Thursday, September 09, 2010

When Your Goals Become Out of Reach


Probably the biggest obstacle I’ve had to overcome since opening myself up to a professional edit is accepting that my personal writing goals must change. I’ll be honest. I had plans. I had hoped to query this book to an agent by the beginning of September and then work on my next book.

For over fifteen years, as a mental health counselor, I goal planned with adults about their lives. We set up specific tasks to complete on a monthly basis. Well, I do the same with my own life—always have.

When I came upon the comment about a third of the way through my MS that strongly (but kindly) suggested this would be a good place to start over after creating better character goals, motivations and conflict and then later work in the remaining good parts, my mouth dropped open.

You know what I thought, of course.

Sometimes we aren’t going to meet our writer goals. For me, letting them go felt like defeat. My ticking clock inside me screamed: But you have only so much time . . . you’ve wasted a whole year . . . maybe fixing this book is impossible. . . Toss it out and start something else.

Goals are meant to be adjusted and changed. This edit has opened my eyes that something good might come from it, if I allow it. Whether I'm happy or not.

Like my character, I’ve got a huge obstacle in front of me, and I need to find the motivation to see it through.

What seemingly impossible obstacle are you facing today in your writer world?

55 comments:

Lin Floyd said...

learning how to market my book-have sold 3 copies so far...but still working on it and will see an agent next week at a writer's conference.

Karen Lange said...

I agree, goals often have to change, whether we like it or not. I need to keep this in mind as I work on projects, keep it balanced, and go with the flow. I'm getting better, but still a work in progress. :)
Blessings,
Karen

Kathryn Magendie said...

If you could see the original manuscript of what would become both Tender Graces & Sweetie, you'd say, "Hey . . . so glad you made all those changes!"

I sometimes sit back and go "whew" because I wouldn't have wanted those two books to be what they originally were, but I am happy where they are now! As a contrast, when I read SG, I saw things I'd do differently - but SG was written so very fast, with such a fast turn around.

Do these edits, then sit back and take a long breath and wait a bit, then read your story again. Read it just as if it were a novel -printed out, read where you read all your other fiction - at night in bed, in the afternoon outside, whatever - and then see how it "sounds" to you.

But, believe it or not, you are doing just as you should be - questioning, wondering, thinking, doing . . .

Judy Harper said...

I've told myself over the years that I wanted to be an author. I've written short stories, just for me and family. I even created a blog to invite others to write with me and I have a blog where I just write about my life. But now that I'm determined to write a novel, I find I can't decide what to write the novel on! Which of the short stories do I expand or like you on your book, do I just start all over on a completely new subject? I really appreciate your comments.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Terri, goals should be flexible, if not by september you can query in october or even a little later.
My current WIP is playing traunt and just not co-operating. I had thought I will finish by August, but its nowhere even close. So I made the goal September.

BECKY said...

Hi Terri. I can imagine how you felt when your mouth dropped open. Writing is giving so much of ourselves, and when others don't see it as something extraordinary, naturally we feel...distressed? offended? Keep at it! You are definitely going the right way and your goals are not out of your reach....it's just going to take a little longer to reach them! Hugs!

Claus said...

Again, I'm not a writer, nor have ever tried to write anything in a professional way. But I do believe that goals also have obstacles, no matter which path in life we are walking.
You said "Goals are meant to be adjusted and changed" Very true! In my journey through this life, I have changed my "schedule" so many times, adjusting to what was going on. Things will not always come out as we want, but eventually, some time in the future, we kind of "get" why it happened some way, and not the other. Hang in there! be positive, don't give up your goals and dreams. Your "tweak" them a bit, and in the end, I'm sure you'll be happy with the outcome.
have a great day!

Joanne Sher said...

Praying for you, sweetie. I had something similar (though on a bit smaller of a scale) happen not too long ago. Gotta be willing to adjust those goals - but hold onto the overarching goal God has put in your heart.

Carmen said...

Wow! Reading about all your struggles and successes makes for some interesting posts. Remember, there have been a lot of successes too...every step you take leads you closer to that final goal, no matter how elusive and far away that may seem at the moment. You're up for the challenge, that's been proven already. Hold on tight my friend, it's only a matter of time! I believe you'll see that goal accomplished one day soon.

Jan Cline said...

The time issue is always looming in front of me like an obsticle. My health gets in the way too and I find I have to push through to make any progress. But forward motion is the only way to live. I admire you for your attitude and perseverance. You will make it - we both will with God's help.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Terri -

I keep myself motivated with goals, but leave room for change. The publishing environment fluctuates on a whim, editors bounce around to different houses, and let's not even talk about the market.

Becoming a published author does not only depend on us, but also on a lot of other factors. You're an excellent writer. Keep learning and don't give up.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Nehha N Josshi said...

Getting your work noticed is a big big challenge.

Candyland said...

Waiting. I hate it. I'm no good at it. And it can bite me.

Nancy said...

Don't know about that, but your book sounds too good to quit now. It's going to be so good. If you wrote one fantastic book, (Gone With The Wind comes to mind,) wouldn't that be something special? You would still have time to do a few others.
You can always jot notes on a new book as they come to you.

KarenG said...

Wonderfully thoughtful post Terry. And I have to think about it! I think it may be the goal of having a clean house?

Susan R. Mills said...

I know what you mean. I intended on having my rewrites completed by the end of last year! Um, hello, we're almost to the end of this year. I am finished, but I'm still not sure I'm satisfied. I'll be doing at least one more read through before I query. This seems almost impossible to me right now.

Sally said...

My grandmother said she enjoyed writing, until it became work. I undestand that completely. Then you have to ask yourself, do you enjoy your work?

THE OLD GEEZER said...

Goals are meant to be adjusted and changed in almost every aspect of life.

I know a pastor who once said, Blessed are they who are flexible, for they will not break.

We must be realistically at times and be willing to make adjustments or we will break.

God bless you

~Ron

T. Anne said...

*hug* It sounds like you're getting your monies worth out of that edit. (I read yesterdays' post) It all sounds like great information your getting. I look forward to hearing you sold your novel because you kept at it!

paulgreci said...

Hi Terri, I hope the rewrite goes well. It sounds like you are learning tons about yourself and your writing and that must feel way better than being stuck.

And yes, I agree, goals get revised. I'm trying to finish a first draft of a book I'd planned on finishing in June.

Lyla said...

Ouch; that's tough. But I think you're on the right track with keeping an open mind about it. I bet you'll be really happy with the improvement in the rewrite!

I keep delaying querying as well. It's mainly because, when I finish edits, what I've got is never quite *there*. But I guess it's a bit closer each time.

SAMUEL PARK said...

Thanks for following me. Glad to be following you. Lots of information here, and inspiration! Re: edits, it seems like you got a lot out of this professional editor. I usually saddle friends with the task, at the early stage. Smart of you to take this "shortcut"!

Carolyn said...

That's probably why goals aren't written in concrete...sometimes they're written on wipe/erase boards. Some incremental goals may change, but the ultimate goal is becoming a reality. It sounds like you are actually learning a lot through this process...even if you're also learning about jumping hurdles too. Again, thanks for your blog...I am learning through you!

Jeanette Levellie said...

Oh, Terri. I struggle almost daily with my goal of publishing my books. Do I wait, perhaps years, until the market changes and people want my style of writing, or do I change my goals and self-publish? I'm alway praying for direction.

He will show you how to get to where you need to be. We are often too impatient. Ask me how I know this!

Julie Jarnagin said...

I wanted to have my YA edited by ACFW conference. I haven't really started. I don't think I'm going to get it finished in the next week.

ginny said...

terri, I know nothing about writing, only I do know that you will succeed and will not give up.

Jennie Allen said...

Writing is no doubt an endless marathon. I am just learning the discipline of work. I am about to sign a contract. I just have to deliver what I promise. I can do it... I just need some life change.

Maria I. Morgan said...

Wow! I'm sure it was difficult to get such candid advice, but it's encouraging to me that you're determined to find the "motivation to see it through!" Good for you, Terri! Seek God's face for clear direction and I'm certain you'll not be disappointed. Praying for you, my friend!

Dawn Simon said...

I agree. Goals are meant to be adjusted and changed. I'm a planner, too, and I give myself deadlines all the time. But when you get an opportunity to make your book better even though it will throw your schedule? Take it, take it, take it! :) You can do it!

Jackee said...

Oh, man. That's hard, Terri! For me, that's like being told your child should be in a special needs class. You want to give them all the help they must have, but it's hard to be told your baby isn't the perfect thing you think she/he is.

My insurmountable thing? Getting past the 10 full requests to get that one agent to say yes. "Almost" sometimes feels as far as I'll ever get. *sigh*

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Terri, this is regarding your question on my post on Dialogues.

Terri..I had a problem when I wrote my first book. My editor felt my dialogues were too long and complete. She felt no one spoke like that. She wanted shorter dialogues.

Maybe your editor wants you to write little longer dialogues. Perhaps what you must be doing is keeping the dialogues abrupt, don't do that. When we talk we are trying to convey something. If the dialogues are in fragments maybe what you are trying to convey is not clear. Make sure that what you are trying to express in and via your dialogue is clear. Don't keep it short for the sake of it. Longer dialogues are perfectly acceptable.

I will only be able to help you if I see a sample of your dialogues.

Emily said...

Hi Terri, I just wanted to let you know that I've been there - more than once! I also got a professional critique of a couple chapters and my synopsis, and figured I would just be polishing once I got the editor's response. But that response lead me into a full revision. And then I did the same thing with a new critique partner and ended up doing another revision. Happily, I'm in an exciting place in my hunt for an agent. There is a light at the end of the tunnel! In fact, I've found that there's even a light in the tunnel - Jesus! :)

Jennifer Shirk said...

Yes, my goals do change. I've learned to set different goals. Some are very attainable so that I feel good after I've accomplished them. :)

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

You're a better woman than me. I think I would have lost heart and given up by now. But my, how do I admire your courage and willingness to let someone else chew on your words for awhile! You are a champion in my book, and I hope that you won't grow weary in your well-doing. I'd be a certain bust at fiction writing. I'll leave that up to those of you who do it better and have thicker skin.

Keep to it.
peace~elaine

Rhonda said...

Wow, Terri. I wish I knew how to comfort and console during this difficult time. Our pastor said recently that "glory follows suffering." That's what I pray for you in your so-not-fun time.

What's my seeming impossibility? Goodness, I think most of writing life (the publishing side, anyway) is just that. Out of the thousands of voices clamoring to be heard, how does anyone ever "get discovered" and stand out from the crowd? It's intimidating and overwhelming and nerve-wracking, to say the least. It takes more guts than I think I have, some days.

Deb Shucka said...

I was in a similar place a year ago. I was querying agents for the book I'd spent 2 1/2 years completing. Long story short, I began a complete rewrite a couple of weeks ago. It's the right thing, the only thing. And so hard to face.

I really appreciate you sharing this. And I believe in your ability to take all that editor's advice and create magic.

Patti Lacy said...

Whoa. I'd say you reached out to a TON of folks today.

Praise God.

Hmmm. I am really struggling to accept the terrible sicknesses going on around me and my inability to provide much comfort.


Patti

Warren Baldwin said...

Goals or obstacles I am facing? Too many ideas, wanting to go in too many different directions. Need to settle in on one and run with it. Good post.

Jill Kemerer said...

Terri, I know how you feel. It took seven long months to get my last book written, revised, critiqued, re-revised, and submitted to agents. It usually takes me no longer than four. I had to put my future books, and my 2010 schedule on hold. It's hard to let go of our goals, but it's the right thing to do if it means a better book.

Go get 'em!

Kara said...

Sometimes I get so frustrated when my goals can't be met. And that seems to be fairly often around my place, but I've decided that I'm just not giving up.
I know you will find your motivation to move past this and set a new goal for yourself. In the end your book will be awesome, I have no doubt!!

Heather Sunseri said...

Oh, Terri, I definitely know how you feel. I'm doing my best to stay the course and push through professional edits of my own. It takes a strength we don't know we have to learn and persevere on this path. Hang in there, friend. I'm sending you virtual hugs. And chocolate.

DLCurran said...

I tend to 'over-goal' to keep me going, but the more I read from fellow writers the more it's clear I'll have to learn to be lots more flexible. Thanks for the post - helps to put my frustrations into perspective with your experience.

Nice to have 'met' you.

Lynn said...

I agree that we do have to adjust our goals. Life is change and things happen. That's a guarantee. May we always remember Plan B is not defeat but another road we're led on to discover anew. And like you said, allow it to happen.
The 'why bother' monkey sits on shoulder, and to shoo away I'm taking some time to re-evaluate what my values are-what is important at this time in my life. The obstacle is my goal sheet. It's so hard to let go!

Margo Berendsen said...

I don't think your goal is out of reach; it's just that God has a different schedule in mind. If you have another exciting project to start working on, you might switch to that and put this piece on hold for a while - but like any problem child, we can never completely give up on them. Don't give up!

Aimee L Salter said...

Ouch! You poor thing, I can totally relate. I'm 15 months into revisions and staring (finally) a finished manuscript in the face... only then I have to start querying again!

Yikes.

This is my first visit, look forward to keeping up with your journey.


Aimee

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Terri--I think it must be going around...I feel the same sense of frustration as you do. I've always been good (really good) at what ever I did. I'm four years into this and have one little magazine publication...You have a beautiful heart and you write beautiful words on your blog...(I haven't been privy to any private readings) Tomorrow is a new day and things will hopefully seem brighter.

My friend Tess Hilmo (who is a brilliant blogger and soon to be published author) said to me, "You can do this...."

Terri...You can do this!

Janet Johnson said...

Wow. That would drop my stomach for sure. But if our goals are writing the best story we can, it's worth it. Good luck!

Julie Gillies said...

If there's one thing I've learned on this crazy writing journey, Terri, it's that my goals need to be flexible. And I need to know...KNOW...that my goals match up to God's goals for me. If they don't, then I scrap them (painful!).

But I have to say it sounds like your editor knows her stuff, and it also sounds like you are rolling with the punches here. I'm sorry it seems overwhelming for you right now. I have 2 suggestions: Break it down into bite-sized pieces so you can still feel that sense of accomplishment. And pray.

You're an inspiration to us all!

Jackie said...

Hey Terri!

My heart echos Julie Gillies exactly!

Praying for you during this "goal" remodel!! But it will be worth it when you behold the beautiful finished product of your heart!!

Sweet Blessings!
Jackie

Lynda Young said...

I'm up to the editing stage of my own MS and it's terrifying because I know I'm going to have to throw out huge chunks. I have to keep reminding myself it's ok, I'm not a terrible writer, it's all part of the writing process. Maybe one day it will become easier, but I'm not so sure.

Deniz Bevan said...

Good luck with the process Terri! It *is* hard when we feel like we've been wasting time - but I guess as long as you've been doing *something* writerly, it's not really wasted is it? Even if I have a day or two with no new words, I can type up previously written scenes or do research, or work through plot problems in my head, or fantasize about scenes that'll never make it into the book... :-)

Jolene Perry said...

writing my synopsis in my "voice" and in the same snappy way that my novel is written. AGH! I wish you could just pay someone to write queries and synopsis and all that but it doesn't work because it's not our "voice"

Georgiana said...

The honesty of your post is really touching. I have SO been there. For me, I even start to think, "Meh, I have wasted SO MUCH TIME." And that's the biggest fear of all. But if we learn from edits or crits or even rejections, then really it was worth it so we can improve our work. I must say that God has worked on my personal character through this process also.

Amie B said...

oh - i so want to cry! this is exactly the way i feel at times.

i've set so many goals for writing - and i keep adjusting that finish line - but sometimes i feel like i'm never going to reach it. no. matter. what. i. do.

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

You know where my writing obstacle is today? Here it is... raw and unedited:

I've been scouring around the blogosphere this morning, looking at a few writers who have recently received book contracts with traditional publishers, and my heart has taken a nose-dive. The green-eyed monster has reared her ugly head, and I'm wondering why some writer's words are deemed more "sellable" than others. I suppose I should stay away from such activity, especially when I have so much else on my plate right now, but I didn't. And now, here I am, holding a plate of envy that I didn't really want to hold. Accordingly, I'm going for a walk in order to shake the dust from my feet and to gain a higher perspective.

I admire your continuing working at your writing, Terri. I pray that someone will take you and your words seriously and that you will get the validation that you deserve.

peace~elaine