It seems ridiculous that 2016 is just a few weeks away, but as it approaches, I find myself thinking about plans and goals for the next year. Although longtime readers may recall my penchant for Acme-style plans for my writing years, this past year I’ve been consciously trying not to make plans of any kind. With an ever-changing one-year-old and no concept of what stresses Residency will bring into our family life over the next six to twelve months (therefore creating a very unpredictable free-time schedule), it’s hard to know what amount of time I’ll be able to commit to writing. In the past, I’ve been an every-weekday writer, which is a method that usually works for me, but these days, things shift too quickly to count on any period of time as my own. Trying to make a plan for 2016 has forced me to think about how I can carve out time for it, amidst supporting and caring for the family during these stressful times, and also taking time to care for myself, too.
I don’t find writing particularly relaxing, but not-writing for any large swath of time tends to ramp up my anxiety. So it’s lose-lose if I don’t write, but I also know from the past six months of residency that writing everyday is unsustainable. So I needed to figure out 1) how to write regularly 2) with dependable certainty, every week, 3) for long enough chunks of time to feel like I’m making useful progress. This last also then requires that I guide my time, since it’s limited, towards projects that have the potential to help me develop as a writer, or at least towards projects I think are fun!
There are also a few things, career-wise, that I’d like to work on. Submitting six new short stories last year (and very few this year) made me realize how much I loved submitting fiction regularly. Submitting requires that I write new fiction, and that I take the time to edit. I’ve also started editing a novel this year, and doing so has made me realize both how much I need to practice this kind of long-form editing, and how much I enjoy writing long-form fiction. So I want to write more novel-length work, too. On top of that, I really, really need to up my reading game.
So for 2016, I have come up with the following plan, all hinging on one simple detail: that twice a week (currently Monday/Wednesday), I forgo doing dishes/cleaning up after the kiddo goes to bed (like I usually do), and focus for 2+ hours on writing. The rest of the week, I can write as I get opportunity, but it’s not required. This should at least ensure that I get a couple chunks of time to write every week. Four hours may not seem like much, but it’s more than I can guarantee during the day all week long, so I’ll take it. The compression of time, too, has impacted what I’m hoping to achieve this next year. For one, I’m focusing my short-fiction energies on flash fiction, because I can almost always whip out a flash fiction-length story in two hours. (They may be *crap*, but I can get the words down!)
I’ve also broken my plan into two halves, which helps me keep goals (hopefully) a bit more manageable (and keep my goal-setting eyes from shooting way, way, way too high). So my writing goals are as follows:
GOALS 2016–JANUARY 1-JUNE 30
1) Write 1 new flash story per week. (26)
2) Finish the Draft 2 rewrite of the SF novel by June 30.
GOALS 2016–JULY 1-DECEMBER 31
3) Submit 1 new flash story per month. (6)
4) Write a middle-grade novel rough draft by December 31.
READING GOAL: 30 Books
So there it is! It’s certainly aggressive in some ways, but I think I’ve also been fairly realistic. For the past four weeks, I’ve written two flash fiction stories a week to practice the form, and it’s been delightful. If I bump that back to one per week, that’ll still leave me a good chunk of time to work on the novel rewrite (especially since editing I find easier to piecemeal throughout the week). One of the things I wanted to tackle this year was a steady editing habit, in conjunction with a plan to write new fiction, too. I’m curious to see if this is a sustainable process for me (assuming that out of those 26 flash stories, 6 are tolerable enough to edit and submit), as I’ve done something similar with previous “Chekhov” years, and had a fair amount of success with selecting the best of the work produced to submit around. I loved the goal of submitting one short story per month which I managed to do last year without much pain. The push is finishing the novel Draft 2, and writing a whole new novel rough draft, but I think it’s a good reach. Reading, of course, is lower than I’d like. I’d love to get somewhere around King’s 70 books a year, but for now, that’s just not feasible. If I can get 30+, I’ll be thrilled.
So there it is! 2016 plans are laid, and I’m psyched for it!
What are you guys looking to try in 2016?