Monday, December 22, 2008

Setting Goals

Pam here. Let’s talk about goals, New Year’s resolutions, whatever you want to call them.

When I set writing-related goals, it’s always about plotting, planning, writing, re-writing, submitting, etc. I don’t say “sell 3 books this year!” which would be wonderful, but that’s not something I can control. Short of a major disaster, I can accomplish the things mentioned above.

And if I meet those goals, then the possibility of “selling 3 books this year” might actually become a reality some day!

Set yearly goals, then break them down into quarterly and/or monthly goals, then weekly or daily goals if need be. But be prepared to go with the flow. If you get a redirection from an editor or agent you do need to be flexible. So if you’re really industrious, you can have more than one set of goals. Now wouldn’t that be fun? Maybe I’ll try that this year!!

I just reviewed my writing goals for last year. My first quarter goals were to send a requested proposal on a second book in a series to an editor and finish the manuscript. However, those goals were set aside when the editor passed on the first book in the series. I moved to my second quarter goals which told me to revise and submit the first book elsewhere, which is what my agent and I did.

Next, I moved to part B of my second quarter goals which was to start another manuscript on a new series while the first book in the other series was making the rounds. This manuscript is now finished and in the final editing stage. So, even though I had to flip my goals around a bit, I did have a plan.

If you get bogged down trying to set goals for the latter part of the year, you can be a bit vague. My goals for the 3rd and 4th quarters for last year simply stated: Third and fourth quarters will depend on what happens in the first two. But if you do this, make sure you go back and set those goals as soon as you find direction in the 1st or 2nd quarter. If you don’t, you might find yourself wasting time trying to decide what to do in the second half of the year.

Setting goals can be a little overwhelming and sometimes we wonder later why we bothered. I think the key is to review your goals periodically throughout the year. Either print them out or make a note on your calendar to look over them every month or so to track your progress. Or, if you prefer, write them on a calendar or an erasable bulletin board. Anything to help you keep track of what you want to accomplish.

And you know the coolest part…the part we often forget to do? At the end of the year, you can mark off all those goals you actually accomplished in your writing. And if you’re like me …ahem… it makes you feel guilty to have NOT accomplished much towards your writing goals so you determine to do better next year.

I didn’t accomplish all my goals for 2008, but I learned a bit about my schedule and when and how I can get things done. Due to my day job which is pretty hectic in the fall and winter, I have more creative energy in the first half of the year, so part of my goals will be to write two rough drafts from January through June. The second half of the year will be devoted to editing those rough drafts. If I stay ahead of task, and get a chance to edit, that will be extra gravy.

So, let’s take the next couple of weeks and work on our goals. Maybe we’ll have a chance to come back and review this topic again after the new year to see how organized we’ve become.

How about you? Did you set goals for 2008? Did you accomplish them? Have you started working on goals for 2009? Any tips you’d like to share?

Remember to:

Set goals that excite you!
Set goals that you can control
Break them down into yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily to-do lists

Happy Goal-setting!


  1. If you'd like a tool for setting your goals, you can use this web application:

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    A mobile version is available too.

  2. Pam -- I'm definitely a goal setter. LOVE to check those things off the list! I think you made a good point about goals being something that you can have some control over. I can QUERY editors, I can QUERY agents, I can ENTER contests--but like you said, you can HOPE to sell a book but that can't be a goal.

    Like you, I have to break my writing goals into increments. I can say overall goal is to "write another book" -- but unless I break that down into planning/research, writing X number of pages per day, etc., it's too intimidating. "Write 500 words a day" is do-able and my mind can get a grasp on that one.

  3. I haven't given much thought to my writing goals other than sort of vaguely "revise Great American Novel."

    But then, if it's 100,000 words and every word is supposed to be a gem ... this is starting to sound like work! (I am work-averse) My other vague idea was "finish short story(ies) and maybe sell one or more."

    Then imagine coming across this about goal-setting. How appropriate!

    Merry Christmas, you all. The coffee pot's on. 100 percent Colombian, medium roast.

  4. Ann, I brought flavored creamers for that coffee...

    Smells great, btw!

    Irish Chocolate Mint creamer and White Choc/Raspberry.

    How could life be bad when God and International Delight provide so much flavor???????



    I'm a firm believer. Pam, this is an excellent time to get a jump-start on those New Year's Resolutions, perfect plotting on your part. The beauty of the holidays will taper into the reality of January snow and we need to hit the deck running.

    I love goals. Love making them. And I'm not afraid to hedge my bets by entering several contests, entering several manuscripts under various genres because only God knows where we belong and when we'll strike paydirt. He's got like the world's greatest vantage point. I firmly believe that we need to set our goals, work toward them, trust his timing (SO HARD SOMETIMES!!!) and persevere.

    'Cause quitters don't win.

    Oh, man. here are some deliciosa carrot cakes for a morning snack. And fresh cream cheese frosting, of course.


  5. Ann and Ruthy, thanks for the carrot cake and coffee, perfect on this freezing morning.

    My writing goals for 2009:

    Write the third sold book. I broke that down to writing five pages five days a week. I try to leave weekends for fun or catching up if I didn't make the goal.

    Spend May promoting the release of the second book, Courting the Doctor's Daughter.

    By the RWA conference have a proposal written for a fourth book. If it sells, write it.

    Sounds simple, doesn't it? Not for me!


  6. Dannielo, thanks for that link. I'll have to look into it further.

    Yeah, Glynna, goals definitely need to be something we can contol. What method do you use to set goals? Word? Excel? A piece of paper? What works for you?

    Yum, Ruthy, pass some of that carrot cake.

    You know, we're talking about setting goals for 2009, but I'd like to see some dialogue about how we met goals in 2008.

    Any takers?

  7. Janet, thanks for giving us your concrete goals. What I like about yours is that the first goal is solid and something you know you have to do since the book's under contract.

    The second goal is more flexible because you might have to change gears based on your editor's needs.

    A perfect example that our goals need to be flexible, whether we're published or unpublished.

  8. I love goal setting. I'm all about lists and crossing things off them. I've already outlined my 2009 goals on my blog, and I love checking back on them and posting updates. It keeps me accountable and on task.

  9. Ooohh, Erica, great idea to post your goals on your blog!

    Nothing like 100 billion people to keep you accountable, huh? lol

  10. My goals for 2009

    1000 words a day five days a week. (I really wish I could improve on that-raise it to 2000--and some days I do but not consistantly)

    Finish three full length books before 2010.

    Always, when something comes from my editor, a revision request or a galley, that comes first. I step out of whatever I'm doing and focus on that and do my level best to meet and surpass any deadlines they give me, then back to the 1000words a day.

    Revise the book due in July 2009 for release in Feb. 2010. It's finished but I always revisit them before I send them in and try to make them shine. In this case, that book is The Husband Tree, one of my favorite ever books I've written so I'd love to make it really explode out of the pages. Very passionate and conflicted hero and heroine in that one.

    Be the best grandma the world has ever seen to my new grandbaby due mid-January.

  11. Great post, Pam! I just looked at my writing goals file, and I don't have a file for 2008! I think I was so blinded by my first book coming out and so into promotion that I let the new year slip by. It's something I usually love to do on New Year's eve.

    Oh, well. I can start fresh this coming year!

    Speaking of flavored creamer... I just tried a new one at a party last night. White Chocolate Coconut! Oh my, it was so rich!

    But my fav is still Sweet Italian Cream!!

  12. Or, make that Italian Sweet Cream. I got my words switched around. :)

  13. Methods, Pam? Usually I start brainstorming on a piece of paper, away from all electronics. :) Then I narrow them down to a reasonable number, break them into "steps" and put them into a table in Word. (A column to check-off, a date of completion column, and one for the goal.) Then I have a calendar "booklet" where I can record the daily accomplishments--how many hours I work and how many words I generate each day. If for some reason I CAN'T write, I always write that down, too, so later I can look back an evaluate if that was a legitimate excuse or one I could have pushed on through for at least a page or more. I don't customarily write on Sundays so I have a day of rest and time with family and to meet other commitments. In 2009 I also plan to schedule occasional "free" days to just PLAY so I have something to reward myself with and look forward to.

  14. Mid-January, Mary! That's soon! You must be so excited.

    I'm not sure what my goals were for 2008, but I think they were probably to work on getting an agent and to finish the book I was writing. And I accomplished both of those, praise God! It seemed like a great year up until the last couple of months, but I won't go there. :-)

    For 2009, the only goal I can really think of is to finish my WIP, which I'm only 24 pages into. After that, I could write a sequel to that book. It's hard to figure out how to plan what to do after that. I might decide to write something completely different.

    My problem in 2008 was that I kept setting goals, something like, write 1,000 words four times a week. Then I would get writers block and just could not write to save my life. That was really hard.

  15. Mary, I've seen you write 3 books a year, so I don't doubt it for a minute!

    Missy, maybe there comes a point that you don't have to set goals on paper. You just know what you have to do. Me, I have to write it all down. Many times when I'm overwhelmed, whether it's my day job, Christmas shopping, or writing, I'll jot down short-term goals and start marking them off the list. Got a list on my desk right now for the old day job. Working through it one item at a time.


    Melanie, I've been there with the writer's block. What worked for me was to go back and dig even deeper into the characters and the plot before my few minutes of writing time.

    When I sat down to write, I knew the location of the scene (ie, the kitchen at dawn), what the internal conflict was (uh...woman terrified of thieves/robbers), the external conflict (I'm winging it here...cute stranger sprawled on her linoleum, been shot), and the resolution...

    which would be what does she DO about it? Does she help him or call the cops.

    I need detailed scene ideas at least 4 or 5 scenes out to keep the momentum flowing. The rest of the book would be plotted in general, but not such minute details.

    It really helped me to keep going.

  16. Great topic for a blog, Pam, and wonderful input from everyone.

    I like the decisive goals Glynna and Mary have. Before the holiday's hit, I was doing about 1000 words an evening. It was great. Hope to pick up again after Christmas.

    The concept of having firm goals for the first and second quarters, then adjust afterward depending on what's needed makes sense to me.

    I find I need to keep a very loose interpretation of goals in mind or else I get overwhelmed. Finish the book is primarily on my mind.

    Over the last couple of years, I've developed a nasty habit of jumping around from mss to mss. Nothing gets finished. Must stop this. So this year, I work on one book until it is done.

    Novel concept : )

  17. Great post. I don't so much set goals as much as I restructure my committments each December for the coming year. This year I pulled out of several responsibilities so I could manage my VP duties for ACFW. I always hate when I have to let something go. But I can't say yes to everything, otherwise my writing and family and God time would suffer.

    I am a huge To-Do-List person though. So I guess that would be considered daily goal setting or weekly or monthly. That's about all the goal-setting I do because I can't control the outcome of many things in my life nor can I count on the year being "normal."

    Something unexpected always seems to come last year I had the wreck with subsequent surgeries. And each year it's been SOMETHING to contend with.

    My goals have simply been to survive. LOL!


  18. oh...and to make a good life for my family and to write the best books I can and to listen to God and obey in everything.

    My house may not always be clean, but my children know they're loved.