Writing has become such an integral part of my life. Reading, doing writing exercises, discussing writing tips with critique partners, querying, writing and editing chapters of novels in progress and flash fiction… all of it has blossomed but at the same time, I find myself distracted and unorganized. I’ve been joining book blogging groups, signed up for email subscriptions, and I just find myself surrounded by massive amounts of interesting information I want to absorb. However, I still have my goals, and if I read articles all day or chat with my critique group about the latest prose tips, I’m not going to get anywhere. That’s why I got organized, and you can too!
1) Make Tangible Goals
When people make writing goals, I think they mistakenly make goals like “write a book” or “land an agent.”
Writing a book is a vague goal. Does that mean write a first draft that won’t be publishable? When is this goal going to be completed? There’s no target date, so what will make you keep it? Making a smaller goal such as “write an Outline by the end of the month” or “Write 1 chapter a week” will help you actually reach that finish line. And don’t underestimate making goals for revision. You can make short term goals to exchange chapters with a critique partner, or find 5 beta readers. After you receive feedback, you can make short term goals of making a sweeping edit for targeted features such as character development, plot structure, or if you’re at the end of the finish line, prose. Make sure any short term goal you create is specific, and has a deadline.
As for a goal of “land an agent,” that isn’t something you actually have control over. You can, however, control how well polished your manuscript is before you begin to submit. You can also control how well you research your genre, target audience, and potential agents. You can control how many agents to which you submit, and how much time you spend on a query letter. Form your goals around these specifics and write them down.
2) Prioritize Your Goals (Weekly Tasks)
I have short term and long term goals which I keep in a notebook. But given how easily distracted I’ve become by doing “writerly things” but not actually achieving my goals, I’ve recently started getting my act together with a weekly set of repeating tasks. This has immensely helped me avoid distractions and stay focused.
This is a picture of a simple whiteboard I got for my fridge with 7 tasks listed on the side. Each day I will make sure to do one of the tasks and mark it off on the left side of the board.
You may have your own list of weekly tasks, but for an example I’ll go through mine.
Task 1: Flash edit & Sub: I am currently submitting to literary magazines for flash fiction stories. I’ve become a Patron of one of my favorites, which also gave me a cheap rate for DuoTrope: the best search engine for literary markets. If I’ve learned anything about Flash, it’s that I need to keep writing and keep submitting. That’s why it’s become one of my weekly tasks.
Task 2: 1 Chapter Wattpad – Write one chapter for a wattpad story I’m working on. This is more for fun than anything. It’s nice to write something I know doesn’t need to have rules or be polished, because it’s a free story. It’s therapeutic not to have to worry about the stiff requirements for a publishable novel but still get to interact with readers.
Task 3: Write or Edit 1 Chapter Sanctuary – This novel is undergoing a rewrite. I’m about 40k words in… and each chapter is 2~3k words, with a final word count target of 80k words. A ways to go! But with my weekly goal, I should finish the new draft in 4 months. It’s empowering to know the specific date I will have a completed draft!
Task 4: Fallen to Grace, Research 3 Agents and submit if appropriate. The querying process is lengthy, and I may research 50 agents and not submit to any of them. It depends if I feel my work matches their interests. I can’t control if an agent will take me on, but I can persevere in my search.
5. Read a Book (50+ pages) – Part of being a writer is READING! I usually read every day, but I make a point to have one day of the week dedicating to reading. I’ve begun reading so much that I’m considering a Kindle. Mostly because one of my critique buddies bought a Paperwhite and raved how much she loves it. I hear the next generation is being announced next week! So I’m sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to hear all about it. I’ll let you know
if when I get one. 🙂
6. Write 1 Flash for Website and Create Cover – I post a flash piece on this blog bi-weekly, and will eventually self-publish the collection. (If you like my covers, I have this post to explain how I make them without spending a dime.) If I write 1 flash a week, I should have enough stories ready for an anthology before I know it! And yes, that means the flash shared on this website are only half of the stories will be included in the anthology.
7. Critique – I am an extremely active member of Scribophile. I have formed some awesome critique partner and group relationships through this site. As a weekly commitment, I work with roughly 10~15 critique partners. This has been vital to my development as a writer. I think the biggest thing for me has been to realize the massive supportive community that exists, and writing isn’t an isolating experience. Quite the opposite.
You might have noticed that on my picture “Friday” has a dash. It’s okay if you can’t get to each task for the week, or even skip a day. What happens with weekly goals is you’ll naturally do the tasks most important to you early in the week. So if you wind up missing tasks, they’ll be ones that are the least important. Natural prioritizing!
Side note, this weekly task list has helped me to be so productive that I’m considering getting more whiteboards for tasks such as cooking, exercise, and house chores. Actually, now that I think of it, I’m pretty sure this is how my mom got me to do my chores as a child… maybe that’s where I got the idea! … Thanks, Mom!
3) Reward Completed Goals and Milestones, Especially Rejection
Keep track of your goals and make a point to recognize when you complete them. Did you just finish your first draft of a manuscript? Go celebrate! Buy yourself your favorite chocolates or go to the movies with your significant other. Do something special to mark the occasion.
This goes for rejections as well. Especially if you submit short stories to literary magazines, you’re going to rack up A LOT of rejections. Once you hit 50, 100, 200… those milestones should be cause for celebration. It is admirable to recognize your persistence and reward yourself for the effort you’ve gone through to make your dreams come true. Perseverance is the secret to success, and you should pat yourself on the back when you reach milestones which demonstrate this quality. A lot of people can’t handle rejection, and will simply give up. But not you. You’re awesome, and you should recognize that fact. Every rejection will make that moment of success that much sweeter. You’ll have earned it!
Has this post inspired you to make weekly goals? Share them in the comments! I’d love to hear how productive you are.