Tag: Goal setting

Setting Goals You Can Reach

Last week, I wrote about how small goals got me published. And I talked about the three-step process I used to attain that goal. But does that help you set goals you can reach?

Because if you can’t set reachable goals, you’re never going to move from where you are now to where you want to be.

During this month, I’ve been working through a weekly course by Kimberly Job. It’s helping me plan my writing and personal goals for 2017.

2017 is the year…

  • I sign a traditional publishing contract for a novel
  • I pitch my nonfiction book proposal at a conference
  • I get my first 1000 subscribers to my mailing list
  • I publish my third Bible study book

And all of these things are going to happen because I’m working step-by-step plans for each and every one of them.

These aren’t small goals. My post last week suggested starting small, so if you’re new to the whole “reaching goals” mentality, please read that post.

Starting small will keep you from giving up. I promise.

But if you’re ready to tackle something bigger, read on.

Evaluation

This is the most important step in setting goals.

Unfortunately, it’s also the one people tend to rush or ignore.

No wonder they aren’t reaching their goals.

Kimberly Job of Sublime Reflection spurred me to evaluate myself more deeply than I have in other years. She offered a free four-week course and the first week was all about this step.

You can check out that course here.

Here are the categories she uses in this process:

  • Memories and accomplishments
  • Self and relationships
  • Struggles and challenges
  • Lessons learned

Before you set out to make any goals, take time to journal through 2016 in each of these areas. You might be surprised what you discover about your successes.

Also, this reflection should focus your thoughts on what is possible and what doesn’t work. Both of these things are important to know before you can establish attainable goals.

Brainstorming

The Sublime Reflection course spends the entire second week on brainstorming.

If you’re not a fan of brainstorming, I know you screwed your face into a wrinkle-causing grimace.

Stop!

The way the course breaks your life into ten segments and has you generate ideas specific to those makes the process run smoothly.

My favorite part was coloring the Wheel of Balance. It also showed me which areas of my life needed my attention.

Wouldn’t you like to know where to focus your attention in 2017?

Why set another goal of “exercising more” if that’s really not what you need to do in order to reach the bottom line you want?

And what does “exercise more” even mean? You’ll need to make your goals narrow and specific in order to know if you’ve reached them.

Here are the ten areas of life according to Ms. Job:

  • Marriage/relationship
  • Family & friends
  • Fun
  • Spirituality
  • Finances
  • Giving
  • Personal development
  • Physical environment
  • Health & fitness
  • Career

Can you guess which areas received the lowest rank in my world? What tops your list?

After I discovered my three very weak and two additional not-strong categories, I brainstormed a list of things I would like to accomplish in each area. Job encouraged us to list at least five in every category…and to leave the lid off.

Yes, if there were no constraints, what would you like to do with your career? Or your physical environment?

The thing about letting out the crazy dreams during brainstorming is that sometimes we realize they might not be so crazy after all. Not if we can figure out how to build a series of baby steps to reach them.

Nailing it Down

You can’t do it all.

Thinking you can will lead to failure. Sure, it might give you a false sense of accomplishment for a few weeks or months.

Then the stress will blindside you. And the urge to pack up your pencils and bury yourself beneath the covers will rear up.

This is why I have limited myself to ONE goal in each of the four areas of my life. (These areas are spiritual, physical, relational and career.)

If I set the goal too low, I can always add another goal once the first is reached. But I’ll be able to check off a box.

“I reached that goal this year.”

It feels great to make that mark.

The important thing about your goals is to make them specific.

For example, my career goal is not “sign a publishing contract.” That’s pretty broad.

Instead, it looks like this:

Sign a contract for ELEPHANT IN THE TEAROOM with a major publishing house

If I sell the book to a small press, I won’t have reached this goal. Of course, I might decide that’s a fair compromise and don’t need to consider that a failure.

But setting a specific goal will make me work furiously on the rewrites and edits for this manuscript so I can start querying agencies in February or March. Because it will take six to nine months to get a response once they ask for the full manuscript.

Goals Require Plans

Each one of the goals you set for 2017 requires it’s own plan of action.

People don’t get published on accident.

People don’t lose weight without working at it (unless they’re ill and then that’s not a good thing).

Your life will not get better if you don’t take steps toward making it better.

I talked about creating a plan last week. Check out that post or follow the links to other wise planners below.

4 Tips

Setting Goals

Action 16

What’s the best goal-setting advice you’ve ever received?

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.

Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.

Already read one of more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.


	

How Small Goals Got Me Published

It’s that time of year again. The end is in sight and us type-A types start thinking about setting goals (or making resolutions) for the new year. Setting goals got me published.

It sounds trite, I know.

“If you want something, plan how to get it.”

Don’t dream it, do it.

And a million-and-five other sayings that are straight from the lips of Zig Ziglar or some other motivational speaker.

But take it from me, setting goals is the first step to reaching your dream.

I know because I’m living my dream. And setting small goals and working step-by-step plans to reach each one got me where I am today.

And 2017 is the year these same planned goals are going to get me a traditional publishing contract. And an agent.

Make them Small

A publishing contract is a BIG goal. Which is why I didn’t get it the first year I was writing full-time.

Now that I’m three years in to this full-time author gig, I’m at the place where this is an attainable goal. Finally.

But I was pretty discouraged the first year when I went after this goal and failed to attain it.

These were the small steps I planned to reach the goal:

1. Write an amazing story

2. Edit the heck out of the story

3. Research agents

4. Learn how to write a good query letter

5. Query all the agencies that are a match for the manuscript

6. Get a publishing contract

And I did steps one through five…for three separate novels.

And I still don’t have a publishing contract for a novel. In fact, I’ve never even gotten a request for a full manuscript from an agency.

That’s why I set smaller goals for myself. Goals like:

  • Scour short story submission calls
  • Write short stories for these calls
  • Edit each story to polished perfection
  • Submit. Submit. Submit.
  • Sell some short stories

And I have reached that goal four times.

In fact, I’ll have a novella published in February by the first publisher of a short story I submitted. Better yet, I have two sequels in mind to continue the story of that novella that the publisher wants me to submit once I get them written (and revised and edited).

Big goals are hard to reach, so when you start down a new path, set small goals.

This is the same for changing your eating habits, losing weight, beginning an exercise regime or learning a new hobby.

If the goal is too big, you will fail to reach it. Then you might be tempted to give up.

And a quitter never lives their dream.

Plan the Baby Steps

Once you’ve imagined a goal for yourself, it’s time to make a plan.

Don’t think a sketchy outline will help you reach your goals. You need a step-by-step plan of attack if you want to succeed.

And I don’t mean big, general steps. For example, if you want to lose 20 pounds, your steps could be:

  1.  Find a eating and exercise plan you like
  2.  Figure out the menu and exercise calendar
  3. Follow the Plan

Oh-kay. How do I find a plan? How to I plan the meals or exercise? And are there specific steps to following the plan?

These broad, vague steps are a recipe for failure. Seriously, it’s like saying if you stir flour sugar, eggs and vanilla together with a cup of butter you’ll get cookie dough.

When you sit down, think about your plan in the smallest of steps. For my traditional publishing contract (that I’m landing in 2017), here are my baby steps:

  1.  Outline a story idea
  2. Write character sketches for the main characters
  3. Write the first draft
  4. Write a rough synopsis
  5.  Research the setting
  6. Get input from a writer who has traveled to this place
  7. Rewrite the story
  8. Edit this draft
  9.  Send the manuscript to three-five beta readers
  10. While betas are reading, research agents that fit the story & my ideal
  11.  Comb beta suggestions for great input
  12. Revise according to suggestions
  13.  Re-read looking for holes
  14.  Edit chapter-by-chapter
  15. Polish every sentence
  16.  Craft an amazing query letter
  17.  Polish the synopsis
  18. Send queries to the first ten agents on the list

Some of these steps are fairly broad. Break them down further if it motivates you to check off a step. You can make writing each chapter a separate step if that lights a fire under you.

Small steps climb the ladder to your goal.

Reward your Success

Human nature loves rewards.

Seriously. If you tell me I can have a small piece of dark chocolate after I run a 5K, I’ll be tying my running shoes on.

The key is to find rewards that motivate YOU. Maybe it’s buying a new outfit. Or going to dinner with a friend. It could be a weekend at the beach.

Small accomplishments should have small rewards. Bigger accomplishment = bigger reward.

I’ve been telling my husband that as soon as I sign the contract for my novel and get a hefty advance, I’m going to buy myself an Audi Q5. That’s a huge incentive for me.

Whenever I see one of these sporty CUVs on the road, I remind myself, “Just get a book contract with a decent advance and that is yours.”

What goals will you set for yourself in 2017? Do you have a plan to reach them? What reward would inspire you to work through the tough times?

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.

Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.

Already read one or more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.


	

National Novel Writing Month

2013-Participant-Twitter-Header[1]

Four years ago, a teacher I worked with sent me an announcement for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). His message: “You sound like you might have a novel in you.”

His observation came on the heels of our first ever Open Microphone event in the middle school library. The librarian wanted to encourage students to write, so she offered a forum where they could read aloud a piece of personal writing.

As with everything you hope to see young students do effectively, creative writing and baring your soul to others should be modeled. She asked staff members to voluntarily read some of their writing. In response, I read the opening pages of a story that kept popping into my mind.

I fully intended to write that story. It was going to be the first in a series of a Middle School Mayhem series that would make me famous.

In my defense, I do have two chapters completed and saved in a Scrivener folder. Like so many other writing projects, life got in the way.

If you’ve been following me long, you know that I spent three years completing my bachelor’s degree while working full-time. The idea of writing something creative in addition to all the research papers and term papers made random, fleeting appearances in my mind. Obligations drowned them.

After I was assigned a blog for my nonfiction writing workshop, I decided to attempt to write a thousand words per week to post online. No one would read most of this stuff, but I would get back in the habit of writing, even if it was creative nonfiction.

Fast forward to present day: college degree completed. Now it’s time to pursue my real dream: writing.

I’ve always imagined myself as a novelist. My imagination has taken me to the top of Mt. Everest, to Mars and to realms beyond this reality. I wanted to invite young readers into the alternate universe between the covers of the book.

An admirer of C.S. Lewis (whose Chronicles of Narnia rescued me from the ugliness of domestic abuse and divorce), I didn’t want to just entertain. I wanted my fiction to include a deeper truth. Allegory seemed like the way to accomplish this goal.

Thus, my idea for the Gates of Astrya emerged from my soul into my mind. With a little work and a ton of time, words on a page birthed it into actuality.

During November, my goal is to write the second book in this series (originally, I thought it would be a trilogy, but it’s taking on a life of its own and might require four books to fully resolve).  I’ve already signed up on the NaNoWriMo website.

To ensure I can keep writing to the end, I completed a beat sheet (thanks to Jami Gold) and an extensive setting sketch. I’ve done some research to authenticate the setting I’ve chosen. Major character arcs have been outlined, along with the cast of supporting characters.

Today, I write the first 3,000 words of the novel. Since I want to complete the challenge (to write 50,000 words in 30 days) by November 27, I’m setting my daily word count at this level.

I promise not to bog down my blog with updates and commentary about this event. I have worked feverishly the past two weeks to get most of my posts pre-written so content will continue here without interruption.

Are any of you taking this challenge? What other sorts of challenges have you pursued? What’s the most important advice you have to help someone stay the course when things seem overwhelming?