Goals and Deadlines

This post was originally written for Leah Braemel’s Blog.

A writer’s work is never done, and neither is her goal-setting. I have one goal staring me in the face right now: the deadline to turn in the manuscript of The Duke and the Pirate Queen. It’s due February 1, which means I’ll be spending January writing the last scenes as well as cleaning, tweaking, revising, and polishing.

A deadline isn’t really a goal. The goal, for me, has nothing to do with getting the manuscript to my editor on time. My goal, always, is to write a better book than I’ve ever written before.

The goal doesn’t stop there. To really make it work, I have to break down “write a better book” into specifics. I choose my specifics based on weaknesses I’ve recognized in my own writing, and I’ve been trying to address different weaknesses with each successive novel.

Here’s what I’m trying to address currently. I worry that I spend too much wordcount inside the heads of the characters as they think about their relationships. I would much prefer to show their relationships through actions, so when and where it seems possible, I cut off the internal monologues and replace them with actions to demonstrate emotion. In the final read, if I feel an internal monologue is going on for too long, I plan to cut it, identify the point of the monologue, and demonstrate it through character action.

A second weakness I’ve been working on is meandering. When I’m drafting a novel, I’m usually moving pretty quickly (see deadline!) and spending more wordcount on scenes that are flowing easily than might be required. As I’ve been writing The Duke and the Pirate Queen, I’ve realized that some of the erotic scenes might be too long; the same thing is sometimes true of scenes with a lot of dialogue. My sense of these things is not always true to reality while I’m in the process of writing; sometimes a scene seems really long because I worked on it for several successive days, but the wordcount is actually low. I won’t be able to properly judge the appropriate length and pacing of those scenes until I’ve completed an entire draft. One of my goals is to scrutinize the erotic and/or dialogue-heavy scenes carefully, decide if any of them drag, and if so, if they can be tightened or shortened, or even intensified. I might also give those scenes to a trusted reader, because after a certain point, I lose all objectivity and can no longer tell if the scene is working or not.

My next major goal for the year is to complete a short story. I’ve already promised this story to an editor, so it’s part deadline, part goal. My goal is to approach a new-to-me historical period, the Crimean War, and a new-to-me sub-genre, time travel, and to concentrate on the romance instead of the erotic elements.

Once that story’s complete, it’s back to fulfilling my contract with Spice. I have a few ideas for my fourth novel for them, and I’m still planning what my specific craft goals for that book will be; they will depend somewhat on whether my editor accepts my first proposal, or if I have to come up with a different idea.

How about you?

Related Post: Dissecting Critique, Dissecting Manuscripts.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen’s first erotic novel, The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover (Harlequin Spice, December 2008), was translated into French and German. Her second Spice novel, The Moonlight Mistress (December 2009), was translated into Italian and nominated for a RT Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her third novel is The Duke & The Pirate Queen (December 2010). She has also published erotic short stories as Elspeth Potter. Her blog features professional writing and marketing tips, genre discussion, book reviews, and occasional author interviews.
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