March 5, 2014

Even Pantsers Need Goals

Pantser – noun/verb hybrid. 
            Author who does not plan, plot or outline before sitting down to a blank page. One who writes by the seat of his/her pants.

By definition a pantser might be thought of as a whimsical creature. I imagine she frolics through fields of daisies communing with rabbits and all the while arranging copious amounts of very fine words that make up lovely, lyrical stories.

A plotter (one who mulls, plans and outlines) probably imagines a pantser as one who scratches her bum through her saggy, raggedy sweatpants. Sits at the computer, with a cigarette hanging from her mouth, a long ash dangling wretchedly close to the keyboard and has the gall to yawn and sniff before beginning her project.

Reality is actually a bit of both. Without the dangling ash. At least in my case.

I’ve always been a pantser, but I’ve also been a muller. And both of those have worked against me in the past. As a pantser I can write to the moon and back before I finally happen upon the REAL story line. As a muller, I can spend so much time thinking about it, I never do it. This year I’ve changed something that has really helped me to move forward as an author.

Goals.

I’ve been creating goals for a couple of years now, but this year the goals are more specific. Not so anal that I tell myself I must write 2,000 words a day, but more targeted by project. I’ve also gotten better at incorporating all the non-writing part of writing.

At the beginning of the month, I sit down and decide what I can logically accomplish during that month and what will have the most impact for moving my career forward. I set the goals such as:

Finish 1st draft of novella project (approx 18K words/30 days means I should average 600 words per day. Since I like to take weekends off, I have to spread those 1200 words over the week. This helps me visualize how much I should write to keep it moving forward.)
Complete 2 videos for promotional campaign
Continue 1st draft of ya (some goals can remain ambiguous.)
Finish revision of mg for publisher (add the deadline if you have one so you can work around that hard fast goal.)

Each week I check to make sure I’m moving toward completing those goals. EVERY month something has come up to derail my goals, but that’s why the ambiguous goal is helpful. That one is squishy enough to be cast aside if something completely unexpected comes up and it won’t ruin my psyche to do it. Eventually that ya will move up into the main focus goal, but if it isn’t there this month, it is just filler.

The following month, if I didn’t complete something that is still important to me, I carry it over. However, sometimes I find I didn’t complete it because it is no longer important. Goals are like editing. You have to cut whatever isn’t moving the story (or your career) forward.

Though I haven’t found the benefit to being a plotter, I have found a definite benefit to the structure of sound goal setting. Do you set goals? How do you handle not achieving them?

2 comments:

  1. I'm a definite plotter, but I'm flexible to change. I plot so I know what I'm doing and what I'm going to write, but I'm totally fine with my characters throwing curve balls at me and making me change my ideas completely. So I'm a "go with the flow" plotter. Is that thing? ;)

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    1. I think it is important to have some flow! I envy your plottiness. ;)

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