A few months ago I made a post about collaboration on a short story for a contest. Because I haven’t mentioned it since then, some folks think that it quietly went away and I moved on to do other things. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The original contest called for a wuxia under 30k to be turned in by October 30th, 2013. My writing partner Laurie and I began working on it in early September, and later that month we were about 20k in when we discovered that the contest website had gone away. Laurie emailed the guy in charge and found that he’d shut down the contest, which left us with an almost-finished short story and a ball of disappointment.
While we were writing it though, I had this crazy, half-suicidal idea to just turn it into a full-length novel and pitch it at the DFW Writers’ Convention in May, so the contest shutting down sort of made the decision for me. It’s been said that I have unrealistic expectations of others and of myself, but that I can present rather convincing arguments, which is probably how I got Laurie on board with the plan. My initial timeline put us at being done with an 85k-ish novel by March, which at the time was about 6 months away. I think having a first draft done in 6 months is pretty reasonable, but having a draft that’s both gone through beta readers and is clean enough to present? Quite a bit more lofty.
One of my friends said, “your goal seems a bit unrealistic,” and that gave me pause. Granted, the guy is a pessimist, but it made me question : is it better to fail whilst pursuing your vision than to succeed at something more manageable but not quite what you really want?
I should probably qualify this a bit : I don’t think this is a “one answer fits all,” both in regards to people and situations. In example, what we really want to write is a wuxia story, but in order to make it marketable, we’ve had to westernize it a bit. At the same time, since it takes place in ancient China, there are some mannerisms and cultural differences that we’re kinda adamant about not budging on. When it comes to progression, I think unrealistic goals are the way to go.
Sure, I’ll admit I was a little skeptical as to whether we could have something done by March, and that maybe it was a little unrealistic, but I think having that goal and declaring there would be no retreat pushed us. Instead of some leisurely “it’ll be done whenever” pace, we’ve hammered this thing without mercy and are approaching the supposedly “unrealistic goal” – when last I checked I was at plot point 10 of 13 and we’re at 63k words.
The whole thing reminds me of a Courage Wolf saying : “BITE OFF MORE THAN YOU CAN CHEW. THEN CHEW IT.” Thanks Courage Wolf.
Now it’s time for you, yes YOU reading this right now, to go set your own unrealistic goal and then achieve it in spite of yourself.