Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New Year's Writing Resolutions: 5 Ways To Keep On Track

As this year draws to an end and a new year quickly approaches, I find myself doing what everyone does at this time of the year-making resolutions. 'I am going to spend more time on writing. I am going to quit talking about sending out my manuscripts, and just do it already. I am going to find a literary agent. And before the year is over, I am going to get a publishing deal.' The end. Period.

Every year is the same. We make resolutions, and we break resolutions. Sure, we mean them when we say them, but it's just words. So how do we make this year's writing resolutions stick, when others have failed? And how do we hold ourselves accountable for our writing goals?

Below are 5 tips to keep you on track, all year long.

1. Make realistic goals. Saying that you are going to write a book that tops the New York Times' Best Seller list, might be a bit lofty for your first manuscript. And while I realize that it's not impossible to do, it's defintitely improbable. So start out small, and gradually increase your goals as your skills improve. Saying things like 'I will write every day for one hour' is achievable, if you're a newby. Or 'This year I am going to send out one manuscript'. Set goals that you think you can achieve. After all, only you know your comfort level, and only you will know if you've achieved your goals or not.

2. Join A Critique Group. If you're looking to improve as a writer, you HAVE to join a critique group. Showing your stories to friends and family, no matter how truthful they are, is not the same thing. Your friends an family are not experts in writing. So even if they tell you that your work is spectacular, you're never really going to know unless you've put your manuscript in the hands of fellow writers. Writers know all the little nuances that make a story great. If you ask one of your family members about your story's arc, they might say something like " Wow! I must've missed the part about the big boat. Let me read it again." That's when you know that you've picked the wrong person to give you criticism. Not to say they won't have anything valuable to add, because they will. They just won't know critical writing elements that you'll need to improve. So join a group. It's the gift that keeps giving.

3. Write your goals down. Something about writing a goal down seems to make it more real. When you look at that little paper with your goal on it, it serves as a visual reminder. And when you're doubting yourself and wanting to quit, that little paper will not let you do it. Believe me, I've tried. So be like Nike, and just do it. You'll be glad that you did.

4. Provide a timeline. A timeline also serves as a visual reminder. But in a way, it's a little more. A timeline keeps us on track. It keeps us on time. And the rule of thumb with timelines is this, you can definitely work faster than the timeline, but never slower. Timelines are a great kick in the pants, when you need a little extra push to get a book proposal or manuscript completed. Just be sure to set realistic timeline goals. Saying 'I will be done with my picturebook manuscript within the month' may be a realistic timeline goal. But saying ' I will be done with my novel in a month' is probably not. Notice I said 'probable', not 'impossible'. Only you know you know your limits.

5. Be prepared to tweak your goals. Some goals are quickly achieved, and if this is the case, you need to be ready to change your goals. Don't stop writing because you already achieved your first goal, and aren't due to start your next chapter until the following month. That's just nonsense. The goal of goal setting is to 'Keep Moving Forward'( Meet the Robinsons quote). So as long as you are doing that, then you are on the right writing track. And don't feel upset if it takes you two months to perfect your picturebook, just because your goal was one. Again, as long as you are writing, then you are achieving the ultimate goal. So keep it up!

What are your writing goals for this year? Do you have some? Please feel free to share.Just be prepared to get a swift kick in the pants if you're not doing the work, because I run a tough ship. And please, feel free to do the same for me:)

Happy Writing & Goal Setting


  1. All aboard the tough ship. Shall I hoist the flag? ;) Great goals Jessica.

    I plan to submit a few poems, one picture book and finish my MG WIP. I will re-submit a pb I've already sent out too. The rest will be filed away in a 'lovely stories' file for family and friends to read.

    Happy Christmas Jessica!

  2. Catherine,
    You shall! All aboard. We're in for rocky seas. LOL. Look forward to reading more of your work, and growing together as writers!

    Happy New Year, My Friend!