2017 Writing Goals: First Quarter Check-In

 

With March winding down, it’s a great time to pull out your list of goals for 2017 and see how the reality measures up for this first quarter of the year. Checking in with yourself helps to keep you on track, to remind you of what you want to achieve, to see where your efforts might be falling flat, and also to determine if any part of your goal list needs to be altered. Like many plans, a list of goals works best if you consider it in real time, as a changeable document that can be edited according to how your life shifts, rather than as a rigid to-do list that is set in stone until December 31st.

Start off with just a brief overview of your goals and see where you stand.

  • Which goals have you been working toward as intended?
  • Which goals have you paid less attention to or maybe even not worked on at all?
  • Were there any short-term goals that you’d planned to finish by now that still need work?
  • Are you ahead of your intended progress in any areas?

Sometimes you also need to give yourself a bit of context while assessing your progress toward your goals. It’s possible you’ve fallen behind on one or more of the things you planned to work on this year, but don’t forget to think about why that might be. What’s been going on in your life these first three months of the year, and how has that affected your ability to focus on your goals? Has anything happened that required your attention and shifted your priorities? Time is limited, after all, so if new obligations crop up, you need to find the time to meet them somewhere.

Next, really assess where you want to go with your goals for the rest of the year.

  • Are any of your goals no longer valid? Things you no longer wish to pursue? Cross them off the list.
  • Do you need to restructure any of your larger goals into small, managable parts that you can tackle more easily going forward?
  • Are there any goals you’d like to add on to the list, either to replace things you’ve discarded or because you’ve achieved others?
  • Have you inadvertently set yourself goals that rely too heavily on others and not enough on your own initiative so that you don’t truly have control of the outcome?

That last point is an important thing to consider. The most practical goals rely on you and your efforts — you plan to write at least 5 days a week, you’re going to write and polish your query letter, you’re going to research three potential agents a week. Some goals, however, rely upon the reactions of others for you to achieve them, such as selling a book (an editor needs to make a viable offer), getting representation (an agent you wish to work with needs to sign you on), hitting a best-seller list (a sufficient number of people need to purchase your book). That’s not to say that you shouldn’t want to achieve those things and work toward them, but they aren’t the sort of goals where your efforts are the sole factor. While you know there are steps you can take toward achieving them — sending out query letters, writing the best book you possibly can — those steps by themselves are no guarantee of hitting the goal; a certain amount of luck and timing and the interests of others all come into play.

Regardless of what you discover when you check in with your goals, remember that this is a list you made, of things that you wish to achieve. Don’t beat yourself up over perceived failures or lack of progress. The idea isn’t to serve as your own personal drill sergeant, but rather to provide yourself with a nice roadmap that can help you figure out where you want to take your writing, your career, your life. You’re drawing the map, so feel free to widen the road where there’s a good view, add a couple of small side streets, create a nice open space to make a U-turn if you need to retrench. Then refill your travel mug, grab a snack, and head back out on the road. Happy writing, and enjoy the ride.

Friday Links: Inspiration to Keep Those Writing Goals on Track

TGIF! I’m actually conference-bound this weekend, so this is a down-and-dirty edition of Friday Links before I hit the road. This week my links are a little bit all over the place, but I have the required reading recommendations and some writing inspiration, so I hope everyone finds a couple of things that interest them or set their brain sparking.

Short as this is, I do want to remind you all that the end of March is coming up, and with it, the end of the first quarter of the year. You might want to take a peek back at the goals you set at the start of 2017 and see how things are going. I’ll be revisiting the subject later next week, but the weekend is an excellent time to get a head start.

On that note, I leave you with this week’s links and wish you a wonderful weekend. Happy writing!

On Persistence: The Lessons of a Middle-Aged Debut Novelist – Because not everyone is a prodigy, and it’s never to late to get started.

Fairy and Folk Tale Collections that Aren’t the Brothers Grimm – A nice assortment of alternate tales that give a broader look at the genre.

Study Identities and Social Issues with Iowa’s International Writing Program – Two new free writing courses offered by Iowa’s International Writing Program will start online in May.

Stump the Bookseller – A service that offers up the chance of locating the title of that long lost childhood favorite based on the scantest details.

71 Thousand Hi-Res Historical Maps Available for Free Download – A great archive for research, reference, or inspiration.

How to Write a Short Story and Improve Your Writing Skills – Reasons why trying your had at this short format might be beneficial, plus some excellent tips.

A Journey into the Merriam-Webster Word Factory – For the word-geeks in the audience, a mini tour behind the scenes of the dictionary publisher.

Conference and Course Update

Greetings, all! I know it’s been on the quiet side here, with the exception of Friday Links, and I’m attempting to pull myself out of my reading/editing cave to remedy that a bit. I’m kicking off with a few small announcements today. First, we’re heading into conference season, so I’ve updated my Conference and Travel page with my schedule for the next few months. You can check in there to see what conferences I will be participating in, as well as any I’m simply attending. Please feel free to say hello if you’re going to be at one of these! I love meeting you all.

Next up, I’m pleased to announce that I once more will be teaching my webinar through Writer’s DigestConquer the Dreaded Synopsis: Construct the Ultimate Sales Tool. The course takes place online on June 1st, 2017, at 1pm ET. Please note that if you register ahead, you will receive an email after the live course with a link to a complete replay for your reference, and information on how to submit your synopsis to me for critique. So even if the time is not convenient for you, you might still consider signing up. I have plenty of students who register and take the class after the fact as best suits their schedule and submit their work for critique.

Friday Links: St. Paddy’s Day edition

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all who celebrate, and a very happy Friday, as well. I’ve had a busy week, filled with lots of work and technological challenges, including a weird power outage and a day of spotty internet. You forget sometimes how much we rely on modern conveniences… at least until they go wonky on you. But sometimes the reminder can also be a nudge in a different direction, showing us how much we can accomplish if we unplug a bit and focus on the heart of what we’re trying to accomplish. For those of you wedded to your devices, maybe try taking a notebook and a pen and heading out to get some writing done. And leave the tech at home.

Now to Friday Links! I’ve a nice assortment this week, including a bit of Irish-themed reading for anyone looking for a little something beyond a beer and corned beef to mark the day. Enjoy, and happy writing!

12 Irish-Americans to Read on St. Patrick’s Day – Get a feel for the old country or an Irish take on the new one.

Roxane Gay, Aimee Bender and More on Assault and Harrassment in the Literary World – 11 women writers speak out in conjunction with a recent Tin House essay.

Isaac Asimov Wrote Almost 500 Books in His Lifetime–These Are the Six Ways He Did It – Some great advice on getting the work done, even if you don’t aspire to that level of productivity.

How Working at a Bookstore Changed My Writing Career – Author Jami Attenberg on her time working at Word in Brooklyn, NY.

Why ‘The Outsiders’ Lives On: A Teenage Novel Turns 50 – A look at the perennial top seller and reader favorite.

100 Must-Read Books about the History of Medicine – A really interesting roundup, particularly for anyone doing research or looking for some inspiration.

Friday Links: Pop Culture and the Writer

TGIF! There seems to be a confluence of significant pop culture landmarks today. First, of course, we have the anniversary of Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, which premiered on the WB 20 years ago today. There are a ton of great articles and reminiscences floating around — far more than I could have included here — but I did find a particularly writer-specific one to share in today’s links. But do poke around and see what else is out there if Buffy is your kind of gal.

For those of you in a Marvel state of mind, today is the 100th birthday of Sergeant James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes, faithful sidekick of Captain America, most recently personified by actor Sebastian Stan. There are a lot of birthday wishes for Bucky appearing on Twitter and Tumblr. He looks damn good for 100.

Finally, for the Harry Potter set, today is Remus Lupin’s birthday as well. I believe per the books he would be somewhere in his late 40s. I’ve seen a few posts celebrating Lupin, also. You really have to love fandoms.

So what does my little outburst of geekdom have to do with writing or publishing? There’s a lot to be said for creating characters that encourage this sort of knowledge and acknowledgement, even celebration. What makes them so beloved? Why do readers and viewers feel so connected to them? How did they become so real? Take a look at the source material for any of the above, or for your own favorite successful works, and figure out what really makes those characters tick.

On that note, I offer up a little more pop culture love, plus a nice assortment of other writerly links to help kick off your weekend. Enjoy, and happy writing!

10 Famous Writers on Loving Buffy the Vampire Slayer – A good group of authors offering up a variety of reasons why they love the show.

7 Tips for Spring Cleaning Your Writing Files – Sometimes it’s procrastination, but sometimes it’s just plain necessary. Some helpful advice on getting organized.

How to Develop Relationships with Other Writers – Some excellent tips for finding your writing tribe.

Margaret Atwood on What “The Handmaid’s Tale” Means in the Age of Trump – The author looks at her own work in regards to the current political climate.

Writing Contests in 2017 – A searchable database compiled by the folks at Reedsy. With thanks to Arielle Contreras for the link.

10 Essential Books to Read from Iran – A nice list to help anyone looking to diversify that TBR stack.

 

Friday Links: Forward Motion for Writers

There’s a rumor spring is right around the corner. I, for one, am hoping just to get a bit of time in a puddle of sunshine this weekend. Of course, with spring comes other thoughts. Like spring cleaning. At this moment I’m staring at some really ridiculous piles of books that have no home in my apartment. No shelf space, no table space, no nightstand space; they’re all just stacked up on the floor of my office, with more stacks in the bedroom and the living room. I’m also staring at my goal chart for the year, and thinking that needs a little consideration and revising to get me back on track. Fortunately that’s something I can think about while I’m sorting through my book collection and doing a bit of pruning. Anything to get out of my desk chair and away from the computer screen. It’s time for a bit of movement and a break.

How about you? Anything you’re considering sprucing up this weekend? Something need a fresh coat of paint? Writing goals need a review? Do you have to get some projects off your desk and into someone’s submissions pile? Maybe you just want to head out and refill the well, have fun and generate new ideas. But move. Do something. Get your blood flowing, your brain pumping. All motion is forward motion when it comes to writing. Even a rejection leads you closer to yes.

In the meantime, I’ve some links for you to kick off the weekend. Maybe one of them will spark a great new plan. Enjoy, and hapy writing!

How I Learned to Stop Worrying about the Market and Just Write – One writer’s winding journey through the publishing industry.

12 of the Biggest Bookstores in the World – Something to keep in mind next time you plan a vacation.

‘The Poky Little Puppy’ and His Fellow Little Golden Books Are Turning 75 – A charming look at this delightful children’s collection that has served as an excellent reading foundation for many a generation.

The Oxford American Writers Fellowship: Applications Close March 30 – For anyone looking for an entree into the industry.

Ta-Nehisi Coates on Creating Black Superheroes – The writer discusses his run writing Marvel’s Black Panther comic.

So You Want to Read Alternate History: Here’s Where to Start – Nice list of alternate history titles to get you going or round out your TBR list.

What Happens Next (Or Doesn’t) – Author Marisa Silver discusses plot versus the idea of character-driven narrative.

Friday Links: Get Those Writing Ideas Flowing

This was a short week but a busy one. Between all the rain we’ve had here in SoCal recently (finally!) and all the reading I’ve been doing (all work-related), I feel like I’ve been hibernating like a little bear. But the sun has come out and I have plans to get at least an hour or two of fresh air today before more rain shows up this weekend. But first, I have links for you! Some great book recs, especially if you’re trying to diversify your TBR or get some reads in specifically for Black History Month, some places you might want to submit your work, and even some fun stuff for inspiration. So go read a bit, write a bit, and get those creative juices flowing. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Things Come Together – A wonderful look at some up-and-coming African authors.

Thieves Rappelled into a London Warehouse in Rare Book Heist – Call me crazy, but this had me really excited. Not that I think theft is acceptable, of course, but a tiny piece of me loves the extremes they went to for this job.

The Rumpus Interview with George Saunders – Pretty much as described, on the occasion of the publication of Saunders’s first novel.

8 Highly Unusual Writing Residencies – Not your typical writing getaways.

Opportunities for Writers: March and April 2017 – Upcoming deadlines for writing contests, open submission windows, and so on.

34 Books by Women of Color to Read This Year – A list of some highly anticipated titles you might want to put on your TBR stack.

Storyville: How to Survive a Creative Writing Workshop – Maybe you’re just dipping your toe into this world for the first time, or maybe you’ve had an uncomfortable encounter before. Regardless, these tips will help you maneuver through a workshop so you can get the most possible out of the experience.

Friday Links: Getting Your Writing into the World

Happy Friday! It’s a rainy day here in SoCal, and I’m looking at a long weekend of reading — mostly manuscripts. But last night I took a bit of time out and watched the documentary Finding Vivian Maier (on Netflix), about the nanny whose enormous collection of photography was only discovered after her death. Maier was a talented photographer with a great eye and interesting perspective, and the vast majority of her work consists of street portraits. Fascinating as the documentary was, there was also something sad about seeing such amazing work and knowing that the artist behind it died before receiving any acknowledgement of her talent. Her small efforts at having the work printed up came too late, most everything remained boxed up as negatives, and she never knew the impact her images have had on the public.

All of this is to say, don’t forget to share your writing. Unless you truly have no interest in being read or published, you need to get your work out there. Submit. Join a writing group. Find an open mic night that allows writers to share snippets of their works in progress. Take a workshop. Because doing the work is only part of the equation, and writing needs readers.

And now, on to this week’s Friday Links. It’s a hodgepodge of sorts, but I think there’s something interesting for everyone. Wishing you a wonderful weekend of reading and writing, and I offer you a challenge: Choose one writing-related thing to do next week that will help you get your work out there. Enjoy!

Author Ted Chiang Reveals How Arrival Went from Page to Screen – The author discusses his short story and its road to Hollywood.

Met Museum Makes 375,000 Images Free – Get access to a huge wealth of art and other images now available to use as you see fit.

My Job Writing Custom Erotic Love Letters – How one writer paid the bills after her divorce.

Prairie Schooner Book Prize – Last call — entry deadline March 15th.

7 Tips to Help You Self-Edit Your Novel – From the folks at NaNoWriMo, some advice on how to whip that first (or second or third) draft into shape.

What’s in a Fairytale? 5 Helpful Starting Points – Tips for anyone looking to write their own fairytale-esque work.

100 Must-Read Modern Classics – One person’s list, but it has some great titles on it. Handy reference.

Friday Links: Reading and Writing with a Broader World View

Happy Friday, everyone! This week I’m stepping back and taking a look at the larger scope of the world when it comes to writing and reading. How do recent events affect how we view the world, how we write our stories, how we consider our readers, and how we choose what to read ourselves? We can look back and see clearly how the prevalence of fantasy and darker paranormal seemed to grow up around harder economic times, and that the rise of dystopian literature appears to have been a precursor of the current political climate. So what happens now?

I’m not claiming to be drawing any conclusions with this week’s links, but many do play into this theme and I think it’s something to consider going forward. It’s early days yet, but I’m sure the writings of our time will reflect much of this current turmoil eventually, as well as whatever follows. Food for thought going into the weekend. I wish you lots of excellent time to read and to write, and  hopefully a bit of inspiration. Enjoy!

Fantasy Is about Power: An Interview with Lev Grossman – A talk with the author of The Magicians trilogy, about the books, and about the TV series based on them that just began its second season.

Translation — and Migration — Is the Lifeblood of Culture – A look at how the mix of ideas and cultures from different nations serves to influence and develop imagination everywhere.

On Dracula’s Lost Islandic Sister Text – On this mysterious, altered version of Stoker’s classic work.

“It’s Going to Be Darker. And that’s OK.” Neil Gaiman on Trump, Brexit, and the Death of Social Media – Gaiman discusses the new series based on American Gods and considers what it means to create art in troubled times.

50 Must-Visit Beautiful Bookstores on Six Continents – See the world, buy some books.

Waterstone’s, the UK’s National Bookstore, Came Back from Near-Death by Transforming into Indie, Local Stores – How the new mastermind behind the chain turned the tide, proving it’s still possible to get readers into bookstores.

What’s the Next Big Dystopian Novel? Margaret Atwood Has some Ideas – The author of The Handmaid’s Tale, which has gained new popularity between current politics and the series soon to debut on Hulu, talks dystopian literature and book trends.

How to Escape the Slush Pile: A Self-Editing Checklist for Short Story Writers – Excellent tips, some of which apply to any writing.

Friday Links: Reading and Writing for the Long Winter Haul

Happy Friday, all! Apparently the groundhog saw his shadow yesterday, so we’re looking at six more weeks of winter weather in the northern hemisphere. In homage to that fact, I’ve got a ton of book recommendation links for you all this week, so whatever it looks like outside your window, you have some good reading material to keep you company. I’ll admit I’m doing a lot of reading myself these days, both for work and for pleasure, because I am in need of a good distraction from the insanity of real life, and books have always been that for me.

Of course, I also have some writing opportunities lined up in the links, so do take a look and maybe find yourself a deadline or a new publication to add to your writing goals. It’s always good to stretch your skills; you never know when you might come up with your next brilliant idea. Wishing you all a wonderful, creative weekend. Happy writing!

9 Books by Black Authors You Need on your Black History Month Reading List – Some really great titles, old and newer, to add to your TBR if you haven’t gotten around to them yet.

25 Great Books by Refugees in America – Another timely list of wonderful titles, across a wide range of subjects and genres.

Opportunities for Writers: February and March 2017 – A list of upcoming deadlines for contests, fellowships, publications and so on.

Join the Book Riot February #Riotgrams Instagram Challenge – A fun boookish photo challenge for anyone on Instagram. It kicked off on Feb. 1st, but there’s plenty of time to play catch up as the rules are extremely flexible.

Eimear McBride Is Not Afraid of Cruelty – The author talks about her new book, her thoughts on long descriptions, and her approach to writing.

100 Must-Read Science Fiction and Fantasy Debuts – A huge collection of debut sff books both recent and classic. Fabulous reference for anyone looking to get a great overview of the genre.

17 Books to Read This February – Some great-sounding new releases due out this month that will help the short days and still-long nights fly by.