Last December I proposed the following goals for myself during 2013.
1: Find an Agent Who Can Sell The Steampunk Novel
2: Finish the Novellas I started This Year but HAVEN'T FINISHED
3: Write another Novel or Two
4: Sell my Short Stories
Two of those (#2 and #3) were things I could control. And with that thought in mind I finished up BRASS STARS and put some good effort into ALL THAT IS PRECIOUS and SURVIVOR. I've also revised The Steampunk Novel (and am currently delving into another revision round) and started work on the rewrite of THINGBREAKER (a magic-punk thriller).
#4 was one that required a combination of doing the work I could to ensure I met the goal, and waiting for the alignment of the stars that ensured my story hit the right desk at the right time. (Remember, the best way for that to happen is to make sure that a story is on someone's desk to be read, rather than sitting in a drawer gathering dust.) I used the fantastic Submission Grinder over at Diabolical Plots to help me tackle the short stories, sending each one out to a new market as soon as it got booted from the previous one.
In addition to a handful of short stories I wanted to find homes for, I was still trying to meet the goal of selling a longer work (novel or novella) that I had set for myself in 2012. So, I did pitch contests on Twitter, summarizing both The Steampunk Novel and BRASS STARS in a microscopic 130 characters. I got requests for both, but ultimately they turned into rejections.
I dug in deeper, researching publishers that took novella length, speculative fiction and submitted the MS for BRASS STARS to Eggplant Literary Productions.
In the meantime, I was having some success with the shorter work. I placed "Love Like Dysphoria" with New Lit Salon Press in their Southern Gothic anthology. And later in the year, I sold "The Spider-thief and The Sorcerer" to Crowded Magazine. (And last week I sold "Vessels for Destruction" to Nature Magazine's "Futures" column.)
I'd also been working hard at goal #1. Starting in December of last year, I'd been querying agents with The Steampunk Novel. Dozens and dozens of queries sent out over nearly eight months. Hours worth of mindnumbing research on AgentQuery and QueryTracker trying to find every single agent who might be a good fit for my alternate history/fantasy/steampunk/murder mystery mashup.
I got requests to see more. And a lot of rejections - most from the initial query and some after partial or full requests. A lot of rejections.
Then I got a letter from Raechel Henderson of Eggplant Literary saying "Yes! I love this and here's a contract." (Okay. She didn't quite say that, but it's close.) And suddenly BRASS STARS was scheduled for publication. Only a few days later I got a phone call from an agent who'd been looking at the full MS of The Steampunk Novel. He was interested and wanted to know if I could do some more revisions.
Hell, yes, I could do some more revisions. So we talked and brainstormed and I started in on those just this past weekend. Along with still working on The Magic-punk Thriller. And all the "OMG! I have a book coming out Monday!" madness that precedes a release day.
"And this is all great, but what is the point here?" you say.
The point is this. I'm sitting here, realizing that I have successfully accomplished one of the things on my List of Things To-Do. (Admittedly, the Sell a Novella goal was for 2012 so I'm almost two years behind, but it has been done.) I'm also realizing that the list never gets any smaller.
Writing goals are not destinations, they are mile-markers. It's not like saying "I want to visit Australia" and then going and being like "Well that was hot and those koalas sure were cute but now I've DONE that so cross it off the list." Every goal I reach reveals a new one.
Every story written makes room for a new one. Every sale is a step up to the next. Every goal achieved gives way to another one down the road.
The list never gets any smaller. It just gets different.
P.S. My SF Western novella, BRASS STARS, is available now from Eggplant Literary Productions: http://eggplantproductions.com/e-books/brass-stars-g-carpenter/