Resolutions! Goal-setting! Accomplishments! A new year invites us to plan for our future. We writers have lofty goals. We want to write books, articles, poems, and screenplays that will entertain and inspire the world for generations to come.
But everyone knows that wanting to do a thing is very different from doing it. Setting a goal without a plan of action for reaching it is the sort of good intention that paves the way to hell.
To kick off the new year, consider these 6 simple secrets of setting a reachable goal.
2. Include Yourself. You should feature prominently in your goal. If you’re tempted to say your goal is: “Complete at least 5 articles for publication in magazines with a circulation of over 250,000,” reconsider, because you aren’t mentioned anywhere. It’s as if your goal exists without you. Beginning a goal with phrases such as “I will…” or “I commit to…” keep you connected with your dream from the beginning.
3. Be Responsible. “I will sign with an agent” and “I will sell my manuscript” are worthy aspirations but they make lousy goals. You cannot take responsibility for making them happen. Which means that you place your ability to reach your goals in the hands of someone else.
Make your goals something you alone can accomplish. Goals such as: “I will research and query 5 agents every month until I sign with one” or “each month, I will identify and contact at least 3 acquisitions editors of publishers in my genre until I have made a sale” mean the responsibility for making them happen is entirely up to you.
4. State Your Steps. Once you have spelled out your Grand Goal, identify the process you will follow to reach it. For instance, if your goal is to write and edit a full-length novel before the end of the year, you might break it into the following 12 monthly steps:
JAN: Outline entire project and begin required research.
FEB: Write the hook, complete required research, create character notes.
MARCH – JULY: Write 20,000 words / month (5,000 words / week) until project is completed (100,000 word total).
AUG: Read and edit first 50,000 words. Solicit criticism on the edited draft.
SEPT: Read and edit final 50,000 words. Solicit criticism on the edited draft.
OCT: Rewrite. Incorporate necessary changes.
NOV: Polish prose until squeaky clean.
DEC: Edit for grammar and punctuation.
5. Know Your Penalty. Determine a suitable act of penance if for any reason you fail to meet your goal. It should be significant enough to motivate you to pursue your dream, but not something that demoralizes or depresses you. It should also be non-negotiable.
For instance, consider donating $100 to your favorite charity every month that you miss completing a “step” or making a $1000 donation at year’s end if the goal remains unmet. That way, even if you don’t do what you’d planned, your quest still holds great meaning and you still get to be a hero.
6. Plan for Success. Set your sights upon a worthy reward for making your goal. A mini-vacation, a night out on the town, signing up for lessons to learn something you’ve always wanted, or a (within reason) shopping spree might be appropriate. The key is to not allow yourself to indulge until your goal is achieved. Then the taste of success is doubly sweet.
So there you have it: start with a specific goal that you have the power to make happen, then devise a step-by-step plan, a penalty for falling short, and a reward for hitting the mark. See? Simple!
Why not take a few moments to share your goals for the following year below? Here’s wishing you every success in your writing endeavors.
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