In the four years I've been writing seriously I've completed three novels, three works of novella length, and a NaNo novel that I think would be considered category length. Two works have been published. One was given a revise and resubmit, which I'm beginning to think is worse than an outright rejection, at least from my perspective, and one is on submission. Oh and one of those novellas is the first volume of my web serial, which I am definitely counting toward my output or collected works or whatever you want to call it.
With all of that accumulated word count I am still so very far away from knowing what I'm doing, I can't even see a hint of it on the horizon. So I do my best to keep moving forward, writing and learning as much as I can. For the past couple of years I've set goals for myself. This year's kind of got blown up and I had to reevaluate some things. My short-term goals have changed, as far as what specific projects I want to work on and what I hope to do with them. Lately I've found myself thinking about long-term goals for the first time.
Here's the way I think of this: writing and publishing are two separate entities that hopefully will converge when the stars align just right. Goals, whether short or long term, are a two-track thing, writing goals and publishing goals. Writing is a craft and an art, publishing is a business, and I really think it's best to keep those distinctions in mind. As I consider the prospect of long-term goals I think of these two things separately and that would be my advice for any writer.
The first thing you have to figure out is what you want to be writing over the next several years. I don't mean just genre. You have to ask yourself, are you happy with the level your writing is at? Or do you want to level up? This is going to take a hard, honest assessment of your own work and that can be tough. If you decide you want to level up, when you think about your aspirations don't fall into the trap of telling yourself "I could never be that good" (this one is really hard for me). You have to find a way to push your doubts aside and go for it. (Not that I have any idea how to banish self-doubt, do as I say with this one, not as I do.) Once you figure out where you want your writing to go, you have to figure out how to get there. What kind of stories, what kind of themes, how deep do you have to excavate inside yourself to write what you want to write.
When you think about publishing goals it's a little more straight forward. What kind of contracts do you hope to be getting over the next several years? Do you want to stay in digital and/or small press publishing, do you want to move into large press publishing? Do you want to try self-publishing? Do you want to start querying agents? (The thought of querying agents fills me with a visceral horror similar to that I get from the threat of zombies and standing in a long line at Walmart.)
I don't have answers yet to these questions, but I am glad I've at least started to think about them. I'm not going to rush to figure these things out because I want to be sure, but I do hope to have a better idea of what my long-term goals are by the time the new year rolls around in a few months. It can be easy to let the short-term overwhelm us but sooner or later every writer has to ask themselves, what am I doing with this and what do I want to be doing? Keep up with your deadlines and daily word count, but don't forget to give the long haul some thought too.