In a recent survey on Twitter a lot of my followers said they’d like me to post more writing advice here on the blog. The following blog post, then, is aimed primarily at those readers who are interested in becoming authors themselves, but a lot of it can be applied to anyone so don’t go clicking away just because you don’t feel there’s a blockbuster inside you waiting to burst out.
In case you missed the news, we’ve just started a brand new year. The whole world has now made the jump over to 2012, the year in which the Mayan people hinted that the very world itself would come to some sort of spectacular end. What better time, then, to set yourself some writing goals? It’s New Year, a fresh start and a time for making resolutions. Also, if the Apocalypse really is imminent, if you don’t get that book written now then you never will.
I’ve made lots of New Year’s Resolutions in my time, and I don’t recall sticking to a single one. What I have stuck to, though, is the goals I’ve set myself. You may not think so, but there’s a big difference between the two. A resolution is a vague promise to yourself: “I’ll get fitter this year” or “I’ll learn a new language” or “I’ll write a great novel”. Resolutions are abstract things that float like butterflies, always just a little out of reach.
Goals, on the other hand, are solid. Goals don’t mess about. Goals are specific, quantifiable things. “I will train to run a 10k race in March” – that’s a goal. “I’ll write a first draft of a novel by 1st of June” – that’s a goal, too. Where a resolution is open to interpretation, a goal isn’t. It’s precise and detailed, and it has a deadline. This helps focus your mind, and a focused mind is much more likely to see a task through to completion.
Goals can sometimes seem overwhelming, though. Writing a first draft of a novel within a few months is a scary thought for many people, which is where Micro Goals come in. Look at your larger goal and break it down. Let’s say you’re setting yourself six months to get your book written, and let’s say you expect the book to come in at around 60,000 words. That’s an easy calculation – 60,000 over 6 months is 10,000 words a month.
That might sound a lot, but it really isn’t. It’s around 2,500 words a week – a little over 350 words a day. I bet everyone can find the time to write 350 words a day. If you can’t squeeze in 350 words a day then maybe now isn’t the right time for you to consider writing a novel. Or maybe you just need to juggle your priorities a bit. I’ve spoken to people who tell me they would love to write a book but don’t have the time. They watch Eastenders, though. They post lots of stuff on Facebook, too. If they cut back on those could they write 350 words in a day? I’m almost positive. Six months later, they’d have written a book.
When you’ve come up with your personal goals, write them down and look at them often. Keep reminding yourself of what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it. Record your progress towards the goal, too. The closer you get towards your goal the more encouraged you’ll feel by your own progress. The more encouraged you are, the easier progress becomes. It’s a win-win.
So, to recap:
1. Set yourself a precise goal with a realistic deadline and write it down.
2. If necessary, break the goal down into smaller “Micro Goals” – a daily/weekly word count is a good start.
3. Look at your written goal regularly so it stays fresh in your mind.
4. Record your progress towards you goal. You could also consider rewarding yourself for reaching certain milestones – whatever it takes to keep you motivated and working towards your overall goal.
I’ve set some goals for myself this year. I’ve got seven in total, but some of them are top secret. I’ll share one with you, though. It’s the first one on my list.
I will write a first draft of “Recomposed” by 13th February.
“Recomposed”, in case you’re wondering, is a completely new idea I’ve had which no-one is paying me to write. It’s the first thing I’ll have written since Mr Mumbles that wasn’t contracted to a publisher in advance, and I’ll talk some more about it in future blog posts.
So that’s one of mine. How about you? What are some of your writing goals for 2012?
Oh, I almost forgot. HAPPY NEW YEAR to all of you, and lang may yer lum reek.