Friday Links: The Writing Goals Review Edition

Six months down, six months to go. We’re officially halfway through 2017. Have you checked in with your writing goals lately? As we head into the weekend, it’s the perfect time to set aside an hour or so and review the goals you made earlier this year. Figure out if you’re on track, if you’ve veered way off the path, if some of your goals need to be revised because your aspirations have shifted or circumstances make it necessary.

It’s important to have a plan, to know where you want to go with your career. Yes, there’s always room for new ideas and for spontaneous shifts when great opportunities come up, but overall, you should know what you’re aiming to achieve, and the steps you need to take to do so. So look back and see what you’ve done well, and where you’ve fallen down on the job. More than anything, be honest with yourself; don’t beat yourself up for failures, but also acknowledge when you might have worked harder, said no to a few more nights out when you should have been writing, or allowed a shiny idea to lure you away from a work in progress.

Then look forward. Where do you want to be at the end of December? Do you have smaller goals you can finish by summer’s end? By late September? Before the holidays hit? Stagger your self-imposed deadlines and make sure you have some more managable tasks that you can check off your goal list on the road to your more major accomplishments.

As for this week’s links, I like to think everything I dig up has the potential to help you along your path to goal fulfillment. You knw the steps you need to take: read, write, revise, and educate yourself about the writing business. So on the cusp of this long Independence Day weekend here in the U.S., I wish you all the inspiration and motivation you need to meet your goals head-on. Enjoy, and happy writing!

The American Experience in 737 Novels – This resource feels appropriate as we commemorate the birth of our nation.

22 of Your Favorite Writers on What to Read This Summer – Recommendations from some amazing authors.

Deal or No Deal: Why Being a Literary Agent Doesn’t Make it Easier to Write a Book – Some advice from the other side of the desk.

20 Magical Tattoos for 20 Years of Harry Potter – Some fun body art in honor of the Boy Who Lived’s anniversary.

25 Books for Teens Written by Black Women Writers to Rock Your 2017 – A great list to help round out your TBR pile.

M.L. Rio’s 5 Best Novels Inspired by Shakespeare – So many great books take their cues from classics. Here Rio shares some of her favorites based on the works of the Bard.

How to Keep Writing (Even if You Have a Day Job): 5 Tips from Novelist Jennifer Close – Some useful advice to keep the words flowing.

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: Committing to Writing in the New Year

Happy 1st Friday of 2017! I hope the new year has kicked off well for all of you, and that you have plans in place to take the rest of the year by storm. In keeping with my goal of helping you realize those plans, I’ve a nice assortment of links this week that should keep you writing and reading well into the coming months.

I know it’s easy to get bogged down in January by your list of goals and that first flush of the year that has you determined to do more, do better, climb those mountains you’ve put in your own path. But remember that all goals are met one step at a time, and you can only do so much in a day. Be dogged and consistent, of course, as much as you’re able, but don’t forget to give yourself a breather every once in a while. It’s important to pace yourself so you keep your energy up and that momentum going. Commit to progress, but also to taking care of yourself. Good luck, and happy writing!

21 of the Biggest Historical Fiction Releases Coming in 2017 – A somewhat diverse list featuring books from some favorite authors as well as newer ones.

96 Books Science Fiction and Fantasy Editors Can’t Wait for You to Read in 2017 – Huge list of upcoming SFF books, divided by publisher.

The 25 Most Anticipated Books by Women for 2017 – Some really excellent sounding titles here.

How to Start a Story: 9 Tips from Our Editors – The Reedsy blog offers up some wonderful approaches to the start of your story.

7 Writing Resolutions to Finish Your Story This Year – I don’t normally use the word resolution for this type of thing, but these tips will definitely help you hit your goals.

The 27 Best Books on Writing – Not sure if these are actually the 27 best, but there are some fabulous choices here and definitely something to fit every style.

The Great 2017 Book Preview – Every year The Millions kicks off January with a preview of the big books anticipated over the next six months. Some overlap with the above lists, but a huge assortment and well worth checking out (especially if you make use of your local library-hold system).

Residencies for Writers in 2017 – A list of places you can go to immerse yourself in the writing life.

Reading Plans for the New Year

The new year brings its own set of challenges, and for me one is always tackling my goal to read more. Given my job description, “reading more” refers to submissions, comp titles, and books purely for pleasure, and part of the challenge there is finding a good balance between keeping up with work and also discovering what wonderful books have already been let loose on the world.

Last year my personal reading fell a bit short. I had lofty ambitions and got off to an excellent start, but by the end of the year my travel schedule, submission pile, and mood over the turn the country was taking had all joined forces to make it difficult to get really absorbed by a good book. Still, I read a fair number of titles, so I’m not too disappointed with my efforts. Among my favorite reads for the year was Shonda Rhimes’s Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person. I read it early and it remained strongly in my mind throughout the year, even if I didn’t always follow all of its good advice. I’m thinking this is an excellent time for a reread, in fact.

My reading goals for this year are very similar to the ones from last year: Read more works by authors of color, read more works in translation. I’m aiming for 60 titles, which I didn’t quite hit last year, and we’ll see what happens. I kicked off the year with poetry — milk and honey by Rupi Kaur, which I loved — but right now I’ve got my nose back into the submissions pile.

Do you have reading goals for 2017? Anything in particular you’d love to pick up? Maybe a big book you’ve been saving for when things calmed down post-holidays? I’d love to hear what you’re all excited to read.

Friday Links: Out with the Old, In with the New

It’s the last Friday of 2016, so I’ve a selection of forward-looking links for you to help you get started on those new year’s goals. You have been thinking about your goals for 2017, right? If not, check out my tips from Wednesday’s post to help you get started.

I think we call all agree this was an extremely eventful, and in some ways traumatic, year. This past week’s celebrity deaths hit particularly hard; I feel like my childhood is being stripped from me in enormous chunks. But I still plan to kick off 2017 with as much enthusiasm and determination as I can muster. Only we can create a world that helps cushion us from the inevitable heartbreaks of life — one where people can reach for their dreams and live in health, safety, and a measure of achievement. It may feel far off sometimes, but that’s no excuse not to keep pushing in the right direction.

On that note, I offer you some inspiration for the coming year. Best of luck with whatever you strive to accomplish. Happy writing!

Writer’s Digest Shop Sale – There are some great markdowns at the moment on books and webinars to help you with all your writing goals.

Submission Strategies: Advice from a Literary Magazine Editor – Some tips to get your work past those gatekeepers.

67 Best SEO Tips for Bloggers – Strategies for getting more traffic to your blog and website.

The State of Flash Fiction – A look at this very short form of storytelling and how it’s role is developing in the marketplace.

10 Overlooked Books by Women in 2016 – Catch these before the new crop of titles makes your TBR pile fall over.

Anticipated Books of 2017 – Bookriot.com shares the titles they’re looking forward to next year on the All the Books podcast.

Creative Live – Online courses across a wide range of creative fields, including inspiration for writing, marketing and PR, social media, web design, branding, freelancing, and much more. They also have some great sales going on at the moment.

 

Writing Goals: Planning for 2017

The new year is on the horizon, and at this point many people start to draft their new year’s resolutions. If you’ve been around this blog for a while, you know I’m not really a fan of the idea of resolutions. The concept brings to mind vague promises to get thin or save more money, usually broken by sometime in February. What I am a huge fan of, however, is goal setting.

What’s the difference between a resolution and a goal, you ask? For me, making goals is all about setting concrete, measurable achievements to aim for in a specific amount of time, complete with a list of tasks needed to hit them as planned. While I don’t always manage to make all my goals, I find this approach to be much more successful overall than the resolution route.

Begin by aiming high. I like to dream up one or two big things I’d like to accomplish over the course of the year. Things that will take all the way until December. These can often be broken down into smaller, mid-point goals that keep me on track. For instance, if the goal is to sign six new clients, I’d aim for one every 6-8 weeks.

Next, outline some smaller goals. Everyone loves a sense of achievement. It encourages you to keep striving. So think of goals that won’t take anywhere near an entire year to accomplish. Maybe you have a few 30-day goals, and three or four that might take 4-6 months.

Determine what each goal will require of you. For each goal, you need a game plan — a list of tasks you need to perform in order to achieve your end result. These might include doing something entirely new, stepping up your productivity in a certain area, etc. If I go back to my hypothetical goal of six new clients, I might dedicate more time to reading submissions, spend time seeking out likely sounding authors by reading shared work on various online forums, agree to judge some writing contests, etc. Some of the tasks on your list might end up small goals you can check off — like researching a topic for a book, purchasing the domain name for a new author website, or making a list of agents to submit to.

Design your Goal Calendar for 2017. Take a look at your schedule and figure out when you want to tackle the short-term goals from your list. Keep in mind that some small goals should get pushed until later in the year. Don’t try to tackle everything at once on January 1st; that just leads to frustration and fatigue. Consider any travel plans you might have or big work projects that you anticipate keeping you especially busy, and work around them. And remember that your long-term goals will also be taking place across the span of the entire year. If you’ve broken them down into smaller chunks, place those goal due dates on your calendar as well.

There you go! You’ve got your plan for the year and a road map for how to achieve your goals. Of course, it’s not quite as easy as that. You’re going to want to put a little time into planning what your goals are. Consider what you’ve achieved this year, where you’ve hit your targets and where you’ve fallen short, and how that might reflect on your choices for 2017. Plus, remember that all of this is yours to design and to alter as you go. The best plans are flexible. Sure, you should strive to achieve the things you’re aiming for, but be honest with yourself and allow those goals to shift and develop as the year progresses, if circumstances call for it. Life happens, and that means what you want to achieve right now might not be what you want to work toward come September.

Whatever your goals — for writing, for improving your health, for spending more time with your family — this approach will allow you to create a concrete plan for achieving them without becoming overwhelmed or losing sight of your targets. Happy planning, and best of luck for a wonderfully productive 2017.

 

Writing Goals: The Slide to 2017

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We are rapidly heading into the last third of the year, so today is an excellent time to take a few minutes to assess your writing goals and progress for 2016 and to determine just what you’d like to accomplish in these last four months. Whether September represents autumn to you or heading back to school or something else entirely, there’s no denying that it kicks off a busy time of the year, when everything seems to ramp up and it’s a race to get things done before the holidays hit. Every year I know that, once Labor Day weekend arrives, it feels like just a short hop to New Year’s Eve. So I plan. Ruthlessly.

At some point today or tomorrow, dig out that calendar or spreadsheet or list that you used to set your writing goals for 2016. Is there anything you can check off? Anything that no longer seems pertinent to your big picture plans? What progress have you made on longer term goals? Is there something that’s fallen by the wayside you’d like to revisit? It should only take a few minutes to glance through your goals and figure out where you stand.

Now, please don’t beat yourself up if things aren’t going according to schedule. Goal-making should be motivating and inspirational, not send you into a funk. Be reasonable about your efforts and what life has thrown your way, and be honest about whether or not you’ve done the best you can. If you can step things up a little, great. Set that as one of your goals in the coming months. If you’ve been overwhelmed with responsibilities and life’s curve balls, accept that sometimes things happen that force you to take a longer route to your goals, and cut yourself a little slack. Celebrate your successes, then see how you can refocus in the future.

Also, keep in mind that like most things in life, a writing career is not all forward momentum. There will be weeks when you make great leaps in progress and others when it feels like you’re stagnating or even going backwards. Published writers still receive rejection letters. Prize winning authors still write less-than-brilliant books. Not every idea sparkles on the page.

But if you don’t have any idea where you’d like to go, it’s much harder to get there. So once you’ve figured out where you are, take a look around and set yourself a direction. What would you like to get done before January? What’s realistic? What requires a bit of a stretch? How much of this is in your control? Remember to set yourself goals and then determine what steps you need to take to achieve them. You want measurable, actionable things on your list, so you know what to do when you get up in the morning.

Unless you’re starting absolutely from scratch, it shouldn’t take you much more than an hour or so to review your goals and spruce them up for the next four months. Then go write.

Goal Check: How’s Your Progress for 2016?

(c) Can Stock Photo/ Elwynn
(c) Can Stock Photo/ Elwynn

The mid-point of the year approaches, with July only ten days away, which makes it an excellent time to assess the goals you made for the year and see how things are coming along. So find your goal list, journal, computer file, or whatever you used at the start of 2016, and see where things stand.

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve been checking in with your writing ambitions periodically all year, so you should have a pretty good sense of what you would like to achieve, what you have already accomplished, and what might need some tweaking based on life in general. That last one is an important one to remember. Your goals are your own, and only you know which are life-long ambitions set in stone, and which are things that feel more like stepping stones to other goals or perhaps even flights of fancy that struck you as interesting but may no longer work into your big picture. Your goals are malleable. Feel free to alter them if things have changed; add, subtract, change your priorities. Make your goal list work for you.

That doesn’t mean you should let a little frustration or discouragement chase you away from your dreams. Set backs happen, disappointment comes to everyone. Be honest with your assessment. What can you do differently? How can you approach things in a fresh or renewed way that might get you some forward movement with a particularly stubborn goal? Are you putting too much pressure or responsibility on yourself? Remember that sometimes you can only affect your own part of the equation, your efforts. The results might also hinge on someone else’s decisions or needs, so don’t beat yourself up if you’ve been doing your part and not seeing exactly the results you want. Just keep plugging away and have faith that your persistence will eventually get you where you want to go. And don’t forget to celebrate your successes! If you’ve checked off a goal, or made significant progress on something, give yourself a pat on the back in the form of a night out, a day off, a trip to the spa, or whatever will make you happy.

Don’t have a list of goals that you made for 2016? It’s never too late to start. Think about what you’d like to accomplish in the next six months regarding your writing, or any other aspect of your life, and set out some specific targets. Don’t just write down the goal, but add the system you need to put in place in order to achieve it. Want to write daily? Put reminders in your calendar. Have a deadline looming? Breakdown how much you need to write each week and make a point of checking on your progress as you go. It’s not enough to know what you want; you need to know the steps required to get there.

Whatever your goals — writing related, romantic, family-oriented, financial, or anything else — take a few moments to figure out where you are, and what you can do in the next half of 2016 to make your dreams come true. Wishing you luck and success in everything.

 

Friday Links: Recommit to Your Writing Goals

Happy Friday, everyone! And a very happy Easter to those of you celebrating this weekend. I suspect anyone dealing with bunnies and eggs and midnight services might not get a whole lot of writing done over the next few days, but that still leaves a few days on the other side of the weekend to address what I’m going to talk about next, which is the end of the month — and therefore the end of the first quarter of 2016.

Ah, snuck up on you, didn’t it? Kind of hard to believe we’re just about three months into the year, but we are. So I challenge you to take an hour or two between now and April 1st to take a peek at your list of goals for this year and see how you’re doing. On track? Need to recommit? Can you cross anything off? Maybe things have changed and you need to rework one or more goal in light of those changes. Only you can say for certain, but now is the perfect time to make those decisions and figure out where you go from here. And for those of you who didn’t make any writing goals for 2016, it’s never too late to start! We still have nine months ahead of us and it’s amazing how much you can do in that amount of time.

As for this week’s links, I hope they inspire you in your commitment to your goals and maybe help you get them done. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Lynn Steger Strong On Writing Characters Too Nuanced to Be Reduced – An interesting article with some thoughts on making characters deep and true.

Opportunities for Writers: April and May 2016 – A list of fellowships, competitions, etc. where you can submit your writing in the next couple of months.

Before You Blow Up Your Life, Do This – Jonathan Fields on knowing when not to quit your day job.

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon – Sign-ups are now open for this fun readathon scheduled for April 23rd. A great way to set aside some time specifically for catching up with your reading.

The Life of a Book: An Interview with Editor Brant Rumble, Part 1 – The first in a series from Penguin Random House tracing the book’s journey from manuscript to bookstore.

On Terrible Writing Advice from Famous Writers – A humorous reminder to always think for yourself and filter what you hear.

Want to Write for Book Riot? – The bookish site is currently seeking new contributors.

 

Recapturing Momentum: Don’t Let Your New Year Slip Away

Remember that list of writing goals you made at the end of 2015? Is it already starting to feel like a long time ago? In reality, it was probably about two weeks, but time flies when you’re facing the realities of a new year. Your shiny goals tend to get put on the back burner when they come up against your boss’s goals for the new year, or your kid’s flu, or the realization that you have no idea where to put all those books you got with your Christmas gift cards. Whether it’s real life or procrastination or a little bit of both, old habits die hard, and the most stubborn is likely your own inclination to put other things before your own ambitions. But only you can make your writing a priority.

So, I’m here to poke you. Check out that list of goals. Choose something. And do a little bit of work on it today. Whether that means making a point of actually writing, researching an agent, finding a short story contest to enter, or submitting your work to an online magazine. Go for it. One thing, one little step. I dare you to make this year different.