Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Write Another Book: Setting Goals

Goals for me, personally, often are confused with what I want to happen in relation to events that I cannot control. My wife and I went over next year's summer budget. I want to take time off to hike the Appalachian Trail. She wants to spend time in Ohio with the extended family as well as take our kids on several day and weekend trips. Except for the Ohio bit, none of this will happen unless I am able to make $XX,XXX by late May 2016. In addition, last week's post dealt with annual budgetary needs. So my immediate gut-level reaction is to set a goal that states I will make $XX,XXX off my writing by May 2, 2016.

That dollar amount end goal will get me into trouble. I will experience complete, utter failure not because I don't think my writing is worth $XX,XXX, but because I have zero control over how many people decide to purchase my books. It's like saying, "I will get 20,000 Twitter followers by December 31st 2015."

A distinct difference lies between wants and goals. A goal moves you in the direction of a want, but does not guarantee the want. A goal is an actionable achievable that you have total control over. A goal is a choice. You don't choose who follows you or how many people follow you on Twitter. How and what you tweet, on the other hand, you do have complete control over. You can choose to tweet or you can choose not to tweet. You can choose to tweet the annoying "BUY MY BOOK" or you can choose to promote healthy online relationships through your tweets. You can choose to tweet once a day or 50 times a day. You can choose to deliver pizzas or you can choose to write another book.

------------------------------------------------------CLICK TO TWEET--------------------------------------------------------
                                        Via @SteveBargdill #writetip
So, first and foremost a goal is a choice to do something and to complete that something. The goal should work toward what you want, but achieving the goal is not the all-beat end result. The goal is relevant to what you want—to what you are going after and chasing with passion.

The goal is specific. To continue with my Twitter analogy, I want 20,000 followers and the only way to move toward that want is to tweet—but tweet what exactly, and how many times? A specific goal moving toward 20,000 Twitter followers might read like: "I will tweet at least 10 times a day for the next three months." Better yet, the goal might read: "I will tweet at least 10 times a day for the next three months. 5 tweets will share a useful article I found online. 3 tweets will be retweets, and two tweets will direct my current followers to either my blog or my Facebook page. Additionally, on Mondays I will participate in #FF."[1] Notice the time component to the goal. The goal is an ongoing activity that runs for three whole months. Goals, therefore, are linked to a time frame. Lastly, goals are measurable. At the end of the time-frame that the goal is linked to, you can look at whether the goal had been or had not been accomplished. You can examine your Twitter feed and actually count how many times you tweeted over the last three months; you can check to see if you actually followed the mix of tweet-types. And lastly, you can examine whether that particular goal you set brought you any closer to those 20,000 followers.

In my last post, Dealing with Realities, I figured I need to publish 13 more titles to begin to see more income from my writing. I also learned I need to write faster. In my Vision Casting post, I mentioned that I want to see my novels sitting on actual brick and mortar bookstore shelf. Lastly, I'm concerned with visibility, marketing and sales. My goals need to chase after those wants. I've listed the goals just below here. In addition, I've limited the goals to 30 days. At the end of 30 days, I will measure my success and/or failure and change accordingly.

  1. I will keep a writer’s log for 30 days. In this log, I will set daily writing word count goals aimed at pushing my limitations beyond the average 2000 words per day. At the end of each day, I will log the number words I have written. If I fall short of the daily word count goal, I will explain why. If I exceed my word count goal I will explain why.
  2. For additional accountability concerning the number of words I write per day, I will tweet a word count before I go to bed. I will not comment in the tweet whether I hit my target word count or not.
  3. In 30 days, I will complete a rough draft of a grammar guide aimed at fiction authors. I will use my Top 20 Grammar Error blog series as a template for this grammar book.
  4. In 30 days, I will complete the writing for the business plan for authors blog series. Once the series is written, I will outline a book based upon the posts.
  5. By the end of 30 days, I will begin a blog series on Scrivener Writing software. I will have at least 3 posts completely drafted and the rest of the series outlined. I will look forward to, but not yet work on, converting this series of blog posts into book form as well.
  6.  I will begin writing a five book series in the neo-noir genre about newspaper reporter Jack Boomer. Each book must be roughly 35,000 words. At the end of 30 days, I will have completed the rough draft of the first book. Additionally, at the end of 30 days, I will have outlined the rest of the series. When I write, my individual scenes normally run at approximately 500 words. This means at the end of 30 days, I will have outlined a total of 280 scenes. As these books are completed, they will be posted on Amazon.
  7. In the next 30 days, I will send out 13 short stories to various literary magazines for publication. These stories have already been written, so only the queries need sent.
  8. I will research literary agents. By the end of 30 days, I will have a list of at least 10 literary agents who I think might be interested in my WIP Breath: An American Story.
I believe the above goals fit my needs. The first two goals are aimed at writing more per day. Goals three and four address my blog, a place my presence is visible online. Number seven also is directed toward visibility. Number eight is aimed at that vision cast of seeing my books in an actual real-life bookstore. Overall, the list aims towards another eight books, not including Breath, which I plan to market toward traditional publishing as opposed to my efforts through Amazon.

I considered adding more goals for the next 30 days; however, eight began to seem overwhelming. I think when you get to the point where you are starting to feel overwhelmed, that's a good stopping point. Goals are meant to push you in the direction of your wants. That doesn't mean stressing out about everything you have to do, but it does mean stretching further out in a direction you have previously thought you could not reach. Get that ladder out and start up some goals!

I'm of course not the only one talking about writing and setting goals. Check these sites out:
Setting Effective Writing Goals by Moira Allen
Goal Setting Strategies for Writers by Mindy McHorse
How to Set SMART Writing Goals by Dustin Wax
Self-Publish Like a Pro: Setting Goals for Your Book and Career by Alexandra Fletcher

Next Week: The Executive Summary!

[1]For those uninitiated, #FF stands for "Follow Friday." You tweet the names of people that you think are cool, that you think others should follow as well. Traditionally, this is done on Fridays, but I am weird and do not follow the rules, so I tweet #FFs on Mondays. 

1 comment:

  1. Great post here, Steve.
    Focusing on what we can control (goals) and not what we can't control (market) sets us up into a position of personal power.