martin brennan

The Writing of Martin Brennan

2018 Goals and Sub-Goals

ANOTHER year gone, this is the third year that I’ll be writing up a list of goals and sub-goals that I want to achieve for the year. It’s been a massive year, and there is a lot to review. As I get older my years seem to get fuller, and I can’t see that slowing down any time soon, especially with the boys getting older.

2017 was massive because there were a lot of major life events. As a family, we flew together in May to Osaka, Japan for a ten day trip. First thing I’ll tell you is that seven hour flights with a three year old and a just over one and a half year old is no picnic, even with many distractions and lots of food. However, we got to Osaka in one piece exhausted and had the time of our lives. I journaled each day on the trip and I plan to turn that into a post here at some point. It was my partner’s first international flight and to a place she’s dreamed of going to since she was in school, and the boys’ first trip overseas as well. We plan to take more trips like this as a family as often as we can, so the boys can experience many different cultures and places.

I also switched jobs this year, from my previous job as a UI developer to a software consultancy run by an old friend and previous colleague. This necessitated moving together to Melbourne. So before we left for Japan, we broke lease and packed away all of our belongings into two Taxiboxes and on our return began planning the move down. I drove down solo with Kojack on a long cross-country trip over three days (an experience itself) and lived with my friend and his wife for five weeks until I could find a place for our family to live. By early July we were all moved down and we started our life in Emerald, Victoria. It’s been an interesting change, living in another state for the first time. Both my partner and I have lived in QLD all of our life. But it’s been a fun experience, and we would do it again if we had the chance.

There is already so much happening in 2018, so I’ll go over my 2017 first to get the new year underway.

2017 Review

Goal 1 - Whenever I finish a book, write a summary of essay of the book to this website

I followed this one pretty closely, and even did it for a few different movies I watched as well. It helped me a lot with reflection about what I liked in the book, an exploration of my understanding the themes, and recalling with better clarity what the plot was about. There are two books I haven’t written an essay on yet, as I’ve only finished them this month; The Shining by Stephen King and Slouching Toward Bethlehem by Joan Didion. Both of these will be written in the new year.

There were also a couple of shorter books I read that I felt I didn’t really have much to say about. Not that I didn’t enjoy them, The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. I didn’t want to overextend myself writing essays for books when I didn’t think I need to, lest I spoil myself on the idea. I think I did pretty well however, and my post archive can attest to that!

Goal 2 - Write one article per month on my technical blog

I didn’t quite do this though I still ended up with fourteen posts this year on my technical blog. I focused more on this blog and writing (when I wasn’t slacking off of course!). What happens here is that often I don’t even think to write articles for my tech blog – I solve a problem at work and then it’s on to the next problem! I am working on a couple of posts on my development workflow over there, so I hope to get a few more articles in in 2018.

Goal 3 - Write three short stories, and finalise editing on my Crabs MC novel

Parts of this goal were accomplished, and others fell by the wayside. I was able to finish editing around a quarter of my novel (tentatively titled Bottom Feeders). Editing ain’t easy, I wrote about this back in August, and it’s slower going than I thought it would be. I would really like to finish editing the first draft in the first half of 2018.

I finished two short-novelette length stories, as well as some microfiction stories. I’m about three-quarters through the third short story. I need to then go back and edit those stories, which are around 10-15k words each. So my view of 2018 contains a lot of editing, but that is great. And it will enable me to work on the second part of this goal, which was:

It would be wonderful if I could start writing query letters to publishers in early 2018.

Goal 4 - Go on at least one camping trip with friends and one solo camping trip and Goal 5 - Get a boat license

I never ended up doing either of these because of our move to Melbourne. For my best mate’s buck’s party in March we are all going on a two day camping trip so that be a step in the right direction toward getting started with camping. My partner and I would love to make camping a part of our boys’ life growing up. Perhaps later in 2018 the boat license could still be in reach, as we are looking like we will move back up to Queensland!

Goal 6 - Get rid of Reddit

I still somewhat struggled with this. I’ve installed site blocker extensions on my phone, and my computer, and gotten rid of Reddit apps, though there are still times I feel like I want to look at it. Though these days I feel a lot less like I need to look at it, and more that I do it out of boredom. It’s getting easier to stop using Reddit, and I feel like this year my usage of the site will dwindle to zero. The same thing happened back in my days of Something Awful Forums. Nowadays I go on there, and I can’t even get into it for more than a few minutes.

2018 Goals

I feel like I don’t have as tangible goals for this year, nevertheless I believe that there needs to be some core goals around my year so I can see progress and growth as a person.

Goal 1 - Get my novel to a queryable state

I’ve let this novel linger for too long. Finishing the actual first draft year was great, and I should’ve finished the second this year. When I say queryable state, I want to:

  • Finish the second draft
  • Have it read by beta readers
  • Finish a third draft
  • Start sending query letters to publishers

That last point will be difficult, and a hell of a learning curve, as I’ve never attempted to get something like a novel published before. Sure I’ve sent off short stories / microfiction to be considered for publishing, but that isn’t quite the same (in my mind). Even if I get a 100% rejection/ignore rate, I will be happy as long as I’ve gotten my book out there.

Goal 2 - Start writing my second book

Last year I focused more on longer short stories / novelettes. This year, I think it’s time to continue writing and get the ball rolling on another book. I’ve had this idea in my head for a while, as well as another that I wouldn’t feel comfortable tackling until I’ve written more and developed my craft a little better.

For my first idea, I wrote about the downfall of a once great motorcycle club in California, full of losers and outcasts at the bottom of the totem pole. For my second novel I am going to write in the horror genre for the first time. The general outline is that it has been several years since the start of a zombie apocalypse. A colony of survivors lives on an island in the middle of a great river in the United States. To rebuild society in earnest, they need to start up large scale agriculture again. With most of the previous crops long dead, their only hope is to travel to Colorado’s Fort Collins Seed Vault to get the resources they need to start anew.

This trip must be conducted toward the end of winter, when the dead are lessened because they are frozen in place but weather conditions are more favourable. Whether humanity can survive The Thaw and thrive once again relies on the efforts of the band of hardened survivalists from the old world in the face of the endless dead and human foes. I see the book as a cross between The Stand and The Walking Dead, a cross country trip full of peril and sacrifice.

Anyway, that’s the major project I will be working on this year!

Goal 3 - Finish my novelettes from 2017 and get my name out there more

First of all, I need to finish the third story I was writing, which I had outlined until the end. Then, all three stories need an editing pass or two. I know some story and character improvements that I’d like to work into the first two (though the first one I will not likely send out to try and get published). I would then like to send out two of these stories to various magazines and journals to see if I can get them published, though with the caveat that their length makes it difficult to find a home for them (10-15k words).

This, along with the submission of my first book to publishers, will be parts of getting my name out there. I want to submit to more journals and magazines, I had so much fun writing microfiction and submitting it. I want to just keep building my back catalogue, getting feedback (extremely important to me though I haven’t gotten much of it yet), and submitting to as many places as I can. I’m following writers I admire on twitter (at least ones who don’t tweet about Trump 24/7) and I’m trying to get a feel for the writing landscape in Australia. One thing I’m a little concerned about is the strong focus on literary fiction, where I’d say the things I like to write are genre fiction most of the time. I need to figure out the places where such pieces can be published and focus on submitting there. I’ll get there eventually!

I would also like to spread my writing work around to a wider group of friends and family, so I plan to post about this blog on my Instagram. Growing my audience in general would be nice too; this blog has nowhere near the traffic of my tech blog (I expect this is because I have no SEO-orientation here).

Goal 4 - Get back on the bike

We got the boys bikes for Christmas, and living in the Dandenong Ranges I haven’t had much of a chance to ride my bike. I’m not game or fit enough to ride up and down steep, narrow hills, even though there are plenty of people who do so up here. We are likely going to move somewhere else at the end of our lease, so wherever we go needs flatland to ride around on, and it would be great to have some beachfront areas. It will be nice to go for family rides with the boys on our bikes and us on ours. And once I get back into it, I plan on upgrading my bike at some point, as the one I have now is getting a little old (it will need a good service before riding).

Goal 5 - Spend more time with the dog

Our dog, Kojack, is a good boy but sometimes doesn’t get as much attention with a crazy house with two little boys. Driving down to Victoria with just me and him was a fun experience, and we’d like to take him out more places like the beach. It would be good to get him back into some sort of obedience training. He did some earlier this year and is a better dog for it, but still needs a little more work. We all love him, and the boys have shown interest in walking him this year, so getting out on more family walks and playtime with the dog will be great in 2018.

That’s it for this year, I hope anyone reading this has a great 2018!

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