Today’s guest post is by Devin Curtis, who blogs at Get Geek. He spends what little time he isn’t studying, recording podcasts, editing videos or writing articles for this site, on watching TV, playing video games, reading books and being a general nerd. Devin loves table-top roleplaying games, non-laugh track comedies, dark fantasy, science fiction, roleplaying, and puzzle video games, and really anything else you see on his website.
How many projects have you started that have simply fizzled away as you burnt out or lost interest? Probably too many to count, if you’re like me. I’m writing this the day after I “finished” the rough draft of my novella, Mark of the Shadow. I say finished in quotes as I know that there is still a long way to go, and that there is still a lot of hard work to put in. It’s the longest complete work I’ve ever written. I have written one other work that is around the same length, but that I never finished.
I’m here to help you with setting goals and meeting them in your creative field, whatever that may be. When I say: “write your novel” it can mean anything that you have a passion for. It doesn’t matter whether you want to make games, or write books, or screenplays – the concept is the same.
Famous quotes you would see plastered on your high school English teacher’s wall will tell you to shoot for the stars, to aim as high as you can, to go for the gold. And you should. But not on your first novel, or your second. You have to ease in on things or you will burn out.
Let’s look at what I did with that work I never finished. I wrote fast and hard, with a goal in mind. The goal was not a word count goal, it was a quality goal. The book I was trying to write was not the one that showed on the page. Occasionally it showed its head, but the book got away from me. So I let it go. I pushed too hard, when I should have stopped and looked at what wasn’t working. I set my expectations too high.
With Mark of the Shadow I took that step back. I realized that if I wanted to finish a story I would have to take it slowly. I also knew I would need encouragement to keep writing. That’s why from the word go I was posting the story on the web, once a week, every week.
It’s been almost half a year since I started Mark of the Shadow, and looking back it really has taken a long time to write what is, with clarity, not a very long story. But I met my goal. I was able to post new content every week, and now I am many weeks ahead in my writing. Plus, I can say I finished it. I finished what I started.
What made Mark of the Shadow work? I set reasonable goals. Goals I knew I could meet. Goals that encouraged me to do my best and work consistently on it. That is very important.
You know yourself and your ability better than anyone. You need to set goals that give you a challenge, and that allow you to grow as well as make a plan that allows you to meet your goals without burnout.
After your first time, ramp up your expectations. Challenge yourself, but keep it within the realm of possibility. You’ll find yourself growing far more than you would have expected. I know I see my self as a much better author than I was before I wrote Mark of the Shadow.
Make goals that you can achieve so that you can find success. If you make goals that you can’t meet, then you will come away from your task disappointed and bitter. Then you may never get to “write your novel” and that would be a tragedy.