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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?

Rules for Productivity

I mentioned last week that I realized I was over committed. The truth is, I’ve known it for a while, but I denied it. I wanted to be super woman, to be able to manage eighteen projects at once while still in school and even working. Unfortunately, I’m not super woman, and I reached a point where I couldn’t deny it anymore.

So I decided to create a plan. But it didn’t turn out to be like any other plan. Instead, it’s a list of rules. Some of it is taking my own advice from my series on finishing projects. I know how to finish a project. I’ve written over a dozen novels. Yes, editing is always slower work for me, but that’s no excuse for the pace I’ve been working at. My new rules govern how I spend my time, ensuring that I’ll have time for my important projects. Perhaps you could adopt one or two yourself.

My new rules

1. I will not work more than three days a week. This is at my part time job handing out flyers. As much as the money’s nice, I don’t need to pay rent right now, so there are much more important things than money. Also, considering that I don’t pay rent, I’ll still make a decent amount of money by working three days a week.

2. I will take breaks from Dianna’s Writing Den. I love blogging here at Dianna’s Writing Den, but it’s a huge commitment to post three times a week. From now on, I won’t be posting on holidays, and I’ll be taking one week off every month. The first of these breaks will be April 22nd-26th. Each post I don’t write is an hour spent on a different project, and right now I need all of those hours. I’m hoping this will allow me to not only put more hours into other projects but to bring you better content during the other three weeks of the month.

3. I will refuse any unpaid commitment requiring more than two hours of my time. Two hours is about the time it takes me to outline and write a guest post. I already have several unpaid long term commitments, and frankly, I need to guard my time carefully. I also need to focus on profits, so anything more than the smallest unpaid commitment is off the table.

4. I will not spend more than an hour on email on week nights. I get a lot of email. It’s actually ridiculous. Every day I get a few dozen awesome articles or blog posts in the mail along with essential correspondences. Making sure I don’t go over this limit means making sure I have time to work on other projects before bed. Playing catch up on the weekends isn’t a big deal either. Most of those emails can wait.

5. I will make progress on one of my main goals every day. This doesn’t have to be a lot of progress. I’m often exhausted when I get home, and I have to make sure that I’m awake on time for school. The important thing right now isn’t how much progress I make each day, but that I make progress each day. Even if I only edit one page of my book or write an outline for a guest post, that’s still a step in the right direction. If I take one step each day, sooner or later I’ll reach my goals.

These rules are designed to help me complete the projects that are important to me. They fit with the busy life I’m leading right now, and most are good advice at any point in a writer’s life. Once I’ve finished writing this post, I’ll be printing up this list and putting it somewhere prominent in my house. In a place where I’ll see it every day.

If you’ve been struggling to complete your projects due to a ‘lack of time’, perhaps you need to adopt some of these rules yourself. You’ll be amazed at how much a simple set of rules like this can change things–every minute counts, and a few hours of extra time a month can make a big difference.

Do you have rules around your productivity/writing/time?

Staying Focused

For the last few weeks we’ve been discussing how to deal with various disturbances in your writing. We’ve discussed family interruptions, technological interruptions, school/work interruptions and even writer’s block.

Today we’re going to discuss one of the most important things any writer can do, especially when working on a book length project: staying focused.

For most people, staying focused–especially for the amount of time required to complete a novel–is no easy feat. In a world that’s all about instant gratification, it’s hard to keep your focus and to stick with a project that might provide no gratification at all. But as writers, that’s what we have to do. If you don’t want to hunker down and get focused on a project that admittedly might never make you a dime or see the light of day, go do something else.

So how do you stay focused? I use a simple three step process, and while it’s not perfect, it keeps me on track most of the time.

1. Figure out your focus. Choose a project to work on and commit to finishing it by a certain date. Be specific. Is this going to be a novel-length project or a series of poems? Often a lack of focus is a symptom of being too vague about your goals. As any motivational writer will tell you, it’s much easier to stay focused on a specific, measurable goal. So be as specific as you can when choosing what you’re going to focus on in the coming months.

2. Make a plan. Now that you know what project you’d like to focus on, make a plan to complete it. Take a look at the deadline you’ve specified and how long you want your project to be. How many days between now and then do you have? How much would you have to work on the project each day to finish it by the deadline? Is it a reasonable amount of work? If not, you might have to adjust your deadline.

Make sure that you include all kinds of work in your estimate. If it’s a first draft, writing might be the only thing you need to do, but on the second draft you might have to write some new scenes as well as edit the old ones. If it’s an ebook you plan on self publishing or a website you plan on launching, you’ll probably want to do some advance marketing.

Give yourself a reasonable deadline based on how much work you can be expected to do each day, then start planning your time. Are you going to spend an hour a day editing your novel? Or are you going to spend one day editing and the next marketing? Decide how to organize your time and write down your plan.

3. Eliminate distractions. This is actually what we’ve been talking about for the last few weeks, and it is perhaps the most important thing. Now that you’ve carved out time to work on your project and figured out how to use that time, it’s your job to defend that time. This part involves saying no to people and creating strategies to deal with the distractions you’re most susceptible to.

The easiest way to do this is by scheduling time to work on your chosen project each day and making sure nothing interferes with that plan. Make it a habit to write at the same time every day. That way it’ll become routine and soon you won’t have to think about it, you’ll just write at that time each day.

Conclusion

This may seem like an over simplification and maybe it is, but I think keeping the focus to finish a project depends entirely on these three things. In fact, I argue it could even be simplified to two things: make a plan and stick with it. It’s a simple concept in theory that becomes incredibly complex when you try to implement it, but if you follow those two rules–no matter what it takes–sooner or later you’ll have a finished project.

And that will be worth all those hours of hard work, right?

Writing Goals 2013

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.

Goals 2013

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?

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?

Staying Motivated When Life Interrupts

The last couple of weeks have marked the beginning of school for many of us. Personally I’m very excited to begin the new school year, knowing that it moves me one step closer to graduation and from there I can begin the rest of my life. I’m also excited because I’ve got some great classes this semester–particularly Aboriginal Studies and Law–but all the excitement in the world doesn’t stop me from catching sick. Which is, unfortunately, what happened to me last week. I spent most of the weekend in bed, so this is a very short post.

Despite my sickness and not getting much done–I managed to forget my school binder at a friend’s house on Friday evening because I was so out of it–I did manage to write a Dear Diary entry each day this weekend. I didn’t do any editing and I did only a little bit of reading, but I managed to accomplish those 250 words of my character’s diary each and every day. I picked 250 as my word goal because it’s not too challenging for me–it still allows me to have time to write other things and to work on my homework–and because it makes the most sense for my character, who would write fairly brief diary entries.

I hope that you’ve picked a similarly easily achievable goal. Just remember each day when you sit down at your computer that you don’t have to write an epic. Your goal isn’t to write a novel this month, and it’s certainly not to drain yourself entirely writing extremely long diary entries. I’ve made the mistake of making the word count goal too high–1, 000 words–for this challenge before, and learned that long winded diary entries don’t really help characterization, they just get boring after a while. Each day is different, but there’s only so much in any given day that’s worth writing about.

Remember that while you are challenging yourself, it’s more important to learn about your character than it is to write x number of words. The goal is to learn a little something about your character each day and to get a little more used to their voice each day. Even if you can only push out one or two paragraphs on any given day, that’s okay. You can still learn something from those one or two paragraphs about your character. And no matter how sick or busy you are, you can always write those one or two paragraphs.

What is the biggest obstacle between you and your writing time?

Discipline

This year most of my goals revolve around one thing: discipline. In past years I have fallen off of the writing bandwagon. I have forgotten to blog for weeks on end, and I have failed to finish several projects. I have not made the amount of time for my writing that I should have. In short, I have not been disciplined enough.

But things are changing this year. This summer I turn eighteen and I will finally be old enough to sign a book contract. This year I have to put in the effort. This year I have to pull myself together and finish, edit, and submit. I have often said that I do not have a part time job because I spend the time I would spend at such a job writing. But this is only an excuse unless I am actually trying to make a living off of my writing.

My goals this year are much smaller than my goals last year, but they are also more focused. By the end of this year I want to have one novella out on submission and one novel about to be sent out for the first time. It’s time for me to stop procrastinating and start really writing. This is my career, this is my future and I have to take it seriously.

So how am I going to become more disciplined this year?

Breaking Down Big Goals

Breaking down big goals will allow me to focus on individual tasks-what I need to do right now rather than what I need to do by the end of the year. Preparing Moonshadow’s Guardian for submission doesn’t seem so daunting when I have a timeline for the big rewrite, the second rewrite, the final proofread and creating the query package. Having Some Secrets Should Never Be Known ready for its final proofread by next year seems just a bit easier when I have a timeline for pre-work, writing, and rewriting.

Break down your yearly goals into monthly goals. If you need to make even smaller goals, think about weekly goals and daily goals-for example, if you write a page a day, will you meet your monthly timeline? How about if you write a chapter or two each week? Writing two chapters a week, even if it means finishing your novel by the end of the month, doesn’t feel quite so daunting as ‘finish my novel by the end of the month’.

Changing My Mindset to Change My Life

Last summer I learned that there really is something to how you think about things, that it actually does influence your life’s course. I challenged many of my beliefs and I have become a better person because of that. I have overcome former weaknesses, though I will never be perfect. I have accomplished what I wanted and needed to accomplish.

This year I am going to do much the same thing with my writing. Here are some of the beliefs I have to challenge:

I don’t have time to write If I have time to go out and see my friends and plenty of time to spend with my boyfriend, I have time to write. I just need to spend less time socializing and more time writing. I have to make the time and I have to say no to last minute plans.

I won’t make a living as a writer until I’m old If I focus hard enough, if I truly dedicate myself to my craft, if I put in the effort, I can get published sooner rather than later. I am a good writer, and though I will always be learning, I know enough now to start making a career. And if I focus hard enough and I get published soon, I can probably be making a living off my writing by the time I’m 25.

I need more life experience to get published I’ve had a lot more life experience than many people my age. I have matured as a person and as a writer. I am quite capable right now. Life experience will always help make my writing better, but I can’t wait for life to happen. I need to make the writing happen sooner rather than later.

Paying Attention to Small Accomplishments

Giving yourself a pat on the back every time you accomplish something small is more productive than thinking about what you still have left to do. You may have heard the advice to live your life in the moment; well, to a point, writing should be much the same way. You should focus on the scene or page or chapter that you are working on rather than the whole book. Whole books are a lot scarier to think about.

Next time you finish your writing for the day, congratulate yourself. Think about what you’ve accomplished and how well you’re doing. Don’t think about the next day or the day after that. Just sit down with a cup of something warm and tasty and enjoy yourself.

Applying Butt To Chair

Any writer worth his or her salt knows that the most important thing about being a writer is applying your butt to the chair and actually writing. This is also the hardest part of being a writer. Calling yourself a writer and having great ideas are easy; sitting down and turning those ideas into stories is hard. There are a few things that I need to do to help myself apply butt to chair:

Spend more time at home Lots of writers don’t have this problem. There are many shy writers and I would go so far as to say that the majority of writers have problems socializing. Personally I am extremely social and though I don’t hang out with many ‘normal people’ (by society’s standards) I do hang out with a lot of people. I need to spend more time at home to ensure that I have time for both homework and writing stuff.

Take My Writing Seriously the other part of this is to make sure my friends take my writing seriously. I need to learn how to say no when I’m invited out. I need to make my friends aware that I do need time for writing. I don’t need to schedule specific writing time every day-but I do need to make sure that I have a little bit of time to write every day or almost every day.

Focus on the Dream When life gets me down and it gets hard to find time to write-or hard to write-I need to remember my dream. I need to close my eyes and imagine my future-preferrably in a little house somewhere near or on the cliffs of Scotland, writing books with a couple of cats and hopefully the same man I have now. I need to remember why I put myself through the pain of forcing words onto a blank page. I need to remember that it’s all worth it in the end.

This year I need to focus on becoming a real, professional writer. It’s time to stop messing around and start treating my writing like what it is-a career, a future. It’s time to be a little more disciplined. And when I am my future will fall into place.

How can you be more disciplined?

Changing Your Mindset to Change Your Life


When working to achieve your goals, it’s good to remember that how you think about your goals is as important as the goals themselves. I’m not just talking about Breaking Down Big Goals, I’m talking about optimism versus pessimism in a sense. Not optimism towards the world-I still have a very bleak worldview-but optimism towards yourself. I’m talking about focusing on positive reinforcement instead of negative reinforcement.

Thinking ‘I Can’ and ‘I Will’ instead of ‘I Can’t’ and ‘I won’t’

Everybody’s told you to make sure that your goals are concrete and achievable. What they haven’t told you is how much your thinking can damage your progress.

I’ll use a very personal example. Until recently, I’ve always had relationship problems. I never gave any of my relationships longer than six months life expectancy. I expected that I would be a bad girlfriend; I expected that nobody would be able to deal with me.

At the end of the summer, I had a mental breakdown. I screwed up the best relationship of my life, and it could have been forever. Thankfully it wasn’t. But before I could re-commit to the relationship, I had to change the way I thought. Instead of ‘this isn’t going to work’ I had to think ‘this will work’. I had to think ‘this will last a long time’ instead of ‘this will only last a few months’. I had to think ‘I can be a good girlfriend, I will be a good girlfriend’ instead of ‘I’m a bad girlfriend, I will always be a bad girlfriend’. Most of all I had to learn to think about how I could get through the problems in my mind, the problems in my communication with my boyfriend, rather than thinking they were unbeatable and that they would destroy us. I did make all of these mental changes, and I’m back to that commitment, quite happily still in the best relationship I’ve ever had.

Your writing goals-and your life goals-can be just as easily broken down as your relationships, if not more so. All it takes is thinking ‘I can’t accomplish this’ or ‘life won’t give me the time I need’ or ‘I won’t do this.’ You have to think ‘I can accomplish this’ and ‘I will make time for this’ and ‘I will do this’. It’s hard sometimes, but it’s something you have to do.

When you’re feeling down and life is getting in the way, think about what you have already accomplished. If you managed to do that when letting life push you around, imagine what you can do if you forcibly make time to reach your goals. If you’re feeling down about your writing, then write something anyway, and focus on how good it feels to have written, not how hard it is to write.

Replace every Negative thought with a Positive thought

Every time a nasty thought about yourself and your goals, challenge it with a positive thought. Don’t think that you’re the most amazing person ever instead of the worst person ever; do think that you are a good person rather than a bad person. Every time ‘I can’t do this’ pops into your head, tell yourself ‘yes I can, if I try’. Every time you think ‘I’m too lazy to do this’ or ‘I’m not disciplined enough for this’ tell yourself ‘I can do this’ and ‘I am disciplined enough’. If something is really blocking you from reaching your goals, think about how to get over, around, under, or through that obstacle.

I am devoting myself to a new way of thinking. I will not say that I am lazy or undisciplined. I will say that it is hard for me to keep any strict routine, and I will think of ways to be productive without a strict routine so that I don’t get myself down about not being in routine. I will not say that blogging three times a week is too much work for me. I will say that I can do it, but I need to make the time for blogging. I will not believe that it is too hard to finish rewriting a novella while working on the mythology of another world. I will believe instead that with proper focus and making time I can certainly finish both the mythology and the novella in a couple of months.

Did you complete high school? Odds are, if you managed that-or if you’re still in school and managing to pass-you can do a lot of other great things, too. If you completed high school, you have the discipline to write a book, even if not very quickly. If you completed high school, you can probably blog three times a week; it’s no different from doing three one-page assignments in a week. You might say that they gave you six hours a day to do it in-but if you made time for your homework, you can make time for your passion.

So next time you look at your list of goals and think ‘I’m never going to manage that in a year’, think instead ‘I can do this and probably more this year’. It’s not easy, but nothing worth doing ever is. (Except maybe breathing and sleeping… Possibly eating.)

What negative thoughts are holding you back? How will you challenge this?

Breaking Down Big Goals

This year I think most of us have big goals and high hopes. Like me, you might be planning to finish rewriting and to submit your first novella. Or you might be planning to write two first drafts and edit the first book. Or you might be planning to write a lot of short stories and send those out. You might even have books with publication dates that you’re just itching to sell.

On a personal front, you might be planning to quit smoking, eat healthier, learn more. You might have decided that this year you want to work on more non-writing creative projects. You might want to spend this year focusing on finishing high school and getting into university. Whatever your goals are, it’s time to take a look at how to accomplish them.

Breaking Down Your Goal: The Basics

Each of your big goals can and should be broken down into more manageable goals. A yearly goal can usually easily be broken down into monthly goals. If your big goal is nebulous-eat healthier or write more, for example-that’s fine, as long as you can break it down into concrete monthly goals. For example, in January you might start eating healthier by making sure you eat a bowl of salad every other day. You might start writing more by writing one page every day. In February you might want to eat fresh fruit every day, alternating between apples, oranges, and several kinds of berries. You might also want to write two pages every day.

The biggest goal for me this year is to finish a complete rewrite of my 2006 Nanowrimo, Moonshadow’s Guardian, and to be ready and able to submit it by my eighteenth birthday on August 29th. I have decided to split it into two novellas for story reasons. I only want to submit the first one on my eighteenth birthday, but I would like to have finished the second one by the end of the year.

So how do I break up this goal? It looks something like this:

January-February: During January and February I will finish the first Novella, which will remain named Moonshadow’s Guardian. This will consist of writing a page or two every day, and tinkering briefly with the page before the one I’m working on to get me back into story mode. When breaking up your own goal, remember that things don’t need to be done all at once. You have all year; spend January laying down a foundation for the rest of your work and February starting it.

March-April In March I will hopefully have already finished this draft of Moonshadow’s Guardian. This will make time to plunge fully into the writing of my current full-length novel project, Some Secrets Should Never Be Known. I’ll spend March working on other projects and start a second, smaller rewrite on April first. March is often used as an editing month and it is NanoEdmo, so I will probably be running several articles on editing during that month.

When breaking up your goal, remember that by April 30th you should be about a quarter of the way to reaching your goal.

May-June I will finish the second, smaller rewrite preferrably by May 15th. It will take less time than the first because there will be less to do-probably a lot less. In June I will be able to start my first edit of Some Secrets Should Never Be Known, but I will also be preparing a synopsis, query, and a market list. The market for Novellas is growing, so while I already have my eyes on a very specific publisher, I will also be looking into other publishers around this time.

By June you should have made decent progress into your goals, enough that you are just riding on momentum. If you haven’t, don’t worry, it just means you need to spend more time on your goals. Think carefully about where you can find extra time. And if you have a problem with writer’s block, try some meditation and some prompts. Think about why you’re blocked and how you can get past it.

July-August July will probably be my most writing-heavy month, because in August I will probably be fleeing Toronto to visit a friend of mine in BC. Since I’ll be driving across the country with my boyfriend, I won’t have too much time to write. I probably won’t even have a laptop by then. So in July I want to do one final minor edit on Moonshadow’s Guardian, write a final copy of the synopsis and a final copy of the first query I would like to send out. (To a specific publisher.) In August I will probably just be sending it out.

By July you should be halfway through your goal. July’s a good month to finish one stage of your project entirely and to begin a new one. Those of us who have vacation during the summer should take account of that and make the best use of our time possible.

September-October By September Moonshadow’s Guardian, the first novella, will be out on submission. While I sit and wait anxiously for a response, in September and October I will be outlining and naming the second novella as well as planning for Nanowrimo.

September is a time for new beginnings; if you can have one goal finished by September and start another related goal by October, you’re ahead of the game. Now you should be very close to achieving your goal, with only a couple of things left to do. It’s also a good time to start thinking about how you can build upon your achievements next year. And in October, don’t forget to prepare for Nanowrimo.

November-December In November everything I’m working on will go on hold for Nanowrimo. In December I’ll take the first week or so off, but I would like to start working on the second novella. I also want to write a couple of short stories in December.

If you participate in Nanowrimo, then you might want to put everything else on hold for the month. If you don’t then you have an extra month to work on reaching your goal. November is a good time to start a habit that’s generally indoors-writing daily, drawing daily, blogging daily-and you’ll find lots of challenges all over the web to help you with this.

Obviously by December you should have only little things to do for your goal. By this point I will have finished Moonshadow’s Guardian and sent it out, and finished two drafts of Some Secrets Should Never Be Known, as well as having completed two workshops here on the blog and several short stories. December should be a slow month when it comes to your goals because Christmas will eat all your time.

How you can use this to your advantage

You don’t have to break your goal down into smaller monthly goals entirely just yet, but it’s good to have your January and February goals decided now at the very least, with an idea of what comes next. Remember to take monthly times into account when you’re setting goals-if you are going on a non-writing vacation (or minimal writing vacation) or if one month you know you’ll be working extra hours, set a smaller goal for that month; if you have a big vacation in the summer with lots of spare time, then prepare to devote yourself to your goals.

Each month’s goal should build upon the last. If one month you finish a first draft, the next month you should do something else, but keep the rewrite in the back of your mind and maybe send out part of it for critique. If you start eating salad three times a week one month, you should start an exercise routine or start eating more fresh fruit. Maybe one month you’ll stop biting your nails and the next you’ll stop smoking.

If your goals are nebulous, then you break them down into concrete monthly goals. If you achieve each concrete monthly goal, then you will have achieved your yearly goal. For example, I have an unofficial goal to take better care of myself. This will manifest in first cutting back on gluten (I might have Celiac, which means I shouldn’t eat gluten) and stopping biting my lips. Then I will be endeavoring to wash my face and brush my teeth more often, because I don’t do those things as much as I should. Finally I will be quitting smoking. One thing leads to another. One goal, one success, helps you believe that you can succeed at the harder task.

If you get discouraged, remember why you made the goal. Remember that you are rewriting to submit; you are eating better to live longer; you are submitting to become a published author; you are blogging to meet new friends.

Next week I’ll probably be posting about changing your mindset to change your life.

Writing Goals: Focusing on What You’re Doing rather than What you Should be Doing

I am always working on writing more, on devoting more time to my craft. I am not the best at self discipline. I do love my craft. I also love my friends, of which I have many, most of whom live quite a distance from me. It is very easy to get dristracted by friends or by one of a million other things. It is hard to balance school, writing, and all of my friendships.

I have tried many times to create a writing schedule. I have tried to designate three or four hours of my day to writing. I have tried just saying that I would spend an hour every day writing. I have tried all kinds of things; most of them have failed.

This year, instead of spending my time focusing on when and what I should be writing, I am going to focus on when and what I do write. Each day I am going to put down on my calendar how much of that day I spent writing, editing, or marketing.

You might have the same problems with self discipline. You might find it incredibly hard to spend an hour every day writing, even though you should, even though it is your passion. Instead of thinking about when you should be writing, and yelling at yourself when you don’t, try just writing it down every time you sit down to write.

The idea here is positive reenforcement: seeing that you wrote the day before on your calendar should help to inspire you to write today, and then seeing that you wrote today should help you write tomorrow.

Make the effort to write a little bit each day, and record all the time you spend writing. In a month’s time, you’ll be able to analyze how much time you spend writing, what keeps you from writing, and how you can make more time for your writing.

Today when you’ve finished writing, make sure to note on your calendar how much time you spent at your writing desk. We’ll talk more about this record in a month or so.

Do you spend too much time getting mad at yourself for not writing? Try instead to feel good about the time you do spend writing.