Writerly Goals 2016

DSC_0615_editLast week I shared my accomplishments of 2015 and–in the interest of both accountability and education–today I’m going to share my goals for the year of 2016. This year I’ve actually also divided the goals into quarters and even figured out how far to progress on each goal during the first four months of the year. Of course, this is always subject to change, but I’m pretty proud of the way I’ve broken things down:

1. Submit Good Bye to 30 publishers(or until I get a contract) — Good Bye is actually a novella so this is a somewhat ambitious number, but it’s totally doable.

  • January: Finish editing Good Bye and edit the synopsis/query(queries will be customized but the blurb will be the same for each one) 3-5 times. Submit the initial batch of queries at the end of the month, probably 10
  • May: By now I should have heard from most/all of the publishers in my initial submission batch and if I haven’t gotten any nibbles I’ll revise the submission package and send it to a second group of publishers
  • October: Again this is plenty of time to have heard from publishers so this is when I’ll submit to the third batch of publishers on my list if I haven’t gotten any nibbles. At this point I’ll probably revisit the actual manuscript and potentially make some small changes as well

2. Submit Moonshadow’s Guardian to 40 publishers(or until I get a contract) — As an adult fantasy novel of roughly 67,000 words there are tons of markets for this book so I think 40 submissions is totally reasonable. This is currently on submission so whenever I hear back I will immediately submit to the first batch of publishers unless I decide to make a few more last minute edits(or miraculously get a contract from the first publisher I queried).

3. Write sequel to Moonshadow’s Guardian — I actually wrote a sequel for this book initially but scrapped it years ago. This year I had some brilliant new ideas for it and I’m already a quarter of the way through the outline. I’m going to start on this right away once I’m done editing Good Bye so it will theoretically be in something like readable shape when I actually get a contract.

  • January: Finish outlining and start the first draft
  • February: Complete the first draft
  • June: I’ll have spent two months away and be ready to start the second draft of this novel at this point
  • July: Knowing me I’ll convince myself I can finish the second draft in June, hit a snag and have to do massive restructuring, so I’ll finish the second draft sometime in July

4. Rewrite Some Secrets Should Never Be Known Pt. 1 for submission — This used to be one book but has grown enough to almost be its own book. I’ll be adding a couple subplots to flesh it out completely and mercilessly editing the already existing scenes. I also want to make sure the second part goes through at least a couple rewrites so I can adjust the story in the first part as I need to before submitting.

  • February: Outline Pt. 1 and Pt. 2
  • March: Start writing new version of Pt. 1
  • April: Finish new version Pt. 1 and start new version Pt. 2
  • May: Finish new version Pt. 2
  • August & September: Edit Pt. 1 & draft submission package
  • October & November: Edit Pt. 2, Start part 1
  • December: Finish editing Pt. 1 and start submitting

5. Blog Regularly — I really fell off the blogging bandwagon this year when a heavy workload and insomnia conspired to leave me without a lot of energy, but I’ve been working quite hard on my writing and I’ve also acquired a lot of books. So here’s my blog plan:

  • January — April: Reviews & Things! I’ll be exposing some excellent books with diverse casts that are far too often ignored, as well as reviewing all of the books I enjoy from a massive(think 30 books) bundle of ebooks about writing I purchased during a Nanowrimo special. This is the first time I’ll ever be reading so many writing related books in a relatively short period of time and I’m excited to share the best ones with you.
  • May — August: I suspect by this point I’ll be heavily into video production on some projects I’ve been sort of working on for the last month or so. Depending on where things are, I might be talking a lot about them and what I’ve learned as well as sharing them here. Otherwise I’ll probably continue to review craft related books.
  • September — December: I’ll definitely have some wicked video stuff to show during this part of the year, but I’ll also be taking some classes(both writing related and not) that I’ll be reviewing here.

6. Double my writing income(without working more hours) — It’s a fairly lofty goal with everything else going on in my life, but I’m fairly confident I can do it. Of course I will be working 5-8 extra hours a week at first to research clients and publications to pitch as well as working on the pitches themselves, but I’m going to get a strong start on this at the end of this month when one of my existing contracts wraps up.

For this one I have a simple goal: research and pitch 10 companies every month. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to consistently get my name out there and a few excellent clients can easily double my income. I’ll also be applying for some grants this year in the hopes of taking a sabbatical to edit Some Secrets Should Never Be Known.

What are your goals for this year? How have you organized them? Let me know in the comments below!

Tactics for when you’re stuck on rewrites

I’ve spent a long time in rewrites–first working on Moonshadow’s Guardian, then the second draft of my 2011 Nanovel–and the last two weeks have been the most unpleasant of all. Each day I wrote a page, maybe less, of the actual novel and spent hours entranced in other writing. Avoiding the novel itself.

Late last week I hunkered down, figured out the issue causing my avoidance and worked through it. Now I’m back to work on my novel, confident I won’t stall again.

When you’ve been working on the same project for a long time it can be difficult to continue. You start to lose your enthusiasm and writing becomes like walking on hot coals. Every scene seems an insurmountable challenge. The book itself becomes a monster you avoid like the one you thought was under your bed in childhood.

There are many potential reasons why you’re stalling, and many potential solutions. I’ve pulled together the methods I used to get myself back into my current WIP(Work In Progress). Still, the most important advice is to be persistent. If you write a paragraph every day, the day will eventually come when you write several pages instead and the dam is broken. If you want to start writing several pages a day again, beginning with tomorrow, these strategies should be able to nudge you in the right direction:

1. Re-assess your goals: stalling might be a sign you’re focused on the wrong goals. Maybe there’s another project you’ve been ignoring because you’ve been too focused on your WIP. Or maybe you’ve been pushing yourself way too hard and you need to scale back. Schedule breaks. Time to work on other projects, time for fun. Even when you’re not stuck, it’s good to re-assess your goals and current life balance often to make sure you’re on track.

It’s more important to build everyday habits that will help you achieve your long term goals than it is to finish it fast. Give yourself a goal that allows flexibility and room to relax. Pushing yourself too hard will only make you hate your novel and extreme burnout. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way a few times, and I suspect I’ll end up having to learn it again eventually. Re-assess your chosen goals and your overall life now–and again every few months–to avoid learning it the same way.

2. Modify your outline: the problem might be that you’ve taken your story in the wrong direction. It may be that you’re approaching a scene from the wrong angle, that you’re writing the wrong scene or even that your story is completely off course. Whatever the problem, if you’re working from a solid outline, you can find it there.

Examine your outline carefully. Are there significant changes since your first draft? Maybe the old story line was better or maybe you took it in the wrong direction. If you didn’t make any large changes, maybe it’s time you did.

3. Develop your characters: the issue might be that you don’t know all your characters as well as you should. You might be stuck because you don’t know a character’s motivations or how they’d react in a given situation. Or perhaps you’re not quite used to a PoV(Point of View) character’s voice.

Usually taking a troublesome character through some writing exercises is a good start and sometimes all you need. Doing a brainstorm session around a period of their life or their motivations, filling out timelines and physical descriptions can all be useful.

Sometimes you need to create a new character or kill one off. Don’t be afraid to do either one–whatever makes the story stronger–and don’t be afraid to take your time. Getting to the point where you won’t stall again is more important than working on your novel today.

4. Work on your backstory: sometimes you need to go back and take a closer look at your setting or other details of your backstory. For my current WIP I found myself having to write out the kingdom’s laws and several pages about the dominant religion before I could get back to my novel. Most of the time these issues are self evident after you reread the last few scenes you wrote or can be found easily by looking at the outline.

If you’re confident you need to develop your setting further, ask yourself these questions:

  • How much do I know about my MC’s religion?
  • How much do I know about laws in my story’s setting?
  • What are some local delicacies?
  • How much do I know about the science/magic/medicine of my setting?

These 4 strategies should get you excited about your novel again and smooth out the process of writing that second draft. Rewriting will always be difficult, but you can get through it–and if you want to be a pro writer, you will.

Week 4

Judgement day is now very near. Our days to finish the novels we’ve been working on this November are almost over, and it’s time for the final push. It doesn’t matter if you have 49, 000 words or 5, 000 words, be ruthless this week. Cut out as much of your socializing as you can and beg or bribe someone else to do your housework. Your focus should be on writing this week, and getting as close to 50, 000 words and “the end” as possible.

It’s entirely possible that if you free up enough time, you can write almost your entire novel this week. So don’t despair if you’re behind, and if you’re ahead, keep pushing yourself towards the end. Of course there’s some things you still need to do–for example, paying bills is important, so you shouldn’t quit your job just so you can write this week–but the great majority of things aren’t that essential. TV is not important, and your family and friends don’t need all your spare time either.

You can do all the fun things you want when this month is over, and you’ll feel a lot better about yourself if you actually finish the novel before you go out to celebrate and have fun.

Don’t let yourself down. Write as much as you can every day this week, and you’ll walk away from Nanowrimo with most or all of a novel. Then go out and celebrate, but don’t take a break for too long. Now is the perfect time to create or strengthen your writing routine, since you’ve been writing every day or almost every day for a month. If you’ve been writing for two hours every day this month, maybe you’ll want to cut it back by one, but don’t let the writing routine you created during Nanowrimo slip away. That routine is one of the most important things you can have, and it will allow you to get much more done over the course of a year than you’ve managed to before.

So open your word document and start writing–and make sure you write every day until the end!

How to make the most of this weekend

Tonight marks the beginning of the last full weekend of Nanowrimo, and no matter where you are in your word count–unless you’re one of those lucky people who has already finished their novel–it’s important to make the most of your time. By creating specific goals and a detailed plan, you can balance your weekend between social commitments, housework and writing, and get a lot done.

Most people recommend working in short bursts and then taking short breaks. Gabriela Pereira of DIY MFA suggested the Pomodoro Technique during her writing marathon last weekend, which involves working on something for a 25 minute period and then taking a five minute break. I personally find that how long I like to work on tasks depends on the task–often a blog post will take me a little bit less time to write, and I usually take a break between each one, but a chapter of my novel will take a bit longer.

Taking breaks is important so you don’t burn out, and you can choose to take a break from writing by making food, cleaning up a little bit, or just reading a book to recharge, depending on what you need to do. If you live with family or room mates, you can choose to spend your breaks from writing with them. Make sure that you time your breaks though, and have them be no longer than 15-20 minutes at the most, so you don’t lose steam.

To make your plan for this weekend, write down all the things you know you have to do, and what you want to work on this weekend. Include exactly how much work you want to get done on each project. If you have limited time, put numbers beside them to indicate their level of importance, so you can work on the most important ones first.

Decide how long you would like to work on each item on your list for, and choose a day to work on it. You can write it all out by the hour or write it out in two hour chunks, but I prefer just having daily to do lists instead of schedules by the hour or the half hour. Make sure that you have everything you need to write ready to go, and spend a few minutes outlining what you’d like to write this weekend so you don’t end up stalling.

Set up some sort of timer and get to work, taking regular breaks to recharge your brain. Don’t allow yourself to walk away from the computer until the timer goes off. Even if the writing is painful and slow, you’re bound to get something done if you force yourself to stare at the document for the entire time. If you’re feeling really stuck, re-read the last thing you wrote. Often that will give you a fresh idea for where to go.

What’s your main writing goal for this weekend?

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?

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?