Friday, January 31, 2014

Setting Attainable Goals With Writing

Every year I create a long list of goals I intend to meet with regards to my writing. And every year they are abandoned at some point. Why? They are too broad and set for too long of a period. That does not work well for me. I always end up off track.

This year I am going to try and set smaller goals, more attainable ones that will ultimately lead me to reaching my overall goal.

My overall goal is to find an agent. And while that is a great goal, it's a very vague goal. There are a lot of things that go into making this happen. I need to break down this goal into smaller steps that I will repeat over the course of the next year or more. (Hopefully, only this year. lol) 

For this I created a list of each of my writing projects, where I am in the process of writing them, and what the next step is for each of them. They vary from query process, rewrite the ending, polish, and outline so I can write a rough draft.

Deciding with project to tackle first was easy this time around. I have one manuscript that I have sent in the first ten pages for a critique with an editor at an upcoming conference. I have also decided to rewrite the ending. Therefore, that will be my first project and my completion date is set for two days before the conference, one week from yesterday. Yikes! I better get working.

Here are the steps I used to set my current goals. I will continue to use these steps to create new goals throughout the year.

1) Set Short Term Goals: 
Ask yourself what you need to have in order to find that agent or publisher.
For me it is an agent. And the big thing is I need to have a compelling polished manuscript. While I have two, they have yet to garner anything other than rejections. Maybe that is because I have yet to find the right agent. Maybe it is because I need something better, more compelling.
My Short Term Goal: Rewrite ending for WIP #2.

2) Set a Time Line: 
Ask yourself what you need to do in order to meet your short term goal.
Again I need that manuscript that will catch an agents attention. Right now I have two ready for the query process. One I have decided to rewrite the ending on. So that is my main focus at the moment. The timeline will be easy on this project as I submitted the first ten pages of that particular project to an editor for a critique at a upcoming conference. I have seven days, as of today, to rewrite the ending, which really in this case only consists of four chapters needing to be rewritten. After this is completed, I will switch gears to a different project that needs to be polished for the query stage. That will require a longer timeline to complete.
My Time Line: Six - Seven days. (Realistically I need to add next Friday in as well.) 

3) Set a Schedule: 
Ask yourself how much you can realistically get done in a day. Build in time for off days or the possibility of problems arising.
For me I look at my calendar and assume that while I try to get seven days of writing in, I will probably have two days a week where that is nearly impossible. So my goal is to work five days a week on my writing.
But how much is attainable per day? That is the big question and it completely depends on what stage I am in. When I draft I spend one day a chapter, writing a very messy draft. When I edit for plot it can take a day or two depending on how difficult the chapter is to whip into shape. For polishing I tend to take much longer. I like to spend a good deal of time working on each chapter, making sure everything is perfect. I am thinking with this new project I will be polishing in February I will take two to three days per chapter to make sure it is as good as it can be. With thirty-nine chapters in that project, it will definitely take me a great deal of time.
My Schedule: I have six scenes to rewrite. As I only have six to seven days to complete this task I have decided to rewrite one scene a day. If I have extra time on any given day I will write more. 

4) Keep Track of Progress: 
This is the fun part. At least I think so. Not long ago on Twitter I saw a tweet by the wonderful Victoria Schwab about her calendar trick, and she did a wonderful vlog about it. I have a planner type calendar that I use so I can also write down what project I worked on that day.
My Stickers: I will receive one sticker per scene rewritten. When goal is met I will receive an extra special sticker that day. 

5) Reward System: 
As much of a reward system the calendar stickers are, there also needs to be a reward for completing a project. I like to buy myself something sweet. Especially since I am trying to get into shape, that is a real treat. Sometimes just being able to move onto the next project is reward enough. Having something to look forward to is a great motivation. And eventually reaching the goal of finding an agent and/or publisher is the ultimate reward.
My Reward: I get to have a cupcake! I told you, I'm on a diet, that cupcake will be savored, every last bite. lol

Tell us what your short term goals are, if you have them?

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