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Making goals isn’t enough

January 6, 2013

The holidays are over.

In the words of the great Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket, “The holidays are over! Rest and relaxation is for yesterday and today isn’t that day, ladies! You had better unscrew yourself from that idiot box and sit your *ss down in a chair and generate some words for me, you maggot!” (Okay, he didn’t really say that, but he could have if he ran a writer’s group.)

But work without a plan is just motion. Planting butt in seat and running your fingers across a keyboard just generates words. If your goal is to complete a first draft–a worthy goal–that might be a good way to go forward.

But if your goal is loftier, you need more than grit and a keyboard with the letters worn off.

You need a plan. With that in mind, here are some ideas to help you plan your way to progress this year.

  • If you don’t sit down and write, what keeps you from doing it? What steps can you take to remove those obstacles?
  • What training will you take this year? What books about the craft will you read? What conferences will you attend? What writer’s groups meetings?
  • If there’s something that holds you back, what is it? What writers have you spoken or written to about how they overcame that specific obstacle? Have you talked to your fellow writer’s group members? Have you suggested the topic to your writer’s group leader?
  • What do you need to research for your work? How do you intend to do it? Who will you interview about that topic and how do you intend to approach them?
  • Who will be your beta reader? Who will critique your work? Where will you find this person? What are you willing to bring to the relationship to make it mutually beneficial?
  • What do other writery friends think you need to start doing, stop doing, and continue doing? What do you think you need to start doing, stop doing, and continue doing?
  • What will you do to set expectations for those around you that writing is an important part of your life?
  • What will you do to learn about the business and how to get representation? What will you do with this knowledge?

Don’t just consider these questions. Write them down and add your own. Then answer them. Not all the work involved in being a writer is wrapped around writing. Some of it’s about getting better, research, understanding the business and how to succeed in it.

Once you determine your goals, map out the path to them, including the interim steps required to get there. If your goal is to get representation this year, then figure out the steps required, such as finishing your work, identifying agents who represent your type of work, writing and refining your cover letter, developing and honing your pitch.

Identify resources you can use to move forward in that regard, such as books, conferences, and pitch-practice services. Put time frames down for all your goals.

You can’t get there without a map, so don’t just make yourself a set of goals, map the process for achieving them.

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