Writing Milestones

Today I’ve got the whole idea of milestones on my mind.

I’m writing this post, back at my computer, after a morning that will stay with me for a long time. Today I took my daughter for her road test—to get her driver’s license. Gulp.

She passed. She’s over the moon. She can’t keep her mouth from forming into a grin. Her afternoon at school will be fun I’m sure as she tells her friends the news. (Yaay Danielle!!)

And then there’s me. So excited for her. So proud of her accomplishment. So proud of the responsible, capable young lady she’s become. And yet here I am wondering where my little girl is. I know deep down she’s still here. She’s just hit a major life milestone that’s all. And that’s a huge deal for her. And for me. 🙂

So as I ponder her latest milestone (with my heart firmly lodged in my throat), I’m thinking about writing milestones too. What are they? Are they a big deal?

The second question is so much easier to answer. If writing is important to you, if it’s a piece of you, then YES, hitting a writing milestone is very big deal. But why?

Milestones are like check points. They can tell you if you’re on the right track. Like my daughter. In her quest to become an independent adult, obtaining a driver’s license is one hurdle that she must be able to leap over (without tipping the hurdle over). It brings her one step closer to reaching her goal. It’s a milestone that we can celebrate. Hurray!

The same goes for writing milestones. It’s important for us to celebrate our successes (however small) along the way. But what are writing milestones? I guess only you can answer that question because it depends on what your ultimate writing goal is.

If your writing goal is to complete a novel- kind of like a bucket list item, then once you write that last sentence, add The End, and close the page, you’ve reached your writing goal. Maybe for you then the completion of each chapter would be your writing milestones. It would be important for you to celebrate finishing each chapter because each one is a huge milestone. Many people dream of writing a novel. Many people even start one. Not many people though can actually write chapter after chapter until the story is complete. As most of you know, that is a very big deal!

But what if your writing goal is to see your novel published, sitting on the shelves of a major bookstore (or better yet- the small independent ones), and eventually in the hands of an eager young reader? Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself. That IS my writing goal and for me there are so many milestones to hit along the way. Here a just a few of mine:

The first time someone said they loved my story. After I completed my first novel, I sent it to a friend to read. She called to say it was amazing and that she had tears in her eyes as she read the ending. The next day another friend’s 10 year-old daughter, Juliana, left me a voice mail saying that she hated reading but she loved my book. She told me it was the best book she had ever read. I saved her message on that answering machine for three years!

The first time another writer said my work was good. My writing journey has been different from many other writers I know. I didn’t write in high school or college, or dream of becoming an author when I was young. I simply had a story idea that I couldn’t get out of my head. I had written an entire novel (the one Juliana read) plus one full chapter of the second before I hit this milestone. After my first novel was rejected 12 times, I began work on another. (The first was not worth revising). I found a critique group and they read my first chapter. After getting all those rejections, hearing I had potential from my new writing friends was life changing for me, and definitely cause for celebration!

My first full manuscript request from a literary agent. This came from my dream agent for my second novel. This request literally brought me to tears. I felt it was some sort of validation- that even if she didn’t ultimately take me on as a client (she didn’t), at least I didn’t stink. My writing couldn’t be that bad if she read the first ten pages and was interested in reading more. I celebrated this milestone with everyone in my family for longer than I care to admit!

My first revise and resubmit request. This came from another dream agent for my third novel. She sent me an email the equivalent of four written pages of things she loved about the book and suggestions on how to make it better. I worked on her suggestions (which were awesome by the way) and resubmitted it. She ultimately passed because she had too many spec fiction books on her list at that point, but boy did I celebrate the fact that an amazing agent loved my work enough to help me make it better!

I hope I’ll have more milestones to share with you in the months to come. But as I sit here and think about the ones I’ve already hit (even the small ones like writing my first query letter), I can’t help but celebrate each small victory. They’ll add up to bigger ones eventually, but until then I’ll toast to whatever I can. And I hope you will too. Writing is hard. It takes patience and perseverance. But it helps to have check points. It helps to applaud yourself along the way. So cheers to you… and all the writing milestones you’ve hit already. I’d love to hear about them in the comment box so please tell us about a milestone you’ve hit. I bet we all can relate to it!

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