A lot of people are using the start of the new year to set goals for themselves. Many are publishing these goals on their blogs.

This is fine and good. Stating a goal publicly gives you a real incentive to finish.

But there’s a worrying trend I’ve noticed in a lot of these goals. I’ll throw a couple of common examples at you.

Goal for 2010: Get an agent.
Goal for 2010: Get a radio commission.

The problem with these goals is this: They are not under your control.

You could be a bloody brilliant writer, with a fantastic script: but if the agent’s books are full that year, or if Radio 4 has already commissioned a play on the same subject matter, you’re going to be shit out of luck. And you’ll spend the year striving and striving, and next year you’ll be sad when you haven’t achieved a goal the success or failure of which had not a damn thing to do with you.

Instead, if you’re setting goals for yourself, choose something that is in your power to make happen or not. F’rexample…

Goal for 2010: Write three scripts this year.
Goal for 2010: Direct a short film.
Goal for 2010: Go on a writing course.
Goal for 2010: Trade notes with other writers to get better.

Or for the two goals we started with, rephrase them so that the thing you promise to do in 2010 is in your control, not someone else’s.

Goal for 2010: Send every script I finish this year to at least ten agents.
Goal for 2010: Pitch potential radio plays to at least ten producers before each offers round.

Because those actions are exactly what you’d need to do in order to get an agent or get a commission anyway.

The difference is this: You’re in control of whether or not you achieve them.

There’s no-one to blame or praise but yourself. And there’s no way, at the end of the year, that your sense of achievement will be dependent on whether or not someone else has a bad day.

And maybe you will get that commission, or that agent. That’d be a nice bonus. But that’s what it is: a bonus.

If you’re setting goals, make them something that you have control over.

Don’t put your happiness in the hands of someone you don’t know.

Buy now, while stocks last!

So I’ve adapted Dickens again.

This year’s Christmas show at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre in Kentish Town is Oliver Twist.

Already, more tickets have been sold before opening night than for any other show since Giant Olive moved in a year ago. And there’s still a fortnight before the show goes up.

There’s a great cast, including Eddie Kingham (who starred as Scrooge in last year’s production of A Christmas Carol) as Fagin, and I can tell you now that man is doing sterling work. Watch him before he gets famous. And Ray Shell is again working wonders with the directing.

Also? Wipe the memory of the musical from your heads. This is going back to the raw source material, and it can be a dark and nasty place.

Previews start on Monday 30th November at eight of your earth pounds, going up to twelve quid a couple of days later, and tickets are on sale now.

Ah well.

Just received news from the beeb; I’ve not made it through to the final round of the Drama Writers’ Academy.

Which is a shame.

Never mind. Onward!

EDIT: Paul Campbell has though. Send some good wishes his way.

State of Play

Been a while since I mentioned what I’ve been working on recently… So here they are.

Con Anon – Sitcom with Christine Patton
Done, dusted, finito. Next thing is to start sending it out to radio producers with a note saying “We are teh funny”.

Con Anon has only had one rejection. That’s because we’ve only sent it to one producer so far. (All of the radio people have been busy recently due to the Radio 4 Offers round.) I want to get at least a dozen rejections for this before bottom-drawering it. Hopefully more.

Decaying Orbit – Horror Feature
Previously known as Persephone. The current version has been entered into the Script Market at the Screenwriters Festival. It’s big and expensive, and is my current spec for the US market.

I’m going to do a table read to locate any final problems before declaring this done. Then it’s time to start schlepping it around to agents and producers.

Bingo – TV Calling Card
Pensioner gets over the death of his wife by heisting a Bingo hall. It’s reasonably solid, I think, and I’m using it as my sample for the BBC Writers’ Academy. This one’s my spec for mainstream TV drama.

Shield – TV Series Bible and Spec
Aliens attack Earth. Our heroes defend. Currently at first draft, this one needs a bit of work to bring up to scratch. The antagonists aren’t smart enough, and two of the characters are performing the same function – which means they need to be differentiated or merged. I want to use this as a sample for shows like Torchwood and Primeval.

Breaking Out – One Act Stage Play
Three characters, two rooms, one prison. Haven’t looked at it since I wrote it, but I suspect it badly needs a redraft. There are a lot of theatres dedicated to new writing, so when it’s done this one will start working its way through them.

My plan for last year was to try and get a lot of first drafts done. So we’ll mark that as a success.

Now that I’ve got a bank of completed drafts, the plan for this year is to finish them up and start sending them out to agents and producers – while adding extra new projects to the back of the line.

What we have here, people, is a pipeline.