Guest Posts posts

Guest Post: Writing Goals

For the first time on Adventures in Text: a guest post! It’s my pleasure to introduce friend, fellow blogger, fellow NaNoWriMo nut, and writer, Nick Hudson.

Nick is the creator of Fictioner’s Net, a blog predominantly about writing, creativity and storytelling. While he’s not doing that (or his day-job), he can be found working on his own novels or indulging in other writing pursuits. Today, he’s sharing his thoughts with us about writing goals.


It’s often easy to forget why we do this. Why we write. Even with that subterranean urge to put words together, ideas bubbling away inside you, and melting your experiences into that new killer plot, sometimes there’s nothing more than a simmer happening. The ideas fizzle out, the sentences aren’t flowing like you know they’re meant to, and in general, you start to lose sight of it. The truth is that not every day is easy. Sometimes we have to fight damned hard to get the words right, and we try to claw our way through the empty pages with the hope that we’ll eventually get to a spot where the words do flow. It’s time like that when we need to remember what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it. Simply put, no more passive creativity for you, Writer. You’re going to work out what you’re doing, and why!

Don’t worry, I’m doing it too.

The last few weeks haven’t been the greatest with the words. I’ve written, yes, though haven’t gone that extra step of committing them to my manuscript. The current scene has been a struggle (once again, it’s a new one), and I’ve been very aware of the lack of progress with my novel. There’s also been a bounty of real-life grievances, both about myself and my writing, and all those things go along way to dangerous statements about being a terrible writer/person. This post is as much for me as it is for you.

All of this goes beyond the usual stuff. Yes, we want to write because we love creating, or we want to change the world, or we think there’s too many empty bookshelves in the world and need to fill them with our stories. We get the ideas and alone, they’re never enough. Sometimes it’s all been played out in your head, and you know the general in-and-out with as much detail as any well-loved book. Could writing complete you as a person, only feeling right when there’s a pen in one hand and a blank page on the table? We need to go beyond that – more than just the act of writing, but look at the potential outcome.

First of all, there’s enjoyment. Sometimes writing is less orchestrated than the process might imply. We might be the ones in charge of the words, but they often flow out of us so fast, that the first time we know the words is when we put them in the story. Is that a symptom of how we communicate with the world, perhaps? I have a problem with spoken words, in that I tend to start speaking them before I know what all the words will be. This can lead to stuttering, mispronunciation, and a strange round-about way of speaking. The advice I’ve been given to get around that, is to think about what you’re going to say before you say it. YEAH RIGHT. It’s probably not the dividing line between whether or not you’re an off-the-cuff writer, but maybe it’s a factor. It’s not that I never think about what I’m saying, but the majority rule is say first and regret later. With momentum, writing is the same way. It might get cleaned up a bit in the physical process of writing, but it just comes out.

It’s for that reason that I sometimes think of writing as slow-reading. I’ve been surprised while writing, when scenes have twisted away from what might be expected, into something that was different yet still plausible – and often it’s because of characters acting out. It’s different to reading, but also a little bit similar.

The next factor in the writing process is a finished story. Yes, just the first draft. Why this? Because no matter how horribly you misspell words, what plot holes exist, or what coffee-stains blur half the manuscript, you have a glorious mess of words that goes somewhere. It might take the reader from Aegis IV to New Angeles because you’d forgotten the location had changed, they might never explain what the mysterious treasure actually is, and your antagonist might somehow change eye and hair colour every few chapters with no real reason… but you have something that can actually be read, whether it’s subjectively readable or not. There’s something amazing about that first step, where despite the flaws, you’re able to excite the mind of a reader. It took me years to show even excerpts of my work to others, and it was almost always something short – until it wasn’t.

That one was shown to about twenty people in total, and at least half of those read the entire thing. It was over 50,000 words (hint hint), and it was as much a process of discovery for me, as it was for those that read it. It’s here that a larger goal becomes clear – I’m writing words with the intent that somebody reads them. The story isn’t targeted to a specific demographic, and generally speaking, the idea sits independent of targets about audience or genre. There are stories that need to be written, and then hopefully people will read them.

The extended goal is to have the story be considered (objectively) of sufficient quality. It needs to tell the entire story, be consistent within itself and also thorough. It needs to be as free of errors, whether spelling or grammatical. It also, above all else, needs to be something that could be read and enjoyed beyond the thrill of having written it. Again, not writing this for other people – the target audience is me. Given that I’m a consumer of all sorts of stories, I’m hopeful that by extension each story will appeal to other people too, but there’s no market analysis going on here. Trying to follow trends is something that happens in every product area, not just in writing. Another thing that happens is attempting to predict what formula will lead to success. You might think that because paranormal romance has been big recently, and monster movies were big in the 1930s, that the next trend in fiction will be a reimagining of the cynical gumshoe trope. It *might* be the case, but it won’t be because someone’s tried to orchestrate it, but because there’s a story good enough that it ignites the world’s imagination.

If you’re chasing the crowd or trying to keep a step ahead of it, the result will be hollow. Instead, find the story that doesn’t want to let go of you, that demands to be written. That’s the one. It won’t do it everyday, but when it does do it, that’s how you know what you ought to be writing.

When I’ve finished once, I want to do it all over again. Lots. There’s at least ten different stories that are begging to be told beyond the one I’m working on now. Some do share the same setting, while others are either standalone or can be grouped together with others from the ten.

What’s all that entail? What are these mysterious random stories I’m intending to put together? The current novel is a rewrite of what my 2010 NaNoWriMo, which was/is a flight-punk fantasy called “Trail to the Sky”. It was originally designed as a prequel to an as-yet incomplete story set in the same world. The next on the list would be the first quarter of last year’s NaNoWriMo, which was more of a traditional high-fantasy. That originally had four time periods in the one story, alternating every chapter. I’ve since worked out that’s doing right by any of the time periods, so it’ll be a set of four. Beyond that, there’s more stories in the world of ‘Trail to the Sky’, which push toward a blend of science fiction and fantasy. There’s also a western, a thriller, and a kind-of paranormal setting that have been mapped out, and might one day be done, but that’s as far as I’ve currently planned – and obviously there’s no accounting for any sudden bursts of inspiration.

Writing and then editing a novel always implies another step – publishing. It’s here that the real world intrudes, instead of our own personal fictional worlds taking up the entire writing lifecycle.

It’s a strange time for writers at the moment. Not only are physical bookstores vanishing, but electronic publication is taking over. It’s not the same to me as having an actual book in your hand, but there exists now the ability to get your story in front of more eyes, with very different hurdles than have been present before. Self-publishing is one avenue available to use, whether it be just electronic, or getting our own books printed into something bigger. NaNoWriMo has increased awareness of Print-on-Demand places like CreateSpace, though I’ve never had a story ready to put into a book like that. There’s nothing stopping you from going to a print shop, and having your manuscript bound if you’re just looking at giving your story to friends and family you see regularly. Convert a story into an e-reader friendly format, and throw it on Smashwords and the like, and that’s another way to make it available to people. Making people aware is another job entirely, and falls to social media and word of mouth.

It feels like there is still some stigma attached to self-publishing, though the traditional publishing route is as difficult as ever. The idea is still appealing, and has all sorts of romantic connotations – it’s what all fiction presents as the right way to write, and how you know you’ve made it as an author. My plan for a long time had been that I would try the traditional publishing route, and if/when that failed, attempt self-publishing. I don’t know how viable that is now. Recently it has felt as though the traditional route was narrowing, and that the best way to any sort of audience would be self-publishing. Neither is self-publishing a guarantee of ‘success’ (success here equals attaining a readership), because there are extreme levels of content-saturation. This goes beyond quality of the work, because awareness needs to exist for quality to enter as a factor.

There will always be an audience for fiction, and people will always read books. There will be new books, new stories, and new writers. It was never an easy path, and it may or may not be easier now. It is different, though. You may not be writing so you can be read, and it may sometimes feel like an impossible dream, but someone untested is writing a story that will one day be read by many.

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Guested: Starting a Creative Writing Group

The lovely Nick over on Fictioner’s Net asked me to do a guest post for him recently, and it went up this morning! It contains my thoughts and experiences about starting a creative writing group, which I’ve done twice now. Go check it out! Give Nick’s site some love, too.

Coming soon: Nick has written a guest post for this blog, all about writing goals. Watch this space!

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