Posts Tagged ‘Goals’

This morning, I decided to start a thread at the Writer’s Cafe at Kindleboards. It turned into this (I’ll just reproduce the post here).

On Facebook, someone said:

“I give my boss (who owns a small editing company) a weekly update of all the hot topics in book publishing news, and I get so tired of reading about people recommending self-publishing as essentially another get-rich-quick scheme. I feel like it’s all about the business end of things rather than the honor and prestige of producing a quality piece of literature.”

To me, this rings true. I understand that we’re mostly interested in talking about the business end of things over here (I like to talk about these things too), but that’s really the point. Indie authors are for the most part, all about the business end of things. Does this help us when readers see this? Does this help us in reality?

Why aren’t we talking–with other writers, on our blogs, on Facebook and Twitter–about books that have inspired us, whether classics or recent indie works? Why aren’t we analyzing what goes into great writing, great scenes, great characters, great plots, great dialogue. Why aren’t we lauding great books over great sales, at least more often than we do? Do we love words or do we love numbers? Poetry or spreadsheets?

We all have different goals and we’re all in different situations. I don’t believe that anyone’s goals are better or more important than anyone else’s goals. I have enough trouble judging the worth of my own goals. Entertaining thousands of readers through a combination of good books and smart marketing is a worthy goal, period. I think most of us want to write the best books we can and market them as well as we can so that we can reach more readers and make more money.

But, I offer this question: what is your heart’s desire as a writer? Because that is what you will tend to create in your life. Is it money? Fame? Respect? Craftsmanship? The journey or the destination? What are the inevitable outcomes of these goals? There are no right or wrong answers–just wherever you really are. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying money or fame.

I ask myself this question a lot and the answer isn’t always clear. But mostly for me it comes down to the journey of crafting good (hopefully great, perhaps someday classic) books. For me, that goal is more sublime. Money and fame come and go, and fame in particular is a mixed blessing. Respect is nice, but there’s no freedom in being enslaved to other people’s opinions.

What reading and books are all about–for readers–is beholding something touched by a muse of inspiration, raising your consciousness to behold the beauty and magic in a great story crafted with love, skill, and devotion. When that’s the goal–for an author–the only number that matters is one. One reader is all that matters. Whether that one reader is you, the author, or someone else–that’s up to you.

I respect anyone who wants to make enough money to live comfortably, support a family, or support their favorite causes. I respect anyone who wants to go on the roller coaster ride that is fame; life is short and at least fame brings you into other people’s lives. I respect those who wanted to be respected. Critical appreciation is as good a measuring stick for value as anything else.

Here, there are no right answers. Only honest and dishonest ones. Life will eventually show us the value of our goals, and then we’ll change again.
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Earlier today I read a question on a message board for writers, the Writer’s Cafe at Kindleboards.com (one of my favorite online haunts). The name of the thread was “Personal Glory or Commercial Success?” and the first post asks this:

Ideally, we’d like to be able to write books that are both meaningful to us as well as popular in the consumer market.  Realistically though, it’s extremely uncommon to have both.  If you had to choose, would you rather write for personal fulfillment even if it doesn’t attract much in the way of sales or write what will more likely appeal to the masses and give you some amount of decent profit?

Definitely both.

But I’ve come to a soul-searching moment with my book. Mine is at a point now where I think it’s finally in good enough shape to publish it, after working on the book for 21 months. If my top goal was to make money, I’d probably release it now and get to work writing another one so that I could try to have a second release before the holidays.

But I’ve found I literally can’t do that. I’m still poring over the book, making every detail as good as I can possibly make it. I’m trying to root out every weak instance of ‘telling’ in the cases where telling isn’t the best choice, and trying to make every sentence concise and clear. I want every piece of dialogue to ring true, and every character to work and feel real. I want every part of the story to be logical and to function with maximum emotional impact. These are some of the goals, anyway. I’m doing the best I can with them.

By doing all this, instead of releasing my book in May like I’d hoped to, I might not be able to release the novel until June at the earliest and probably August at the latest (I’ll guess July). And I know this might cost me some money because it’s slowing down my current and future release schedule (or maybe make me more money in the long run–it’s hard to say).

But when I’ve looked really deeply at it, I’ve decided that if people are going to spend some money on my book and, more importantly, hours of their lives reading it, I can’t feel good about that unless I know that I’ve given everyone my very best effort. That’s what I want from any author I read, so that’s what I have to give.

I’ve realized that my #1 goal, literally, is to write the very best book that I can, however long that takes, still absolutely with an eye toward commercial success–but regardless of whether my release schedule helps or hurts me in terms of generating an income from writing. I’m living off some of my savings to do this, but in the end, I want to know that I gave everyone the very best I had to give, and I think that’s worth more to me than commercial success. Then again, maybe this is the best way to have longterm commercial success. But I’m okay with or without commercial success as long as I know that I didn’t cut any corners just to make more money. That’s not saying anything about anyone who has that goal–it’s just not my top goal.

I want some people who read my book to feel like it’s one of the best reading experiences they’ve ever had. I want my book to be one that stays with some people for years, one that they want to re-read some day. Even if it’s just a small percentage of people that feel that way, that’s what I value most, the qualitative experience that those readers might have, not the numbers in my bank account.

Writing this book (and then hopefully more, similar books) is literally my top personal (selfish) desire, for my life. After this, my top goals are to be the best dad and husband I can be and eventually to focus more on charitable projects. This is why the writing of the book is more important to me than the money. This is just how I feel. I’m not comparing or contrasting myself to anyone else, and I know I’m very lucky to be in a position that allows me to approach writing this way. Then again, I’ve worked hard at other things so that I could do this some day.

Thanks for asking a great question. Sorry if I gave you more than you bargained for  😉

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