Goal Setting for the New Year Ahead

Most years, I start discussing goals for the new year a few weeks before the end of December. I advocate for taking time to review the year you’ve just gone through to see where things stand. Have you written as much as you’d like? Did you make more progress or less than you wanted? What needs finishing? Improving? Where do you need to just keep up the good work? You need to know where you stand to figure out where you want to go.

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

As with all things, 2020 proves the exception. I still think it’s important to take stock of your current writing progress, but looking back over the year is a personal decision. For many of you, it’s better to just plow forward because it’s been a year of frustration and lost focus. If you’ve achieved your goals for 2020, kudos! But many, many people will have fallen short. Don’t beat yourself up. We’re living through extraordinary times and it’s important to be kind to yourself.

So what does this mean for 2021? New years deserve new goals. I’m not a huge resolution person, as many of you might know. I feel like the expectations are huge and the follow-through unlikely. Goals come at any part of the year, however, and you can always add to them or adjust them based on circumstances. Consider them guideposts for your writing plans.

Setting Goals for 2021

By all means, take a day or so to think about what goals you’d like to set for your writing next year. Make them measurable, and things you can control, especially after this past year. Don’t say “I’m going to get an agent,” because you only control part of that scenario. Instead, plan to complete the steps required. A series of goals related to finding an agent might include:

  • Finish writing manuscript.
  • Revise/edit manuscript until it’s ready to submit.
  • Research agents and agencies (to see who reps your type of writing and who might be interested in your work).
  • Write a synopsis and a query letter.

Those are all manageable steps, things you can check off your to-do list and call completed. Finishing a manuscript takes far more time than writing a query letter, so it would be a larger goal. You might research agents in small bursts over several weeks. Revising requires more time, especially if you plan to let a manuscript sit until you have a fresh perspective.

Wherever you are in your writing journey, from newbie to pro, I recommend setting a few goals of different sizes and then estimating when you might reasonably finish them. A big goal might take all year, but smaller ones might be complete in a couple of months or so. Set them up on a calendar, and stagger some of those smaller projects. For instance, you might have a major goal that runs until December, as well as a medium one that runs January to June and a smaller one from July to September.

Making Allowances for Life

2020 won’t be the only year to mess with you careful planning. Consider your typical year and allow more time during periods where you get busy or have other responsibilities, whether to a day job or family. If the December holidays are usually packed with chores and family gatherings, you might aim to finish a larger goal in mid-November so you don’t feel the pinch for time. But keep in mind, you can also tweak your timelines based on your life and what comes up. Stay flexible. They’re your goals; unless you have a publishing deadline or something similar tied to your goal, you’re the only one who can say when and how it needs to be done. Don’t let yourself off the hook for every tiny detour, but don’t beat yourself up if you honestly need to alter your original schedule.

Finally, remember to write your goals down somewhere you’ll see them often, and keep them fresh in your mind. Review them at the end of each month or quarter to assess your progress and see what needs to be updated. If you’re ahead of schedule, you might wish to add a new goal at some point during the year. And always find at least some little way of congratulating or rewarding yourself when you hit one of those goals. Achievement should be celebrated.

Year-End Reflections: 2019

I planned to tackle all sorts of end-of-year chores today, but instead I lay on the couch and contemplated the year. I blame this in part on nearly six hours of delays (across two flights) coming back to LA yesterday. It was extremely late when I walked in my door. The rest I blame on the state of my back, which I wrenched just prior to said adventures in air travel. The past day encompassed much of my year: forward momentum accompanied by pain and frustration.

Lately I’ve found it difficult to separate my personal goals and experiences from my world view. Politics bleeds all over everything. And while there’s plenty of progress being made, it is, as ever, nonlinear. The level of hatred and vitriol coloring social media, news reports, public events and more private interactions concerns me. There seems to be so much less harmony, understanding, compromise. No one listens; they just scream out their side of the situation. Nothing escalates gradually. We are full throttle, at war, all the time. And that’s exhausting.

The reality of the world means I can’t afford to disengage with what’s happening out there. It’s too important. But self-interest demands that I pull back to a certain extent. Getting angry over every injustice solves nothing; I need to pick my battles. Obviously, the upcoming presidential election is foremost on my mind. But that means being informed about the candidates, not tracking every upsetting thing Tweeted by our current president. Instead, I plan to focus on issues closer to home; my aging parents and their needs, my friends, my clients, promoting diversity and fair treatment in the publishing industry, my concern over climate change, my personal health, and a few other goals for the year.

It’s been years since I boiled down my life into very distinct categories, but I think it’s time for me to do so again. The older I get, the more aware I am that time moves far faster than we realize. It’s the old adage about the days being long while the years are short. I don’t want to waste time and energy being angry over things I can’t control or that won’t matter in a few weeks. It’s important to narrow my focus, and segment my time accordingly. That means dividing things into boxes: myself, my immediate circle (friends and family), my personal community, my business community, and a worldwide view. I’ll be slotting my goals into each specific box and going from there. And no one box is allowed to overwhelm my life.

Most years my goals involve specific tasks, things I want to achieve, and I’ll be coming up with a few of those, too. But my primary goal is to improve my outlook–my quality of life. Because without that change, I’ll continue to struggle with all my other goals.

How does your big picture look? Are you laying the foundations for any major changes in 2020? I’d love to hear what you’re up to.

 

 

 

Setting Writing Goals for 2019

Setting writing goals at the end of December helps you get the new year off the a great start. Resolutions get a bad rap. Everyone knows how fast they fall by the wayside. But goals? Those can be set at any time. I just happen to like setting new ones at the beginning of the year.

Setting writing goals for 2019

Before you set your new goals, think about this year’s writing. Maybe you’re coming off of NaNoWriMo and my December Writing Challenge and want to keep that momentum. Maybe you’ve finished drafting a novel and need to revise. Do you feel ready to shop a project to agents? Are you just starting out and hoping to finish a first manuscript? Your recent progress and writing habits help set the stage for your next steps.

Don’t just consider one side of your writing. Some things will be going well, others will have frustrated you. Take in the entire picture. Consider what writing habits need rethinking, and which work for you. Did you set goals for 2018? Be sure to review those. See what you accomplished and take a minute to pat yourself on the back. Are there any goals you didn’t meet? Some may still apply while others may have changed over the year.

Once you’ve got a good idea of where your writing stands now, it’s time to look forward. Goals should challenge you, but you should also be able to achieve them. Overwhelming yourself might result in you giving up, but going easy won’t necessarily help you progress.

Tips for Setting Writing Goals:

Choose several goals of varying size and difficulty. The smaller goals will be easier to achieve and provide a sense of accomplishment, while the larger ones will keep you moving forward all year.

Stagger the dates when you aim to achieve your goals. You might have one or two large goals that you plan to complete by the end of the year. A few medium sized goals might take you only six months, while small goals might need one month or three months, depending on their difficulty. You can stagger the start dates, too, so that one small goal starts when an earlier one has been finished.

Consider goals that escalate. For instance, if you finish goal #1 – Revise your manuscript for submission, you’ll be ready for goal #2 – Research literary agents.

Take on goals that you can control. Some things regarding your career will be at least somewhat out of your hands. You might want to sell your first book to a traditional publishing house in 2019, but part of that relies on editors. Make your goals things that involve your actions only, such as querying a specific number of agents, writing a certain number of words per day or per week, or taking a good class to help you improve your writing.

Keeping Your Goals

Once you’ve set your goals, and the dates you aim to complete them, consider what actions you need to take. Write down a few steps required to achieve each goal. I like to keep a spreadsheet for my goals each year, so I can see my action plan at a glance. You might prefer a chart on your bulletin board or something in your planner. I recommend putting reminders in a few places, so you see something goal-related every day. You might also set some more formal reminders in your calendar app so something pops up periodically. Whatever keeps you focused.

Finally, schedule a quarterly check-in on your goals. Plan to review your goal list at the end of March, June, September, and December. This enables you to see your progress. Maybe you’ve finished something early and can start another goal sooner than planned. Maybe something needs a later date because of unforseen circumstances. You can also adjust your goals if you need to do so. Remember, you set the goals, so you can do what you want with them. Add, subtract, rearrange. Consider them a tool to get you where you wish to go. Good luck setting writing goals and achieving them, and with all you do in the year to come.

December Writing Challenge: Wrap Up

It’s December 31st, the final day of 2012 and the last day of my Writing Challenge for the month. How did you do? Have you written every day? Did you take your two freebie days off, or did you discover you didn’t need them? Do you feel like you accomplished more than you might have without the structure of this informal challenge? I’d love to hear your reactions, so please share.

Meanwhile, it’s time to gear up for a new year! 2013 is just hours away (for some of you maybe even here already), with all the promise of a fresh start. If you’ve been writing this month, through the challenge or just on your own, you are in a good place to charge into the new year and attack your writing goals.

If you haven’t made a few writing goals for 2013, there’s still time to do so. Where would you like to take your writing in the next twelve months? Do you dream of finishing a manuscript? Getting an agent or a book contract? Trying your hand at a new genre or market? Be sure to challenge yourself, but also make sure you have a few goals you’re pretty sure you can achieve. A nice mix will enable you to feel a sense of accomplishment, even as you strive to reach the next mile marker. Break your goals up by month, so you have something to work for on a daily basis, instead of tackling a single, long-term project over the entire year. You’ll be less likely to get overwhelmed, or discouraged. Every day counts, even if you just write for fifteen minutes. Those words add up fast.

Whatever your dreams for 2013, be they writing related or just for life in general, I wish you all manners of success. Enjoy!

Gearing Up

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you all enjoyed the holidays and are energized for 2012. I’ll admit to feeling a little sluggish when I got up this morning, but since then there’s been a four-mile run, coffee, and an e-mail from the office letting me know my sales figures for 2011 (much higher than for 2010). That combination seems to have been the magic carrot required to help me hit the ground running.

Given that it’s a short week, my plans include digging out from all the holiday e-mail, touching base with a few clients, reading one or two things that filtered in from them over the past couple of weeks, and tackling the ongoing submissions pile up. Basically, a lot of desk work, but I’m excited to read some great new client projects and to — I hope — discover some wonderful new writers in my crowded inbox.

Many of you participated in last month’s writing challenge here. I’d still love to hear how it went for you, so feel free to leave a comment here, or at my year-end post. I’ll leave you to work at your own paces in January, but come February I hope to have a new, fun challenge to get your juices flowing, so be on the lookout.

So what are your plans for this week? For the new year? Any writing goals that have you excited? Fabulous books you’re dying to read? Love to know what you’re all up to for 2012. Meanwhile, have a great day and happy writing!

As the Year Fades to Memory

The last day of 2011. I must say, I found it a pretty decent year overall, certainly a far better one than its predecessor, at least as far as my life was concerned. Left plenty of room for improvement, of course, but then nothing is perfect.

I’m not one for resolutions. Those lists seem more designed to court failure than to encourage success. That doesn’t mean I don’t plan for the future, but it’s more along the lines of a business plan, with goals for each quarter and set dates where I reassess my progress, and I take into account both work and my personal life.

As always, I have lists of things left undone, or that I wish I’d done more of over the course of the year. Naturally I wish I’d read more books, but that’s a pretty constant wish, regardless of how many books I manage. I’d have liked to have taken a real vacation instead of snatched days or long weekends, so that’s something on the to-do list for the year ahead.

Thinking about highlights of this year, I attended some fabulous conferences, including the Santa Barbara Writers Conference for the first time, and the Surrey International Writers Conference for the third. The RWA National Conference was in New York City this year, which was a terrific, busy and hectic experience. I met some wonderful writers, both published and unpublished. I signed some lovely new clients. On a personal level, I lost some weight and ran my first 5K. Good friends had a baby, and another friend got married and is now expecting. And — big surprise — I read some fabulous books.

This blog saw a move from Live Journal to its new home here on Word Press, and I think it’s been a good change. Thanks to everyone who made the move with me, and to those of you who have stumbled my way since. I hope you find these posts fun and informative, and that I am helping to encourage your progress as writers and readers, and to make agents seem a bit more approachable. We’re really just people who love reading books so much that we found a way to get paid to do it.

A final congratulations to those of you who have taken my December writing challenge. I’d love to hear how it went, whether you managed to write 29 out of the 31 days or less (or more!). Please share your experiences here in the comments. And those of you who didn’t participate, please feel free to chime in and offer your congratulations to all the ambitious writers.

Wishing you all a wonderful, productive, and joyous 2012! See you in the new year.