Monthly Archives: December 2012
In the last month I’ve been talking a lot about goals. So have thousands of other people–so many that you might even be sick of hearing about it.
Well, for those of you who are sick with new years resolution talk, I’m sorry, but please bear with me. Today I’d like to share my writing goals for the next year with you both so that I can be held accountable to what I’m doing over the next year and so that you can see why I chose each goal and get an idea how to structure your own list of writing goals for the year.
Finish editing Moonshadow’s Guardian–This has been on my list forever. It’s been shunted aside due to injury, Nanowrimo and post-Nanowrimo burnout, but I’m back on track now and I’ll probably finish this in January. This goal is here because I absolutely have to get it done. I’m passionate about this project and I’m already most of the way through this goal, so I should be able to cross this one off early, too.
Write 12 Guest Posts–I’ve done some guest posts in the last couple of years and they’ve all been well received. I’ve also gotten good traffic here from doing these, so my goal for next year is to make sure I write at least one guest post per month. It’s a good way to get more traffic and to build a reputation, bringing me not only relationships with new readers but also with the blog owners themselves. Twelve is one per month and it seems like a reasonable goal to me even with everything else that’s on my plate.
Query 12 Articles–This goal is all about getting myself into the freelance marketplace. It’s about making sure that I always have at least one thing being looked at by an editor. It’s also at the one per month scale, meaning that while it is a commitment, it shouldn’t interfere with my other work. Oh, and just a note–it says query twelve articles rather than publish twelve articles because unless I’m self publishing, I have to depend on editors liking my work to publish. Thus, publishing twelve articles wouldn’t be such a good goal because I wouldn’t be able to do it all on my own.
Launch 10 Commandments–The 10 Commandments of a Serious Writer–no, it isn’t religious–is an ebook that I’ve already done most of the writing for. I’m hoping to have this ready in March. It’s going to be a flimsy freebie used mostly to test how many people would be interested in ebooks I produce and also to help me get comfortable with the ebook creation process.
Launch an Email Newsletter–I’m already pretty familiar with the technology used to run one of these, and I’ve always wanted to have one. My biggest issue has been figuring out what the format would be. I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I want to do with this now. I’m aiming to launch it with the 10 Commandments of a Serious Writer ebook.
Create Dear Diary Workbook–I’ve always wanted to turn the Dear Diary Workshop I’ve run on this blog in the past into an ebook that people can work with on their own time. I’ve already got a solid outline for this and an intro, so I don’t think it will take too long to get it up and running. By the end of the year is totally reasonable. I’m hoping to sell this as it’s very dear to my heart and I think it’s a great tool for writers. This should help me further build credibility and hopefully make some money.
Edit Some Secrets Should Never Be Known–This is my Nanovel from last year, 2011, that’s in pretty awful shape. I do quite love the story though, so I’m probably going to start an entirely new draft of this next year. I do someday hope to turn this into a publishable novel, and I didn’t have time to this year with all my other projects. But I’m going to be doing a serious restructuring this year so I have more time to write, giving myself time to finish more than I did last year.
Write One New Novel–Every year I participate in Nanowrimo and this year will be no different. I have no idea what I’m going to write in November. All I know is that I insist on participating and that writing a new novel is never a bad thing–even if it’ll be a couple years before I get the chance to edit it.
These are all my goals for the year. Each one is designed to contribute to my writing career in some way, and this list has a good mix of editing, non-fiction and fiction projects. I’ve also kept it relatively small–at least in comparison to some of the lists I’ve had in past years–to leave room for new things that come up. I’ve already got some ideas of what else will come up in the new year, but I’m trying not to overload myself with official goals this year so there’s room for new things and so I actually feel accomplished at the end of the year.
What are your goals for the new year? How did you choose them?
It’s that time of year again… The houses on your street are covered in lights. Every store you go into is playing Christmas carols. Every store you go into is also jam packed full of people buying last minute Christmas presents–but hey guys, it’s almost Christmas, and in a few days the stores will be survivable again.
No matter what holiday you’re celebrating this winter, and even if you’re staying indoors with your best bah humbug face on, I hope you take the time to truly enjoy this last week of 2012. If you’re like me, you’ve accomplished a lot this year–although not as much as you hoped to accomplish–and you deserve to celebrate those accomplishments.
I was going to write a pretty large post today and two more this week. But then I read this post and realized that I am also suffering from pre-holiday burnout. I’ve been working so hard in the last three months or so that my brain has almost completely shut down.
I need time to rest and relax and to see all the people I haven’t been able to see in the last couple of months. I also need to spend a couple days focused on powering through my edits of Moonshadow’s Guardian, because frankly, I’ve been working on this thing forever and if I can’t get the edits near their finish line by New Years I’m going to be really upset.
So I’ve decided to take this week off from blogging. You will not be hearing from me on Wednesday or Friday. Instead, you can expect a post with my personal list of goals for 2013–and why I chose those goals–on Monday, right before we get into the new year.
I hope you will have a wonderful holiday, and if you really need some reading materials, don’t be afraid to go hunting through the archives here–I’ve written hundreds of interesting posts since I started blogging here and odds are you haven’t read them all.
In light of the upcoming new year, I’ve been talking a lot about success lately. I’ve talked about how to define your success and how to identify the keys to your success. Now that you have an idea of what your success looks like, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to move towards that goal in 2013.
Every writer needs goals. Without goals, you have no idea where you’re going–and no idea what accomplishments to celebrate. But creating your own success–and nobody else is going to do this for you, so it’s crucial you focus on this–doesn’t come from a list of goals chosen at random. It comes from a list that is designed to get you closer to your own definition of success, based on the keys to success that you’ve identified.
For example, if your definition of success is to become a career writer, your keys to success probably include things like selling more articles and publishing books. So your goals in 2013 should help you achieve these things. Make sure, however, that your goals are reasonable and based upon what you can do by yourself. An example of an unreasonable goal is to have your book picked up by a publisher in 2013. This is unreasonable because it relies on other people–instead, your goal should be to submit your novel to at least twelve publishers or agents in 2013. While if you submit the work over and over again your chances of publication go up, you can’t say for sure whether anyone will pick it up by the end of the year–so don’t make your goals reliant on those editors. Focus on what you can do.
That said, if you plan to self publish, a goal of having published one of your novels by the end of the year is probably reasonable. This is because it’s only reliant on you–and the editor and cover designer that you hire, because every writer needs an editor and unless you’re already good at graphic design, creating your own cover means selling yourself short.
Today I’d like you to create a draft of your goals for 2013. First, figure out the steps required to acquire the keys to your success. Then decide which keys to your success are most important right now–what will bring you closest to success in the shortest amount of time? If you’re like me, creating an income stream is probably a big priority right now, so focus on things that will bring the money in sooner.
When creating your list of goals for 2013, it’s also important to think about how much you can reasonably accomplish in a year. Factor in the commitments you already know you’ll have–six hours a day dedicated to school, three hours a week to your writing group–and leave some wiggle room for unexpected crisis and opportunity. You have no idea what’s going to happen next year, so don’t put too much on your list right now. Overloading your list will just make you feel bad when you can’t finish everything–and it’s easy to overestimate yourself. In fact, it’s perfectly natural to overestimate what you can do in a year, because it feels like a long time. That is, it feels like a long time until it’s over, when it suddenly feels as though the year never happened at all.
You’ll notice that I said the goal for today is to create a ‘draft’ of your goals in 2013. This is because, of course, you don’t know the future and everyone has that tendency to overestimate themselves. So don’t treat this as your final list. Instead, think of it as your first draft. Put everything you can think of that you’d like to accomplish on this list. Once you have a list, you can then go through it item by item and decide both how important each thing is and whether or not it’s reasonable to accomplish all those items in a year.
So if your list is three pages long and it already looks overwhelming, don’t despair. You still have time to analyze and edit it or even create an entirely new list before the new year begins. For now, just having a list is the important thing. Spend the next week analyzing your list and thinking about why each goal is there and how long each thing will take to accomplish. Next Friday I’ll share my list with you and explain why each item is on the list and how long I expect it to take.
For now please share your drafted list in the comments below and I’ll help you figure out why each item belongs there and whether or not your list can be reasonably accomplished in a year.
While I’ve been blogging for years, over the last year or so I’ve become more focused on non-fiction than ever before. This is not because I’ve found some new passion for it. It’s because it’s easier to get paid for non-fiction than it is to get paid for fiction, and I very much want to make a living. So I’ve shifted my focus to include more non-fiction. And I’ve actually gotten paid for a few articles, inspiring me to write more–after all, it’s not like I’m getting paid for my short stories yet.
But while non-fiction is an easier way to make a living off what I love doing–writing–it’s important to me that I keep this work balanced with my fiction, the stuff I’m truly passionate about. I might not be getting paid for it now, but I’m confident that someday I will, as long as I keep working at it. I also know that if I let my fiction fall by the wayside, it won’t be long before I’m depressed.
So how do I balance my non-fiction work with my fiction work? I always have a couple projects of both kinds going on, and I try to work on one of each every day. Other days I’ll decide to focus purely on one or the other. Many days I’ll do some non-fiction work in a notebook at school or during my commute home, and then focus on the fiction when I get home. How I do it from day to day varies, but I try to make sure that every week my accomplishments are on an even keel in both fiction and non-fiction.
This year I’ve really struggled with this balance as I try to bring non-fiction into focus, but my list of goals for next year already has a good balance of fiction and non-fiction. Finding the right balance is a process and I’m sure I’ll get better at it year after year. Over the last couple years I’ve figured out how much I can reasonably expect myself to do in one year–now I just have to find a way to balance my fiction work with my non-fiction work. While it’s kind of terrifying because I’m about to finish school and try to make it in the working world, it’s also wonderful. I’ve come a long way in the last couple of years and I’m incredibly proud of myself.
If you’re trying to balance non-fiction work with fiction work, take a good hard look at the lists of goals you’ve created for the last few months. Go through all your to-do lists and mark each item as fiction or non-fiction work. That will give you an idea of what you’ve accomplished in both fiction and non-fiction this year and allow you to see where the imbalances might be. Once you’re aware of this, it will be easier to set goals for next year that allow you to balance the two.
Friday’s post will be all about goal setting and creating that balance for the year ahead, so stay tuned.
The keys to your success are the stepping stones on your journey. These things are usually the same for anyone pursuing the kind of success you are. For example, a fiction writer’s keys to success includes writing short stories and submitting regularly. A freelance writer’s list might include researching a variety of topics and querying a variety of markets about different articles. While each individual’s goals will be more specific than this because everyone’s exact definition of success is different, the keys to success will be almost identical for people aiming to reach the same career or financial/emotional place in their lives.
Today I’d like you to consider what the keys to your success might be. While the most important thing is to look inward and ask yourself how you will reach your definition of success, it’s also helpful to look at people who have reached the kind of success you want. Learning about people who have walked the path before you and analyzing what steps were most important in their journey to success gives you a good idea of how to set your own goals.
For today’s exercise, though the focus is not on goals. Goals should always be specific, whereas the keys to your success are broader strokes. These are what you will base your goals on, but they are not your actual goals. They are guidelines for your life.
In order to find the keys to success, first ask yourself what the most important steps towards your definition of success would be. Chances are, you already have an idea: get out of debt, start your own business, go back to school, write a novel or a book proposal, etc. Most of the things on the list will be things you’ve been considering doing for a long time, but for one reason or another have been putting off. Circle the ones you think are most important–these are what you’re going to base your list of 2013 goals on–and underline anything you’ve already started doing.
Sometimes the keys to success are not so clear. You might not be sure exactly what you’re going to need to start your dream business. You might have no idea about what really goes into moving up in the corporate world. You might want to be a politician but be unsure how to start your first campaign. That’s perfectly fine–nobody knows everything, and some paths are easier to understand than others.
If you have no idea what you’ll need in order to reach your definition of success, research people who have walked the path before you. As you study people who have reached a definition of success very close to your own–though it will not be exactly the same–the keys to your own success will become clear to you. Pay particular attention to how they got to their most successful, but also to which actions hurt them along the way. Often it’s just as important to know what not to do as it is to know what to do.
Once you have a solid list of keys to your success, attach it to the paper with your definition of success. While these exercises are still helpful on the computer, I find that having the physical manifestation helps keep me on the right track. So staple these things together and put them somewhere not only memorable but plainly obvious–on a wall, on top of your computer, wherever you’re sure to see it regularly. This way, success will never be far from your mind–and the closer it is to your mind, the closer you will be to that success.
Today’s guest poster is a freelancer who originally emailed me asking for more information about the work I did as a social media manager earlier this year. I was thrilled to make the connection and happily invited her to post something for all of you–I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.
Feature stories are a mainstay of nearly every type of publication. They balance out informational articles with texture, color and depth. Feature stories give the writer, and reader, a chance to explore a subject and look at it from different perspectives. Unlike news stories, which generally follow the inverted pyramid style, where the reporter makes the main point right away and the most important sub-points in the first paragraph or two, with a feature story a writer can develop the storyline in a number of ways.
Although, features must still follow the journalistic rules of fairness and accuracy, the writer can be more creative with a feature story by adding descriptions, impressions and other details that might be overlooked in a news report.
Feature stories can be found anywhere.
As a freelance journalist, and more recently, as a writer for a weekly newspaper, I’ve written hundreds of feature stories. Just in the past couple weeks I’ve written features about a woman who saves greyhounds, a rancher who self-published his memoir, a homework club for English as a second language learners and a small band of Paiutes who are reclaiming their ancestral homeland.
What types of subjects make up feature stories? Nearly anything.
Many features are profiles of an interesting person. Trade magazines might be interested in a profile on someone who is a master at the trade or a behind-the-scenes look at a particular industry. Business magazines like profiles of successful business people. When writing a profile of a person, however, it’s important to focus on just the parts that are relevant to the topic you are writing about. Don’t try to cover their entire autobiography.
Human interest stories are one of the most popular types of features. Similar to profiles, they give the reader a chance to understand issues through the experiences of another. I live in a rural area where one of the big issues between ranchers and environmentalists is water rights. There is a movement to restore some barren areas to their original lushness through stream and meadow restoration projects. Some ranchers feel this is taking water away from their cattle. Last spring I wrote several features trying to present the different sides to the issue, including a profile of a rancher who began to support the restoration project once he understood its long range impact on the area. History can make for a good feature story. For Veterans Day you might write about a particular battle or interview a veteran. You could write about how traditions evolved during a particular holiday. And don’t forget the lesser known holidays. Does anyone really know the origins of Groundhog Day?
Seasonal themes can also be developed. These can be themes about the four seasons or they can follow other seasonal ideas: baseball season, opera season, cultural events, a business’ cycle.
Mastering the art of feature stories can provide a door into a number of different publications, including both internet and traditional print media.
Newspapers and magazines like features because of their engaging nature, and many of these venues are printing more features as a way to keep their readers interested.
If you’re a copywriter or business writer, you’ll find many opportunities for feature writing. Company newsletters often contain feature stories that highlight a particular employee’s achievements or of someone who has done something relevant for the industry. Public relations professionals often write short features as press releases.
Broadcast journalists for both television and radio love human interest stories. These behind-the-scenes profiles are often what keep viewers or listeners coming back for more.
If you’re a blogger, you already know, many posts are simply short profiles on a particular topic.
Feature stories are all around us. Do you know someone who has overcome a serious illness? As more and more businesses fold, a profile on what happens to a worker suddenly out of a job can be a valid feature. Who, in your community, is volunteering for animal welfare, assisting battered women, feeding the homeless or helping raise the awareness about foster children? A casual conversation in a grocery line can lead to a feature, as it did for me recently when the cashier mentioned they were holding a birthday party for a customer who turned 100 years old.
Informational articles may give you ideas on how to expand to a feature.
Keep a notebook to jot down ideas and contact information when something comes your way. You’ll soon find you have more ideas than you can possibly bring to fruition. And if you work locally, you may very well find people coming to you for feature stories.
Bio: Jordan Clary lives in northern California and works as a writer and photographer for a rural weekly newspaper. She continues to freelance on the side.
You’ll probably remember the insane challenge I posted last month to attempt to write 10K in 4 Hours. I originally promised to post a list of everyone who succeeded here on my blog, but after attempting the challenge myself and realizing that it’s much harder than I remembered, I decided to post the usernames and final word counts of everyone who dared attempt this with me. This is because I realized that just like in Nanowrimo itself, anyone who even attempts this crazy feat is a winner–and incredibly enough, all of my brave participants won Nanowrimo itself and therefore deserve a huge pat on the back.
And so here is the long awaited list of brave champions who dared try writing 10K in 4 Hours, divided into two–the brave participants and the champions.
Congratulations to everyone who participated! Whether or not you made it, remember that you are a winner–and that there’s always next year.
Success means different things to different people. The media often portrays success as a house, a long-term partner, kids and money. Your family probably has their own definition of success, based on both the media’s definition success and their own feelings. Your friends probably each have their own definition of success too. Even the strange old hermit down the street has her own definition of success. Though success is only one word, it has as many definitions as there are people.
What is true for everyone, though, is that you will never be truly happy if you don’t strive to reach your own definition of success. Too many people go chasing after their parents’ ideas of success, and end up with diplomas and careers they care nothing for. They gain all the trappings associated with success–a well-paying job, a house, a family–but remain miserable because this definition of success isn’t what they really want.
As the year comes to a close, I will be figuring out the steps I need to take to get closer to my definition of success in 2013. The changing of the years is always a good time to think about how you’ve lived over the last year and to find ways to improve upon it next year. And so as I struggle to figure out what the most important things I can do to reach my definition of success, I’d like to help you create your own definition of success and a plan for getting there.
At first it might seem simple, but creating your own definition of success can be difficult. It requires total honesty with yourself, and requires you to abandon everything you’ve been taught about what success is. It requires you to look beyond what society expects you to say and figure out what’s really important to you.
Lucky for you, I have an exercise designed to help you do just that.
First, close your eyes and imagine that everything you know now is gone. The cars have all run out of fuel. The internet and most electricity is gone altogether. Governments are falling apart, one by one.
In this time when the luxuries of the modern era are gone, what is still important to you? Write down everything that comes to mind. These are the things that truly matter to you–the things that would still matter to you even if your circumstances were completely changed.
Now ask yourself what your definition of success is. Feel free to make it as long or as short as you want to. Include everything you can think of. You might want to do this as a free write and time yourself to make sure you aren’t thinking too hard about what you put on the paper.
Once you’ve got a definition written down, look at the list you created earlier. How does each item fit into your definition of success?
If any of the items on your list don’t fit into your definition, that means it isn’t really true to who you are. Now is the time to start editing your definition. Don’t stop until it includes all the things on the list of what is most important to you. A definition that’s missing anything you care deeply about won’t actually make you happy, even if you get there.
Once you’ve got your definition of success, please share it in the comments below. In this case, I’m not just asking this because I want to hear from you–I’m asking you to share your definition of success because sharing it will give the words power. Anyone brave enough to share their definition of success will also get the opportunity to work with me in order to refine it and to create a plan to move towards that success in 2013.
So what is your definition of success?