How to Eat an Elephant
Contrary to popular belief, my first love is not reading. My first love is putting pen to paper and telling stories to anyone interested. Before I ever taught myself how to read, I told stories to entertain myself. As an only child, you can probably imagine the worry I caused my parents when I would find strangers willing to listen to one of my crazy stories. (To me, the definition of ‘stranger’ has always been obscure.)
For my fifteenth birthday my parents bought me an HP desktop, which for the next several years I abused to no end, pounding away on the keys, forcing thoughts, characters, stories and worlds onto the blank page that we writers are all too familiar with; the cursor blinking, taunting and begging for that blank page to be filled. Thoughts filled with fear and doubt always steered me away from being able to finish a story. For a year, I would start a story and abandon it before ever reaching the rising action.
The Spring of ’06 I stumbled upon a handful of paperbacks, each one, in my opinion, better than the last. It started with Brian Keene’s The Rising, and ended with Tamara Pierce’s Bad Things. I blew through them in a matter of a few weeks, and, somewhere in between, Gary A. Braunbeck’s In Silent Graves sealed the deal for me. After putting it down, I knew my calling: to tell my stories to an audience that would pick up my stories of their own volition.
Since that spring day, I’ve managed to do all the right things without realizing it: I joined a writing group, started networking, and continued to write. Which brings me to now: my reading goals have been established for 2012, but I’ve realized my writing goals haven’t. Somewhere within the last month, I’ve realized that I don’t have a professional publishing credit to my name. It’s not a major, life-altering revelation, but it’s made me stop and think hard about what I want to do this year. So, I sat down and drew up my Writing Plan for ’12.
Have you ever heard the phrase that begins: “How do you eat an elephant?” It's probably not something you hear often, if at all, but recently I found myself asking that very question. If you know me, then you know that I'm an ambitious person. Even if I don't succeed, I set crazy goals that seem short of impossible. But I've found that's the only way I can attain my dreams. Even if I don't hit my mark, I've done more than what I would have done before.
Without realizing it, that's how I had approached my reading goals for this year. So, it only made sense that I followed that same format when setting my writing goals.
Here's what my writing goals for '12 look like:
Write four short stories, one for each quarter of the year.
Submit each story to different markets (two of the stories I have planned already have markets to submit to; the last two I have vague ideas for).
Continue work on the handful of novellas that I either have notes for or large chunks written (each novella stands on its own, but all of them are written in the same universe and tell a larger story). My goal is to be able to knit them together and create a novel-length piece by the end of the year.
So, what does that mean for my word count for the year? Well, something like this:
Short Story #1: 3,000 to 10,000 words
Short Story #2: 3,000 to 5,000 words
Short Story #3: 3,000 words
Short Story #4: 5,000 words
Novella #1: 25,000 words
Novella #2: 25,000 words
Novella #3: 35,000 to 40,000 words
Which means between 99,000 to 113,000 words will be written in 2012.
According to traditional publishers, a novel (and this is along the more literary mindset) begins at around 50,000 words. Conventional publishers – the small press and big six who publish speculative fiction – mostly agree on 80,000 (this doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t publish anything shorter, but 80k sells better than 60k).
Either way you slice it, 99,000 words is a lot. Which brings me back to that phrase: “How do you eat an elephant?” Well, that's simple: in small bites.
At the end of February, I’ll be left with 306 days to write 99,000 to 113,000 words. 324 – 370 daily, depending on which goal I need to reach, so let’s just say 370. That’s not too many pages when considering standard formatting: 12 point font, double spaced, Times New Roman or Courier New. Which breaks down to about 350 words per page, for a total of a page a day. Small bites.
A bite a day keeps the doctor away.
Let's see how I do!
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