News & Views

Setting — and Meeting — Writing Goals

PlannersI've just returned from the RWA conference in New York. I have attended a fair number of conferences over the years, both regional and national, and while each has benefits (find out about them on our conference page!), RWA is the one that always leaves me most eager to write.

Although RWA is technically a romance conference, most of the sessions are applicable to all kinds of writing. They have tracks on subjects such as "Industry," "Self-Publishing," and "Marketing," as well as the standard "Craft" and "Research" tracks. The only problem with all the information I get at RWA is that I come home a bit overwhelmed.

I'm ready to do everything, but where should I start?

A couple of weeks ago, Terrie Farley Moran posted about deadlines and the second book. I just turned in edits on my fourth book for Berkley and published my second self-published book. But I still feel the same way she does. I have, however—thanks in great part to the support of friendly folks in the world of writing and publishing—developed an organizational strategy that works for me.

I am, in Internet parlance, a #planneraddict.

Last week, I told you why you needed a digital home. But as great as the Internet is, recent studies show that people who write things down (by hand) and read them on paper (not on a screen) have better retention. So goal-setting and planning on paper means you're more likely to get it done.

I'm pretty happy with my planning system . . .  happy enough that I'll be teaching a course on it in August over at Savvy Authors. But I thought I'd share a few things I've learned here first.

Goal Setting: Is your goal S.M.A.R.T.?

SMART goals are something I've seen around for at least five years. I wish I knew who to credit with the original acronym, but it's become so widespread that I don't. Smart goals are:

▪Specific (you need to be able to state in a short, exact way what you plan to achieve)

▪Measurable

▪Achievable

▪Relevant (to your large goals in life)

▪Time-framed

For example, in my life-goal of being a full-time writer, which is not currently achievable for me, I have the SMART goal of completing a 90,000-word manuscript by mid-October. I can do that. It's not easy (I've only written a thousand words), but it's achievable. There's no point in setting goals you cannot achieve because you'll just get frustrated and give up.

Once you've got your larger goals set, break them down. Do the math. Do you write every day, or do you take a couple of days off? If I take two days off a week to do things like editing, promotion, and day job stuff, I need to get in about 1,650 words a day. That's a daily goal for me.

But setting goals is no use if you don't achieve them, which is where the carrot comes in. How do you hold yourself accountable? When you hit that goal, give yourself something. It can be as simple as a gold star on your calendar for that day. Or if you love television, don't allow yourself to watch until you've done your words, then sit back, relax, and let your troubles drift away! For me, stickers, coloring, pretty decorations in my paper planner/calendar all work.

Here's a quick video made by Victoria Schwab that explains the Calendar Trick. It sounds silly, but if you're having trouble getting your words down, do give it a shot. And if you come to my class, let me know you're in MWA.

Laura K. Curtis

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