Four Writing Goals To Ponder

I'm searching for my path as a writer (although this is really a pic of me hiking in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia)

Short story writing is incredibly satisfying and – relatively speaking – immediately gratifying. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what’s happened for me this year in my short story writing career, and I’m happy to report more than a few pieces were accepted and published, with several more on the way. (If you’d like to read any, pls check out my Published Stories page)

But when I say “short story writing career” I will qualify it somewhat. I am a short story writer, but I have a job too, unrelated to my writing, which pays the bills. My short stories have all been published for free, meaning I have not paid anything to the journal doing the reading, or the editorial time and guidance I have received from generous (usually volunteer) staff nor have they paid me for the content I contributed. Just so there is no misunderstanding, I’m not suggesting anything about the arrangements – I’m more than fine with how everything has turned out. I’m excited and proud to be able to say “I’ve been published” by a discerning group of editors.

I continue to submit my work to journals with the hopes new editors will discover my writings and they will be willing to publish my stories. It’s still extremely exciting to me each and every time a piece is accepted.

Since the end of the calendar year is drawing nearer, I’ve started to think about my goals for next year and I’m stuck a bit. I know some of you who read my blog regularly write short stories too, or write novels or books, I’m curious to get your thoughts.

     First, I’m thinking I should start targetting specific journals and create a “hit list” of places where I’d like to have my work appear. I’ve done that to a certain degree this year by closely examining editorial guidelines and reading as much sample work as I could before submitting a piece to a journal. But that’s a bit backwards to the strategy I’m suggesting. If I come up with a “hit list” I’m thinking the story I write would need to be tailored to the editorial style of the journal I choose to target – before I ever write the piece. I don’t know if this is possible, but it’s a thought.

     Second, I’m unsure if I should attempt to get published a second time by journals who have already published me? Sometimes when I look at a short story writer’s credits, I see for some people they are published some % of the time in a “pet journal” where they keep re-appearing. For some people, I’ve seen up to 20-30% of their pub credits appearing in the same place, or places. I don’t know if this is a good thing? On the one hand, it’s wonderful to have a great relationship with editors who like you and like your work; on the other hand, shouldn’t writers give others a chance to have their work appear in their favorite journal too?

     Third, most of the work I’ve gotten published this year is micro-fiction (usually 500 words or less), flash fiction (1000 words or less), or slightly longer than flash-length (over 1000 words but for me personally,under 2000 words.) I’m considering the possibility of investing more time and energy into individual stories and writing longer stories. The concern with this strategy is probably obvious: longer stories are much harder to place. Also it’s rare for me to read stories that are more than 8-10 pages online, so I’m not sure how large the audience is for these long stories either. (Stephen King’s comments about the state of the short story still ring in my head…)

     Fourth, I wonder about the possibility of writing a novel. There. I said it. The thought terrifies me, and I’ve successfully put it off up until now, but late at night when I ponder how to achieve my goal of expanding my reading audience, it does seem like something I should entertain, and possibly plan, and possibly execute.

What are your goals as a writer? If you’ve been published, online or elsewhere, how have your goals changed over time? Thanks in advance for sharing thoughts on the matter!


6 Responses

  1. I have yet to be published, but I have been tossing around many of the same questions. The market for novels is so much stronger than for short stories and I have thought about trying to write a novel as well, but it is a huge undertaking and I will admit, scares me a bit. I can’t wait to check out some of your stories.

    • Thanks for your comment Adam. I agree, the market for novels is much stronger, but it’s still a risky undertaking. I feel like I’d have to gear myself up mentally for such a challenge to overcome how daunting the whole thing seems.

      I hope you’re able to read some of my stories and I most especially hope you enjoy them. I also hope you’ll check back in to let me know when you’ve published your first story too; best of luck to you on your writing journey.

  2. Great post Carol. I am also reconsidering my goals for the coming year – a recent event has me pondering the direction of my writing career – so I’m now looking at the “Big Picture”.
    In business and life planning, we’ve all heard tell of of the “5 year plan” ( you can turn it into the life plan or ten year plan or whatever – it’s really just the Big Picture). What is your ultimate goal in all of this? Where do you want to see yourself as a writer in 5, 10 or 20 years? Then you scale it back until you hit that one year goal – each year a step on the path towards the Big Picture Goal.
    I’ve always known what my Big Picture is. It’s the end of the movie “Wonder Boys”, only I’m not quite as scruffy as Michael Douglas (ok – maybe a little). I want to be a full-time writer living in the woods/mountains. A lake being involved would be cool too.
    So – what do I have to do to get there? That is where I’m at right now.
    With that in mind, are your goals this year advancing your Big Picture goal?
    To comment specifically on reappearing in the same journals – you should not let that hold you back; particularly if they’re respected venues. It lends credence to your output as an author. You’re not just a fluke, or one-hit wonder. You are a genuinely prolific and talented writer that deserves to be published repeatedly. Also – journals do have specific styles of writing they continuously publish. What you’ve done this year is identify those that resonate with your writing. That’s AWESOME!
    Another way to look at it – if your first novel was published by Harper Collins, would you turn down the opportunity to get your second one published by them, just so that you would have a different publisher?
    Okay – I’ve just realized that I have practically written an entire blog post within your blog post – so I will shut up now!
    And congratulations on all of your recent publishing successes 😉

    • I really like your comment about the Five Year Plan. Looking down the road several years and then pulling it back to today to figure out how to get there sounds brilliant. Now if I only knew what I wanted to be doing in 5 years, I’d be all set. 🙂

      You also make a great point about getting published again in a journal that published you before. I love your example about a second novel being published by the same publishing house – I wish! 🙂

  3. I started as a short-story writer but turned my attention toward a novel which I completed last year (and which now languishes in my drawer) Since reading your blog, your published work, as well as corresponding with you I have started writing short pieces again, and submitting. My immediate goals are to write stories 2500K to 6000K in length because I love reading stories in this word count range. Also writing short pieces has allowed me to experiement with both the form and the characters. I plan to continue this for a while. I look forward to reading more of your work which has been an inspiration to me

    • Sean, thank you so much for your very kind words. It’s been my pleasure to encourage you and help you out in any way in your writing endeavors. I’m sure your work will continue to get published, and I’d like to publically congratulate you here for getting a story picked up by a paying venue – which is phenomenal progress for someone starting out. Just keep doing what you are doing, be persistent, and of course I will count myself among your many supporters!

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