Setting–and Reaching–Your Writing Goals

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Welcome to the Monday Writers’ Workshop! For 2014, I’m trying out a different format for this Monday column. I’ll be choosing a different theme each month—and I’ve got a great schedule of guest posters lined up, including industry experts and some of my own favorite authors.

Appropriately, the theme for January is WRITING AND INSPIRATION – all posts aimed to helping you set and achieve your writing goals for 2014. Don’t forget to subscribe via the widget on the sidebar or your blog reader so you don’t miss any of the upcoming features!

Today we’re going to talk about setting goals in a way that makes them easy to visualize and easy to achieve. The mistake most writers make when setting goals is that they think too big. It’s wonderful to have big goals like “Become a New York Times Bestselling Author,” but these are more tools for vision casting and long term motivation. What you need now is specific, achievable goals that will help you get your butt in the chair every day and make measurable progress towards your dreams.

1. Make sure that your goals depend on your actions, and not someone else’s.

So much of the publishing business is out of our control. Yes, it takes talent, but also timing and luck. So make sure that whatever goals you set, you can achieve them through your own discipline and hard work.

Instead of: “Get a book contracted”
Try:  “Write 500 words a day, six days a week.”

2. Break your goals down into manageable chunks.

Have you heard the old joke: “How do you eat an elephant?” Answer: “One bite at a time.” An author friend and I use the word “elephant” as a reminder to tackle big projects the same way. Breaking your goals into more easily achievable chunks not only will help give you a sense of accomplishment—and therefore motivation to keep going—but it also helps you better visualize what needs to be done to achieve those goals.

Instead of: “Write a 90,000 word novel by December 31, 2014”
Try: “Write 400 words a day, five days a week.”

3. Motivate yourself to achieve your goals by whatever means necessary.

Are you motivated by the carrot or the stick? Try assigning consequences (both good and bad) to your achievements. I work well under pressure (the threat of being late on a deadline is usually enough to get me working), but I also like to give myself incentives. “If I write 20,000 words this week, I can have a manicure.” “If I finish my outline by Friday, I can go to the movies.” The motivation of a reward adds an element of fun to the process, especially when it’s something I really want.

Another way to stay motivated is to form an accountability group. This idea isn’t just limited to writing (ever heard of DietBet?), but getting friends in on the idea can improve your chances of achieving your goals. If you’re competitive, race against a friend to see who can reach his or her goals first. Even better if the “loser” has to do something funny (or buy dinner). As long as all participants take it in a positive spirit, the social aspect can make reaching even difficult goals more fun.

Now it’s your turn!

What are your goals for 2014, and what steps will you take to achieve them?

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  1. Heidi McCahan says:

    I like the updated blog format and the ‘teasers’ you offered for what’s to come in 2014. Nicely done! I have set a goal to write 500 words a day for the month of January, inspired by Jeff Goins. Hopefully this will make meeting a daily word count a consistent habit and I will continue to write 500 words a day long past January. Happy New Year, Carla.

    • Carla says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Heidi. And congratulations on setting a great goal — hard to believe that if you stick with it, that’s a full-length novel by year’s end, isn’t it?

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