Well, Paul’s out of the country at the moment (or soon will be, I can’t actually remember the email he sent me) and can’t put up a post for today. I’m afraid that I’m also swamped this week, so the posts for today and Thursday are probably going to be fairly brief, and I want to apologize for that in advance. However, something that I’ve been thinking about lately is goals in writing. What are your goals? Do you want to be published professionally? Do you want to write a novel? Are you simply writing for fun or to express some part of your inner self? Do you have something specific to say? Ultimately, the goals that we set forth with can and should influence both the way that we write, and what we choose to write in the first place.
For instance, if my goal is to be professionally published, then I probably need to focus on writing things that publishers think will sell. There are, at any given time, a few specifics that publishers are looking for. Sometimes its a particular genre (such as mystery or epic fantasy), sometimes its a format (last I looked long, drawn out series of novels were popular), sometimes it’s a specific theme. Right now, I’m fairly sure that drawn out series of paranormal romance novels are popular (why I haven’t been able to figure out). Whatever publishers are looking for at the time, if you write that, you have a better chance of catching someone’s attention.
That being said, it’s important to think about your ultimate goal in writing, because that will shape both what you write and the way you write. Robert Heinlein often showed a willingness to sacrifice story elements in his novels in order to make the point he was getting at stronger (Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land are both excellent examples of this). On the other hand J.K. Rowling’s novels are excellent stories, but often don’t seem to have any particular point to make (though she does obliquely address several issues. Some novels *cough*fiftyshadesofgray*cough* seem to be little more than fanfiction fantasies that someone put a book cover on.
Everyone, obviously, want to write our best works. Writers want to do the best we are capable of doing (…admittedly I’m making some egregious assumptions here), and we want people to appreciate that. However, something that each writer has to realize is that the best I can do is not the same as the best that Stephen King or Frank Herbert can do. If we focus on our specific goals in writing, then we can hopefully have a better experience overall and actually enjoy the writing that we love to do. One of the most damaging things that I’ve found is unrealistic expectations. If I write something expecting to be the next Stephen King, and I only sell 2000 copies, then I will probably be miserable. However, if I take my abilities in stride and do the best that I can, recognizing the limitations of my own ability, then I stand to have a great time, and possibly receive even better responses than I might have expected.