If you want to go anywhere in the business of writing, it is imperative you set goals and then meet them, particularly when you’re starting out. If you’re someone worried about deadlines, here’s a handy way to prepare yourself now. Think of it as strength and endurance training for an upcoming race.
Realistic Goals for Writers:
- A weekly (daily, monthly) word count goal. Or it could be a chapter goal. When I’m writing on deadline, it’s 2000 words a day for five days, or 10K a week. That means I can complete a first draft of a nonfiction book in 5 weeks, a novel in 8.
- A financial goal (usually monthly). Pretend your goal is $1000 a month. If you set this, you’ll have to logically think through how you will make that work. If you write books, this is a difficult goal because the book writing business is sporadic. You might get a 7000 dollar advance one month, then make nothing for a year. So if you would like consistent income, you need to flesh out the goal more. How many online articles will it take to make that amount of money? Advertising revenue? Speaking? Teaching? This will force you to go after new options, and, if they arise as a result, it’ll give you the opportunity to meet a deadline. This is called reverse engineering, and it works.
- A production goal. If you want to make consistent income, you must set a production goal, particularly in the query department. Make a goal to write 5 queries a week (one a day). Whenever you get a rejection, recycle that query to another publication. If you don’t query, you won’t land assignments. If you don’t land assignments, how can you practice meeting deadlines? This works also for querying literary agents. Do your research first, though. Be sure the people you query accept the kind of work you do. Most of the queries I reject come from authors not doing their homework about what I acquire. In terms of social media, you could make a posting goal, like one a day every weekday.
- Make a relationship goal. For instance, a few years ago, I concentrated on forming relationships with online editors. When one had to scrap one of her stories, she asked if I could turn around an article in one day (1000 words). I said yes because I knew one of my goals was to develop positive relationships with editors. I worked hard, then submitted the article. We developed a good working relationship, and she consistently asked me for stories (instead of me asking her through a query). This entire relationship began with one query that eventually sold. I proved myself consistent over time.
- Make a professional goal: go to the conference you’ve been pining after. This will force you to create that book proposal you’ve been postponing. Or decide to take a risk and attend a critique group, and ask them to hold you accountable to your own deadlines.
- Make a project goal. Finish that novel. Write that proposal. Really learn how to write stunning query letters. Concentrate on your instagram or youtube or twitter account. Inaugurate a website. Give yourself a date you MUST complete this. That’ll strengthen your deadline muscle.
So, don’t be shy. Set a writing goal for November, and then leave it in black and white in the comment section. THEN MEET THAT DEADLINE! I mean it! I’d like to see YOUR goals in the comments.
I appreciated the concrete advice. I only wish you agented realistic fiction that was heavy on the science and philosophical side! But thank you for everything you do. You are a voice in the wilderness. Good luck with all your new endeavors.
Peggy, I so agree. I had to realize that I don’t have the skillset in placing fiction. I do hope you find an amazing agent. Also, thanks for your kind words.