Goals and Deviations

My publisher had a couple of anthologies with deadlines in mid-April that I was sort of casually working on stories for. I hadn’t made any promises and so hadn’t committed to anything; it was a matter of, “Humm, that theme sparked an idea — let’s see where it goes.” The wordcount limit was 8K in both cases, and as has been happening more and more often lately, as I got into each of the stories it started looking like they were going to be longer. In one case, I think it’s heading for novella-length, which is significantly more than 8K. [cough]

So the deadlines came and went and I shrugged and set the stories aside. No big deal; I can finish them and submit them as stand-alones whenever, at whatever length they end up.

I’d promised myself I was going to get my urban fantasy novel done and submitted (and hopefully published) this year, so I turned to that and started working on it with great energy and determination. I was doing well and had added almost 15K words to it since mid-April and I’m thinking another 15K or so (give or take 5K) and I should be done and ready to break out the sandpaper.

Then a couple of days ago my publisher said that they were still looking for stories for the pirate anthology, and they were also running low on stand-alone short stories. The anthology was the one where the story was looking at novelette length rather than novella, so I figured I could rip out a subplot and bring it in under 8K. Good deal, right? I have another shot to submit this story and I help out when my publisher is feeling a little squeezed.

So I set the novel aside (again) and I’ve gone back to working on the short. It’s a fun story, pirates with a twist, and it’s looking good; I have a better idea where I’m going with it now — letting it simmer in the back of my subconscious has done it some good — and with the modifications I have in mind, it should come in within the length limit.

Of course, my novel is still sitting there, staring at me with an accusing typeface. [wry smile]

It’s said that whenever you get onto the right track, the universe will conspire against you. When you set out to make a major change in some aspect of your life, to move away from some self-sabotaging behavior you’ve been stuck in, when you’re making some real progress, “things” will turn up to try to shove you back into your old patterns. Weird things. A meteor will hit your dog, as Steve Barnes says. It’s not always a matter of lame excuses either — often it’s a matter of being tempted away from your larger goal by opportunities to achieve smaller ones, if only you’ll set the larger goal aside. Or something will come up, a lost job or moving house or a family emergency which takes up all your time and attention, which is a good excuse, not a lame one. These things are important and have to be dealt with. But still, it’s a delay in achieving that big goal.

I’ve been having a pretty lousy year, writing-wise — actually longer than a year. I had a short story come out in December of 2007, then another in October of 2008, then one in January of 2009. That’s really pitiful. I mean, if they were novels I’d be really proud, but shorts? :/ I wrote very little in ’08, almost nothing for the first nine months. That 40K words in two weeks in October was awesome, but that novel (different one from the one I’m working on currently) is still unfinished.

I finally determined to buckle down and get back to writing regularly and submit more this year, including the urban fantasy novel. And I was making good progress on it when the call for short story help went out from my publisher, and I figured, Hey, I’ve got some things I could work with, I can help with that. So it’s a good thing, right? If I finish this short for the anthology and it gets accepted, that’ll be another publication this year, and I can get back to the novel after.

But I’m kind of wondering whether something else might pop up after I’m done with the pirate story.

Having a novel published has been a major goal of mine for a very long time. I’m getting closer to accomplishing it than I’ve ever been in my life, but right now it’s stalled. Publishing another short would be very cool — and it’d be my first anthology contribution — but it’s still a deviation from my larger goal.

I’m focused on the pirate story and I’m approaching the home stretch. I’ll finish this one and submit it, and we’ll see what happens with that. But then the plan is to get back to the novel. We’ll see whether any other really good opportunities to help someone out pop up at that point.

Anyone else bucking the universe? What’s popping up to distract you away from your goals, writing or other?


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Angela Benedetti lives in Seattle with her husband and a few thousand books. She loves romance for the happy endings, for the affirmation that everyone who's willing to fight for love deserves to get it and be happy with someone. She's best known for her Sentinel series of novels, the most recent of which is Captive Magic.