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Progress Report April 2013

April’s been a pretty exciting month for me. I got a job writing, editing and promoting blog posts for DJiZM Disc Jockey Services and I’m thrilled to be working with them. I’m also working on becoming a paid contributor to a large Canadian music blog, but I can’t reveal too much about that yet.

I’m still behind on my personal goals, but I did make more progress in April than I did in March, so let’s take a look:

April progress

Editing Moonshadow’s Guardian– I ended up only editing four chapters of Moonshadow’s Guardian this month instead of six, but I am making progress. I’ve now created a concrete plan to make more time for writing, both personal and professional, and I’m hoping to actually do six chapters in May.

Write twelve guest posts– depending on what you mean by ‘guest posts’, I might have made a lot of progress this month. I had three posts published on the DJiZM blog published in April and I’ve got more scheduled in May. This isn’t a blog for my target market, so it’s of limited value in terms of bringing me readers, but it’s certainly looking good on my LinkedIn profile, so I consider this a success. This would put me at seven posts for the year, which is pretty awesome. I do still need to get into more blogs aimed at my target market.

May plans

As you can see, while I originally set myself up with several goals for the year, I’ve only been making progress on one or two of them each month. Since the seasons have changed and it’s warm outside, I’ve decided to re-evaluate my goals and make a plan for May involving as many as possible.

Here’s the plan, goal by goal:

Query 12 Articles– I’ve decided that this exact goal is going to be scrapped. Instead, I’m going to alter this goal to ‘Make at least $5, 000 from my writing and writing-related activities. I’ve already made over a hundred dollars through my writing this year, and not only am I working for DJiZM and negotiating with one other company, I’ve also gotten ideas for articles I’d like to query to different magazines because of these jobs. This may seem like a big goal, and as someone who’s only ever made a couple hundred dollars here and there, it is, but I still think it’s totally achievable.

My income goal for May? $650. That’s a little bit less than I need to make each month to reach my goal for the year, but I’m planning to do a lot more writing work this summer.

Launch 10 Commandments– this project has been put on hold, but really all it needs is an intro, some exercises, and a conclusion. I’m probably going to be working on that a lot this month.

Launch an email newsletter– I’ve decided to hold off on this project as I’m having difficulty choosing how I’m going to run it and I’ve got a lot going on right now. I might come back to it this year, but for now it’s off the table.

Create Dear Diary Workbook– I’d really love to get this done this year, but I’m not sure if I’ll have the time, seeing as how behind I am on my edits for Moonshadow’s Guardian. Still, I’d like to get it close to done, so my goal is to write at least one page of this book every month until the end of the year.

Edit Some Secrets Should Never Be Known– This will get started as soon as I’ve finished editing Moonshadow’s Guardian, which seems like it will be an eternity. I’ll probably end up working on this during the summer.

Write one new novel– this is for November, but this month I’d like to figure out what the basic premise of my story will be. I might end up using November to do a full rewrite of the second half of/sequel to Moonshadow’s Guardian. I don’t know yet.

This month I’ll be buckling down on my time. No more distracted procrastination for me. I’ve already started carving out more time for myself, but by the end of this month, I’d like to make sure I’m spending at least one hour every day on one of these goals.

What are you doing to reach your goals this May? How did you do in April?

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Progress Report March 2013

Today it’s time for me to be accountable, to share my progress with all of you.

March has certainly been more productive than February was, but I’m not satisfied with my progress on most of my goals, and I’ve realized that I’m severely over committed. Falling behind on your projects is one thing. Staying behind on them is another, and it usually means one of two things: either you’re over committed, or you’re not really dedicated to the goals you claim to have.

I’ve realized that I’m suffering from the former problem and I’m currently working on a plan to address that, which includes some changes here at Dianna’s Writing Den. But that’s a conversation for next week. Today I’m going to show you why I need to kill some of my commitments by sharing my progress–and what progress I’d like to make in April.

Here goes nothing:

Finish editing Moonshadow’s Guardian– I edited about three chapters and added one chapter. It’s slow going right now because there are several scenes that need to be added near the beginning, but I’m making headway and I’ve put in more time on this during March. In April I’d like to edit at least six chapters, but I’m really aiming for ten. This means a bigger time commitment, but frankly, I need to finish this damn thing.

Write 12 Guest Posts– This goal I actually made some progress on, with one guest post published at Girl Seeks Place. I also made plans for a second guest post which I’ll be writing today. Once it goes live I’ll be at three guest posts for the year, so I’m doing pretty well on this one. I’ve got a list of other potential blogs and a few people I need to follow up with. With any luck, I’ll be able to pull ahead this month by getting another two guest posts.

My Confession:

At the beginning of the year, I set several goals for myself. In the last month, I’ve only put serious effort into two of them. One of them is intended for much later in the year–writing a novel during Nanowrimo–but the others have accidentally fallen by the wayside.

This month my main goal is to reorganize my life to make time for the goals I’ve set for myself. Those goals are focused on what will build the foundations for my writing career. Since my time is limited by school and working outside the home, I need to focus on making sure my time at home is spent on activities that will build my career.

In previous years I spent a lot of time making goals, but I didn’t spend much time evaluating how I progressed each month. This year I’ve started analyzing where my time goes more carefully. Now that I’ve figured out the patterns, it’s time to create a concrete plan of action. It’s time to decide what stays, and what goes.

It’s always important to analyze where our time is spent and to make sure the majority of our activities contribute to our long term success and happiness. Next week I’ll be unveiling my plans, knowing that if I fail it will essentially be in front of all of you, hoping that I’ll inspire you to create a similar plan to increase time spent working towards your writing goals.

With any luck, we’ll all be able to say April was a productive month.

How much progress did you make towards your goals in March?

January Progress

This year my main goal is to build the foundation for a writing career and to help you do the same. With this in mind, I’ve decided to share my progress on the goals I set for this year at the end of each month. I’d love to hear about your own progress in the comments below. Remember, we’re all on this path together. Not only is it important to help each other figure things out, but it’s important to celebrate our successes as a community.

I’m going to start by addressing each of my goals in order.

Finish Editing Moonshadow’s Guardian– I kind of hit a snag with this where I thought I’d printed the whole thing, but when I reached the end of my printed manuscript, it wasn’t the end of the book. So I got frustrated and worked on other stuff for a while, but now I’ve printed the rest of it and started working at it again.

Write Twelve Guest Posts– I have a whole bunch of ideas, a list of blogs to pitch, and a first draft for one of these blogs. I’ll be editing and submitting my first guest post next week, and with any luck you’ll be hearing about its publication soon.

Query 12 Articles– I’ve been having a lot of trouble developing specific article ideas to the point where I’m comfortable querying them, so I’m already behind. But I’m going to work hard to catch up over the next week or so.

Launch 10 Commandments– I’ve typed this whole thing up now, so all I need to do is lengthen it a bit and then add some writing exercises and it’ll be finished. It’ll still be a bit before it’s formatted and ready for sale, but I’m proud of my progress on this.

Create Dear Diary Workbook– I haven’t really started working on this yet, but I have a pretty good idea of what I want it to look like.

Edit Some Secrets Should Never Be Known– Since I’m behind on editing Moonshadow’s Guardian, I haven’t started editing this yet, but I’m hoping to get started early next month.

Write One New Novel– This one’s special for November, so I haven’t started it yet.

Analysis of Progress

I was a little bit less focused this month than I should have been, and I’ve been doing poorly with the planner I decided to try for the year, but I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished this month. I also did some other work, including editing and submitting a short story that I hadn’t touched in a while.

My main concern in the month ahead is adjusting to the new planner. I’m hoping that I can teach myself to stick with the plan in order to increase my productivity. I’ve never been someone who likes rigid routine, but if I am to succeed in this business, I need to put the hours in and I need some sort of routine. I need to practice staying at my computer even when it’s much more tempting to go somewhere.

Right now spontaneity is the biggest thing standing in my way. My goal is to balance the routine and the spontaneity so that I don’t feel stifled but I get the most work possible done.

What progress have you made on your goals? What is your plan for the month ahead?

Creating Goals That Match Your Definition of Success

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.

Balancing Fiction and Non-Fiction

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.

Summer Goals 2012–Building a Writing Career


I decided to interrupt my series of prompts and markets by talking about creating writing goals for the summer. It’s important to set goals for yourself as a writer, both short term and long term–and to revise them regularly. The turning of the seasons is usually a good marker for when you should revise your goals.

Summer also brings with it vacations for many people–particularly students and teachers–and it’s important for writers to utilize that time in the best way possible. So today I’d like to walk you through my summer goals through 2012–and to explain how each of them will contribute to my long-term writing career.

My main goal: to build a name for myself and start getting regular assignments from as many paid publications as possible.

This is my main goal–the one that all the other goals will build up to. Note that I’m focusing on paid publications. Why? There are a number of reasons. Paid publications are usually more exclusive and often considered to be more prestigious. More importantly, I’m trying to make a career out of this–preferably by the time I’m out of high school. I’m confident that I can do that, with a nest egg for when I’m done and ready to move out on my own, but not if I spend a lot of energy writing for free. This blog and my novels are currently non-paying work–they’re things I’m passionate about, and I’m fine with that, but I can’t stretch myself too thin.

My secondary goals aren’t any less important than my main goal–they are the building blocks through which I will build my main goal, a reputation in the writing world and regular, paid work. There are five main things I want to do this summer.

1. Expand my knowledge base. I’ve been taking a light week since school just ended, but once my brain’s relaxed again I’ll be back to the books. This summer I hope to read in variety–books about different cultures that exist on earth, fiction based here and elsewhere, books about ancient religions, whatever I can get my hands on. I want to be a continuous student, learning from life as I go. The best part about what I’ll be studying this summer is that it’s all books I’ve chosen–not something forced upon me by a teacher.

How will expanding my knowledge base help my writing career? The more I know, the more I can write freelance articles about. I’m already familiar with a few markets for most of these topics. Not only that, but I draw much of my inspiration from other cultures around the world in my fiction. As I learn about them, it will give my writing new depth.

2. Write and submit one non-fiction article every week. I actually did that last week–and coincidentally, it got accepted. I got the check last night. So I’m pretty confident that if I write an article every week and submit it to a suitable market, a few of them will get published. I’ve spent the last couple of days brainstorming and I already have lots of ideas–articles about writing, articles about blogging, travel articles, and more–so I’m pretty sure I’ll meet this one. All I have to do is make sure I put aside the time to write, edit and submit one article per week.

This goal helps build my career in so many ways. It enforces a regular writing, editing and submission schedule. It helps me build an income from my passion. It helps me gain confidence in myself and my writing skills. Hopefully it’ll convince a couple editors to call me back for other pieces. And it’s reasonable for someone just breaking into the industry–and trying to balance non-fiction and fiction.

3. Apply to one writing job every day. It’s important not to spend too many hours looking for steady work when I could be writing and submitting articles, but I am hoping to find steady part-time work in my field. Whether that takes the form of a biweekly contribution to a magazine or website, or a job writing a blog post per day, isn’t the important part. The important part is that it’s steady, and something I can continue into next school year, when I won’t have much time to write articles on spec or look for new work.

The goal of applying to one job per day keeps me competitive and in the market, but doesn’t usually have me spending hours on job sites. On a bad day, I’ll spend two or three hours looking around. On a good day, I’ll find two or three in the first place I check–usually Craigslist, where I recently found a social media job–and apply to all of them. I don’t apply to just any writing job: I have to be both qualified and interested, or it won’t gel long term. If I manage to do this, it should lead to at least one writing job by the end of the summer, particularly if I manage to get most of the articles from number two published.

4. Edit my damn novel. This is my primary fiction goal. I’m hoping to have this book ready for submission by the end of this year. I’ve already started on it and I’m taking my time with it, trying to get it all right. After I edit a chapter on the computer, I print it up and edit it on paper. When I go to edit the next chapter, I put in the changes I made on paper to the chapter before it first.

While all this stuff about freelancing will allow me to build a career off writing quickly, probably even right out of high school, novel writing is my first love. I’ve been working on Moonshadow’s Guardian, my summer project, on and off for six years now–and someday soon, I will see it out the door. It’ll probably be a lot longer until I can live off novel writing than it will be until I can live off freelance writing–but all those hours of labour will be worth it someday.

5. Get a couple more short stories out on the market. This summer I want to write more short fiction and put it out on the market. Not a lot more, since I find short fiction draining–and none of my stories already on market have found homes yet–but I’ve just got to keep trying.

Since I haven’t actually made money from any of my short fiction yet, this isn’t a big priority on my list, but it is important. I have one story that’s going through edits right now and I’m hoping to write two or three more this summer and get them out into the world. Hopefully, these stories will at some point bring me income. If not, they’re valuable writing practice–and if I really can’t get them into any markets, I’ll edit them one last time and offer them to my readers for free, because for me fiction isn’t about money, it’s about passion.

What do I want the end result to look like? By September I’d like to have at least two hundred dollars in my savings account and two steady streams of income. Right now I’m sitting on $50 of savings and one steady stream of minimal income. That’s fine–right now I care more about stability than the amount, and I’m proud to say I’m a quarter of the way to my goal. I’m aiming low because I don’t care about money–and because money is dependant on the acceptance of my work by other people, whereas I control how much I put out and what I do with it.

Each person’s goals should look different… which brings me to the last part of this blog post, some tips to help you create your own list of goals:

  • Pick a larger goal–like gaining a consistent stream of income from your writing–and make all your smaller goals ones that will build up to it. This way, at the end of the season, you’ll be able to assess if you’ve reached a new place in your writing career.
  • Before you add something to your list, ask yourself three questions: how will this build towards my final goal for the season? How will it help me in the long run? Is it something I can reasonably accomplish in the amount of time I have to dedicate to it–or is it going to make me burn out early? Your seasonal goals should always be within reach, to build towards your dreams. Before you know it, those will be in reach too.
  • Don’t make your list too long. Commit to only the projects you have time for. I have five projects or goals because it’s summer, and I can focus on my writing full time while I wait to return to school. You might only have time for one or two big projects. Admit that and focus on the things you think will be most helpful for reaching your main goal. Over committing will just make you feel guilty because you can’t accomplish everything you dreamed up in the time you have.
  • Last but not least, write your goals down. Put them somewhere where you can see them. Share them with other people if you can–on your blog if you already have one. In fact, share them with me…

Surprise! I’ve got a challenge for you for the week: draft a list of goals for the summer. If you have a blog, post them on your blog and post a link in the comments–and next week, I’ll write up a post listing all of your goals for the summer. Let’s make this a productive summer together.

Re-Evaluating your Writing Goals

It’s that time of year again. Everyone’s after your money, the houses are all lit up with half a dozen colours, and people are singing in the streets. The new year is right around the corner and it’s time to start re-evaluating our lives and deciding what changes we want to make next year.

For us writers, it’s important to look carefully at what we want to achieve in the next year. For those of you who are hobby writers and plan to keep it that way, you need to pick a goal that’s reasonable and that fulfils your creative needs. For those of us who are aiming to become professional authors, we need to look even more carefully at our goals to make sure that they’re really moving us in that direction.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that we should really make four sets of goals: one set of long term goals, one set of goals for the next five years, one set of goals for the next three years, and finally a set of goals for the next year. Today I’d like to walk you through the process of creating these sets of goals.

First, look at the goals you’ve made for this year. Cross off whatever you’ve achieved, make notes of the ones that you’re still working on, and make note of which ones you won’t be able to accomplish before January first. Then look at any sets of longer term goals that you’ve had and take note of whether or not you’ve made progress towards these goals in the last year.

Your first set of goals should really be a statement about what you want to achieve long term. Think of this as something like a ten or twenty year list. Mine would be to have published several short stories and three or four novels in ten years, and to be making enough money to live solely off of my writing. Include all the major things that you want to accomplish in the next ten to twenty years.

From there, we’re going to work backwards. Now create a goal list for the next five years. This goal list should include how many novels you want to write during that time period, how many you want to edit, whether you want to try a different kind of fiction each year, and an idea of how many short stories you’d like to write–say, between 20-30. My list currently includes goals relating to novels, short fiction, and non-fiction. Make sure that all of your goals will lead you in the direction of your long term goals.

It’s time to create a list of goals for the next three years. Once again, this includes any novels you want to write or edit, any grants or competitions you specifically want to enter, or whatever other writing goals will lead you to your final destination. If you want to be a famous novelist, make goals relating to writing, editing and submitting novels. Do the same for short stories if that’s where your interest lies. Aim to have a certain number of subscribers to your blog or hits on your website. My three year plan hopes to see Moonshadow’s Guardian either on submission or happily at a new home and the same for the novel I’m currently finishing.

Once you’ve got those plans, it’s pretty simple to figure out what you need to do next year. My goals for next year involve editing Moonshadow’s Guardian once, sending it to beta readers, editing it again and then hopefully submitting it for publication by August of next year. It also includes one full rewrite of the novel I’m currently finishing. Another goal is to write and submit one short story each month next year. These goals are designed to help me reach my long term goals of sustaining myself and being a well known name. Your goals should be designed to do the same thing.

Remember that these goals are probably going to change somewhat, and that’s okay. In fact, you should closely examine your goals every six months to see if they’re working for you. It’s important not to push yourself towards things you’ve realized you don’t really want to do. I’m not going to look hard for non-fiction work because I don’t want to. But I am going to write more this year and submit more. That’s my passion.

It’s all up to you to decide what you want to do. I hope this has helped you work on your goals for next year. I’ll be posting my complete list, with the specific reason for each goal, closer to the end of the year.

What kinds of goals do you think you’ll be making for 2012?

The Pros and Cons of Word Count Goals

Those of you who have been with me for a while already know that I’m an active Nanowrimo participant and advocate. I’ve participated in Nanowrimo six times, and the event has really changed my life. I wrote my first first first draft of a novel during Nanowrimo when I was eleven. It gave me confidence that yes, I could write a novel, and yes, I could finish a novel. I went out to events with my mother, who’s also participated a few times, and I made lots of friends. I’ve written up to 300, 000 words in the month of November. And I’ve always had fun.

I’ve also attempted Nanowriye three or four times, and this summer I signed up for CampNanowrimo. But I’ve discovered that word count goals, as much as I love them, are not always the best goals to have when you’re writing. So I’ve made a list of the pros and cons of word count goals. I’m not talking about daily word count goals here, I’m talking about goals like writing 50, 000 words in one month.

Pros

-A word count goal, particularly one that you’ve told everyone about or that is part of an online challenge like Nanowrimo, forces you to write.
-It’s a definitive goal with a set time period, which helps you accomplish something.
-It’s easily divided into smaller chunks with a calculator. (Or if you’re really smart, without one.)
-It helps you focus on writing the story itself and not on the individual words.
-It helps you force aside your inner editor when you’re writing a first draft.

Cons

-It’s hard to sustain throughout the year.
-It doesn’t incorporate editing as part of the goal, and sometimes you really do need to just sit down and edit something, pushing other projects aside.
-It usually makes for more editing when you look at it later due to more typos and bad word choices. And more run on sentences.
-It makes you focus simply on output, not on the quality of output, and is dangerous to do all of the time.

Conclusions

Despite my background in Nanowrimo, I’ve learned that I shouldn’t set a high word goal every month. Somebody who’s in it just for fun, maybe. But somebody who’s serious about publication sometimes needs to focus on editing or preparing for–or participating in–writing workshops and conventions. Sometimes you really only should be writing a little bit every day to keep in practice. Every once in a while, you need to take a day off. When you set yourself high word goals all the time, you often set yourself up for disappointment. We can’t push our lives completely aside all year to write incredible amounts. Sometimes, we just have to take it slow.

Do you like to set yourself high word count goals? What other kinds of writing goals do you set for yourself?