So last we met I talked about how I got my ideas – which was usually “a lot of them,” aided by recording them in a book that I reviewed regularly. This usually left me with more than enough Big Ideas to do books with.
But if you have a hundred ideas or one – how do I know what to write? I have limited time. I have to pick between Big Ideas.
Thats why I have The Goals and The Plan.
So when you choose what to write, you have to ask what is the role of writing in your life. That helps you select what to write.
I have specific Goals set out for my writing career, goals that have evolved over time as my life has changed. My first book was an attempt to reach out and help fellow geeks with careers. My current goals are to expand as a writer, broaden what I do, and make writing an integral part of my life and career.
Having goals is great because it lets me evaluate if a book meets them – or if it’s the kind of Big Idea that means I have to rethink my goals. After all, if I suddenly find that I am compelled to write a fantasy novel as opposed to another nonfiction work, maybe there’s something to pay attention to. Either way you should have goals as a writer and evaluate how your Big Ideas work with them.
My goals are also part of A Plan. I know what books I want to write when, in what order, for what reason. Lest that seem a bit over-organized, imagine if you were writing a fantasy trilogy and you get the idea – you do need a Plan if you’re going to write multiple things and build any kind of writing career.
The Plan can also change as my life changes, as goals shift, etc. I don’t revise it lightly, but as I review it weekly (to know what to work on) monthly (to evaluate progress and think of the future) and quarterly (to evaluate it a year out) I may find things have to change. That’s fine. The Plan has to help me reach my Goals.
An example? I was actually going to be working on a Project Management book while some other books were being edited. I realized I was too overloaded – and the edited books would come down on me like a ton of bricks when delivered. I could have easily have added something, or reshuffled the order, or done something else – instead I chose to delay that book.
Another example? Several times I’ve had to rearrange the schedule of the books I was working on due to various reasons. That happens as well, that’s life – but I knew why they were changing and what the impact to the timeline was.
As I’m quite organized, my plan even contains estimated times to write, edit, format, and publish. That lets me evaluate what I’ll be doing when, my time commitments – and if they’re worth it. You may or may not go that far.
One important note? I’ve never, in memory, dropped an idea I’d started. Usually by the time I’ve started a book I’ve pretty much decided to do it. I figure unless you truly have to quit that’s a good policy – sticking too something is important.
My Big Ideas are worked into a Plan, so I know what to write, when to write, and even how long it’ll probably take. When I do my usual planning sessions, be it for a week out, a month out, a quarter out, or a year out, I know what I’m doing when.
I can literally say “OK, this is the day or week I start this book” and go for it.
That might sound a bit mechanical, a bit uninspiring – but it actually helps. I’m always reviewing my ideas, always aware of what’s coming, so I never quite loose the inspiration. At the same time as I have a plan I worry less, I know how long things take – I can bring the idea to life with minimal distraction and maximum effect.
So, next we’ll talk about what happens when I start a project.
Stories, games, and all fictions are about people, about characters, about what they do and why. They may not be like us, we may not like them, but that’s what’s going on. We’re watching people (even if not human) do stuff to get results, though we may put it in more colorful ways.
Goals, methods of reaching them, and results are, in a way, everything a story is about. In the end, you’ve got to save the prince so you can throw the one ring into the fiery pit of the starship engine to bypass the alien invaders before your ninja rival does.* No goals, no methods, no results, no story, no interest.
Therefore, your world has to include characters that have believable goals, ways of achieving them, and results.
Which is obvious.
And, as you’ve heard me say many times, and doubtlessly will again, obvious is the problem.
Let’s dive in. (more…)