Monday, June 18, 2012

Goal, Motivation, Conflict

This is a writer's blog so I suppose you could be forgiven for thinking, with that title, this post is all about the GMC of my characters.  Sorry folks.  This is all about me.

Autumn Macarthur has been writing some really honest, gritty posts lately about her writing that have really resonated with me.  I first 'met' Autumn (or Jane) back in 2009 at my first Harlequin competition.  Back then it was the Presents competition (now it's called New Voices) and I noticed her comments in the chat room - along with another voice belonging to Ms Maisey Yates.  I started following both their blogs and to cut a long story short, learned heaps.

Of Autumn's recent blog posts the one that really struck a chord was this post about starting a new story and being committed to finishing it.  As I read, I found myself nodding and many times thinking "I do that, too!"

If you've ever done a Myers-Briggs, DISC or Blebin personality indicator type test, you'll understand when I say that I'm not a finisher.  I'm a starter.  And I'm not the only one.  According to lots of people, it's the creative person's disease.  New ideas or projects or storylines beckon and rather than asserting the will power to finish what we've started, we succumb to the siren song of something new.

So I decided to take a leaf out of Autumn's book (she's applying the rules of weight loss to the rules of writing), I'm going to apply the GMC process to myself - in the hope that once it's up there that I'll actually stick to it.

Just as an aside: if you're an agent or a publishing company and you're reading this and thinking to yourself: "ain't no way I'm signing up this loony chick who has as good as admitted she can't finish anything", you should also know that I have an amazing stubborn streak which I have learned to use for the forces of good and which I plan to apply from here on in with regard to my writing - just you watch and see!

Okay so first up is Goal.  What is my goal?  Now I'm tempted to answer: to be published but I think that's far too wishy washy and big picture.  I need to drill down to the nitty gritty, get serious about looking at steps involved in reaching the Ultimate Goal.  So let's itemise the Interim Goals:
1. Decide on one story idea for the project
2. Write a complete full first draft
3. Edit, proof and polish first draft
4. Submit

Sounds simple enought doesn't it?  But I tend to be lured away somewhere around step two.  I mean I have finished a few but I've been so overwhelmed by the idea of rewriting that those manuscripts are kicking their heels somewhere in cyberland.

The next part of the approach is: Motivation. Why do I want this goal? Obviously whatever I'm using to motivate myself at this point in time isn't working.

SCENE: On the Dr Phil talk show.
Me: Oh Dr Phil!  I need your help!  I can't finish my manuscripts!
Dr Phil: What are you using as motivation?
Me: Moti-what?  Oh! Wait!  Does chocolate count?
Dr Phil: I see.  Now let me ask you: how's that workin' for ya?

I think my Motivation is tied up with my Conflict.  Which is a good thing.  Motivation - why do I want to be published/finish a manuscript/submit?  Answer: writing is an essential part of my life, of who I am.  I dream story lines and plots.  I write dialogue while I'm doing housework.  I eavesdrop in public spaces to improve my characters.  I can't not write.  And (here's the embarassingly honest bit) I want to see my name on a book cover.  I want to tell people I'm a writer and be able to back that statement up with the name of my book and publisher and Amazon rating.  I want to have achieved something in the literary world - not on the scale of Jane Austen or Dickens (but if that happened that would be gushworthy amazing) but I want to accomplish a level of respectability for my writing.  Also I'm a tad competitive.

Which leaves us with Conflict.  What stands in my way?  Why can't I have what I want?  Answer: I guess I'm scared.  Scared that I'm not as talented as I'd like to think I am.  Scared of the rejection which I know is part of the business and which I try and fool myself into thinking won't hurt but each time I don't win a competition or even come close, does hurt.  Scared that if I do accomplish my goal, that people will read my work and ohmygoodnesswhatwilltheythink!!!!  What if they really don't like it and say something mean and then the people who took the chance on publishing me, start thinking the same way and I'm publically humiliated on an epic scale and Sandra Bullock won't want to be my bestie?  Okay that last bit was maybe a little over the top.  I mean why wouldn't Sandy want to be my BFF?

In a book, my character would have to undergo a fair amount of personal growth to overcome the Conflict, harness the correct Motivation and reach the Goal.  To overcome my Conflict, I guess I'm just going to have to suck it up.  My fears are probably the same as any sane, reasonable person, right?  I mean no one likes to be not liked do they?  And I do have some pretty fabulous people in my life who like me just fine.  I even know one or two online who have said some really lovely things about both me and my writing.  SOLUTION: Focus on the people who really matter.  Accept that not everyone will like me or my writing and that's fine.  Organise another girly night with Sandy to buck up my self-confidence.  Maybe she could bring along Keanu Reeves.  He would do a LOT for my self confidence.

Motivation - I'm going to try self imposed deadlines.  According to the movie Enid Blyton, she wrote 6000 words a day.  Jessica Hart has just set herself a new regime and is committed to writing 3000 words a day.  So I'm going to set myself a target of 1000+ a day.  Even if it's 1001.  Which means, in 60 days I should have a first draft.  It may be a little more than 60 days taking into account that my story may run more than 60K (I am prone to rattle on a little) which gives me a date of 20 August as a rough deadline.  I'll see how this tactic works before trying a reward system - I'm a sucker for rewarding myself even if it because I almost thought about achieving what I wanted to do.  So I guess that just means I suck huh?

I will report back here every few days or so on my progress.  I have my motivation for reaching Interim Goals 1 & 2. But I suspect I may have to pull out the big guns for 3 & 4.  I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Sandy, pour me another White Cosmo, I'm about to write a book!
Just so you know, she's laughing WITH me.  WITH me, people.  WITH me.


Anonymous said...

Elissa, you are so awesome! You make me smile and laugh everytime I read any of your stuff.

Glad I could help.

You'll be seeing your name on that book cover in no time!

Elissa Graham said...

Oh Autumn you say the nicest things!!!! :)

Jackie Ashenden said...

Go, Elissa, go!! You can do it. Finish that first draft! It's okay to be scared but submit anyway. For me, NOT having something out under submission was always worse than the actualy fear of rejection. While you've got something out there, you've always got hope.

Elissa Graham said...

Your Call post is spurring me on Jackie. I keep telling myself that one day, one day I will get to write one just like it.

And I never thought of reversing my fear like that - fearing not having something submitted rather than being rejected is a brilliant ethos for a writer.

As always, your sagacity leaves me (almost) speechless!