Monday, January 10, 2011

Realistic, Challenging Writing Goals

(Personal matters prevented Linda from being able to post her scheduled Writing Tips article this month. In its stead, we hope you'll enjoy this reprint of one of her popular posts - just in time for New Year's resolutions!)

"Reach for the stars, at worst you'll capture the moon."

I don't know who first said that, or even if I quoted it right, but I love the sentiment, the invitation to strive to make your dreams come true. Dreams are achievable for those willing to work for them.

Do you want to grab those stars?

The best way to nab them is to develop a game plan. Here are a two simple steps that will help.

Although the strategy is effective for any dream, if you're visiting this site, chances are you want to be a successful author. First, break your dream down into its components. Each component then becomes a goal.

As an example of goals for writers, consider these:

* Improve your writing skills (an on-going process).
* Write ________ words per day toward a book.
* Finish the manuscript within _______ amount of time.
* Finish your edits within _______ amount of time.
* If you haven't already, research the agents and editors who might be interested in your work.
* Develop the query letters and submission packets according to the requirements of the professionals you've researched.
* Send out your masterpiece to those most likely to help you succeed.

All of us have to factor "real life" into our goal setting. We have to divide our time among the many demands of our families and our obsessive love of writing. Make your goals realistic, but challenging. I'd rather fail to write 5000 words per week, than succeed at a goal of 2000 knowing I could've done better.

In the words of Monte Alkire, champion rodeo team roper and author of the motivational book, Rope Your Dream, "When you choose your goals, you need a clear understanding of whether you are going to try to jump over a picket fence, a clothes line, or a windmill." It's up to you to decide how high a leap each goal will be.

Second, measure your successes. If you want to know whether your writing is improving, enter contests and allow your scores to be your measurement. Join a writing group (I recommend, submit your work for peer review and read the responses. Do they improve with each submission?

If you are in the writing or editing stage, make a chart that shows how many words or chapters you wrote/edited each day. Is your synopsis done? How many editor/agent letters did you write? As Monte says, "What gets measured gets done."

Once you've sent out your query letters, your dream is out of your hands. We long for immediate acceptance; we crave the quandry of determining which eager publisher is offering the best deal for our efforts.

Chances are stronger we'll cry over rejection letters. Wipe away the tears and study the letters. What advice is offered that will make you a better writer? Set new goals based on the advice.

Perhaps you're one of the lucky few whose work was accepted. From here on, you have an entirely different set of goals. Do you have a marketing plan? Have you begun building your platform?

Maybe you've already been published and have a book on the market. You're goals are different, too. Are you contracted to write others? Are you prepared for your book signings and promotional events?

Wherever you are in the process, the dream is the same: to become a successful author. Your idea of success may be to publish the one book that expresses all you wish to convey. You may measure success by contracts, dollar signs, and name recognition. "You know what you want, you set the goal, and you assess the results."-Monte Alkire.

This is where I stand in my dream:

Do you know your dream? Do you have your goals set? Are you achieving them? Write me using the e-mail function on the right sidebar and let me know how you're doing, or just leave a comment below. We can encourage each other.

"Success is up to the individual. No one cares whether we succeed or fail; it's up to us." Monte Alkire, Rope Your Dream.
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