Category Archives: Sean Golden

The Goal Post

I’m a football fan. Apparently that’s somewhat rare in the world of writers. I love a lot of different sports, including baseball, golf, basketball and swimming. By some crazy coincidence I am writing this post smack in the middle of the NFL playoffs. And this month’s Fictorian’s theme is all about goals.

So, this post is about goals, ergo, it is the goal post. See what I did there?

OK, I’m sorry. Still, it’s a decent lead in, and the sports reference is useful too. Because I happen to be one of those people who think goals are a critically important part of life. Goals give us something to strive for, something to measure our performance against, and something to appreciate when they are achieved.

Sports is famous for setting goals. If you talk to just about any world-class athlete, they will pepper you with their goals. Each goal achieved is one more step forward in their quest to achieve the greatness to which they aspire. Each goal achieved opens the door to new goals beyond.

I approach writing that way. Well, I approach a lot of things that way. But writing is one of them. That doesn’t mean I always achieve goals, but if I don’t achieve a goal, I don’t abandon my dreams, I re-calibrate and reset. Then I work toward my new goals. The more goals I achieve, the closer I am to the dreams I have.

Goals can be far-reaching and ambitious, like “I’m going to write a novel.” Or they can be direct and practical, like “I’m going to write 1,000 words tonight.” Then, the next night, “I’m going to write 1,000 words tonight.” If you string enough successful 1,000 word nights together, you can achieve your over-arching goal, “I’m going to write a novel.”

When I started writing, I used to keep a spreadsheet of how many words I wrote every night. I had nightly, weekly, and monthly goals for words written. If I came up short one night on a nightly goal, I could buckle down the next night and get back on track for a weekly goal.

Some people give themselves rewards for reaching goals. That’s fine, it probably helps some people, but for me the main reward for reaching a goal was… you guessed it, reaching the goal.

I’m just now wrapping up my fourth novel. I’m already planning my fifth. I remember when my loftiest goal was “I’m going to write a novel,” and that goal seemed light-years away and nearly impossible to reach. In truth, it wasn’t really that much effort, it was mostly all about sticking to my goals until I achieved them.

One of my favorite Robert Browning quotes is “Ah that a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” That’s one way of saying that goals can help us achieve great things. It’s similar to “Reach for the stars, if you fall short, you might still reach the moon.”

Set some goals. Make them specific. Make them meaningful. Track your progress. Reward your successes. That’s not a bad way to get through life in general, and it just might finish that novel you’ve been working on forever.

Holiday Reflections

Just got back from a whirlwind trip to Colorado and back for Christmas. A major part of the trip was to carry all my daughter’s stuff up there from Arkansas since she has just moved into an apartment. That meant hauling my trailer, which keeps my max highway speed somewhere around 65mph, or less. We left Saturday morning, got there about 2am Sunday morning after dealing with blizzard conditions for the last four or five hours (guessing why I left Colorado?) and almost being the victim of a spinout in front of us on I-70. Then after spending Christmas eve unpacking and helping my daughter set up her apartment, we spent most of Christmas day doing Christmas stuff. Then we headed back around 6pm, taking two days to get back since I have to get to work tomorrow morning and didn’t want to deal with coming home at 2am and getting up at 6am to go to work.

So…

Image result for Frodo it's over

Now, having said all that, I do have some thoughts about the holiday season in general, and specifically as a writer.

I find it difficult to write during holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas. There are so many demands on a person’s time, between shopping, getting together with friends or family, cooking, driving from one place to another and back… I generally consider Thanksgiving through New Years as “down time” and any writing I can get done is a bonus.

I figure there’s more than enough stress in the holiday season without adding writing 2,000 words a day to the list. I know there are many writers who have no problem with that. I don’t appear to be one of them. At least not this year.

If other writers are struggling with the same thing, my advice would be to try to avoid the stress of the additional demands of self-imposed deadlines on projects that are not committed, especially not financially committed. Just as business folk are reminded frequently that nobody ever wished they spent more time at the office when on their death bed, even writers can look back and wish they had spent more time with their families. Especially on the holidays.

Digging Out

2017 is coming to a close. Endings always give us a chance for reflection and review.

For me 2017 was a year of regrouping in many areas of my life. I spent a lot of time working on my new house. While I still have a long way to go, I also did complete a lot of major projects. When we moved in at the end of 2016 our basement was completely unfinished. I mean completely. My windows and external doors were installed, but there was no trim, no internal doors, no window sills or framing… It took me a couple months, but I got all that done, and more.

I built a wet bar, using my first fantasy trilogy as the theme. I installed a TV mount, and wired it for internet. Lots of things. The same was true for my job, and both of my children moved out.

It’s been a year for sure.

I know a lot of people are upset about politics. I’ve long ago learned that people are always upset about politics. Sometimes it’s one side, sometimes it’s the other side. When power shifts, attitudes shift to match. I try not to get caught up in all the hysteria of either side.

So why is this titled “Digging Out?”

Because 2016 was a very difficult year for my family. Building a house is stressful. Finishing an epic fantasy series in the middle of that is stressful. Losing a brother is stressful. Although I didn’t fully realize it at the time, I think I reached one of the lowest points in my life personally, professionally, emotionally and physically in January-February of 2017.

Since then it’s been one long effort to dig out of one mess after another. Many, many times I wondered if the effort of digging was worth it. And I’ve got a lot of digging left to do. But things have steadily improved since February, and now I’m about to wrap up my first sci-fi novel. I have high hopes for this book.

So I am going to be optimistic about 2018. And I’m going to just keep digging out.

Game on! Making writing fun 

It’s NaNoWriMo time.

As I said last month, I’m not really a NaNoWriMo participant. I do watch from the sidelines though. It’s interesting to watch writers push themselves to achieve word count goals. I do believe that the hardest part of writing is finishing a story, and anything that gets people to complete a project is probably a good thing.

Related image

But I do worry about people putting ridiculous amounts of pressure on themselves to complete a project. Creating an artificial pressure-packed environment can make writing a chore, and that can give writers a bad taste in their mouths which can lead to less motivation, not more.

So how do you keep writing fun when the pressure is on?

Honestly, that’s a very hard question to answer. Sometimes writing really can be a chore. And if you’re trying to make a living at it, then it’s a chore that you have to do, just as much as if you were a pastry chef getting up at 4am for the umpteenth time and dragging yourself into work.

Here are a few things that might take the drudgery out of your writing as you try to maintain that 1,500 words per day goal that will get you close to a NaNoWriMo success.

  • Remove a significant character, and replace them with a completely different one. You don’t have to go all George R. R. Martin here, you don’t have to kill them. Maybe they just had to move away. Maybe your protagonist got into an argument with them, and they decided it was time to move on. Whatever the cause, this will force you to think about your characters’ personalities and give you a chance to explore how your protagonist deals with adversity.
  • Introduce some weather into your narrative. I can’t even think of the number of books I’ve read where it apparently never even rains, much less storms. Let nature become an obstacle to your characters’ goals. This is a great opportunity to paint a memorable scene.
  • It is apparently very difficult in a novel to get sick. Nobody ever seems to. I’ve read eight book series and the main characters never even get the sniffles. Your macho he-man hero type may be able to stare down a raging fire-breathing dragon, but how well does he handle a migraine?
  • Throw a party. In real life people go to parties all the time. Unless a party is part of the plot, characters in novels never seem to be invited to do anything. I’m writing this the day after Halloween. Maybe your main characters get invited to a costume party. What would they dress as? What would that reveal about their personalities that might not come out otherwise?

These are all things that can reveal new and interesting things about your character, while giving you something interesting and new to write. That’s when your mind is open to new ideas, and when your story can take interesting twists and turns that you didn’t anticipate. And if you didn’t anticipate them, it’s a good bet that your readers won’t either.