I decided to interrupt my series of prompts and markets by talking about creating writing goals for the summer. It’s important to set goals for yourself as a writer, both short term and long term–and to revise them regularly. The turning of the seasons is usually a good marker for when you should revise your goals.
Summer also brings with it vacations for many people–particularly students and teachers–and it’s important for writers to utilize that time in the best way possible. So today I’d like to walk you through my summer goals through 2012–and to explain how each of them will contribute to my long-term writing career.
My main goal: to build a name for myself and start getting regular assignments from as many paid publications as possible.
This is my main goal–the one that all the other goals will build up to. Note that I’m focusing on paid publications. Why? There are a number of reasons. Paid publications are usually more exclusive and often considered to be more prestigious. More importantly, I’m trying to make a career out of this–preferably by the time I’m out of high school. I’m confident that I can do that, with a nest egg for when I’m done and ready to move out on my own, but not if I spend a lot of energy writing for free. This blog and my novels are currently non-paying work–they’re things I’m passionate about, and I’m fine with that, but I can’t stretch myself too thin.
My secondary goals aren’t any less important than my main goal–they are the building blocks through which I will build my main goal, a reputation in the writing world and regular, paid work. There are five main things I want to do this summer.
1. Expand my knowledge base. I’ve been taking a light week since school just ended, but once my brain’s relaxed again I’ll be back to the books. This summer I hope to read in variety–books about different cultures that exist on earth, fiction based here and elsewhere, books about ancient religions, whatever I can get my hands on. I want to be a continuous student, learning from life as I go. The best part about what I’ll be studying this summer is that it’s all books I’ve chosen–not something forced upon me by a teacher.
How will expanding my knowledge base help my writing career? The more I know, the more I can write freelance articles about. I’m already familiar with a few markets for most of these topics. Not only that, but I draw much of my inspiration from other cultures around the world in my fiction. As I learn about them, it will give my writing new depth.
2. Write and submit one non-fiction article every week. I actually did that last week–and coincidentally, it got accepted. I got the check last night. So I’m pretty confident that if I write an article every week and submit it to a suitable market, a few of them will get published. I’ve spent the last couple of days brainstorming and I already have lots of ideas–articles about writing, articles about blogging, travel articles, and more–so I’m pretty sure I’ll meet this one. All I have to do is make sure I put aside the time to write, edit and submit one article per week.
This goal helps build my career in so many ways. It enforces a regular writing, editing and submission schedule. It helps me build an income from my passion. It helps me gain confidence in myself and my writing skills. Hopefully it’ll convince a couple editors to call me back for other pieces. And it’s reasonable for someone just breaking into the industry–and trying to balance non-fiction and fiction.
3. Apply to one writing job every day. It’s important not to spend too many hours looking for steady work when I could be writing and submitting articles, but I am hoping to find steady part-time work in my field. Whether that takes the form of a biweekly contribution to a magazine or website, or a job writing a blog post per day, isn’t the important part. The important part is that it’s steady, and something I can continue into next school year, when I won’t have much time to write articles on spec or look for new work.
The goal of applying to one job per day keeps me competitive and in the market, but doesn’t usually have me spending hours on job sites. On a bad day, I’ll spend two or three hours looking around. On a good day, I’ll find two or three in the first place I check–usually Craigslist, where I recently found a social media job–and apply to all of them. I don’t apply to just any writing job: I have to be both qualified and interested, or it won’t gel long term. If I manage to do this, it should lead to at least one writing job by the end of the summer, particularly if I manage to get most of the articles from number two published.
4. Edit my damn novel. This is my primary fiction goal. I’m hoping to have this book ready for submission by the end of this year. I’ve already started on it and I’m taking my time with it, trying to get it all right. After I edit a chapter on the computer, I print it up and edit it on paper. When I go to edit the next chapter, I put in the changes I made on paper to the chapter before it first.
While all this stuff about freelancing will allow me to build a career off writing quickly, probably even right out of high school, novel writing is my first love. I’ve been working on Moonshadow’s Guardian, my summer project, on and off for six years now–and someday soon, I will see it out the door. It’ll probably be a lot longer until I can live off novel writing than it will be until I can live off freelance writing–but all those hours of labour will be worth it someday.
5. Get a couple more short stories out on the market. This summer I want to write more short fiction and put it out on the market. Not a lot more, since I find short fiction draining–and none of my stories already on market have found homes yet–but I’ve just got to keep trying.
Since I haven’t actually made money from any of my short fiction yet, this isn’t a big priority on my list, but it is important. I have one story that’s going through edits right now and I’m hoping to write two or three more this summer and get them out into the world. Hopefully, these stories will at some point bring me income. If not, they’re valuable writing practice–and if I really can’t get them into any markets, I’ll edit them one last time and offer them to my readers for free, because for me fiction isn’t about money, it’s about passion.
What do I want the end result to look like? By September I’d like to have at least two hundred dollars in my savings account and two steady streams of income. Right now I’m sitting on $50 of savings and one steady stream of minimal income. That’s fine–right now I care more about stability than the amount, and I’m proud to say I’m a quarter of the way to my goal. I’m aiming low because I don’t care about money–and because money is dependant on the acceptance of my work by other people, whereas I control how much I put out and what I do with it.
Each person’s goals should look different… which brings me to the last part of this blog post, some tips to help you create your own list of goals:
- Pick a larger goal–like gaining a consistent stream of income from your writing–and make all your smaller goals ones that will build up to it. This way, at the end of the season, you’ll be able to assess if you’ve reached a new place in your writing career.
- Before you add something to your list, ask yourself three questions: how will this build towards my final goal for the season? How will it help me in the long run? Is it something I can reasonably accomplish in the amount of time I have to dedicate to it–or is it going to make me burn out early? Your seasonal goals should always be within reach, to build towards your dreams. Before you know it, those will be in reach too.
- Don’t make your list too long. Commit to only the projects you have time for. I have five projects or goals because it’s summer, and I can focus on my writing full time while I wait to return to school. You might only have time for one or two big projects. Admit that and focus on the things you think will be most helpful for reaching your main goal. Over committing will just make you feel guilty because you can’t accomplish everything you dreamed up in the time you have.
- Last but not least, write your goals down. Put them somewhere where you can see them. Share them with other people if you can–on your blog if you already have one. In fact, share them with me…
Surprise! I’ve got a challenge for you for the week: draft a list of goals for the summer. If you have a blog, post them on your blog and post a link in the comments–and next week, I’ll write up a post listing all of your goals for the summer. Let’s make this a productive summer together.