uncluttered plotline and let it be however long it needed to be.

      Plotter or not, great ideas of none, finishing can be a challenge for any writer. I do like your quote. i might have to post that one for myself.

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