How to set achievable writing goals for 2014

A new year dawns and brings with it inspiration, courage and determination, triggering many writers to set their writing goals or resolutions.

writing goals for 2014

There’s always been something magical about passing from one year to the next, a kind of promise that we can start afresh, or get one step closer to reaching our dreams. Somehow we’ll be wiser, kinder, faster, thinner, richer and more successful. January 1st offers hope.

Dreams inspire us and hope keeps us going, but the only way to achieve your writing goals in 2014 is to plan ahead. So how do you make the most of this burst of new year inspiration? Here’s some tips:

Know your writing goals

You’re unlikely to hit a target without knowing where it is. I want to be a successful writer is a fine dream, but it’s not a goal unless you know what you mean by successful, and you have a plan to reach that point. Achievable goals follow a clear path.

  1. Identify your long-term writing goals. This is easy. Do you want to be a published author? Do you want to be a best-selling author? Or perhaps you want to make enough money for a new house. There is no right or wrong dream for your future, it’s your life, what do you want from it? Write a short passage describing your idea of a successful future, what does it look like? Before you plan your yearly goals or resolutions, you need to know where you’re hoping those achievements will take you.
  2. What steps can you take in 2014? What areas of your writing career can you work on this year? Perhaps you need to sharpen an aspect of your writing, network with professionals in the writing industry, promote yourself, submit to editors or be more productive? You need to be honest with yourself if you want to move forward–there’s no point planning to submit more short stories, or market yourself, if you are not producing any writing products. If you make excuses to avoid writing every day, make a word count or minimum time to write part of your writing goals.
  3. Cull your goal list. This is the hardest part for many writers, including myself. Be realistic. You can’t do it all. Even if writing is your full-time profession, there will be other ares of your life that require attention such as family, health, finances, hobbies, and so on. If you have twenty writing goals on your list, are you really going to be able to achieve them in just twelve months? A goal list should be challenging but now stressfully exhausting. Try choosing a theme for your year, such as educating yourself, promoting your writing, submitting your work or focus on one novel from draft to releasing your novel. My theme for 2014 is ‘distribution’. I’ll be finding ways to make my work more accessible to readers through online platforms, bookstores, libraries, schools, and other markets. My writing goals will prioritise those issues, but of course I’ll still be writing, editing, learning and networking. You don’t give up the other areas of writing, instead you’ll focus and prioritise one aspect of your writing to help you get closer to reaching your long-term writing goals.
  4. Measure your progress. Goals need time-frames, or they become easily forgotten. If you say, ‘By the end of December 2014, I shall have submitted twenty-four short stories’, you’ll probably find come December you still have twenty-three left to submit. If you want to submit twenty-four stories, perhaps you could plan to submit one story every fortnight, or two stories at the start of each month, leaving the rest of the month to focus on writing more stories. Keep a chart of your progress, or a journal to acknowledge each time you stick to your writing goals. The great thing about measuring your goals is that there is no real failure. If you only ended up submitting twelve short stories over the year, and it was eleven more than you submitted the year before, that’s still a win.
  5. Remind yourself to achieve. Don’t leave your goal to manifest itself, remind yourself to work on it every day. Here’s some ways to trigger your focus:
    1. Keep an inspiration board by your desk.
    2. Set your writing goals as your screensaver.
    3. Put lists or pictures of your goals on the fridge and anywhere else you will see them.
    4. Write affirmations and say them aloud each morning.
    5. Add at least one step to your goal to each day’s ‘to-do’ list.
    6. Seek support from friends and family.
  6. Eliminate excuses. Of course you’ll have some failures, there’ll be days when you can’t be bothered and it will will always seem that this week is an inconvenient time to begin. Be kind to yourself when you fail, pick yourself up and move on. But do it now, not when ‘the timing is better’.

Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.

Napoleon Hill

I won’t say ‘good luck’ with your goals, because it won’t come down to luck–it all depends on you, and I know you can do it! I’ll let you know how I go with my plans to increase distribution and will share my learnings along the way. I’m excited about 2014! Are you?

21 Easy Ways to Make Time to Write

If you tried the activity in the last post: Finding Time to Write – without the guilt, you’ll have worked out what you would LIKE to be doing with your time. Perhaps it was cooking, travelling or maybe, like me, you wanted to make time to write.

It can be a difficult process to move from goal to action. Listed below are many strategies you can implement to write more often. Choose the ones that will work for you.

Ways to Make Time to Write

  1. LOVE your WIP. Seriously, this is the best way to make time to write. Your passion will drive you to the pages every chance you get. What if you’ve gone luke warm on your novel? Start thinking about your core message again. What you were trying to convey? Get excited about sharing that message.
  2. get your novel writtenPRIORITISE. Stop thinking you need to find ‘spare’ time to write. There is no spare time, everyday only has the same 24 hrs. Start deciding to write before you take on daily chores – this is why it’s called make time to write.
  3. MORE HOURS. You could get up half an hour earlier, or go to bed half an hour later – or both! If you do a half hour sprint you could easily add 300-500 words to your manuscript each day.
  4. NOTEBOOKS. Take one with you everywhere, you’ll be amazed how many words will add up when you add a few on the bus, waiting in line at the supermarket or sitting in the pub waiting for your mate to get back from the bar. There’s also something about scrawling words across the page that can help you to fall in love with your manuscript and be motivated to make time to write again. Tech freaks – yes, you can get an app for that.
  5. DON’T COMPARE. It doesn’t matter how many words another writer is reaching. Comparing your achievements to others can lead to disappointment.
  6. MINIMUM LIMITS. What if you just aimed to write ONE good sentence today? By having a small, achievable goal, you’ll meet your target; of course once you get that one sentence, you’ll be motivated to write more.
  7. REWARD. Have celebrations and rewards for each milestone, reaching your daily word-count, finishing a chapter or reaching the end of a draft. Acknowledge your progress and treat yourself.
  8. BETWEEN TASKS. Whether you are at work on a huge business project, or at home cleaning up, work on your usual daily tasks by breaking them into chunks. By working in, say 20 minute bites, you’ll be a lot more focused and productive. In between those 20 minute routines, have a ten minute break. You could use that time to write in sprints.
  9. WORD QUOTA. Set a daily minimum word quota (500 seems to be popular). Keep a note of your highest number of words too, you HAVE to reach your minimum, but you might feel like aiming for a high-score some days.
  10. GET OFF THE INTERNET. Don’t just ‘say’ you’ll ignore it. No Facebook, emails, Farmville, Twitter or blog-visiting until your writing quota is DONE. If you can’t resist temptation, turn off the computer and use a notebook and pen.
  11. BE ACCOUNTABLE.Make an appointment with writing friends or join a critique group. This way you’ll have to produce something to share with them by your scheduled date.
  12. SPRINT. Give yourself  small block of time to sit and write as fast as you can, if you can carve out one hour per day you could get a scene or 1,000 words added to your story.
  13. PROMPT. There are thousands of prompts available online or in writing texts. You can use short writing exercises to warm you up before hitting your manuscript, or try completing the prompts focused on your characters and you may be able to insert your results right into your story!
  14. CHALLENGE yourself. Each day record your word-count. Instead of setting a minimum word count, your goal is to merely beat yesterday’s high-score. When you ‘win’, put your word-count up on your whiteboard (what? you DON’T have a whiteboard? Fine, put it on a piece of paper and stick it up on the fridge), and  maybe bake some cookies. I like cookies.
  15. RANSOM. Hold your day to ransom. Write first. The house is a mess, and you better get onto it or you are a bad parent/wife/neighbour (not really), but … you are not allowed to put those dishes away until you’ve done a ten minute writing stint or you’ve written one page. This method works well to motivate you to work quickly, especially if you have visitors due to drop in.
  16. DREAM. Record your dreams. They may not seem relevant but there is usually a spark of an idea that can be merged into your WIP.
  17. SLEEPY WRITE. Last thing at night, in bed, before you nod off, grab your notebook and pen and scrawl down your thoughts and ideas. There are some who swear this is when we get our best ideas.
  18. PLOT. When you find it really hard to make time to write, try just plotting out your story in your head while you complete menial tasks. You can mull over particular problems in your story. You’ll be motivated to get to the computer to record your progress with your story’s plot.
  19. Make time to write

    This gorgeous image by: Pascal Maramis
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/pascalmaramis/

    SCHEDULE. Some people write well late at night, others, like myself, do better early in the morning; maybe you’re more focused after lunch? Find your own natural flow; make time to write at that time of the day.

  20. FREEWRITE. This is a great method when you only have short a little time available; don’t waste it wondering where to start! Just sit down and write ANYTHING that pops in your head. Don’t let the pen stop moving across the page (or your fingers pause on the keys), set a timer and speed through your thoughts until it goes off.
  21. RECORD. Simply can’t make time to write? Then don’t! Use a recording app on your phone or computer and dictate your story while you work, travel or exercise. You could write your novel every time you walk the dog. There are programs to convert voice into text (not perfectly, but you can edit later), so you won’t need to type anything.

Finding Time to Write – without the guilt

Busy, busy, busy – is that your mantra? So many obligations, projects, commitments, tasks… you want to write, you really do. You tell yourself you’ll write as soon as you get time. But when is that going to happen? Finding time to write is as likely as finding the novel that ‘writes itself’.

Finding time to writeAnd yet, we manage to lead ourselves to believe that elusive ‘spare’ time is just around the corner…

I’ll find time to write once the kids start school.

As soon as I finish the housework, I’ll sit down and write.

Once we get this project up and running, I’ll be able to cut back at work.

Any of those sound familiar? Add to that, ‘once the holidays start,’ or ‘once the holidays finish,’ and many more. Writers can become obsessed with the idea of finding time to write.

Finding Time to write

Here’s the truth. There is no time. At least, not in a tangible way, lying around, maybe hidden down behind the couch, just waiting for you to find it. You might find a few hairballs, the remote, and enough loose change for an ice-cream, but you won’t find time.

Why not? Because time in the future does not exist. Nor does time in the past, not anymore — it’s gone. The only time there is, is now. Right now. If you want time, you’ll have to grab this time.

So how can you give yourself time to write, when there’s so many other things that need doing?

The Myth of Multitasking

Multitasking seems like a good approach to finding time, but it’s really just a promise not to do our best. When you multitask, you are acknowledging each task does not have your full attention. If you only give 50% focus on a task, then you’ll only accomplish 50% of the result possible.

You’re passionate about your writing, so it deserves your complete engagement. When you start writing, commit to giving it 100% of your focus.

Finding time to write is too passive, take action, prioritise your writing.

Make Your Own Priorities

In their book More Time for You, Tator and Latson guide the reader through approaches to discover what they should be spending their time on. One key question the text asks is:

If money and time were no issue, what would you spend your time doing? Free-write for two minutes and create a list of everything you’d choose to do.

Did you choose finding time for writing? Or did you choose to just BE WRITING?

Now, it’s easy to work out what you want to do, but how do you convince yourself you need to do it?

Here’s the gem in More Time for You

More Time for YouYou in One Year

What will you want to have accomplished over the next year? How do you want your life to look in one year?

Imagine you have travelled forward in time and already accomplished those goals. Write down what you’ve achieved. Feels good huh?

Now plan for those accomplishments, what resources, strengths and skills will you need?

What benefits and opportunities will come your way once you accomplish these goals?

What obstacles will you need to overcome to reach that goal?

Finding Time to Write – Right Now

If your goal involves publishing a book, then you know you HAVE to write it. This future you is possible, you’ve already seen it happen. You just need to take the steps to get there. Now that you know how good it will feel to achieve those goals, it’d be just too sad if you don’t because you’re prioritising doing dishes, socialising online or feeding children (okay, still do the last one).

No more finding time to write. Go write. Right now.