Saturday, January 3, 2009


There's been much discussion lately about setting goals and achieving them. This is a process as individual as each one of us. Like in our writing -- we are all unique -- writing different genres, styles, and lengths. Novels, short stories, non-fiction, essays, poetry, song lyrics -- wherever our passions lead us...

I am a master procrastinator! This is an irrefutable truth. Because of this personality trait, I have to work extra hard to attain whatever goals I have set for myself. For years, I worked to finish my YA novel, but never could. I realize now one reason for this was never having any realistic goals to help complete that book. I would work on it whenever I got around to it, whenever I felt like it, but usually only when I had a critique group to attend, or a conference on the horizon. And after several years of hearing myself chat about my work-in-progress in a group of fellow writers, babbling the same rhetoric year after year, I knew it was time for a serious change in my writing process.

When I began the journey to write and finish a 100,000 word romantic suspense novel, I set smaller, attainable goals for myself. I finally admitted this would be the only way to complete the book.

Here's some goal examples: Write ten chapters in three months, write and revise prologue in one week, take a writing class, write 25,000 words in six months, write 25,000 words in four months, find a critique partner, rewrite 1st 1/2 of the book in four months, write twice a week, write three times a week, write for ten minutes everyday.
Etc, etc...

To achieve a goal:
*First decide what you want to achieve. In regards to writing, you may have a project you've started but can't seem to complete (been there, done that), or perhaps you have an idea percolating ready to get down on paper (or typed into your computer). Whatever you decide, make certain you are ready and passionate about your project. Otherwise it will make finishing the work and achieving your goals much more difficult. And it will be difficult.

*Once you've made the decision on your project, decide when you want it finished. Two years? Six months, one year? If you are an unpublished writer, set a deadline and stick to it. For a published author, if an editor is waiting for your finished project in six months, you damn well better have it for him/her in six months.

As much as we would like the luxury of being at home writing all day, most of us have day jobs --not to mention all of the other turmoil in our lives -- so we have to adapt.

*Again, set your goals to short, attainable time lines to start. If a new project, perhaps your goal could be: Write and finish chapter one by Jan 10th or Jan 17th, or whatever you feel would realistically work for you and your schedule. Then create a way to adjust your day to day life to meet that goal, and stick with it. For me, I like to set a longer goal such as, write and finish new book by December 12th, 2009, and then set shorter goals to attain the final objective of completing the book.

This year, I have set three major goals for myself.
A. Write and complete rough draft of book three.
B. Rewrite and revise book two.
C. Find an agent/editor for book one.

Phew, it makes me exhausted just thinking about attaining these goals -- and my procrastination instincts kick in big time. I have a whole year, no sweat.

The truth is I have to work really hard to write one book in a year, (I haven't accomplished it yet) so to take on two, in various stages, is overwhelming. Also, the amount of work involved to query agents/editors, enter contests, networking, and anything else to get my book published, can be extremely time consuming.

So, there is much work to do. The only way to complete these writing projects to my satisfaction is to set numerous goals; to decide how much time to devote to each task and make it work.
I'm still developing a schedule to make these goals happen. I hope to compartmentalize each project and devote certain times of the day, week, and month to each of the three.

*One important factor to remember is our lives change constantly and so can our goals. If you have to change a short term goal, revise your writing process, or whatever you need to keep heading toward the final goal, it's okay. Just keep the ultimate purpose in your sights.
*Keeping a record of your daily/weekly writing progress helps to see how far you've come and can create momentum. (word count, chapter count, page count -- whatever your preference)
*Also, having a critique partner is a great way to keep yourself on track, as well as dangling rewards for yourself. This can keep the work fresh and fun and moving forward.

...Finished first half of book, treated myself to a massage. Now that's incentive!

I'll let you know how well I'm doing with my projects in six months. Goal: Write and post blog about keeping goals on June 3, 2009! :)

Pick your project, set your goals, and happy writing!!


Dell Smith said...

It's great to read what other writers go through to get the words down and books/stories/etc. finished. I've been thinking more about my own goals and resolutions and how the beginning of a year is a natural, organic moment in a person's life for change. I look forward to reading of your progress.

Cynthia Sherrick said...

Now that I've made that daring declaration, I guess I better get busy! :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, Cindy, I'm impressed. I think if anyone can do it, you can! I have about three things going as well. My goal is to write a little everyday - whether it's on my latest story, reworking my "finished" one or working on a query and synopsis. I wish you the best of luck in 2009!

Your sis,

Anonymous said...

Cindy -- As someone who starts writing projects and doesn't finish them, I find your words inspirational. Two goals for myself this year: Write a little every day and finish one chapter each week. I'd love to have my first draft done by the beginning of summer. Well, you heard it here first! Love, big sis Robin

Cynthia Sherrick said...

Okay, Robin, we'll check in with you at the beginning of the summer!
Good luck with your goals. :)