Tag Archives: goal

Keep It SMART in 2015

Tomorrow is the beginning of a new year. Instead of making an unrealistic resolution for the next year, apply the SMART methodology and set your goals with the intent of actually reaching them.

I don’t remember the first time I heard about SMART goals, but from the first time I used the methodology, it worked. Applying it to my writing goals was equally successful, and it’s something I do every year.

SMART goals are simply this: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Let me give you an example from my 2014 writing goals.

“By December 31st, I will have submitted no less than twenty stories to markets worldwide and will notch my first professionally paid sale.”

Using my goal as an example, here’s how I apply the methodology simply by asking and answering the following questions:

Is my goal Specific? Yes. I clearly defined what the goal was with a specific number of stories to submit and one professional sale.

Is my goal Measurable? Yes. I had a yardstick of twenty submittals to measure my progress against throughout the year, as well as the one professional sale.

Is my goal Attainable? Yes. Caution – attainability is highly subjective. Did I think my goal was attainable? Yes. I’ve submitted more than twenty stories in a year before, but a professionally paid short fiction sale eluded me. I felt I was ready to do so, and therefore the goal was attainable.

Is my goal Realistic? Again, this is a subjective goal but I felt I could submit the number of stories. Was it realistic to believe I was ready for a professional sale? To me, yes. I’ve been writing professionally for five years and I felt it was time. Could I have been wrong? Sure, but it was a realistic goal. Saying I would submit fifty times and make ten professional sales would have been unrealistic.

Finally, is my goal Timely? Yes, I put a date on it. Having that mark on the wall helped me stay focused on short fiction sales while I worked my day job, raised my kids, was a supportive husband, and sold a debut novel. The date is not a measurement. It’s an accountability tool and without it, I may not have been able to reach my goal. To date, I’ve submitted stories to contests and markets twenty-one times this year. I’ve had three sales, and one of them was a professionally qualifying sale.

Using the SMART methodology allows me to set and manage goals by making myself accountable to the specific requirements of the goal and forcing me to look realistically at where I am as a writer not where I think I should be. When I apply SMART to what I want my goals to be, I can stop thinking about the “what if” possibilities and focus on what I know that I can do. The rest will take care of itself.

Stay away from resolutions that will fade as January passes. Set SMART goals and make the most out of 2015.


 

 

Kevin Ikenberry writes after his kids go to bed. His day jobs for the last twenty years have revolved around space, so it’s no surprise he writes primarily science fiction. Kevin’s debut novel will be published by Red Adept Publishing in late 2015. You can find him online at www.kevinikenberry.com or on Twitter @TheWriterIke

 

 

Cracking the Whip: Hard Enough, But Not Too Hard

A Guest Post by Travis Heermann

Discipline.

A professional writing career lives and dies by discipline—or the lack thereof.

Maybe you have talent, but talent is only the beginning.

There’s honing one’s craft (got to practice and study until professional-level prose is automatic). There’s learning how to deal with rejection (growing a callus on one’s heart). There’s learning how to market one’s work effectively (most writers revile, loathe, and despise self-promotion). There’s connecting with a community of other writers, finding your tribe (who will sustain you through the long, dark nights of the soul).

And then there’s the simple fact that one has to insert one’s backside (Tab A) into the chair (Slot B), apply one’s hands to scribing tools (Assembly C), and wiggle them around until beauty and pathos are released into existence.

It all sounds so simple. But if it were, the world would harbor more professional writers.

It’s easy to pour something onto the page when the flush of inspiration is hot and new, when the Muse is sitting in one’s lap with a martini in one hand, stroking your hair with the other, and whispering thrills into your ear. Call it what you will—The Muse, inspiration, your subconscious, whatever—I’m talking about those moments when you realize two hours have passed and there are many more words on the page now than there were before, artful words poured forth from the chalice of your amazing subconscious.

However, the Muse is a fickle tart and simply doesn’t show up every day.

But you’re the professional. You have to show up to work even when the Muse doesn’t. You have to slog it out, even when the Muse is out there draping her(him)self over the lap of some other writer. The bottom line is this: the Muse most often visits writers who are working.

It is working that’s the hard part. Carving out a writing schedule when other demands on your time swarm like rabid termites out of the woodwork, and then guarding that time like a snarling, viciously aroused mama tiger, is where the discipline to finish books comes from.

One of the best ways to develop writing discipline is to set daily goals.

  • A paragraph.
  • A page.
  • A thousand words.
  • A chapter.

These are all good starts. A thousand words a day is a great round number, because it means in 60-90 days you will have a completed novel draft. If you write 250 words a day, a single page, you’ll have a novel draft in a year.

Regularly meeting a simple, achievable goal helps develop good, steady production habits. After a while, you may find that it becomes easier and easier to meet your production goals. In that case, try ramping up a little. Challenge yourself. Instead of a thousand words a day, try 1,500.

You will find, once you establish reasonably regular butt-in-chair discipline, that the Muse finds you increasingly sexy and comes over for trysts more frequently.

Nevertheless, there are limits. You should push those limits, yes, but you must make sure your goals are achievable. If there is no way you can write 3,000 words in a day, making that your goal, only to fail every single day unless you skip showering and sleep and feeding the kids, is a fabulous way to dive headfirst into the crazy pool. It will destroy your confidence like those dreams where you’re walking around naked at work. The Muse likes you best if you’re properly groomed and smelling nice.

For the last two years, I have successfully completed NaNoWriMo. This year was a real struggle, because I lost more than a week of writing time to travel and household emergencies. But I succeeded—51,000 words in about three weeks. It was a struggle. I had to make sacrifices. Friends and family saw me less often, because I had a goal. And I made it. That success alone was a tremendous confidence boost.

Fortunately I have learned to surround myself with people who understand and support my goals. They miss me, but they’ll get over it when the book is done.

In the coming months, I have a number of goals.

  • Finish the third volume of my Ronin Trilogy, Spirit of the Ronin.
  • Write seven short stories for various anthologies.
  • Launch, promote, and oversee the Spirit of the Ronin Kickstarter campaign.

Creating and running a Kickstarter campaign relates squarely to goal setting, but that’s a topic for another time, except to say I would really appreciate your support. The campaign will launch in mid-January, 2015. Please follow this link to view the Kickstarter campaign, and consider supporting this project.

Then go put your butt in the chair and invite the Muse over for a booty call.

Don’t Throw The Game For One Goal

A Guest Post by Jessica Brawner

In football, the kicker takes the field. He kicks the tiny oblong ball through the gigantic goalposts, and the crowd goes wild! Cheering, clapping, praise and acclaim! That’s what we all want; to hear that wild clapping when we achieve a goal, someone to praise us when we did well, to pat us on the back, or in the case of sports fans, dump a cooler full of Gatorade over our head. Right?

What if we missed? What if we didn’t make the goal? Do we get the dreaded mass groan and boo? Do we lose the whole game?

The answer in football is—sometimes. Thankfully the writing process is not a spectator sport, nor does it hinge on one decision. Our misses are seen only by ourselves and the editor who sent us the rejection letter. We all miss sometimes, and even the best kickers in history don’t have a perfect record. Do we beat ourselves up until we’re black and blue for every goal we didn’t make? (I hope not! That’s not much motivation to continue is it?)

So you missed your goal. WHY did you miss your goal? Take a few moments to re-evaluate and see where things went sideways.

Did you miss the deadline? What happened?

Was there a life event that got in the way? Or were you just not motivated enough to sit down and get the words out? Are you using the one as an excuse for the other? (Hint: life always gets in the way. Learn to work around it.) Try setting a reasonable daily word count. For some people this may be 200 words, for others it may be 2000. Look at your life circumstances and what you want to achieve with your writing and set a plan or a playbook that works for you.

Does your writing or storytelling need improvement?

Find a mentor, or take one of the many, many online (or in person!) classes available. Find one that focuses on what you need to improve. Go to a writing boot-camp!

Were your eyes too big for your stomach? (Or did you set a goal that you’re not ready to reach yet?) It’s great to aim for the really big prize; it’s how we ended up with airplanes and rockets and a host of other scientific and artistic inventions. Remember though, each large advancement required intermediate goals to reach the big prize. Make sure you are setting the mid-size goals as well as larger goals.

An example, I would like to put out a book of short stories at the end of next year and have my business, Story of the Month Club (www.storyofthemonthclub.com) to a level where we can pay authors professional rates. These are both large goals. To achieve the first I have joined a group to write 52 stories in 52 weeks. A story a week. Taken as a whole it’s intimidating, but broken down I have set a small goal for every week of next year. If I fail one week, I can succeed the next, and if I succeed enough times I will have enough stories for a book. Success or failure does not hinge on one goal.

For Story of the Month Club, it will probably take longer than a year, but I have laid out a plan and several strategies for progress. The point is to keep going, keep striving, and keep trying. (And try new things!)

If the kicker misses a field goal, the coach doesn’t beat him up about it (much); the coach makes him practice more. Good kickers practice and persevere until they can do their job with their eyes closed and one hand tied behind their back while facing down five defensive ogres. All skillsets require practice. Have patience with yourself. Set reasonable AND stretch goals. Have a playbook to guide you.

 


 

Jessica Brawner writes both fiction and non-fiction. Her first book, Charisma +1: The Guide to Convention Etiquette for Gamers, Geeks and the Socially Awkward was released through WordFire Press in 2014. You can find out more about Jessica on her website at www.jessicabrawner.com