Setting Goals

I don’t know about y’all but sometimes this is the worst time of year. I have to fight really hard to focus on new beginnings and last year’s accomplishments rather than all the things I didn’t not achieve. It’s so important to look to the future and what you can control rather than fretting about what’s over and done with. That’s not to say you should let yourself off the hook – if you didn’t work as hard as you should have last year, acknowledge that and make a commitment to work harder this year.

Review the goals you set last year – what worked for you? What didn’t? Did you even set goals – if not, ask yourself why? Are you afraid you’ll only be disappointed if you don’t meet them? This is the time to be brutally honest with yourself. It’s not the time to wallow in guilt for what wasn’t accomplished – if you didn’t attain something last year that you wanted, put it on this year’s goals and figure out a way to get it. Goals are personal. Don’t set your goals by looking at your critique partners. Instead dig deep and focus on your individual career. What do YOU want to accomplish this year? Only you can answer that.

So what do you need in order to set goals? It’s simple. Just remember your ABC’s.

A – Achievable goals. Set goals that are within your control. We all want to sell books – whether we’re already published or not, but this is not in our control. Neither are good reviews, best seller’s lists, or contest wins – so these maybe good, solid dreams or wishes, but without total control of the situations they aren’t very good goals. What do we control? The types of books we write, how well written the books are and when and where we submit these books. This is what should drive your goals.

:::TIP::: A few years ago, I picked up an idea that has worked well for me – using goal categories. For example, I have what I call “master goals” in several categories: Writing (this is where I set actual project goals, i.e., write two books), Craft (I’m dedicated to learning as much as I can about the craft of writing, so I generally set a goal to read X number of craft books or I pick one topic to focus on such as plotting), Business (this is where I put submission and/or market research type goals), Misc (I use this one for any extra stuff, like wanting to teach a workshop or writing articles for the chapter newsletter). Having these categories and master goals makes the next step easier for me.

B – Break goals down. Take your main goals and break them into smaller, manageable pieces – like monthly, weekly, and daily. Let’s say one of your achievable goals is to write two books this year. That’s a great goal, but to avoid spending the first part of the year on the first three chapters of one book and the remaining part of the year writing like a mad woman (or not meeting your goal), it’s easier to break these things down. Breaking down your goals should keep you working on a daily basis and will help ensure that you meet your goals.

:::TIP::: Without this step, I would be lost. Those master goals are so big – I get lost in the enormity of my plan. Write two books. YIKES! How do I do that? Do the math. If you write 400 page single-titles and you average 30 pages a week. Then it will take you 13 weeks to write one – that’s if your first draft actually meets that page count. We write books one word at a time, so if we keep our focus on what we can do today, all those today’s add up and by the end of the year we can meet our goals.

C – Check goals. Go back often and review your goals to ensure you are making progress. If you don’t check the status of your goals – you will forget what they were. And if you don’t know what you’re aiming for then you most likely won’t achieve it. This is sort of like that grocery list you make out and then forget to take with you to the store. Don’t just make a list of goals because that’s what people do this time of year – use your goals as a working plan, a way to accomplish all those things you want done.

:::TIP::: This is often where my goal setting falls by the way side. I’m quite diligent about setting goals – I write them down (usually in a cute notebook I’ve bought for this very purpose – I have dozens of these little guys) and I’m serious about them. I share them with critique partners and I work hard until February or March. And then things fall apart. If I don’t keep my goals close at hand, I forget – I just can’t hold everything in my head – not enough room with all those characters milling about. So I track things daily. Buy a calendar for your office wall and write what you did each day. I use a worksheet in Excel that tallies my page total for me. I love watching those numbers add up.

Good luck setting those goals and achieving them. May 2003 be a productive, healthy, and exciting year for all of us.

Robyn Ratliff has been a member of RWA since 1996. She currently serves as President and Webmaster to her RWA Chapter, San Antonio Romance Authors. She writes historicals set in Victorian England and is currently dividing her time between writing her next book and Agent Quest.

Copyright © 2007. Robyn DeHart. All Rights Reserved.

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