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Goal Setting

January 6, 2009

Although I didn’t get any questions about setting goals, I figured I should start here, if only because they’re pretty damn important. Whether you’re three chapters in, finishing up that first book, thinking about querying publishers or agents, looking over the stack of rejection letters you’ve started collecting or are just plain overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, goal setting is key.

I think if I’d taken goal setting a little more seriously when I started out, I may have gotten to this point a little quicker. Almost every writer wants to be that author who nails a three-book deal and impressive advance with their first book. The odds of it happening, however, are pretty slim. That’s one of the reasons it’s important to set goals that you have control over. Setting a goal to earn a contract in the next six months might not be as attainable as saying you’re going to send your manuscript or a partial submission out to ten publishers in the next six months. You actually have control over the latter.

But let’s start from the beginning. Think about where you are in the process right now and then pick a daily(or weekly) goal, a short-term goal and a long-term one. Start out small! There are a lot of things to discourage writers and we can be (and usually are) our own worst enemies. Setting a goal that’s too high and not reaching it will leave you frustrated and finding excuses not to write.

If you’re just starting out then think about what you want to write. A paranormal romance? A romantic suspense? Maybe not even a romance at all. Maybe a novella to start you off (which comes with its own issues) but that’s a later topic. If you’ve finished a project recently, set a goal to deal with revisions. Finished revising? Think about querying publishers. Waiting to hear back from a publisher an/or agent? Start working on that next book.

I’ll give a few examples in a minute, but I’m gonna share my writing goals with y’all first. I’ve had to lower my goals a bit since I’m pregnant (which my muse doesn’t always agree with) and I know a baby is also going to mean less writing time for a while. That said:

Syd’s daily goal: To write 800 words a day.
Syd’s short-term goal: To finish an urban fantasy novella and revise it before the end of January.
Syd’s long-term goal: To turn in 4 new projects to my editor by the end of 09.

Example of an author starting on his/her first book:

Daily goal: Brainstorm plot, characters etc and write 300 words a day.
Short-term Goal: Finish three chapters by the end of January.
Long-term Goal: To have a fully polished book to submit by the end of the year.

Example of an author in the revision stage:
Daily goal: To revise 10 pages a day.
Short-term goal: To have revisions complete by the end of next month.
Long-Term Goal: To query and submit revised book within the next six months.

An author in the querying stage:

Daily goal: To spend 1 hour working on a kickass query letter.
Short-term goal: To send out ten query letters in the next three months.
Long-term goal: To send out another query every time a rejection comes back.

I can’t stress this enough: Set challenging goals you can reach—with a little determination and discipline. If feels waaaay better to reach and surpass those goals than to be constantly missing them. Every writer is different. I used to have a daily word goal of 2000 words. Right now that’s not working for me, so I’ve lowered it significantly. Sometimes that bothers me, especially when I know there are other writers who can do a lot more than 800 words a day. But those writers are not me, and my goals probably aren’t going to work for a lot of other people.

And trust me, the sooner you can figure out what works for you and stop measuring your productivity against another author’s, the happier and more productive you’ll be.

So just to recap:

Set yourself a daily, short-term and long-term goal, be it a word, page or a time goal. Make sure the goals are reasonable, but still challenging. Once you’re consistently reaching and surpassing those goals, then think about increasing them, or lowering them if you’re just missing the mark. And remember that your goals do not have to match another writing friend or author.

So grab a pen and at the top of a piece of paper write, GOALS. Then post it somewhere you’ll see it a lot to keep you motivated.

That’s it for this topic, but with this and any writing subject I ramble on about 🙂 if I mention something that brings to mind another question (or a few *g*) leave a comment. And there is no such thing as asking stupid questions. Starting out I knew squat about writing, but asking questions was the only way I knew how to learn. If the answer to your question is brief, I’ll reply in the comments or let you know I have a longer post on the subject in the works.

Good luck with setting those goals.

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