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  • Are any of your goals no longer valid?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.

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: Send Your Writing into the World

Happy Friday, everyone! Juggling about twenty different things today, trying to get them handled before the weekend, so I’m just going to do a hit and run with this week’s Friday Links. I think it’s a pretty inspirational cross section, and I hope that at least one or two make you feel like getting down with your current work in progress, or maybe submitting something for publication. A number of these are geared toward getting that work out the door. Wishing you lots of excellent writing and reading time. Enjoy!

Short Story Challenge – A fun challenge  in three rounds run by NYC Midnight. The first round is coming up fast, so check it out now.

African Game of Thrones? Marlon James Is On It – An interview with the author about his upcoming fantasy series.

12 Contemporary Writers on How They Revise – Tips from a broad range of working writers.

Opportunities for Writers: January and February 2017 – A list of deadlines for submissions, contests, etc.

The British Books Challenge 2017 – A fun, low-volume book challenge for anyone looking to change things up a (little) bit.

Remembering Octavia Butler – An interview with Juno Diaz about the revered sf writer who passed away last year.

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.

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.