Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Magic Wand of Writing Success

Some of us are already looking back at 2009 as if it were the last drunken party guest of a very tired host. While I’m enjoying the holiday season, I’m also just a little impatient to “get on with it,” as if the upcoming New Year were a magical transition into a whole new me.

Yep, a magical transition. Well, the truth is that maybe it could be if I could ever get organized enough to figure out where I put that damn magic wand. You know the one. The one we would wave -- if we could. It’s the same wand that would cheat us out of the growth that we can only accomplish through a plan and work. There, I’ve said it. Two four letter words. PLAN and WORK. That’s how to construct the real magic wand: plan and work . (I left out the “hard” for those of you who are especially squeamish about work.)

So, three days ago at eight o’clock on a Saturday morning, my critique partner and I sat down and had what we in the South like to call a little “Come to Jesus” meeting. For those of you without the drawl and a true aversion to grits, that means that we made a serious assessment of ourselves. We got real.

We first took a hard look at our 2009 goals and, for the most part, we were pleased. I had finished my first novel, entered the Golden Heart, and sent a partial to an agent. I also attended GRW’s Moonlight and Magnolias writing conference, took one on-line class, and strategically submitted my work to contests for feedback. My critique partner's accomplishments were more impressive, but I won’t steal her thunder in my post!

Next, we drew up our writing goals for 2010. Now, I could tell you all about my goals, but I’d rather talk about how to set them. What I’m hoping is that, with a few simple guidelines, you too can set realistic, practical goals for the upcoming year. No magic wand needed!

Here are four guidelines on how to set realistic goals:

1. Set a goal that you have a reasonable chance of controlling. For example, My goal is to submit my recently finished romantic suspense to anywhere between 6-10 agents whose preferences are in my genre and with whom I feel I would be compatible. NOTE: My goal is NOT to get an agent. Sure, I want that from a purely business point of view. But, I can’t control is whether or not one of these agents wants to represent my work. So, my goal is to research and make my submissions. Make sure any goal you set is under your control.

2. Set a specific writing goal and break it down with deadlines. One of my writing goals is to finish my revisions on Redemption By Blood no later than the end of February. I’m allowing for the fact that holidays and life are standing between me and my goal. I’m also allowing for the fact that without a deadline, it won’t get done. Practically ever

3. Plan for feedback, but choose your venues wisely. I plan to enter three specific contests next year because of the excellent, practical feedback I received from them last year. Oh, trust me, I know all about the “other” feedback that you can get from contest judges. I choose not to let that stop me. I also plan to continue in an online critique group and with my critique partner.

4. Choose your conferences and on-line courses based on your own professional development plan. For more on a professional development plan go read Tammy Schubert’s post on having one at http://petitfoursandhottamales.blogspot.com/2009/01/take-charge-of-your-writing-career.html

My guidelines aren't exactly new or innovative. But, I'd like to think that they'd help you to wrap up the 2009 party and get on your way to tossing out the last of those drunken guests so you can set realistic writing goals for next year without the aid of a magic wand.

Now, let's hear about what other guidelines you feel should make the list. Or tell me about one of your specific writing goals for 2010.


Anna Steffl said...

Debbie, truly great line about the year feeling like a drunk party guest.

I have fairly similar goals for next year. What really helped me out is your take on the process of getting an agent/editor. I can have a goal of getting my work to them. I can't control if they'll accept it. I tend to take every rejection personally and let stop me in the process. Why can't I remember that there are tons of books out there that I don't really care for, but other people love...that my book isn't any different? Argh.

Anyway, good luck on next year!I have a funny feeling that lots of great things are in store for the P4HTs.

Christine said...

Excellent post and I agree about the Agent goal. I truly want one and was quite dejected when an agent rejected my full-meh. But it only takes one. And this rejection made me reevaluate my own writing goals for future projects because of the limited pool of agents to query from based on my target publisher.

I set goals every year after I review my accomplishments--this has been a great year for me professionally and with my writing. I'm proud of my book and how far it took me. Where I go next? Well, stay tuned!

Cyrano said...

I too have very similar goals for next year. I'm sure alot of us, writers, that is, will agree that your list is not only realistic, but totally do-able.
I have one addition.
This might sound silly, but it's big for me.
I'm lucky enough to be a stay at home mom, which for me means keeping a spotless house, but I'm also a shameless TV watcher. Sometimes I even commercial clean (you know, jump up at a commercial, empty dishwasher, plop back down when show resumes)
I'm shameless.
The TV is my vice and I'm not a fluff TV watcher either. I absorb the shows on Discovery, history, science, the Universe. I love Antiques Roadshow, because I not only see gorgeous antiques, but I get a history lesson every episode.
I digress...
My #1 accompanying goal for next year is TURN OFF THE TV.
I realized a week ago that if I turn off the TV I can actually write.
I typed 114 pages in 4 days this past week to finish my WIP for the finish the book contest.
The TV is not my friend. Well...except when The Office or Supernatural are on. My only two fluff shows.
Thanks for the post Debbie.
Good luck with your goals and on a productive 2010!!
Have a lovely morning,

Debbie Kaufman said...

Thanks, Anna. Exactly! We can't control other people. Only the parts that we do. What I didn't say in my post is that if I receive lots of agent rejections, then I will move on to editors. I understand about taking it personally. It's hard not to do so. But, I try to stay focused on the fact that while it is a passion to me, it is also a business. Good luck, girl!

Debbie Kaufman said...

Christine: It sounds like you are being very smart about your approach if you've already done your research to know which agents are in play based on your targeted publisher. Plus, I like the fact that rejection caused a reevaluation. Keep playing it smart and you'll get there!

Debbie Kaufman said...

I truly can relate. The TV sometimes pretends to be my friend, too. I watch a lot of true crime, but lately have been leaving the TV off. I used to play a similar game with the TV, but I would pause at a commercial, work for a specified time and then unpause and continue. I sorta bargained with myself. Then I realized it was really no bargain at all! So the TV is off here and the productivity is way up!

Dianna Love said...

Debbie -
As usual, you make me smile.
Great way to think about 2009, not a bad guest, but one you're ready to see leave. 2009 has been a good year, but a very long one so I, too am looking forward to busting past Jan 1. I have some personal goals I want to plug into my schedule this next year because I tend to focus heavily on writing and business goals as it is.

As for the agent - glad to see that you look at an agent as only "one" opinion, Anna and Christine.

I'm smiling over Tamara turning off the tv - way to go.

Carol Burnside said...

"Come to Jesus" meetings are always enlightening, aren't they? My spreadsheet acts as my guide. Numbers don't lie, and I need to step things up, work harder this next year. As you mentioned, the trick is to examine the goals and make sure they're within our power to accomplish.

Good post, Debbie. :)

Linsey Lanier said...

Debbie, you've done a lot for a first-serious-year writer. Congratulations.

Thanks for reminding us about doing what we have control over and not worrying about what we don't have control over. Submitting over and over again and gathering a growing stack of rejections is hard on the ego, but that's my goal for the year. With the support of my blog sisters, I know I can do it. I'm going to win that Rejection Collection contest, LOL.

Tamara did 114 pages in 4 days??? Way to go, girl!


Debbie Kaufman said...

Hi Dianna! Glad I could make you smile. I was thinking of you and Mary as I sit here typing with 2 fingers on one hand and a colicky baby in the other!

Personal goals are a must for me too this coming year. Can't afford to neglect myself or my relationships.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Hi Carol (waving like crazy). I use spreadsheets too! Particulary to track submissions to agents, contests, etc.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Hi Linsey: Hey, it's on for the rejection collection contest. ;)

Darcy Crowder said...

Debbie - Great post. I totally agree, you have to set goals that YOU have control over or it can get very demoralizing.

I've been putting together a list of additional publishing ops for next year, contests I want to enter..that sort of thing. I'm starting to get really psyched about next year. Good luck to everyone working on those goals!

Debbie Kaufman said...

Go Darcy! I'm about to start the research to put that same list together!

Terry Odell said...

As long as you can distinguish between 'dreams' (over which you have no control) and 'goals' which you can measure, you're on the right track.

"Getting Published" is more dream than goal, but it's a starting point. Ask yourself what steps you have to take to reach that dream. Write X pages a day. Take X number of writing courses. Read X craft books. Go to X conferences, etc. are all attainable goals that should move you toward your "dream."

Debbie Kaufman said...

Good point, Terry. And here I am acting like that part was something I could control, lol!

Carol Kilgore said...

Great post. I learned about your blog from your post on Clues-N-News. Thanks for posting there.

Ana Aragón said...

Hey, Debbie,

Great post! I agree with Linsey that you've done so much this year, especially with contest wins!

I've decided to focus on editing the books I've written so that I can send them out to agents, finish the romantic suspense book I started during Nano and get the darned Master's program out of the way! If it weren't for the extra money involved, I'm not sure I would have started a Master's program in the first place!


Kelly L Stone said...

Great advice on goal setting, Debbie! It is really important to give everything a deadline and then hold yourself to it. I've also found that small rewards for achieving the goals or making progress along the way helps.


Debbie Kaufman said...

Hi Carol: So glad you came to visit. Don't be a stranger!

Ana, I completely understand about the Masters! I almost went crazy one summer with several online classes and just regular life.

Kelly, I use rewards too! It does help my little ADD self to have that in place.

Thanks for stopping by today, everybody!

Tami Brothers said...

Hey Debbie! Excellent advice! I love the idea of making your goals attainable. You definitely can't determine what an agent or editor will decide to do. That is completely out of your hands.

School completely wipes me out. I am serious when I say I have no creativity after spending weeks working on a 12 page research paper and studying for multiple tests that seem to all pop up at once....grin.....

With that said, I do plan to finish some rewrites on a story I have finished and put it out there in front of a bunch of editors. I also plan to stick with the GRW schedule that was suggested at the December meeting and try to get my current WIP completed with their time frame. We shall see if I can accomplish this... Got my fingers crossed....

Have a good one!


Susan May said...

Good stuff, Debbie. You are right all the way about setting goals. I've not done mine for the new year, but I'm thinking about them.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Tami: Girl, I don't know how you do any writing at all with your school, work, and family schedule. One thing I'll say for you is that you are dedicated as a writer cause most of us wouldn't even be able to keep up with the rest of your schedule! The GRW calendar is a great guideline to schedule around. I'm also incorporating it with mine.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Susan, at least you've started thinking about them. Hope all the comments here have given you something to work with as you decide.

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Debbie--I know I'm running late, but, wow, look at everything you've done! 2009 might be overstaying his welcome, but you have made him party hardy.

Great advice!

Cyrano said...

Thanks for the smile and nod to my TV turn off!
I plan on making it a habit.

Kathy said...

I'm not very good with setting goals. GIve me a goal such as NaNo and I can go for it. But to set my own and try I'm not very good along those lines for some reason. I should be, I quit smoking but it seems I dawdle and get lost and wander along the path.
I did notice in my cell phone I chose a date earlier this year for next to have a different job and to move. Scary things there on those two things. But I'm burned out screaming all the way to the shower and out the door I don't want to go to work today and I want to be closer on one side but not on the other to my sister's kids that have adopted me as a surrogate Mom lol. My sister has alienated her daughters in law and they adopted me instead. I don't get in the middle just listen.

Naima Simone said...

LOL! Love the opening line, Debbie! That's classic! Can I borrow your goals with a little alterations? They're wonderful. You make a great point. I never considered setting goals/outcomes that I can control. That's awesome! It's like, I'm only responsible for my actions, not that of someone else's. As one who has issues with discipline and goal-setting, I'm stealing--er borrowing--your goals and advice and putting them to good use!!

Thank you and Merry Christmas!! I think you may have just given me a gift! LOL!