February 6, 2020

Where Do You Want Your Story (or Career) to Go?

Featureless stone-covered expanse with text: Finding the Path to Our Goal

This week we’ve been moving back into our house after the post-flood reconstruction. Rather than an empty house, I’m once again surrounded by furniture and boxes and boxes and oh my goodness, so many boxes…and I’m exhausted.

I’ve blown past my daily step-count goal by two or three times every day. I’ve gotten a ridiculous arm workout by beating dust out of the furniture as they’re brought in from storage. And I’ve gotten lots of stair flights in by climbing up and down ladders to clean construction dust out of every nook and cranny. Even my fingers hurt.

For those of you who haven’t followed all my health issues over the years, this is…a lot of activity for someone who struggled with being able to walk at all a few years ago. Yay, me?

But of course, I’m beyond stubborn. So I just keep looking at everything that needs to be put away—walls of boxes to the ceiling and three boxes deep—and push through to the point that I’m forgetting to eat. *sigh*

As my chaotic house attests, it can be frustrating when we know what we want the end result of a project to be, but endless obstacles make it hard to see the path to get there. That truth applies whether we’re talking about moving, our publishing career, or our story. So I thought I might remind myself of what we can do to be less frustrated when faced with a murky path to our goal. *grin*

Know Your Goals

I’ve often talked about knowing our goals when it comes to our career:

The same ideas apply in other situations as well. We’ll often have more success in other aspects of our writing and life if we have goals we’re aiming toward. Let’s take a look…

Know Where You Want Your Story to Go

I write by the seat of my pants, but even I know that having at least a direction helps my writing. However, with my pantser tendencies, that direction might be fairly vague.

As I’ve joked before, I write romance, and the genre requires a happy ending. So boom, I know I’m heading toward a happy ending. *grin*

When it comes to our protagonist’s character arc, knowing where we want them to end up can help us write our way to that story goal. In fact, it’s often easier to develop our character arcs if we start at the end — i.e., if we have a goal to write toward:

This technique of working backward can help us develop our plot as well. We can think about the ending and ask ourselves questions about how the characters reach that point, ask again how they reached the previous point, and so on until we know the path for how to get to that ending:

Know How to Accomplish a Task

Obviously, we often apply this idea to complicated tasks and projects in our life. We have a goal and we work backward to figure out how to get to that Point Z from our current Point A.

What can we do when faced with a murky path to our goal? Click To TweetFor my unboxing project, my ultimate goal is—not surprisingly—to put everything away. But to do that, I first need a place to put stuff, which I didn’t always have before. After two-and-a-half months of living out of boxes, however, I want desperately need everything to have a home, such as for my many piles of books.

So I picked up some used bookcases on Craigslist. But wait, the wall where I want to put those bookcases is currently taken up by stacked boxes.

So I need to move boxes, put the bookcases into place, and then I can unpack those boxes. I’m much better off thinking through that plan than if I’d just started randomly opening boxes and then setting it aside without a methodology for actually putting things away.

Our career and our story elements are often the same way. We could try random approaches to publishing, or we could throw one random plot event after another at our story, but that wouldn’t be nearly as effective or efficient. Knowing where we want to go—our Point Z—is the first step to getting there. *smile*

Do you struggle to break down tasks? Does it help to know the end result you’re trying to accomplish? Do you ever work backward for story or plot development? What about for character development? Do you plan out your Point Z?

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I’m a planner, though I don’t always know how to make the right plan. I know where I want my stories to go, but I’m not always sure what I want to do with my writing career. I like your first goal: To be a business-oriented author or an artist-oriented author. I never thought about it that way. I write because I love to write. It would be nice if I could get people to buy my books too, but do I really want to take my focus off my writing to do marketing? Sometimes I think I know the answer, but then I change my mind.

Good luck with your unpacking and organizing!

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