Friday, July 16, 2010


(GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLS! [insert that annoying angry-mob-of-bees-sound-here])

There is nothing quite so annoying as sitting down with a teacher/guidance counselor/employer and having them ask you what your goals are.


High school goal: To get out of this place alive, with my sanity intact, and get into a college where no one knows me or cares how smart I am. Also where there are a lot more boys to flirt with.*

Pointless job in college goal: To make enough money so that my husband and I will be able to eat out once a week, then graduate and forget I ever worked here except when the same calling center calls me asking for donations, and then laugh and wax nostalgic at the fact I'll never have to do that again and agree to donate.

But today I'm going to ask you to sit down with me (umm, metaphorically or imaginarily, because I am sitting in a rocking chair and there is definitely not room for both of us. Also, I am still in my pajamas, so I would not open the door if you knocked) and think about what your goals are as a writer. Or as a person in general if you aren't a writer. Because you don't have to be a writer. (For the record, being a writer is AWESOME. It is also really hard, and there are a lot of other awesome things to be. Like a pastry chef. And if your goal is to become the world's best pastry chef, my new goal is to live next door to you.)

A while back the luminous Aprilynne Pike posted on what her goals as a writer were. She didn't specifically say what hers were, the point being that you simply had to know what yours were. It's very easy in this industry to catch the "not enoughs." Because in a way it will never be enough. Someone is always going to get agented faster than you. Someone is always going to have a bigger deal that you. Someone is always going to have cooler opportunities, or more marketing and publicity, or more buzz. Someone is always going to have a better cover. (Fortunately that's one area I've never had to be jealous of anyone else in. Love, love, love my cover designers!) Someone is always going to win more awards and be higher regarded. Someone is always going to make more money.

If you never know what your goals are, it will never, ever, EVER be enough. I promise. So decide now what your benchmarks for success are.

I have several. One of them is sales-related, and I'm not going to talk about that one. (Although I am doing everything I can to do my part to make it happen, I try not to focus on it.)

But my other goals I'm willing to share.

1) Be someone publishers want to work with. I always try to be professional, I try to do everything I can to make my publishers' jobs easier, and I always, always make my deadlines. Along with this comes writing the highest quality books I can so that we can both be proud of this product we've made together. I also make sure that my online presence is never something that would embarrass my publisher, and that I only speak of them in the highest terms of praise. Which isn't hard, because HarperTeen has been nothing but an absolute joy to work with. They make that part really easy.

2) Be someone people want to read. I write fairly commercial books--I want them to appeal to as many people as possible. I have no issues with this. Someday I will write a crazy, niche book that most people will not want to read, but for now my goal is to find the biggest audience I can and make them happy.

3) Create a sustainable career. This goes along with the first two. I love what I do. I'm amazed on a daily basis that I get to do it and get paid for it. It's so incredible it almost doesn't seem fair. With that in mind, I want to do this for the rest of my life. I try to plan beyond what's happening right now to make sure that I always have something else in the works, that my fabulous agent and I have an action plan for at least a year in advance, and that I'm continuing to learn and grow as a writer so I'll be able to continue to write things that I enjoy writing and you will (hopefully) enjoy reading.

4) Be someone's favorite author. This one's a little different. I want someone--anyone--out there (hopefully a teenage girl) to love my book so much that when someone asks her what her favorite book is, she'll say without hesitation, "Paranormalcy!" That's all. It doesn't have to be thousands or even hundreds or even dozens of people. Just one person. I think that'd make my whole career worth it.

5) See someone reading my book on the beach. This probably falls more under the realm of daydream than goal, but every time I go to the beach and see people reading, this little flutter in my stomach starts and I think, "How amazing would that be, to see someone reading something I wrote?" And then I would run over to them, but I'd accidentally kick sand on them so they'd be annoyed, and then I'd start babbling about their book and how I wrote it and I'd probably start crying I'd be so happy, and they'd think, "This crazy woman in board shorts, ugly beach hair, and sunburned skin looks nothing like the polished, pristine woman in the author photo." And then they'd get scared and start screaming and the lifeguards would come over and I'd probably get tased.

Which, given Evie's weapon of choice, would be poetically hilarious.

What? You don't have daydreams where you accidentally terrify people and are attacked with a Taser? Huh. Maybe your goal should be to get a better imagination, because nothing says Author Daydream like being violently electrocuted.

Anyway. Those are my main goals. (Except the Taser part. I don't really want that to happen. Promise. Please don't tase me in the name of making my dreams come true, because I would totally prosecute you and we would not be friends.)

And, for the most part, they are things that are up to me. That's important in setting goals--make sure they are things YOU control. You can't control sales. You can't control being nominated for or winning awards. You can control what you do and what you write to make those things more likely to happen, though. So focus on what you can control, decide what your goals as an author (aspiring author/pastry chef/world's foremost expert on rare evolution type Pokemon/professional beach Taser operator) are, and then figure out what you can do to make them happen.

As for me, my newest goal is to think of an author daydream in which I do not end up twitching on the sand.
*This goal of being a massive flirt lasted until I met Hot Stuff seven days after I moved to college, at which point my only goal became: GET HIM TO DATE ME. Nine years later and I am still succeeding.


Malbebe said...

I love this post thanks for sharing with us.

Oh and I can be that teenage girl who says Paranormalcy is her favorite book. :)

Cara said...

I love this post so much. You're so inspirational! Also, my new goal is to read your book on every beach in the country in hopes of you seeing me. I won't even bring my taser.

Kiersten White said...

Cara--NEW GOAL. Read my book on every beach in the country. You are way better at these goal things than I am; that's WAY more fun. We can beach hop together.

Malbebe--I hope so! : )

Christine Fonseca said...

Love this post! It's something I've been thinking about a lot of late. I have no doubt you'll be making your goals...No doubt at all!

Kiersten White said...

Christine--Thank you ; ) I have no doubt you'll meet yours, too!

Kaela said...

Oh Kiersten. Sometimes I read your blog and I literally shake my head as I chuckle and say "Ohhhh, that Kiersten." You're too funny.

But on a more serious note, I'm glad you wrote this post. I'm having a low day, one of those bad days for writers when you doubt yourself and doubt that you'll ever get the chance to live your dream. I think this is a direct result of reading too many literary agent's blogs that post the number of queries they actually even respond to, let alone request an MS from. So I'm feeling kind of low.

But reading your post gave me something else to focus on. Before my only goal was "Get Published." And that still, obviously, is the big one. But if I concentrate on goals that I can control, like "Be a writer that makes people laugh out loud when reading," that is something I can work on that will improve my writing, and hopefully get me closer to The Big Goal while I'm at it.

Oh and, I've ALWAYS fantasized about seeing someone reading my book on the subway. Too bad I live in Vermont and we don't have a subway, but you know, it could happen :)

Kiersten White said...

So, Kaela, your first goal should be: Petition Vermont to install a subway system. Then the rest will be easy!

Kidding : ) But I'm glad this helped. Because you're right--it's all about breaking up the goals and making them stage-appropriate. You've got exactly the right attitude!

Ina said...

Ah, Kiersten. You rock (with or without that rocking chair of yours).

Your goals are similar to mine, but I would also love it if someone who didn't think they liked to read discovered the joy of books after reading mine.

*dreamy sigh*

Incidentally, I would also love it if large bags of Jelly Bellies began appearing on my doorstep post-publication. But that might fall into the daydream category.

YA Book Lover said...

This is such an inspirational post! I can't wait to read Paranormalcy and if I ever manage to get to the beach I promise to read your book while there!

Kiersten White said...

Ina, that is a beautiful goal! And the one about inspiring someone to love reading is okay, too.

YABL--Yay! Thanks : )

Katrina L. Lantz said...

LOL! Loved this post! Another fun-to-read pebble of joy on the sandy beaches of life (where you are not being tased [I totally thought there was a z in that word-my bad!]).

I'm very excited for you, and have no doubt that your hard work is the reason for your current and future success.

Enjoy it. You deserve all of it.

Kiersten White said...

Katrina--I like that beach.

Anita Saxena said...

Kiersten you never fail to entertain me. Thank you for sharing your goals. Even before reading this brilliant post I've been thinking about my writer goals and I plan to write them down soon. They say people who write their goals down are more likely to achieve them. And since you posted yours on your blog, I have no doubt in my mind that you will achieve them.

I'm so excited about the release of Paranormalcy. YOU must be so excited! I can just imagine you running through your house when no one's home and yelling, " Squueeeee!!! Paranormalcy!!" Perhaps, you don't do that. Maybe that's what I'll be doing one day if I get published. Except I'll be screaming the title of my book. Ha ha.

Kiersten White said...

Anita--I, umm, have to go check my house for hidden cameras now...

K. Marie Criddle said...

So lovely...all of us need to have such lofty, awesome goals. I'd love to see my book being read on a beach, but my goal is to see it on the shelves in Target. Book, baby wipes and a hot dog all in one place. I could die happy then.
Again, fabulous thoughts. Congrats on all your success and may you have much much much more!!

Kiersten White said...

Marie, that's so funny, because MY dream is to read your book while eating a hot dog.

Andrea Cremer said...

Yay! I love goals :)

Wordver = sinispr, which I take to mean a sinister whisper.

Violet said...

Love this post! Those are excellent goals, and now I want to read Paranormalcy at the beach (despite the fact that Oregon beaches tend to be windy, cold, and not particularly conducive to reading). :)

Kristan said...

My goals are all the same as your goals... Which I think means my new goal is to steal your life. Sigh. This is going to be hard.

Marsha Sigman said...

Love this! I blogged about daydreams today too. I'm pretty sure everyone daydreams but writers have elaborate, detailed ones...and then we write them...maybe.

Goals are easy.
1)Find an agent I love, who loves me.
2)Be published.
3)Write as long as I can type and then dictate from my rocking chair.
4)Change someone's life for the better with just the power of my words. Thats the big one.

SM Johnston said...

I used to write as a way to get things out of my head, but since a friend encourage me to try and get published I have come up with some goals:

1) Bring Australian stories to an international stage, in particular Australian mythology in a speculative urban fiction setting. That's the big one. To achieve this I have these stepping stone goals.

2) Get a Top Pick Gold Star on the HarperCollins YA writer’s community Inkpop so HC will read my manuscript – DONE Achieved!!

3) Get an Agent – boy this is hard. Being an Australian with YA urban fantasy/speculative fiction stories set in Australia lowers my options. Most US agents are not interested in stories set in Australia as they believe they are harder to sell. There are limited agents in Australia, most either don’t take unsolicited submissions or don’t represent my genre/YA. In fact I have a total of three options I can query so far. So far I have had a full manuscript request so I am hopeful.

4) Get published.

5) Sold at markets other than just Australia.

6) Both my series have enough of a following to quit my day job and write fulltime!

Thanks – love your blog.

Liz Czukas said...

Your goals are just about perfect as far as I'm concerned. Except the tasing part--you can keep that for yourself. LOL

Thanks for the motivation and being brave enough to post yours out there.

- Liz

Little Bonobo said...

Hi Kiersten, I've been reading your blog for a couple of weeks now and I'm finding it very funny and helpful. I'm really looking forward to reading Paranormalcy. I would love to read it on the beach but as I live in the UK I will most likely read it shivering, huddled against the radiator.

Kiersten White said...

Little Bonobo--That is a perfectly adorable mental image. I mean, sorry for your suffering and all that.

Violet--Maybe you could find a radiator, like Bonobo?

Kristan--You are welcome to steal my life as long as you take over bedtime first. If you can master getting Dojo to bed without losing your mind, you've earned the rest.

Marsha--I like those : )

SM--It seems like I've been seeing more and more Australian authors with books that are both published and critically acclaimed here! I'll cross my fingers for you : )

Liz--Fine, I won't share my tasing with you.

Ruth (Book Focus) said...

Hey Kiersten... totally off-track here BUT I just wanted to check... was just going to order a copy of PARANORMALCY through Book Depository, and noticed they say it's being released in paperback on Sep 30. This is all lies, right? Or is it really being released in paperback barely a month after coming out in hardcover? :o Just...wanted to check!

Kiersten White said...

Ruth--Yeah, I don't know what is up with that Book Depository listing. It IS being released as paperback in the UK, but they aren't releasing it until January. I will have to check on the Australia/New Zealand copy, which will also be original paperback (I think), and MAY be releasing on August 31st.

Claire Dawn said...

Somehow, lifeguards- who are often covered in water- and tasers- filled with electri charge- seem like a recipe for disaster.

No. 4 is one of my big dreams. To have someone somewhere say they love my book.

Also, I'd like one day for an author to say, "After I read her book, I made the decision to become a writer!"

I want to write niche books. Books for people who have fallen through the cracks time and again. (I actually didn't figure that out til I read this post, so thanks!)

Claire Dawn said...

Oh, PS, I forgot to say this before (I think). I saw one of my blog followers at a wedding last weekend and she said that thanks to my ravings, she now follows your blog, and is also totally psyched about Paranormalcy! :D

Samantha Bennett said...

That would be straight-up incredible to see someone reading your book on the beach. The taser part might even be worth it. :)

L. T. Host said...

I'm totally willing to go read PARANORMALCY on a beach and have a (pre-arranged) accidental sighting.

jessicashea said...

I love this! #4 is the best. I wish I'd known about #5 last week when I went to Mexico, 'cause I would have totally taken my PARANORMALCY ARC with me. I did read ANNA & THE FRENCH KISS on the beach though. Does that almost count? And I looooved it so much I'm rereading it already.

Rachel said...

Ah, yes. One of my goals is to stay more on top of my blog reading. However, I'll still comment two days late because it's relevant.

My mom always made me feel goals are important, and I love that about you, too. That is definitely an important part of being successful in daydreams: converting them to attainable but challenging goals.

And it is, in fact, my ambition to become one of the world's best pastry chefs, but only in my own kitchen, and perhaps eventually in my own bakery. But you don't have to live next to me. If I ever make it, I'll ship. :)

And perhaps a little writing on the side.