Question of the Month: 2012

by Susan Henderson on January 2, 2012

What are your writing goals for the new year? They say the more specific you are, the more likely you are to reach them.

I’ve learned again and again that time doesn’t just materialize, that wanting something doesn’t make it happen. You have to create time for the things that are your priorities and commit to seeing them through. Other things will always try to grab your attention and if you don’t stay focused, weeks or months can go by and you’ve hardly moved forward. You are left wanting.

This fall I was making good progress on the book, and then I was asked to do an interview and then I was asked to write an essay and then I was asked to write another essay and then I was asked to blurb a book and then I was asked to blurb another book and then Christmas was here. I don’t regret any of these things, but I can tell you that I did zero work on my book during the month of December.

This same thing can happen every month if I let it, but I’m determined to get disciplined. My goal for 2012 is to have a solid first draft of my new book before my kids are out of school for summer vacation. I have mini-steps too, but I’ll keep those private.

So tell me about your goals. And then let’s help each other stick to them despite all that will surely try to steal our focus.

In other news, the Norwegian version of UP FROM THE BLUE is out this month. Like the Dutch edition, this title also translates to “the blue room”.  Fun to see such a different cover for the book, don’t you think?

There was a lovely review of my book here at Fiction Writers Review. I like the writing of it. Makes me think the reviewer will one day write a book of her own. I also talk about the difference between publishing and printing at Over on the Psychology Today blog, writers (including Alice Hoffman, Sue Miller, Pam Houston, Diana Abu-Jaber… and me) share some tips. And I was honored to see my book on this Best Of list by WHJJ radio host, Robin Kall.

I’ll end with a photo from last month’s reading with Alix Strauss at Huntington Book Revue.

The weather couldn’t have been worse, but it was the loveliest evening and great to spend time with everyone who came out. Oh, for those of you who missed this post on Dani Shapiro’s blog, a little gift for you.

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Bev Jackson January 2, 2012 at 11:52 am

Happy New Year, Sue! Enjoyed Dani’s blog entry, thanks.


Susan Henderson January 2, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Thanks, Bev! I love Dani’s blog, too. So glad you read it!


Billy Bones January 2, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Goal 1: Finish my latest WIP which I should be working on right now but as you can see am not.

Goal 2: Write a few more fairy tales because they are a delight to work on.

Goal 3: Inch one of my manuscripts out of the nest and see it take wing.


Susan Henderson January 2, 2012 at 3:36 pm

I’m looking forward to each of these things and am very sure your work will take wing.


Alma Katsu January 2, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Nice post, and love the Norwegian cover. My goal is to deliver book three to the publisher in much better shape than book two.


Susan Henderson January 2, 2012 at 3:39 pm

I’m in awe of how you are turning out these books! Let me link The Taker while I’m thinking of it:

Oh, and if you happen to go back to Squaw this summer, I’m a definite. I was so sorry to miss everyone last time!


Corey Mesler January 2, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Last year my resolution was to finish the first draft of a new novel. I only did about 3/4. So, this year I resolve to write 3/4 of the remaining 1/4.


Susan Henderson January 2, 2012 at 3:40 pm

That’s exciting, Corey. I’ll be so curious if you’re the kind to finish the last 1/4 and then do a big revision of it all, or polish the first 3/4 and let that inspire the push to the finish.

Don’t forget to send me your galley when it’s ready.


GC Smith January 2, 2012 at 1:55 pm

1. Finish my third novel: IN GOOD FAITH

2. Work on a book of interconnected Cajun flash stories and recipes. Many of these “Mudbug” stories were published weekly in Quiction.

3. Work on a book of poetry.

Maybe I’ll get to at least one of the three.


Susan Henderson January 2, 2012 at 7:16 pm

That’s a lot on your list! I wonder if you might pick one from that list to finish before you get to the others?


Nathalie ( @spacedlaw ) January 2, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Happy Next Year, Susan!

Goals for 2012? How about… Writing? (and submitting some of that too).
It seems 2011 has been really dire word wise for me; I could muster very little writing energy so ended up with loads of poems and drabbles and very little REAL stories.
Not that wasn’t particularly less successful than the rest but somehow I have problems taking my poetry and microfiction seriously (partially because I know how they came to life – especially poems: they are mostly automatic writing, so where is the challenge in that?).
Mah (as they say in Italy).
We shall see.
I would love to make more time for art (painting and drawing) but I suspect that might just remain one of those disposable goals…


Susan Henderson January 2, 2012 at 3:43 pm

I don’t know about you but I’ve found the years that I produced little, there was quite a lot incubating. At the time I remember feeling a sense of failure, but later it seemed my process had all made sense.

You are bursting with so many creative outlets–writing, painting, cooking. Fun to see how they jockey for your attention!


Nathalie ( @spacedlaw ) January 3, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Some of them are playing dirty to get in the front line…


Susan Henderson January 3, 2012 at 7:04 pm



ELizabeth Crane January 2, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Good question! I’m not sure I ever think much about writing goals mostly because they always seem to change. The year ahead looks to be an extremely busy one for us, with a lot of travel, a book coming out, and a move, so I think if I have a goal it is simply to get SOME writing done, hopefully in the next two months (the only quieter months on the calendar) but also to just not put too much pressure on myself about it knowing there are other things to be done. Can I say that in these two months I am planning on reading as much as I can, which will hopefully provide the inspiration that it often does for the writing that will happen… whenever? 🙂


Susan Henderson January 2, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Betsy, I’m so thrilled you’re moving to New York! And don’t hurry past the debut of your novel. Really enjoy it, nurture it, and only worry about what shoes to wear to your reading. I will be in the front row of your book launch if I have to elbow people out of my way to be there!

And let us know if you read something amazing.


ELizabeth Crane January 3, 2012 at 3:42 pm

How did you know I was already obsessing about my shoes??? I have several cute pairs I am excited to debut in NY, but having been a big walker when last in NY, how does one navigate when wearing a higher-heeled shoe, without either ruining them or ruining one’s feet or doing that whole secretary sneaker-change thing? I have so become the person I never thought I’d be, the one who is very used to jumping in the car…
Anyway, I will be stoked to see you at the book launch and elsewhere and will keep you posted about amazing reads! (Halfway through, I must say I am MADLY in love with Matthew Dickman’s book, All American Poem. Zowie.)


Susan Henderson January 3, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Ooh, I’m checking out that book right now! Let me know when you’re in NY!


ELizabeth Crane January 3, 2012 at 10:02 pm

I will – and let me know what you think of that book!

Robin Slick January 2, 2012 at 5:46 pm

First of all, Happy New Year. And I think your post, combined with the Dani Shapiro link, was what they call a “God shot”, even to agnostics like me. Both could not have come at a better time and have me in happy tears for a change. Interesting that my son has just gotten heavily into meditation and not only has it changed his life, the change is visible and incredible. Perhaps that should be my goal #1.

Very excited about your new book and love that you are keeping it close to your heart and only revealing so much. I think I will do the same for now but I feel like I just got the push I needed. Much thanks and love. xo


Susan Henderson January 2, 2012 at 7:25 pm

Robin, I’ve been thinking of you. xoxo

And I think I need to post the link to Eric’s big news here so more folks can help him win…

The extraordinarily talented, cute as anything drummer, Eric Slick (who you all know is Robin’s son), has been nominated by Modern Drummer for Up & Coming Drummer of the year! Click here, scroll down to question #13 and vote for Eric!


Raima January 2, 2012 at 6:56 pm

I tried to add this comment before, but it doesn’t seem to be taking…trying again….

I totally agree! Setting concrete goals with target dates and something quantitative to be achieved by that date (word count, pages, completed manuscript, etc) is the only way to get anything done. It works for me.

I had a goal last year (2011) to complete my “second” novel by year’s end and send it to my agent – and I squeaked it out to her three days before Christmas, so setting the specific target and date worked. This year I want to go back to the first novel (hence the quote marks on “second”!) and revise and rewrite it, again by year’s end.

I also have mini-goals along the way, including some other projects (short stories and such) but the big one is the book. It will be really nice to get back to that book, too, since it was my first and I would really like to see it become a real book some day!


Susan Henderson January 2, 2012 at 7:29 pm

I’m with you, Raima. If I set a goal like, “plow ahead in my book,” I won’t get far. But if I say, finish the next draft of Chapter 6 by January 16th, it’ll be done. I need something concrete and I need an end point to also remind me that it’s now good enough to move on.

Here’s to us both reaching our finish lines in 2012!


billie hinton January 3, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Happy New Year, Susan! Can’t wait to read your next book when it is finished.

My writing goals for 2012: to wrap up the two “almost done” mss so I can focus more energy on the new one. I’ve been working on three books at once for the past year and a half and I’m ready to get back to the place where there is just ONE book in my head. 🙂

And oddly, maybe, my other writing goal is to ride my horse Keil Bay. He and I have ended 2011 on a really nice note with our work under saddle together and it fuels everything else.

I haven’t set specific dates for getting things done this year as I tend to drive myself too hard with that kind of list/deadline. I’m on the “do some of what I love each day” plan and that’s been working well for me. Thanks for providing a space to share our goals – it definitely helps to put things “out there” this way!!


Susan Henderson January 3, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Thank you! I just “finished” a chapter today and am ahead of my goal so very happy.

How wonderful that you have ONE book in your head. Nothing like a story pushing its way to the surface and demanding that it be told. Your plan sounds perfect–do what you love each day, ride your horse, let the book that is begging for your time have its day. Your life always sounds like a movie to me.


Jessica Keener January 3, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Sue-Happy New Year to you. I’m thrilled that you’re moving along with your newest novel as so many of us are hungry to read more of your beautiful work. My goal is to finish my (next) novel set in Budapest by the end of summer. It’s in revision stages and I hope to turn my whole mind to it in a few months. (After I tend to one coming out next week. :))


Susan Henderson January 3, 2012 at 3:27 pm

I’m thrilled about your Budapest novel, that it’s almost time for lift off.

But first it’s time to enjoy this tremendous accomplishment (and gift to all of us). I hope everyone here will help Jess have a great book launch on January 10th (next Tuesday)! Her book is here:

Or you can go to your local indie bookstore and order it there. And then, please, please, please, with all books you read and love, post a review on Amazon or on your FaceBook page or wherever. It’s so important to speak publicly about the books you love! Jessica’s written a stunning debut and I’m so excited for those of you who will now finally be allowed to read it!


Jessica Keener January 3, 2012 at 4:26 pm

This is so generous of you, Sue. But no one here will be surprised by that (your generosity). Thank you!


Susan Henderson January 3, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Remember to have a luxurious breakfast out of the house on launch day. And wherever you go, carry bookmarks or cards for your book, because if it comes up in conversation and someone asks, What’s the name of it again?, you hand them a card and don’t have to feel the least bit sleazy about it.


Colin Matthew January 4, 2012 at 2:49 am

My writing goal for 2012 is to finish the second draft of my novel and start showing it to others for feedback. I’ve been neglecting the second draft for far too long, yet I can’t stop thinking about it.


Susan Henderson January 4, 2012 at 4:43 pm

What a smart plan to think of this draft as the one you’ll get feedback on. I’m going to steal that definition of “second draft” so I’ll step up my game. NO ONE will see my first draft! That’s just about me seeing if I truly have a story, if the masterpiece in my imagination can at all translate onto the page.


Colin Matthew January 5, 2012 at 12:54 am

I can’t outline an entire book. I know bits and pieces. As I wrote the first draft, I discovered more about my characters. By the end of the book, the characters felt more real while in the earlier parts, the parts I wrote first, they were still kind of undefined. With the second draft I can go back and strengthen their personality now that I know more about it.


Susan Henderson January 5, 2012 at 2:36 am

That’s probably my favorite thing about writing, that relationships and layers and plot twists continue to reveal themselves as you dig further. You think you’re going back to edit a few sentences, and pretty soon you’re taken somewhere else entirely.


John Casanova January 20, 2012 at 10:50 pm

Hey Susan, new reader of your blog here. I landed it through Jamie Ford’s page. My goal for this years is to release my Novel and get the type of success I have been waiting for as I push forward with other ventures. I can of course get into details, but, I wouldn’t want to over fill this comment I appreciate the advice you provided on making sure our goal are complete. This post has just kept me on my toes… 🙂

– J Nova


Susan Henderson January 21, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Hey, John. Welcome! I hope you’ll come back with updates as you jump through the hoops and get closer to your goal.


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