Posted in It's Not Just Books, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Ready, Set, Goal

“Writers, it’s getting close to the new year. Do you set goals? Forget dropping pounds. Pound out more words.” James Scott Bell

His tweet is so apropos. Just Tuesday on #kidlitchat people were discussing their 2011 goals and it reminded me that I needed to assess my 2010 writing goals and create 2011 goals. Last year I was fortunate to have a writer friend challenge a group of us to come up with a list of goals and due dates and bring them to a meeting. (Thanks again, Heather!) We learned from each other and revised our goals.

Here’s the general outline of mine, post meeting:
– Don’t read until afternoons – Monday through Friday
– Keep my two completed novels out until someone is willing to represent one of them. I listed novels and had lists of agents I planned to submit to
– Finish rewrites on mg mystery and get it out by end of year
– Complete first draft of YA WIP by certain date
– Complete first draft of boy mg WIP by certain date

– Get pb revised and submitted by certain date
– Submit 2 magazine pieces each month
– Post minimum of 1 article per month
– Post 2-4 book reviews each month

– Make the following changes to my website

I could have added my twice a week writing appointment and my monthly critique group meeting, but those have become engrained through years of habit. I also am an instructor for ICL and have weekly student assignments, but since they come in email and by UPS, they are hard to forget.

The Whys and How My Goals Worked
Email, Twitter
– I’m strongest and best at writing in the morning, so besides a quick check on when/where my writing buddies and I are meeting, I wanted to cut down the time spent on those easier tasks. Not as successful as I’d like, but at least I had the frequent reminder of my goal.

– I’m not a speed novel writer. Probably because I work on too many projects at once. But I know from my years of experience that works for me. Still I thought goals might speed me up and keep me on task.
– I determined one novel needed lots more rewriting, so I quit submitting early in the year. Haven’t gotten to rewriting.
– The second novel kept going out until I heard Deborah Halverson (aka Dear-Editor) talk in LA at the SCBWI conference. Now I’m going through it with her Ultimate Novel Checklist. (If you get a chance to hear her speak, jump on it!)
– Finish rewrites on mg mystery – not done
– Finish two WIPs – neither is done, but I definitely made more progress

Picture Book
– Got it rewritten and sent out. No response. Got professional critique at conference in September and was told I had two stories. Light dawned. Must rewrite. When I get good idea on how best to do so . . .
– In November I got an opportunity to submit a picture book based on a fable on spec to a Korean publisher doing ESL. Wrote, submitted, revised by specifications, got contract. Still working on revisions. Asked to do other projects for them on spec – in progress.

Short Stories, Articles and Blogs
– I’ve been more successful in the past selling short stories and articles than I have in the last five years. If I don’t write and submit, I can’t sell them. I have stories written that have never been submitted. That needs to change.
– I created charts of the months where I recorded the number of submissions/posts in each category. Was I 100% successful in 2010? No. Was I more successful than in 2009? YES!
– I blog on my website for several reasons – it’s a good way to add content, I have things I like to share about writing (they make a great place for me to refer other writers), and I enjoy sharing books I like/love. Oh, yeah, and it’s fun. This one is the most easily measurable. I increased posts by 16 in 2011. Some book posts mentioned multiple books.

This was at the bottom for a reason. I made more pressing changes. Asked for help on harder ones from my computer experts in the family. Some are done and some aren’t.

Was I over optimistic about how much I’d get done in 2010? Unfortunately, yes. Will I continue with goals in 2011? Oh, yes. After revising.

I learned for my Works-in-Progress that I need to make those goals more tangible. For 2011, I plan to list where I am in the novel at the start of the year–probably by word count since chapters get combined or inserted. Each month I plan to see where I am in word count. I think it will point out how much I am progressing or not.

I didn’t write it down, but I also had weekly schedule goals. Usually they were:
Monday – finish up student assignments
Tuesday – write or revise WIPs
Wednesday – get ss and article submissions ready and/or sent out, work on blog posts, do general writing recordkeeping
Thursday – write or revise WIPs
Friday – work on student assignments
This year I think I’ll write those down, too.

Some writers have word or page count goals per day. Others have a goal of finishing a chapter in a certain amount of time. Illustrators might have a number of paintings or sketches to accomplish in a certain time. What matters is to have what in the business world of project management is called a S.M.A.R.T. goal. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. A goal such as “get an agent” isn’t really under your control. A goal of “submit so many queries to agents by this date” is under your control and measurable.

I also think we writers need to be flexible in our goals. Writing a picture book on spec was not one of my goals at the beginning of the year. Revising the two novels yet again were not my goals. But the former resulted in a sale and the latter is going to make them so much better.

Another goal I may include for 2011 is which craft books I plan to read this year. I have this list, but don’t get to many. Writing it down will give me a better chance. I already read some helpful writing magazines and list serves on a regular basis. If you don’t, you might want to put that on your goals list.

So are you ready to set your own goals?
Write them down and share them with someone. Throughout the year share how you each are doing on meeting your goals. Don’t use it as a chance to beat yourself up at what you’ve missed, but an opportunity to encourage yourself to press on.

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