The mysterious cabal of "they" always say writers have to have goals. Sometimes "they" get motivational speaker level specific about wishes are actions that aren't acted upon and to make actionable wishes or "they" say put the big rocks in the bucket first then fill in from there and so on.
I tend to feel, "If I wanted a Tony Robbins lecture, I'd watch an infomercial...."
It's not that I don't understand the value of goals, I do. It's just they're sort of like outlines: a good idea for some and an attack by the Black Hand on Franz Ferdinand for others; losing your nerve until a lucky shot creates an opportunity to maybe (hopefully) nail it and... oops, did I really mean to start WWI over this?
For the past 3 years, I've gone into National Novel Writer's Month with a lot excitement and dread. This summer, my goal is to take my 2010 novel idea and turn it into something legible. This is a goal. While I'm sure for some this is not enough. I envision "they" would be pounding their fist and demanding I break this down into actionable steps or apply habits of success to create a sellable product.
Me, I'm OK with "them" working themselves into a lather about foreign subjects while I dance around my home office singing Katy Perry at the top of my lungs or envisioning the music video I would make to Imagine Dragons' song "Top of the World."
Thanks to National Novel Writer's Month, I have achieved step one: write the damn thing.
I have achieved step two: break the damn thing into 3 acts. This is my problem (and I must emphasize it really is my problem). I start strong with a general idea. The opening is always strong and then I get lost and then I feel like I have to stretch and end it. When I'm done, I feel great about hitting 50k words and a complete (if pretty flawed) story and then wonder what to do next. Now that I have figured out the three acts, I can take that weak middle and the "am I at 50k yet?" ending and turn them into something that can be read without too much pain.
Part of that step included some background on the society. I have already done all the character background: how would I set up a Facebook page for my character? What photos would I put up? If my character was in high school, where would the character sit in the lunchroom? The usual. I don't always think through the society beyond the cafeteria. That came out as I figured out my three acts.
While these are all the sorts of things "they" get all excited, these steps are more of a treasure map without the path drawn on it yet for me. I can see the map and the markers, now I have to connect the dots to where X marks the spot.
It's a stretch for me as I'm so used to short pieces. I used to make a living telling my story in 800 words or less. Stretching the story to 50,000 words, well, now that's a challenge and, dare I say it, a goal.