Hopes & Goals

I’ve been having a long-running conversation with a bunch of writer friends about our hopes for our careers. One of them has written a truly marvellous book, which comes out next year, and she’s been telling herself not to hope for too much. She’s trying very hard not to think about that book at all and to concentrate on the next one.

Which is of course what all writers should do: focus on the book you’re writing, keep on plugging, don’t get too distracted by what may happen next year with the book you’ve already finished.

Except that hope is precious. Hoping that your book will do well, that it will find readers, is not a terrible thing. I’m sure all writers hope such things for all their books.1

It’s only a problem when your hopes get in the way of your writing. When you’re so wrapped in how your book is going to do that you neglect to write the next one. Debut writers are particularly prone to this problem. Newsflash: one book does not a writing career make. If your first book isn’t the next Twilight, maybe the one after it will be, or the one after that. You’ve got time.2

But if you’re already writing the next book then hope away! Rehearse your interview with Oprah.3 Practice your Nobel Prize acceptance speech. I hoped that my very first book would be optioned by Hollywood.4 I have hoped that for each book I’ve written. And that once optioned the book would be made into a spectacularly brilliant movie that in no way buggered up the book I’d written.5 Yes, I have daydreamed about those movies and about what I’d wear to the premier. To date none of my books have been optioned. Doesn’t stop my hoping.

What? I like daydreaming. Sometimes that’s where my next novels come from.

Now, all of this may sound like I’m contradicting myself. For did I not say that I like to keep my goals realistic? Aiming to write in different genres rather than to be a bestseller. Yes, I did and I think you should to. It’s wise to have attainable goals that way you can, you know, attain them. But you can have goals and hopes.

In fact, I rather think that the two sustain each other.

  1. Well, unless their evil ex has wangled a percentage of the royalties. []
  2. I guess the more relevant newsflash is that there may never be a next Twilight but the point of this post is not to take away hope. []
  3. Is it sad that I’ve never done that? Though in my mind I’ve been interviewed by Romana Koval. []
  4. It was my PhD thesis. []
  5. Oh, and that the casting was entirely without white washing. []


  1. Lauren McLaughlin on #

    Thanks for the pep talk. I assume you wrote this post exclusively for me 🙂

    It’s too easy to get caught up in fear about your career when you know that without good sales you may not have a career for long. For me personally, all those fears completely fall by the wayside when I get an email from a kid thanking me for representing his under-represented demo in a positive light. It’s at those moments that I realize that even a short career is a successful one if you’ve spread a little love.

  2. Summer on #

    Heh. That’s definently something I worry about-when I hit the big wide world of publishing (I’m not out of school for another year, so I’m sure it’ll be a while.) will my first series be a success? (It’s defiently going to be one of my more ‘mass market’ ones.) I’m glad I’m not the only person who dreams of my future novels and comics being big movies WITH NO WHITEWASHING of my varied, multi-ethnic characters. (And not turning my gay characters straight, either.)
    Also: yay for daydreaming!

  3. Becca on #

    Amen to Lauren. That hope can be so varied – “I hope I can be the next multi-million seller” or “I hope at least one kid feels something and thinks about something because of what I’ve written.”

    And I think the hope (what you can’t control, but wish for) and the goals (the things inside your control – like writing the best work you can) have to be distinct and separate, even though they’re all related to the work at hand. Good post, thanks.

  4. Justine on #

    Lauren: What you said. Every time I wonder what the point of it all is I receive the most amazing letter from a reader that reduces me to tears and demonstrates exactly what the point is.

    Summer: Daydreams rock.

    Becca: You’re welcome. Took me ages to be able to make the hopes/goals distinction. It’s made a big diff to my piece of mind.

  5. Megan on #

    Wonderful post, Justine! Thanks for being so encouraging and positive while still being realistic and practical.

    Also, personally I don’t want my future book(s) to be the next Twilight, or the next Harry Potter, or the next Lord of the Rings, or the next anything (though if someone were to compare my writing to Tolkien’s I would consider that the highest compliment). I’d rather they be in a class of their own! 🙂 Also I think there’s something to be said for small but devoted fanbases…

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