Shine Cycle 2017 Review, 2018 Goals

As the civil year draws to a close, I again pause briefly to consider how the last year has gone and how I might best address myself to the new year. In particular, I’ve been looking back to measure myself against the goals I set a year ago, and deciding what goals to set for the year to come. As usual, I will consider each of my “magna opera” in turn, starting with the Shine Cycle today, and beginning with my goals for that in 2017.

First, actually, a bit of terminology. Below, I use the word “objective” to mean a long-term, broad goal that I want to reach, but that either breaks down into several more granular but still large pieces, or can’t be broken down into tasks, rendering it difficult or impossible to measure incremental progress. I use the word “goal” to mean a long-term goal progress against which can be measured, and (unless otherwise specified, using the next term) which I thought I could accomplish in the past year or think I can accomplish this next year. I use the phrase “stretch goal” to mean a goal (as before) which I was or am doubtful I could or can accomplish in the year in question, but I still felt was worth mentioning.

2017 Goals

Back in January, I said

Unlike previous years, I am not going to simply move the “interval under consideration” in my task tracker forward. In 2017, I want to focus on one story and get it as close to a “publishable” state as I can within the year. I still intend to work on worldbuilding and character development, but instead of making incremental “plotting” improvements to each story in turn, I want to apply my thought on that to just one story all year.

And I listed the following goals, each of which I will report on in turn.

(I’m quoting my original plan, but I’ll mention any amendments I made in the “checkup” posts I made at the end of each quarter.)

Outlining

  • Objective: Finish a complete and detailed outline of my chosen story.
    • Goal: Choose the story to focus on by the end of January.

I chose The Invasion.

  • Goal: In my iterative outlining, outline that story by scene

Done. I had hoped to be at this point by early summer, and didn’t get there until November, but I did meet the goal before the end of the year.

  • Goal: Follow the “snowflake method” to at least Step 7 for that story.

Done. I’m currently slogging through Step 9, which is making a scene-by-scene “detailed synopsis.”

Character Development

  • Objective: Have a biography, history, description, and “character logline” or “motivation summary” for every named character.
    • Goal: Write at least fifteen character biographies or histories.

As it turned out, I wrote sixteen (one of which was arguably almost a “double”), apparently all histories rather than biographies.

  • Goal: Create “character loglines” or “motivation summaries” for at least five characters.

I more than doubled my goal, ending up with eleven. I had almost blown through it in the first quarter, and at that time said that

even so a “stretch goal” of nine this year would still be more than reasonable.

And after the second quarter, I said

So reaching nine, as I suggested three months ago, now looks almost trivial, and fifteen looks possible.

I didn’t get that far, but far exceeded my original goal.

Worldbuilding

  • Objective: Create sufficiently-complete, sufficiently-detailed, maps of the worlds and areas with which the Shine Cycle is concerned.
  • Objective: Develop each race and culture that the Shine Cycle is concerned with sufficiently to portray it distinctly and excite potential readers’ interest.
    • Stretch Goal: Get at least half-way through the “race fractalling system” for elves.

As I expected, I didn’t get anywhere near this. (And to make matters worse on that front, when I rearranged my task tracker in light of my new one-story-at-a-time approach, I put all the breaking-goals-into-tasks meta-tasks up front as well.)

Actual Prose

  • Goal: Get at least a quarter of the way through the first draft of the story I decide to focus on this year, or 25,000 words in, whichever comes first.
  • Stretch Goal: Get at least half-way through the first draft, or 50,000 words in the story I’m focusing on this year.

I didn’t get to the point of actual prose in my development of The Invasion. I’d estimate I’m a couple of months away.

Blogging

  • Objective: Regularly post substantive Shine Cycle-related content here, as an incentive to continued progress and to attract interested future readers.
    • Goal: Post at least twelve Shine Cycle-related posts (not including writing status updates, year-end retrospectives, and the like) to this blog.
    • Stretch Goal: Post at least eighteen Shine Cycle-related posts (with the same exclusions) to this blog.
    • Stretch Goal: Post at least one Shine Cycle-related post (with the same exclusions) to this blog every month.

For this I’m not sure whether I intended to count posts that appeared this year, including those written last year and scheduled months ahead, or posts that were written this year, including those scheduled to appear next year. If the former, as I suspect, 17 qualifying posts have appeared, at least one each month. If the latter, I believe I wrote 14 posts in addition to those that were previously scheduled to appear. (For the current state of posts already scheduled for next year, see below.)

  • Objective: Create blog posts using “worldbuilding” material created using the various “systems” and question sets.
    • Goal: In the process of transferring material from my answers to “the Wrede questions” to “background essays,” reduce the length of (the temporary copy of) the former by at least half. It currently stands at about 1500 lines and 36,000 words.
    • Stretch Goal: Finish transferring material from my answers to “the Wrede questions” into “background essays” and schedule the first post using that material to run on this blog.

I did a little on this in January, and haven’t touched it since. The line count is still “about 1500 lines,” though I reduced it by about thirty lines and about five hundred words.

To sum up, the year went far better than I thought after forward progress collapsed in the first quarter, but even so didn’t meet most of my original goals.

2018 Goals

Inspired by a comment in passing by my church’s youth pastor, I decided to not only set and announce goals, but plan out in advance how I think I can go about meeting them. To that end, I made a week-by-week plan and divided tasks among the weeks of the coming year, after (for the first time) writing down estimates of how long they will take me. I left “tasks” that are about setting up future tasks unestimated, which will throw my estimates off somewhat, but having such an estimate is better than nothing.

I’m basing my goals, below, on the assumption that I will be working on the Shine Cycle and all my other personal projects for no more than about twenty hours a week—which I will probably exceed most of the time, but when setting a “goal” rather than a “stretch goal” I prefer to have a mark that I’m fairly certain I can reach.

Outlining and Plotting

  • Objective: Have one complete and detailed outline of The Invasion.
    • Goal: Finish the “detailed synopsis” that is Step 9 of the “snowflake method”
    • Goal: Adjust the main outline and all synopses created in the “snowflake method” to all agree.
  • Objective: Finish a presentable draft of The Invasion.
    • Goal: Get at least half-way through, or 50,000 words into, my new draft of The Invasion.
    • STretch Goal: Finish this draft of The Invasion.
  • Objective: After I finish The Invasion, make significant progress on outlining The Adventure of the Royal Wedding
    • Stretch Goal: Follow the “snowflake method” to at least Step 4 for The Adventure of the Royal Wedding.

Character Development

I also want to keep making what progress I can on filling out my character database.

  • Objective: Have a biography, history, description, and “character logline” or “motivation summary” for every named character.
    • Goal: Write at least ten character biographies or histories
    • Goal: Create “character loglines” or “motivation summaries” for at least fifteen characters.

Worldbuilding

As I mentioned above, last January, when I rearranged my task tracker to work on one story at a time (and, as I mentioned after the first quarter, because the “snowflake” tasks were misfiled as “worldbuilding”), I put all the “create tasks for such-and-such” tasks at the top. So I’ll still be making my way through those for a while. But by my current plan, I should get to something that I can report progress on sometime this year, so I can set goals.

However, while adapting my answers to the Wrede questions is still a side project I want to finish, it’s not slated for this year under my current plan, so I won’t list any goals related to that.

  • Objective: Create sufficiently-complete, sufficiently-detailed, maps of the worlds and areas with which the Shine Cycle is concerned.
  • Objective: Develop each race and culture that the Shine Cycle is concerned with sufficiently to portray it distinctly and excite potential readers’ interest.
    • Goal: Complete the “race fractalling system” for elves.
    • Goal: Complete the “race fractalling system” for dwarves

Blogging

  • Objective: Regularly post substantive Shine Cycle-related content here, as an incentive to continued progress and to attract interested future readers.
    • Goal: Post at least twelve Shine Cycle-related posts (not including writing status updates, year-end retrospectives, and the like; including posts already scheduled, but not including new posts scheduled for 2019) to this blog.
    • Goal: Post at least one Shine Cycle-related post (with the same restrictions) to this blog every month.
    • Stretch Goal: Post at least eighteen Shine Cycle-related posts (with the same restrictions) to this blog.
  • Objective: Create blog posts using “worldbuilding” material created using the various “systems” and question sets.

I thought about making a goal about my practice of making nominally-monthly “writing status updates,” but now that I’m working from this tentatively week-by-week schedule, I’m not sure that’s the wisest approach to “accountability.” (I plan to check myself against these goals after four and eight months into the year, so I wouldn’t be going completely silent even if I stopped the “monthly” status reports.) Readers, do you have any thoughts?

We’ll see how the year goes; as I said, I’m trying to estimate conservatively, so, God willing, I should be able to meet most of these unless he decides to upend my life with some disruption or surprise.

Fellow writers, how did you do in 2017? And do you have any plans for the new year?

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