Tag: success

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.


	

Everyday Heroes Teach Unexpected Lessons

Maybe a hero is someone who showed you how to be a better person. You might not even have realized that person was heroic until much later.

It might have been a family member who showed unexpected tenacity in a difficult situation. From them, you learned that life was hard, sure, but also that the hardness didn’t have to crush you.

Stand up and fight against cancer or an unexpected accident that cripples you.

All of us have had a teacher or coach who imparted an unexpected life lesson to us.

For me, there were several:

  • My seventh grade language arts teacher made me believe I could be a writer
  • My freshman basketball coach showed me that no matter how little a person has to offer, every bit is important for the success of the team
  • I learned from a high school teacher that dreams don’t always look the way you expect them to…but that doesn’t make them any less amazing
  • A drill sergeant taught me that a positive attitude changes everything and affects everyone around you

The list could go on.

In this article from success.com, the author learned these lessons from everyday heroes.

  1. From her grandmother: nothing is impossible
  2. From her basketball coach: the greatest enemy of excellence is “good enough” (Here is double proof that coaches impact lives AND the athletics teach real life lessons as well as any sit-down subject in school)
  3. From an employer: learn from your mistakes

What can you add to this list? Share a lesson you learned from an unexpected source in your life.

Guarantee your NaNoWriMo Win

The month is halfway over. Maybe you’re on track to finish NaNoWriMo with 50,000 words by November 30.

Or maybe not.

But even if you only have 12,000 words written, you can still win.

No, I’m not crazy. I believe in setting a goal and making yourself reach it. Even if it means skipping dinner. Or staying up until midnight.

First off, you must decide that you want to win. If you don’t really want it, then there’s nothing truly motivating your writing.

I’m not the person who works better under deadline. Or maybe I should say, I don’t do my best work if I wait to begin until an hour before it’s due.

I’m a planner. If you want to write 50,000 words in 30 days, then you need to plan for it.

After you’ve decided you want to win, write down the number of words you’ve currently written on your novel (or should I say project? I was a rebel and wrote five short stories last year for NaNoWriMo). Now, subtract that amount from 50,000.

Does that number seem daunting? An impossible goal.

It’s not. Say that aloud right now. “This is NOT impossible.”

You might need to keep repeating it a few dozen hundred thousand times until you’re thoroughly convinced. But don’t take too long, because you need to get back to writing.

Now look at your November calendar. Ask yourself, “What days do I know I can write for at least two hours?”

If you don’t think you can do it on November 25th because you’re baking two pies and three dozen rolls for the family dinner on the 26th, that’s fine. If you know it won’t happen on the 26th because your house will be overflowing with family on friends on Thanksgiving Day, that’s perfectly acceptable.

However, you need to realize that the more days you excuse yourself from writing, the more WORDS you’ll be required to write on the other days.

Now take the number of words you must write to reach the goal and divide it by the number of days you know you can write. This is how the NaNoWriMo organizers come up with the 1,667-word daily goal they tout at the first of the month.

Let’s say you had 33,215 words left (you know, 50,000 minus the number in your document at this moment) and have decided you can write only 11 days for the rest of November. That means you need to write 3,020 words per day in order to meet the goal.

I can write 1,000 words per hour with ease once I get into the groove. If you can churn out words at that pace, that means three hours dedicated to writing on each of those eleven days.

But I’m Stuck

Image from cutestpaw.com

You only think you’re stuck.

Really.

Grab a pen and notebook and start scribbling ideas about your main character, his goal, his problems, and his goals. Then type those words into the document you’re using to tally your words for NaNo.

How many words did you just add?

Are you ready to get back to the story now? If not, choose another character or a setting and start scribbling about that. Eventually, the story will start itching to get out.

Or maybe you’ve drawn a blank about the current scene. Skip it.

“But it will leave a hole in my story.”

Who cares?

Seriously. Do you want to WIN this challenge? Or do you want to write a perfectly coherent story?

You might be able to do both. Or you might not.

Know this, once the first draft is written, it can be fixed.

In fact, it will be in dire need of multiple surgeries. I promise you can fill in the hole when you go back to rewrite the second draft.

So, why are you still reading this?

Go write some words.

You’re a winner. And for this challenge, winners need to write the words.

If you have some awesome advice for other NaNo writers, leave it in the comments. If I get enough awesomesauce (yes, that’s a real word according to the Oxford Dictionary), I’ll write a post in December to share all that wisdom.

Keeping up with The Joneses: Not worth the Price

 

American companies bombard us with messages compelling us to buy a new car, a bigger home, sparkling jewelry and fashionable clothes. Even sit-coms of “typical” families show people with incredible homes wearing designer clothing.

Capitalism has become synonymous with commercialism. So much for freedom; life in this “buy more to be better” world becomes a competition. Rather than choosing to save for a vacation or give to charity, this mental terrorism pushes us to spend and overspend.

In her blog, Karen Schelhaas noted: “The initial buzz of a new shirt or a sparkly pair of shoes is indeed that – a buzz. Like a good cocktail, it makes us feel warm and fuzzy and noticeable. But in the end, it loses its thrill and needs refilling, which can get expensive for the soul as well as the pocketbook.”

Did you notice how buying is like a drug? We get a temporary sense of fulfillment but then we see our neighbor drive up in a 2014 Lexus 400h (my dream car, insert yours to make it more meaningful) and the buzz is gone.

Image courtesy of Edmunds.com

Can we truly blame the media for our compulsion to spend money on things we don’t really need?

I try not to play the blame game. Sure, we can point our fingers at advertisements and materialistic celebrities, but the truth lies in the other direction. Self.

We must take responsibility for our own priorities in life. If money is all-important, we need to ask ourselves why. If public opinion matters more than private contentment, time for self-evaluation is long overdue.

Why do we want a new car when our friends buy one? Why does that million dollar home seem more appealing than the one we live in now? (Ever stop to think what the property tax bill would be on that home? How long would it take to clean such a monster?)

Our focus gets jaded by the constant sensory input from the world around us. We hear the wealthy man is unhappy but we’re sure if we had all that money, we would finally arrive at happiness.

The grass is always greener on the other side of the street. Of course, green grass needs to be mowed more frequently. What’s under the surface? It could be a septic drain field.

Contentment is the key to ignoring the race of one-upmanship defining so much of society. The American Dream defined by having every material possession you can imagine and plenty of money in the bank to assure the same tomorrow translates into a nightmare.

There is never enough stuff. We must seek our peace of mind and definition of success in another venue. I say look inside the house instead of at the driveway and landscaped yard.

Do we have supportive relationships in our home? Open communication and freedom to be who we are with our spouse offers more happiness than any new car we could drive.

Look to our children. Are we nurturing them or driving them to seek contentment in materialism? They see us. They hear our conversations. If renting movies and baking pizza at home on Friday night builds a tradition of togetherness, they will understand family isn’t about how much money we spend.

Life is about relationships. Money will never buy a happy, lasting relationship. What sort of family life resides in that million dollar home? We don’t need to know. What we need to do is find contentment where we live now.

If we can relish life in a cramped two-bedroom apartment with cardboard boxes for chairs while sleeping on a mattress on the floor, we can make it anywhere.

Have contentment. Will travel.