Writing goals for 2011

While there are still 16 days left in 2010, I thought now would be a good time to get my writing goals for 2011 down on paper. A number of factors have influenced the goals for 2011:

I won’t write up the final review of my progress (my “annual report”) for 2010 until the year is over. I still have some stories out and there is still a chance those stories can sell (or be rejected) before the end of the year.

2011 will be a Year of Short Fiction for me. If I had to craft a mission statement for the year, it would be as follows:

To become better recognized as a writer of quality science fiction stories; someone to keep an eye on.

With that as my mission statement, here are my writing goals for 2011:

1. Make 3 short fiction sales to professional markets

In 2010, my goal was to make 5 story sales, 3 of which were to be to professional markets. This was an unrealistic goal, but it set a baseline for me and after a year with this goal, I think that 3 short fiction sales to professional markets is much more reasonable, especially after my sale to Analog. I do feel like the quality of my stories have been improving and by focusing on short fiction this year, I hope to improve further.  Here are some of the ways that I plan to do this:

  • Write 12 new stories in 2011. I need a bit of a stretch goal and this is it. I will likely finish 2010 having written 8 or 9 new stories, far better than anything I have done in the past. 12 stories isn’t too much of a stretch because I also spent an entire month of 2010 writing 61,000 words of a novel. Replace that time with more story writing and I think this is a challenging, but achievable objective. This also means I can pace things at roughly 1 new story each month which helps for planning purposes and sets a somewhat arbitrary deadline for each story to keep me focused. And for me, a month is generally enough time to produce a story of modest length.
  • Aim for 30 submissions. This is less than a third of what I aimed for in 2010, but what I aimed for in 2010 was not set realistically. For one thing, I didn’t consider response times. But I am also hoping that as the quality of my stories improve, they will have to see fewer markets before they are accepted. I made 24 submissions in 2010 and so 30 seems like a reasonable increase. And 3 sales means a 10% hit rate. Also, there have been new markets introduced in 2010 that should becoming “professional” markets in 2011–places like Lightspeed, Redstone, and Daily SF, for instance.
  • Continue to improve the quality of the stories I write. I feel like my stories are getting better and practice makes perfect. But I hope to improve in other ways as well. I hope to receive more editorial feedback on stories and learn from that. And I will continue to submit stories for critique to the Arlington Writers Group and to my first readers in hopes of getting more feedback and learning from that as well. Finally, I plan on making more of an effort to read more short fiction as it appears than I currently read.

2. Earn at least 1 positive review for a published story

Since my overall mission is to become better recognized as a short fiction writer to keep an eye on, it would make sense that I’d hope to earn at least 1 positive review for my published fiction. This, however, is almost entirely out of my hand and is thus a very tricky goal to meet.  Nevertheless, if I can continue to improve the quality of my writing and my stories, then it seems like a positive review is inevitable. But I sure would like to see one in 2011.

3. Attend at least 1 convention as a partipant

I managed to attend 2 conventions and one social function related to the science fiction world in 2010. In all of these–with the possible exception of the SFWA Author & Editor reception–I attended as a fan. And as I have stated elsewhere on this blog, I still think of myself as a fan first and a writer second, but in the coming year, I’d like the science fiction world to begin to recognize me more as a writer and to that end, I feel as if I need to increase my participation in the machinery of science fiction. One of the things that I can do is to try to attend a convention as a participant, on who sits on panels or gives readings.

  • I have already sent a request to be a participant at one convention in 2011 and I am waiting to hear back.
  • I plan on attending at least 5 science fiction events in 2011, which I will detail in a subsequent post and for one or two of these events I will also attempt to participate as a panelist.

The trick here is that, once again, this is largely outside of my control. I can send email messages and offer myself as a potential participant and panelist, but if I have not yet really made a name for myself in the field, than, well, why should I be picked, quite frankly. Attending a convention as a panelist, therefore, is more a barometer to my growing renown in our small field. (So that a future goal in years to come might be to be invited to participate in one or more conventions–as opposed to begging.)

4. Continue to expand and enhance my network

Aside from writing stories, the one other area that I have full control over is marketing myself and expanding my network.  Last year, my objectives in this area included attending more conventions and attempting to participate more in the machinery of the science fiction world. I think I made some good strides, but I think some of those objectives were not specific and focused enough. In 2011 I am aiming for more specific things:

  • Triple the traffic to my website by providing more relevant content, more frequently. This means more content about science fiction and writing. It means getting some external recognition of the stuff that I post, either through science fiction news sites or Twitter retweets, or word of mouth. I’m not looking to become John Scalzi’s Whatever, but if I can go from an average of 35 hits/day to an average of 100 hits/day, I think that will be a good sign of success in this endeavor.
  • Attend more science fiction events. I mentioned this above.  I attended 3 events in 2010 and I plan on attending at least 5 in 2011 (and at least one as a participant). I’ll be posting about this later on.
  • Become more involved with SFWA. I am now a full active member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. I have been a volunteer for more than a year, but I would like to look for ways to become more involved, especially if they line up with some of my other goals and objectives.
  • Pay it forward. That is a tenant of the science fiction world. I have been extremely fortunate to have people who have–out of nothing more than the kindness of their hearts–help propel my career as a science fiction writer forward. If I had the opportunity to do the same for others–especially new writers, I would love to be able to do this.

Establishing goals at the beginning of the year is important. If I hadn’t done it last year, I don’t think I would have written nearly as much as I did, which would have kept me from the practice I needed to continue to improve my craft and may very well have meant being rejected from Analog instead of selling a story there. Of course, the goals for last year were unrealistic, but I’ve learned from that, too, and I hope I have set more realistic goals for this year. (And I should learn from these and set even better goals in 2012.)

I am very comfortable with the notion of focusing the entire year on short fiction, improving my skills there, and making a name for myself in that arena. I love short fiction. I recognize that most people cannot come close to making a living as a writer of short science fiction, but I am not trying to make a living at it. I am trying to write quality stories that entertain people and maybe make them think–the kind of stories that I love to read.