Monday, January 12, 2009

Setting Annual Goals

Setting annual goals? Yikes. This blog is supposed to be motivating...encouraging...sweet...sparkling. What happened??

Something good happened--no, something great! Setting annual goals may be the greatest thing you've ever done. Why? Statistics show that people who write their goals down achieve significantly more goals than those who don't. Amazing, isn't it?

And, come on, you're a writer. Don't you live for picking up a pen and paper and writing something down? Anything? Gotcha, didn't I?

Why does the prospect of writing annual goals fill some of us (yes, me) with such a sense of foreboding and dread then? Maybe because a written goal becomes real, solid, tangible. Vague ideas about accomplishing something flutter out the window.

Are your palms sweaty? Breath coming a little short? I know, I know. Bring it down. It'll be okay. Here's what I'd like you to do. Look at the following and apply it to your situation.

For you hobbiests: Do you write short stories? Articles? Novels? Think ahead to January 2010. How many completed short stories or articles would make you feel terrific? Six? Twelve? What about you novelists? Have you started a novel and never finished it? Wouldn't it feel amazing to have a completed novel this time next year? Or you can start and finish a new novel.

For you potential career writers: How many books can you realistically (translation: comfortably) write this year? Half? One? Two? Only you know. What length books do you write? Category? Single Title?

Do you know what length to aim for? Category novels differ, but most are between 50,000 and 65,000 words. For single title fiction, the word count varies. According to Jack M. Bickham's book Scene & Structure, books have a better chance of being published if they are between 60,000-90,000 words. Sure, the Harry Potter series missed that target by a long shot, but if you're serious about getting published, aim for a length an editor knows will be profitable. And why are we talking about word length anyhow? More on that Wednesday...

For you career writers: Are you under contract to write any books this year? Do the books excite you? If the books are part of an ongoing series, would you consider writing short stories outside of your genre now and then to keep your writing fresh? What about reading? Did you have enough time last year to read the fiction, non-fiction, and magazines you love? What feeds your soul creatively? Are you happy with the level of promotion you're doing or do you want to ramp it up a notch?

Think about these questions and write down the answers.

Now you have a list. It might have one thing on it. It might fill up a paper. As long as you have at least one goal, I'm happy. If you have several goals, do they belong in different categories? For example, I have six categories of goals for 2009: writing, submitting, contests, associations, craft, and promotion. All six have meaning for me, not necessarily for you. A few years ago I had one category: writing. Life changes and goals change. That's okay!

Come back on Wednesday when we'll discuss how to break down the annual goals into monthly goals.
Get motivated! It's Monday!

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