Setting goals for yourself is always a great way to stay on-track with what you want to accomplish. This is true in any area you apply your goals to, but especially so for writing.
I often find I get caught up in the story when I try to revise something I’ve written. I stop looking at it with a critical eye and my imagination takes over. If this sounds like you, then I highly suggest you set some goals for yourself. What are you looking to improve in your rewrite? What specific flaws in your writing are you looking for?
This can be a little unnerving, as it forces you to stare your weaknesses in the face, but knowing the beast is the first step to slaying it. Not to mention it feels great to have a physical list of ways you’ve improved your manuscript.
Certain things to watch for are:
- Pacing/speed. Do the exciting parts feel fast-paced and the dialogue relaxed? Do you alternate excitement and peace to give your reader a break? Do you elaborate the interesting parts and cut down the dull (but necessary) ones?
- Character development and interaction. Do your characters have goals that they work toward? Do they encounter conflicts along the way? Do they interact with other characters? Do they share interesting dialogue?
- Plot development. Does the story push forward? Is there a clear conflict? Do your subplots tie to the main plot? Is the story question apparent? (the last question might be ‘no’ if you are working on the beginning of a story, and that’s okay! Just make sure it shows up before too long)
- Flow. Do you transition easily from one scene to the next, from one chapter to the next? Do you have a clear sense of time passing? Are you free of awkward-sounding sentences that stumble the reader?
Notice I don’t include grammar in this. My belief is once you are happy with these four areas, your story’s grammar will probably be perfectly acceptable for most readers. You’ll catch anything obvious in your read-throughs, and if the story reads well with a terrific plot and memorable characters, a few grammar mistakes aren’t going to mean much.
Try going through the checklist and turn anything you can’t check off into a goal. Work toward accomplishing each of your goals and learn from whatever mistakes you make along the way. Once you’re happy with it, pass it off to a willing critiquing buddy to see what s/he thinks.
Here are some of my goals for the beginning of God-Chosen:
- Balance the motivation with Lucas’ reaction.
- Improve the flow of time to eloquently show sporadic events in an otherwise uneventful week or day.
- Better define Lucas’ reaction toward Amara.
- Accurately show Lucas’ lust toward Karen, and perhaps Amara as well, to make him more believable as a male character.
Most of these fall under character development and interaction, which I consider to be my greatest weakness. As a female, it’s difficult for me to write from a male’s PoV, especially when he’s my MC. This means I’ll likely make some of my male friends feel very awkward with certain questions I will inevitably ask them. Their fault for befriending a writer.
Goal 2 is mostly flow with a bit of pacing. I want to flow between scenes that range from a few days to a few hours apart, without making the reader feel like s/he has jumped into a time machine, or pressed the ‘fast-forward’ button on the remote.
What about you? Do you set goals when you write or revise? Do they help or hinder?