Sunday, January 01, 2006

Goal Setting for Writers--Keep it coming!

You Aren't Done Yet . . .

This is only the beginning.

You need to maintain your master list and schedule, updating them at least every three months. Your plan and your list will evolve over time and that's the beauty of this system. If something doesn't work out the way you planned it, then simply change your plan.

The full series of exercises can be useful as an annual update of all your goals and progress.

REMEMBER TO KEEP TRACK OF YOUR PROGRESS! Don't get so overwhelmed by the things you want to do that you forget how much you've already accomplished.

This goal-setting exercise is a tool that can be used to address other aspects of your life as well including family, home, education and fitness.

Goal Setting for Writers--Part 5--Your 3 Month Calendar

You'll need a calendar or date book for this part. Set the start and end dates of your first three-month period--write them down on the calendar. Block out the times you won't be able to write--visitors coming, graduation, holidays, etc.

Sit down and write our your tasks and your obstacles and strategies for the next three months.

This is your master list. You may wish to format it as a table.

Look at each strategy and estimate how much time it will take. If it will cost money, then set a budget. Set a deadline for each strategy. Add the budgets and the deadlines to your master list.


Obstacle: lack of time
Strategy: set aside time each day for writing
Time: 2 hours each day
Cost: none
Deadline: ongoing.

Obstacle: lack of knowledge about markets
Strategy: research on the web and at the library
Time: 10 hours--5 on-line and 5 at library
Cost: $5.00 for photocopying
Deadline: 3 weeks from now

Now, pick up a pen and schedule each strategy into the next three months. As you complete each strategy, cross it off your master list.

Were you able to find time for each task? Are there some tasks that will need to be postponed to the next three month time period?

Now, make reasonable appointments with yourself to get your work done. Some writers prefer to work in the morning. Some people can commit only 15 minutes a day, but that time will add up--and it's better than 15 minutes spent watching the tube.

Goal Setting for Writers--Part 4--Obstacles and Strategies

This is the step where we plan for real life.

Look at your three-month goal and tasks and ask--what are the obstacles to completing these tasks? Make a list--list them all! Include your motivational obstacles like fear and family resistance. Include lack of time if it applies. Include lack of knowledge if it applies.

Now put the list in order of importance. Which of these obstacles is the most difficult for you to deal with? List up to ten in order of importance. If you have more than ten, you can deal with some of them in the next three-month period.

Now, for each obstacle, come up with at least one strategy for dealing with it or overcoming it. If your goals are important enough, you will find a way to overcome these obstacles.


Obstacle: Lack of time
Strategy: Make a little time each day, get up an hour earlier

Obstacle: Fear
Strategy: Read inspirational books, listen to tapes

Obstacle: Lack of knowledge of suitable markets
Strategy: Research on the web and at the library

Come up with a list of your obstacles and strategies. Were there any obstacles you need help devising strategies for? Did you come up with any strategies you'd like to share?

Goal Setting for Writers--Part 3--Your Task List

Now, let's look at the first three-month phase--the next three months of your writing career. You need to break the three-month objective down into a series of tasks that can be scheduled into your daily life.

Set as many or as few tasks as you need to accomplish your three month strategy. The tasks may include a certain number of pages of rough draft, a list of topics that need to be researched, a certain number of submissions, etc. Make these tasks as specific and measurable as you can.


Instead of: Write outline for novel
Measurable task: Draft 80 page outline for novel

Instead of: Market research
Measurable task: Compile list of 20 markets suitable for my finished project

How many tasks did you need for the first three months? Are the tasks as specific and measurable as you can make them?

Goal Setting for Writers--Part 2--A One Year Project

Now we'll work with your one-year objective. This will become your twelve-month project as a writer. This goal should be written and measurable.

What steps do you need to take to reach this goal? If you aim to produce a certain number of finished manuscript pages, then break it down into drafting and editing phases. If you want to submit a manuscript to an agent, then you will need to include market research as a step. The project goal could be to submit an entry to a certain number of contests over the year.

Break the one-year project down into four three-month phases over the next year.


One-year project: To complete a 300 page book manuscript

Phase 1: Research and 100 pages of rough draft

Phase 2: 200 pages of rough draft

Phase 3: Editing and research--completed 2nd draft

Phase 4: Get feedback, final edit--completed third draft

Now, YOU DO!

Were you able to formulate a written one year goal? Is your one-year objective specific and measurable? Did you divide it into four phases?

Goal Setting for Writers--Part 1--Dreams and Aspirations

What do you want as a writer? Fame? Success? Riches? The first step is to define your dream and write it down.

Most of us have a long-term goal, a dream, that one shining moment we imagine whenever the sister-in-law says, "But you aren't a REAL writer."

Write it down. Whether it's your guest spot on Oprah, your first paying job or handing that SIL a hardcover with your name in gold foil, write it down. You don't need to share this with anyone, but you do need to put it in writing and keep it in a safe place.

Now, think about how long it would reasonably take to reach this objective. Remember that most well established novelists have been working at their craft for at least a decade. (Stephen King's been writing and submitting for almost forty years.) Non-fiction writers, if they've got a marketable idea, can break out much more quickly.

Now, looking at that dream for twenty years might be a little discouraging. That's why the next step is to set objectives closer in time.

Look five years down the road. Where do you want your writing career to be? Do you want to be making a certain amount of income from your writing? Do you want to have your first book published by then? Do you want to have your first manuscript ready by then? It takes a first novelist an average of 4-5 manuscripts and 5 years to be published.

Now repeat the process for two years and one year from now. Write all these objectives down. A useful exercise is to list them together and keep the list in a sealed envelope to be opened in one year. There are software programs to guide you through this process, but part of the exercise is to write them down. Then they are truly yours.


Spend 5-15 minutes each day this week thinking about and writing down your long-term goals, dreams and aspirations. Make a list that you can post near your work area, or tuck away in the calendar to monitor your progress.

More next week!

(if you want to e-mail me or post comments with questions, I'll do my best to answer in a timely fashion)