Today is my birthday.

Normally birthdays are a mix of good and bad, for me. People send you e-mails and write all over your facebook wall, you get to go out for dinner, you get cake. I don’t eat a lot of cake for most of the year but it’s nice to have a reason to indulge.

This year, my birthday includes a bit of disappointment. It’s my own fault. I set a goal on my birthday and I’m not going to achieve it. The goal was to finish my next novel, tentatively titled On the Heat.

I got close, though. Early last December, I decided to pick up the pace of the writing — I was around 20,000 words in by then, I think.¬†Things started moving very quickly and by the end of the year I hit the 30,000 word mark. The novel was hitting its stride and I was very optimistic. I figured the novel would be around 75,000 words long at the end, which was a good 10,000 words longer than the first in the series, La Famiglia. At the rate I was moving, it would be done by the late spring. I set the target at my birthday — six and a half months away.

The winter and spring were productive; I would write about 2,000 words a week, working an hour a day three times a week or so, plus one or two hours each weekend. I write around 500 words an hour, so that put me at 2,000 words a week, a very good clip. In addition, my wife and I went away for a weekend in February and I got 10,000 words written from Friday evening to Sunday evening. I reset the goal to July 1, then to June 1, as the finished pages piled up.

But the goal kept moving. I have a number of problems with plot and pacing, and my approach to resolving them was to write all the stuff that needed to happen, whether it was in exactly the right place or not. That meant more words; I blew through the 75,000 word mark, I think, sometime in April, in a period of unemployment. I hit 90,000 before June, although my output slowed again as I started a new job. I’m expecting the finished product to be around 100,000 words.

And I’m so close! I am on the last chapter (though there will be a short epilogue chapter as well). I’m into the last scene. There are about 5 pages left. And I didn’t quite get there.

Well, what are goals for, anyway? If I hadn’t been shooting for June, I probably wouldn’t have pushed so hard during the winter. If I hadn’t been trying to finish by yesterday, I would probably still be two or three chapters from the end at this point.

So I’m not so worried about missing my goal — I’m just going to get as close as I can. I’m very, very close already. I’d better get some champagne ready, just in case…

  1. Hey, Matt!
    Happy birthday!
    You’re absolutely right. Goals help us stay focused and on track. It’s easy to slack off when you have nothing specific to shoot for. So many people have a work-in-progress, and so many never see it through to completion. You have only five pages to go?! That’s fantastic. I call that a success. You’ll be done by the end of your birthday weekend, for sure. This is a real accomplishment here. Write on!

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