And, while I admit that I don't get to use my semaphore as much as I would like, the boy scout program taught me at least one thing that is essential when you're setting out to accomplish a big goal like publishing a novel--You have to set smaller goals and celebrate your accomplishments along the way.
So, I'm offering up a list of writing merit badges to celebrate the fact that--whether our books have been published or not--we have all accomplished some important things that we shouldn't overlook:
Point of View Merit Badge: You get this one if you've written in more than one point of view and can actually tell them apart.
Showing and Telling Merit Badge: You get this if you can tell the difference between showing and telling and have done both in your writing.
Punctuation Merit Badge: You get this if you have correctly used a period, question mark, exclamation mark, semi-colon, colon, and the variety of dashes in your stories, even if you ended up taking them out again.
Good Grammar Merit Badge: You get this if you can properly diagram a sentence.
Short Story Merit Badge: Have you finished a short story? I mean, really finished it? You get this merit badge! Have you submitted it to Genre Wars? If so, you get the first ever:
Genre Wars Merit Badge
Which might also get you the Short Story Publishing Merit Badge (Flash Fiction accepted).
Outline Merit Badge: For anyone who has completed an outline
Plot diagram Merit Badge: For anyone who has completed a plot diagram
Good Critique Merit Badge: You get this if you have offered up your work and critiqued a fellow writer's work in a constructive way.
First Novel Draft Merit Badge: Yes, even if it's not done, getting to the end of a first draft is a big accomplishment!
Query Letter Merit Badge: For finishing that dreaded query letter
Synopsis Merit Badge: For finishing that even more-dreaded synopsis
Public Reading Merit Badge: If you've read some of your work in front of an audience. Bonus points if there was a microphone involved.
(Are you ready for some more challenging ones?)
First Completed Novel Merit Badge
Second Completed Novel Merit Badge
Third Completed--Oh, you get the point.
Publishing Merit Badge (Self or Non-self accepted as long as you can offer a book for me to read.)
Acquiring an Agent Merit Badge
Acquiring a Publishing Contract Merit Badge
Getting your first Fan Mail Merit Badge
Seeing Someone Reading Your Book On the Subway Merit Badge
Obviously not everyone will try to earn all of these merit badges. We have to pick and choose our steps based on our own personal goals. But, let's celebrate the completion of those steps and not forget that we are constantly making progress as long as we push ourselves to become better writers.
So, which merit badges should be listed here that aren't already? Which merit badges have you earned? Or, perhaps more importantly: Do you take the time to celebrate your goals, even if they aren't your ultimate goal?