Friday, February 7, 2020

Setting Writing Goals for the New Year: Three Different Approaches

I'm a goal setter by nature, so I enjoy the chance each new year to look at what I've accomplished in the past twelve months and think about where I'd like to be with my writing in the next twelve.  I've learned not to be too rigid with my writing goals: I don't know what I don't know, after all, and I may need to correct my direction if new ideas or information arrives midcourse.  

First thing in January is traditional for review and goal setting, but it usually takes me until February to really get a sense of what I want for the year.

This year I have a book with an agent, trying to find its home; another that's going to be re-released in a second edition; and a third in revision.  I sat down this week and envisioned what I wanted from each this year. 

But most importantly, I thought carefully about the exact efforts I wanted to put into each project.  How much time and energy.  What resources I'd need. How to promise myself time for it (and keep my promise). 

Here's what I came up with.  Maybe one or more of the approaches will inspire you this week to sit down with your own 2020 writing goals.  

Manuscript in revision:  I see myself finishing revision on this manuscript by year's end (or sooner, if my agent has her way).  I want to have a very strong first 10 chapters to send her by May. That'll be my first goal for this first half of the year. I need feedback regularly to accomplish that.  Which will mean working with the timing and availability of my wonderful writing partner and writing group.  

Goal:  First 10 chapters to agent by May, remaining manuscript revised by end of December.

Steps: It takes me about 3 hours to revise a chapter @ 2500-3000 words.  In my calendar, I  scheduled a time slot each week to cover that plus time to share feedback with my group each month.  Because the topic of the book is about art and an older artist mentoring a younger one, I want to also read to get ideas and inspiration.  

The goal-setting approach for this project is mostly outer work--and dedicating room in my crowded life for it.  It's also about fostering good communication with my writing partner and group.  And finally, it's about allowing myself time to read, to get filled up with other writers who might inspire me and take me in different directions. 

Manuscript being re-released: This book has already come far.  It has its new cover design and new blurbs in place.  The typesetter has sent me the revised interior and my job now is to read through it and proof.

Goals:  I'd like to have this complete and ready to publish by October.

Steps:  If I need to read 300 pages very carefully, that means about 30 pages a month.  It's easier to do in a chunk, so I am setting aside 5 hours a month for this and I'll see how it works.  If the proofing takes too much energy, I'll also consider hiring someone who's better at it than I am.

Manuscript with agent:  My agent is savvy and she says it takes an average of 18 months to sell a manuscript in today's publishing industry.  Of course, there are exceptions!  You may have a solid gold idea that grabs attention right away.  But if you're average, like me, you'll probably have to wait.  My agent asked if I would be willing to wait, and I said yes.   Her bestseller took 5 years to place with a publisher and is still going strong.  I'm not sure about 5 years, but 18 months is OK.

Goals:  Keep alive the vision of my book finding a home.

Steps: Since goals needed with this project are mostly internal (cultivating patience, not pestering the agent for more than monthly updates, trust), I set up steps to reflect this internal space I want to maintain.  I created a sign that sits on my desk, stating my belief that this book will find its home.  I also worked on a collage about my potential readership.  

Deep into thinking about your own new year's writing goals? Check out these resources too:

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