Ambition is Good, or What I Hope to Accomplish in 2011


I love New Year’s Day.  I see it as an opportunity for a fresh start, an excuse, in a way, to shake off setbacks and focus on ambition.  And for this New Year’s, ambition is my watchword.

2011 promises to be an odd year for me.  Last year, I had several original releases — The Dark-Eye’s War in February, Robin Hood in April, the new Magical Words “How To” in December, plus the Dragon’s Lure anthology with my short story, “The Dragon Muse,” in May.  This year, with the exception of a short story in the anthology After Hours: Tales From the Ur-Bar (“The Tavern Fire” by D.B. Jackson), and a second short story to be published in Black Gate Magazine (“The Lost Children” by David B. Coe), I have nothing coming out at all.

I also have no new books under contract.  The two Thieftaker books are written, and while I hope to sell additional titles in the series eventually, I have no guarantee that this will happen.  I realize that many writers — most writers, really — live this way all the time.  They write and they submit, with no guarantees, no long-term contracts; they work without a net.  I’ve been fortunate in that I have had relatively few periods like this in my career.  It is a frightening way to work, and yet I am also finding it liberating and exhilarating.

My goals for this coming year (I have nothing against “resolutions,” but for professional stuff like this, I prefer “goals”) reflect that.  They are ambitious, perhaps ridiculously so.  They will demand more discipline than I showed in 2010, and, perhaps more to the point, they will demand as well that I not give in to the insecurities, career angst, and stretches of malaise to which I’m sometimes prone.  In fact, let’s start there:

1.  My first goal is to remain focused, and not just in the sense that I put my Butt In The Chair every day.  I also need to keep the fear at bay.  My future as a writer may be uncertain, but uncertain isn’t the same as bleak.  Not by a long shot.  Every new project I intend to tackle carries with it the possibility of success; that’s the future I intend to embrace.

And now to specifics:

2.  I’m going to write a short story with Stuart.  We’ve been talking about this for half a year, and my other work (Thieftaker books I and II) has constantly gotten in the way.  Stuart has been incredibly patient with me, and at last I’m ready to get to work.  I think we can have it written by the end of this month.

3.  I need to develop an online presence for D.B. Jackson, my pseudonym.  D.B. has that story coming out on March 1st, and the first Thieftaker book coming out early in 2012.  I want to have his website, Facebook account, Twitter account, and blog in place before the story comes out.

4.  Along these lines, I want to write at least one and perhaps two short stories in the Thieftaker universe to help build buzz for the book release.  My plan right now is to release the story (or stories) on the D.B. Jackson website with free access to D.B.’s readers.  These are lower on my priority list though, and don’t need to be finished until late in the year.

5.  I have a completed novel that needs one more substantive rewrite.  It is close to being very, very good, and with some incredibly helpful comments from Edmund, I have a clear idea of what it needs.  I want to do this last rewrite and then get it sold.  I want the rewrite done by the end of February.

6.  I have a middle reader book, geared toward 9 to 12 year-olds, halfway finished.  I want to complete it, revise it, and send it out by the end of April.   And I want to have it sold by the end of the year.

7.  I have a new book idea — I posted about it here a couple of months ago — that I want to write, revise, and send out.  I’ll be writing it under yet another ‘nym (as yet undetermined).  I’d like to have it written by the end of August and sold by the end of the year.

8.  And I also have ideas for two more Thieftaker books.  I plan to write up synopses of both and pitch them to Tor sometime early in the fall.

In short, I’m hoping that by this time in 2012, I’ll have at least five books under contract.  Told you my goals were ambitious.

9.  This is where the whole realism thing starts to break down.  I know how much time all the writing stuff I outlined above is going to take, but I am determined to make time for the other things I love, as well.  I want to get out and take photos at least once each week.  I want to play my guitar (much) more than I did this past year.  I want to continue to get to the gym every weekday morning.  And, of course, I will make time for my family.  I just won’t sleep.  Or eat….

10.  In addition to everything else, I have professional activities that will keep me busy — copyedits and proofs on the first Thieftaker; revisions on Thieftaker 2; this blog, of course; my other blogs; conventions (StellarCon in March, a Guest of Honor appearance at JordanCon in April, maybe ConCarolinas in June, World Fantasy Convention in October); a teaching gig in January; etc. — and all the unplanned stuff that is bound to crop up and upset all of my plans.

But this is my agenda for 2011, at least for the time being.  It won’t be easy, but I really do think it’s doable.  And I would offer this bit of advice to you as you set your New Year’s goals:  Ambition is good; don’t be afraid to set you sights high, to push yourself to accomplish great things.  Just don’t set your sights so high that you set yourself up for failure.  Now, some might say that I’ve done just that — in today’s market trying to contract five books in a given year is a bit insane.  But as long as I get the work done, I really can’t complain.  My job is to write what I’ve set out to write.  I can’t control the market.

I know that Faith asked on Wednesday what your goals are for 2011.  I would like to know if there is something extra you’d like to push yourself to accomplish.  What is the one truly ambitious thing you’d like to get done this year?

David B. Coe

23 comments to Ambition is Good, or What I Hope to Accomplish in 2011

  • David,

    I completely understand the fear, angst, and insecury issues. Lately I’ve had a lot of those. I’ve found it helpful to tell that part of myself to shut up and stop bothering me. I’ve got work to do!

    My absolute pie-in-the-sky goal would be to get a book contract, but my ambitious goal (read: prerequisite) is to get an agent. Which means finishing these edits (which are coming along, thankfully). Which means sticking to another goal I’ve set, of establishing a proper writing schedule even on work days. So far, the trick seems to be putting writing before checking e-mail, FB, Twitter, etc. I figure that as long as I follow this logic path, I’ll make progress toward reaching my main goal, even if I don’t reach it in 2011.

    I really hope you can make it to ConCarolinas! Meeting you guys is one of the things I’m looking forward to about that adventure. (Well, that and Emily’s party. :D)

  • Great post, David. As the old Latin tag has it, asper ad astram: reach for the stars. As for the malaise, all writers worth their salt have it from time to time, those black moods that tell you nothing is good enough, or that even if it is, it won’t be successful. We always believe it, because cynicism always sounds more realistic than unbridled optimism. Both are lies. Draw a circle of confinement around them on your floor and keep a stout cudgel by your desk should they try to break out. Show them who’s boss. You have writing to do.

  • Wow, David – your list of specifics puts mine to shame!

    I’m in a similar situation as you, with only one book under contract to be written in 2011, and I’ve been surveying the writing and publishing landscape to figure out where I want to push myself. I am making the final edits to a middle grade project, and then I’m off to explore a new sub-genre in an area where I’ve been writing for the past five years. That sub-genre will require a fair amount of reading, to make sure that I have the flavor properly on my writing tongue, and then some background reading of specific texts that will inform my own novel. Then, of course, I get to the fun of writing.

    So, for me – my greatest challenge will be one of time management, folding in the background work so that the foreground can be created.

    I’m looking forward to the challenge! 🙂

  • That’s a great, ambitious list. My favorite, though, is #2. 😀 As for me, in addition to our story, I’ll be seeking out a new agent, working on a novel and finishing a proposal for another novel. That might be it. I’ve got several short stories coming out this year, so I’ll be promoting those, of course, and MW’s How-To, and the con schedule. Wait, how’d my year get so busy suddenly?

  • Upon reading this, at first I was flabbergasted. Like –Good Oooglie Mooglie David. That’s an amazing list you got there. And … 5 freaking books???? Okay, I am totally impressed.

    Then then I reread and started counting, as in word count. You can do it. Dang. A year off will stand you on the knife edge of being *really* successful in several genres and sub genres. Hear me cheer you on!

  • L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright

    Isn’t it funny, David, how we humans fear different things. I feel quite solid on my feet when I’m the one trying to produce a book and talk someone into buying it…the idea of being under contract for books I hadn’t written yet terrifies me…mainly because my pace, even when I work really hard, is sporatic (due to having to throw stuff out, not due to not writing.)

    John is finally under contract for the first time and also finds it kind of intimidating for the same reason. He used to write quickly, but this particular series is really beating him up. Book one is done and book two looks like it is coming together…but he’s thrown out more stuff than he’s used so far. (Luckily, he thinks he might be able to make a separate book out of some of the stuff he dumped.)

  • Laura, thanks for the comment. I do try to shut out or shout down the voices in my head, but it’s not always easy. Your ambitions sound right on target. I hope that 2011 is a breakthrough year for you.

    A.J., I love the idea of being able to confine my demons with a circle of confinement. I’ll have to work on that. Thanks for the wise words.

    Mindy, best of luck with all your many projects. We’ll have to keep in touch throughout the year to keep each other on task.

    Stuart, I have a story idea! I’ll email you later today. Looking forward to working with you. I wish you great success with the agent search, as well as the story releases.

    Faith, I know, it’s a daunting list. And really, there is nothing to be impressed with. I haven’t done any of this stuff yet. But I do think that I can, if I stay on task and refuse to give in to those niggling doubts. Thanks for the good wishes. I’ll need them.

    Jagi, that’s really interesting. I HATE not being under contract. I never worry about meeting the deadlines or getting the contracted books done. But not knowing where that next advance is coming from — that’s what terrifies me. To each his (or her) own…. Thanks for the comment, and happy New Year to all the Wrights!

  • David> Awesome goals…I’m impressed by the personal/professional life balance you achieve (and desire to achieve).

    Goals> Well, Sarah and I finished the book last night. (Hooray! One goal for the year to check off) and our big goal is to find and agent and/or sell it. Huge goal, but we’ll climb that mountain starting today…

    But my own goal, aside from finishing my own novel and starting pitching it, is more nebulous> I’d like to end the year feeling like I’ve done some important stuff. I did a lot of work on a lot of stuff last year, but I’m not feeling like I’ve been doing much more than spinning wheels. I feel like that’s going to change this year, but by December 2011, I’d like to have accomplished four things:

    1).To be more comfortable with my academic position (got a tenure review letter in Dec. Positive as it was, those things are terrifying!),

    2). To make real progress on a writing career,

    3). To be somewhere more solid with my personal life, and

    4). To be more physically healthy (I might even join a gym!)

    Big list, but I feel like I can do it if I keep focused on those four things, and let other stuff go as it has to be set aside.

  • Wow – “ambition” seems like such a small word to contain what you plan for your “odd” year, David. I wish you a good balance and a successful year! Actually, I wish that for everyone else here, as well 😉

  • Emily, first of all, congrats to you and Sarah on finishing the book! That’s fantastic and easily the fastest achievement of a New Year’s goal I’ve ever heard of! Congrats as well on the good tenure review. I still remember Nancy’s — there was never a doubt as to the outcome, but still it was very stressful. As to the rest of your goals, they sound both ambitious and achievable, and I wish you every success with all of them.

  • EK, thanks. Yeah, there’s a lot on my plate. But I’d rather struggle to get all of it done than languish because I didn’t set my sights high enough. Hope your 2011 is successful, too.

  • Sarah

    Good idea – writing and sharing these with others makes it more likely I’ll think of them as real and achievable.

    1. Get an agent/place KnychtSpelle (Pea’s and my co-written book) with a publishing house.

    2. Finish my own urban fantasy WIP.

    3. Finish and place another academic article.

    4. Successfully revise the article I just had accepted. (Yay! That’s one goal from last year.)

    5. Eat in a healthy, non-compulsive way without becoming a self-righteous bore about it.

    6. Keep my short stories in circulation rather than letting them sit unsubmitted on my hard drive.

    7. Keep up with MW Beta Crit much better than last year.

    8. Get a 3 year contract from my university (we have no tenure) and parlay that into a better financial situation.

  • First of all, as I said to Emily, congratulations on completing your book. And great job on getting the article accepted! Well done. Your other goals sound great. I hope you meet and exceed every one!

  • Sarah Naumann

    Oh -, wow-, everybody here seems to have so ambitious goals and have come quite far already in 2010. I am sure you all will come even further this year.
    My goals in comparison seem so far removed and small but I’ll share them none the less. Like the other Sarah mentioned before it will make them seem more real and achievable, right?
    So, these are my goals, pretty small and basic but vital:

    1. After finishing my thesis paper and handing it in in March…
    1.1 I am going to dedicate more time to my short story writing,…
    1.2 critiquing at MW betas and…
    1.3 do the revisions on everything I had to put on hold since I started working on my thesis paper.
    2. I will have the courage to attempt a larger writing project, like a novella or a novel. (Yes, it sounds pathetic but I’ve not had the courage yet to go beyond my short story endeavors. As I’ve said my goals are small and basic but vital. Instead of inching closer to becoming a writer I want to make a leap at it!)
    3. Not feel like a misfit just because everybody else seems to be farther along or more experienced at writing. I know I can do the same if I just believe in myself, put my butt into that chair and write as if there were no tomorrow…

    Small but vital when it comes to writing a good story.
    I hope my comment isn’t too late and I have not made a complete fool out of myself…

  • Thanks for the comments, Sarah. Let’s start with goal number three, so that you can check it off your list. There is no reason for you to feel self-conscious about the scope or reach of your goals. Everyone, including those of us who are writing professionally now, started where you are now. There’s no shame in it, and I assure you that none of us is judging you. Your goals sound terrific to me, and I hope that you meet them all. Writing a novel — even attempting it — is no small thing. I still find it daunting when I start a new one. Believe in yourself and your ability to achieve what you set out to do. All of us are pulling for you and looking forward to hearing about your progress.

  • Hepseba ALHH

    Thank you for the post and for sharing your ambitions. In general I tend toward a similar philosophy that ambition coupled with a clear ranking of priorities is the best way to accomplish what really matters to us. I usually tend to put a lot of my plate for that reason, figuring that if I never even reach for it… This year, though, my most ambitious goal is probably to get some rest. I’ll be graduating in the spring. I WILL be graduating. and will be having a baby in the summer. So sometime between those two things I need to turn myself back into a sane, sweet human being. Despite my ambitions, I am NOT a workaholic, and, as Sarah N. would probably agree, thesising seems to be designed for workaholics. I must keep myself on track until I graduate, but rest is my main ambition.

  • mudepoz

    Without my normal sarcasm, which never comes through clearly, I wish you all luck with your goals.
    I will continue to learn.

  • Wow. That goes beyond ambitious, David. It’s actually kind of inspiring. I wish you the best. Now I have to go slink off into my office and upgrade my own goals. (Thanks. 😉 )

  • Hep, thanks for the comment. Rest is a good thing, particularly if you’re on the verge of having a baby. Parenting is the most amazing thing I do in my life, but it is exhausting, regardless of whether the child or children in question are newborns or teens. The cause of that exhaustion changes, of course, but it never does go away. And it’s totally worth it. I wish you and your family all the best.

    Mudepoz, thanks for the good wishes. And your sarcasm is always welcome here.

    Thank you, Ed. I’m sure you have plenty on your plate to keep you busy, too. And thanks again for the comments on the UF.

  • I resolve to catch up on all the old episodes of “Jerseylicious”, eat more ice cream and truly discover how comfortable my couch can be.

    Okay, no, not really. But when I think about everything I’ve promised myself I’ll do, I panic a little, and the reality TV starts looking very safe. *grin* This year I’m going to:

    1) finish the weird western I’m working on now and sell it;
    2) write the short story I’ve started with Diana Pharaoh Francis;
    3) write another short story for Patricia Bray and Joshua Palmatier (and come up with a brilliant bribe to go along with my spectacular words);
    4) send my only precious baby off to the wilds of college. *sob*

    There may be more I’m not recalling, but once I got to #4, I blanked out a bit.

  • Awesome goals, David! If completed, they will have you set up for a great 2012. My personal favorite is your appearance at JordanCon. I hope to be able to meet you there.

    As for my goals, I will follow the KISS Method (Keep it Simple Silly).

    1) Finish a novel to the point of being able to submit to agents/editors.

    2) Get at least one short story published for pay.

    If I complete these things, I will consider it a productive year. Small goals for some but grand goals for myself.

  • Mikaela

    Let’s see… My Goals are simple.

    1. Rewrite The Billionaire and the Witch, and submit it to a publisher. ( Or put it up for sale on Kindle)
    2. Edit the Artomancer’s tale. Decide what to do with it
    That’s the easy ones, since they are already finished. And short stories.

    The not so easy ones:
    3. Finish the Raven mocker and The Sorcerer.
    4. Outline Angel among Demons 2, and research it.
    5. Rewrite Angel among Demons, and submit it.
    Sometime during the year, I would like to finish the move from Live Journal, to WordPress.

  • Misty, I love plan “A”! But yeah, probably not the way to approach one’s career… I can’t wait to read your western and I hope that Joshua and Patricia love your story. As for #4, I can only say that I sympathize. My older one is getting there way too quickly — sophomore this year. Yikes!!

    Mark, I like it; simple, elegant. I hope that you achieve both by June and find yourself setting a new set of goals for the second half of the year!

    Mikaela, best of luck with all of that. Your goals may be simple, but they’re ambitious, too. And as I’ve said, that’s a good thing.