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.

The Struggle for Success: What Are You Willing to Do?

I read an interesting article over the weekend that talked about the difference between asking yourself what you want and asking yourself what pain and struggle you’re willing to endure in order to get it. The first question demands you respond with a result, and we all have very similar results on our wish lists: money, health, love, a nice home, wonderful trips for vacation, and so on. The second question demands you think about what level of effort you’re willing to put forth, what struggle is required, what pain you must endure in order to achieve your goal — and it makes you consider whether you want that thing enough to do the hard work necessary.

At the start of the new year, it’s natural to set goals. I’ve discussed them several times here on the blog leading up to the end of 2015, as well as the importance of planning out the steps you need to take in order to achieve those goals. But we rarely discuss what those steps entail.

Most things don’t come easily. It’s a cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Whether you want to train to run a marathon or write a novel, you’re going to have to put in hours and hours of effort, and say no to the distractions that might mean putting in less of the time your goal demands. And the reality is that you’ll spend far more time in the lead up to your goal than you will enjoying the goal itself. A marathon requires hours of training and at least a few hours to run the day of the event, but the joy and excitement of crossing the finish line will be brief, and the bragging rights you earn will be temporary (unless you want to drive your friends and family crazy). Likewise, writing a novel and getting it published is a long, difficult road, often with frustrating set backs. At the end, you have a beautiful finished book in your hands, but then comes the concern about sales figures and writing the next book and the entire process starts all over again.

Writing, like certain other careers, has this strange illusion of glamour attached to it. But in truth it is a hard job, one that requires a great deal of time and patience, and that, in most cases, yields a very small financial reward. If you don’t enjoy the process at least part of the time, if your primary motivation is that end result, you might want to consider carefully whether you love writing, or if you love the fantasy of having written. I don’t want to discourage anyone who truly wishes to write; the world would be a smaller, sadder place without all the stories being written each year. But I also want people to find their truest dreams to follow, the ones that light them up every step of the way. Whether that is writing for you or some other thing you’ve yet to discover, I wish you a fascinating and successful journey.

Still here? Then go write.

Reading Wrap Up for 2015

I started this year with a number of reading-related goals, among them to read more published books (as opposed to manuscripts) than I have been managing recently, to read more diversely, and to try my hand at a number of reading challenges I’d found around the internet, one of which in particular focused on reading books you’ve had sitting on your bookshelves for a year or more instead of endlessly buying new ones. As it’s the last day of the year, it’s time to see how I’ve done.

In terms of reading more, I certainly managed that one. I’m one book shy of hitting my goal for the Goodreads Challenge, and I’m nearly finished with my current read, so I can safely say that’s one goal met. In terms of diversity, 63% of the books I read were by women, with the remaining 37% by men, and that’s about on par for me in terms of gender split, falling a little more heavily on the women-writers side than last year, but then I tend to read more women than men by default. As for writers of color, they accounted for 30% of this year’s reading, up slightly from last year’s 25%. It’s not a bad number, but I’d still like to raise it, so that’s a goal that will carry on into 2016.

As for the other challenges I took on, I failed pretty abysmally, indicating that perhaps given the small amount of time I have for personal reading, I should focus on fewer goals rather than spreading myself thin trying to find ways to read things that count for more than one challenge. So I’m sticking to my basic reading goals for the coming year: Read more books, read more diversely, and try not to buy quite so many new books when I have so many waiting for me at home already. I’d also like to read more books in translation, but I feel that dovetails nicely with my goal to diversify.

I’m happy to say I read some really wonderful books this year. I could probably go on for ages extolling the virtues of a few of the titles in particular, but instead I’m just going to list a few favorites, in no particular order. Please note that these books are all personal reads; none of the authors are clients.

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I’d love to hear what books have made an impression on you this year. New favorites? Recommendations? Or were there any books that were a true disappointment? Feel free to share your bookish thoughts in comments. I look forward to hearing what had you excited in 2015, and wish you all the best for a wonderful new year of reading and writing!