Out with the old, in with the NEW, right? For most of us, the NEW means setting NEW writing goals for the coming year. Some of us have been at this a while and we know what works for us and what doesn’t.
But many of us go about this task with “fear and loathing”. This year, I’m borrowing from my past. As a safety consultant, I taught my clients how to set SMART goals, and darned if they don’t apply to writing as well as accident prevention. In the world of construction, tool box topics are a way of keeping workers up to date on risks on the site for them to be aware of so as to avoid injury.
- Write more
- Write better
- Write smarter
Nothing wrong with those, right? What writer doesn’t want all that? Are they SMART, um, no.
S = SPECIFIC
If your goal is of the nebulous MORE variety, how do you know when you’ve reached it? How much is MORE? Well-defined goals keep you on course. Do you want to write more books? More words a day? More hours a day? More blogs, newsletters, queries? Be specific and make the commitment.
What is BETTER? Maybe you want to improve your plotting or characterization, or maybe you want to do a better job of editing that first draft. Be specific and define a goal that gets you there. If you need work on character goals, motivation, and conflict, then focus on that aspect of your writing.
What is SMARTER? Have you been spending too much time on social media? Not enough time on LIFE? What does that look like? Your goal might be a daily or weekly schedule that stakes out time for your personal life, or limits computer play.
M = MEASURABLE
It’s easy to measure specific number of words or hours. Set the goal and record your numbers EVERY DAY. This is invaluable feedback to help you get where you want to be.
It’s a little harder if your goal is not so easy to quantify. How do you measure BETTER? If you’re a best-selling author, maybe this is determined by sales. But if you’re just starting out, BETTER means honing your craft. Be specific. Set a goal to take one online class a quarter such as Character Development, Plotting, Conflict, or Editing your first draft. It’s measurable and will ultimately result in BETTER.
A = ACHIEVABLE
If you want to feel good about your progress this time next year, don’t make the goal so easy there no challenge in it. But make sure your goal is within your reach. Can you realistically double your word count each day? Will you have to give up something else to make it happen? Do you want to? Adjust your goal to give you a challenge without making it impossible to achieve.
R = RELEVANT
This one is dependent on where you are on your career path. If you have a few books OUT THERE, it makes sense to set some MARKETING goals. Get your newsletter started, boost your blogging, work your street teams, run more promotions. But if you’re working to finish that first book, writing newsletters and blogs and spending a lot of time on social media can be a book-killing distraction. Make sure your goals are relevant to what you want to achieve.
T = TIMELY
This one seems a bit vague, but it’s really important. Here’s an example from my consulting career. If you set a one year goal of zero accidents and someone falls off a ladder and breaks they leg on January second what happens to your motivation for the rest of the year? Timely goals progress throughout the year, and cover a range of improvements. You don’t have to wait a whole year to reap the benefits. If you come up short of the mark in the first quarter, ask yourself what went wrong and how you can fix it to do better in the next.
Based on the SMART plan, here’s three goals rewritten to be more useful and dynamic. (Your goals will be different, buy hopefully you get the drift).
- Complete my new book first draft by April 1st. (700 words a day for 90 days).
- Improve my craft (Go to Nationals).
- Physical exercise 1 hour a day.
A NOTE ON REWARDS
One of the benefits of SMART goals is that they create opportunities to reward yourself for reaching your goals. Don’t wait till the end of the year. Define rewards for making your milestones and spread them out over the year. Be generous, be kind, be consistent. I promised myself a new pair of boots when I finished my first romance. (Note, not when I sold it, when I FINISHED it, so my reward was based purely on my effort, not someone else opinion or needs.) When I finished the second, I took time off for a trip to the desert.
What are your writing goals for 2018? What will be your rewards for achieving them?
Kat Drennan writes Contemporary and Women’s fiction. She has just released the second in her “A Classic Car Romance” series, now available on Amazon Kindle and paperback. She is currently Secretary of the Contemporary Romance Writers of American Chapter.