Last week I shared a tool with you that I love to use for tracking my word count. I track word count because it helps me reach my bigger goals. This week I want to talk more generally about setting writerly goals for 2017, or really anytime. More than just the specific tasks you want to accomplish, there are 4 elements that you should include in your planning.
- Set a Goal and Get Specific. It’s fine and well to have a goal to publish a book(or 4) in 2017, but pick a date, a genre, a working title, a projected word count. The more detailed you are with your plan, especially with a target date, the easier it will be for that goal to feel concrete and attainable. One technique I like when considering my next year is to open a yearly calendar (think year-at-a-glance) and write the big goals on the proper month. I belong to several Facebook groups and authors everywhere are talking about the sheer number of books they need to publish in a given year in order to stay relevant in the self-publishing industry. If you’ve decided you are going to try and write and publish 4 books a year, for example, that’s an average of one every 3 months. You’ll need to write that on your calendar now in order to fit that in. As we all know, real life has a way of robbing us of time and before we know it, months sail by and we’ve missed our window.
- Reverse Engineer Your Writing Life, One Goal at a Time. You’ve got some fairly specific goals, now you’ll need to work backwards to accomplish them. If you are planning to publish a book on March 15 and you know you’ll need a month to work through edits and complete the formatting, and you also know that your editor needs it for a month, fill that in. That means you need it back from your editor by February 15, which then means that your editor will need it by January 15. Given that it’s currently December 15th, you’ve now got one month to write that book. Let’s say you are writing 60,000 words in the next month, that breaks down into 15,000 words per week, which is 3,000 words a day if you are writing 5 days a week. Now you know that today, you need to sit down and crank out some words. Or maybe you need to sit down and revise your publishing schedule. Either way, you have some focus and some intention. Do you see how reverse engineering adds a sense of urgency to your calendar? Right now, March seems like a ways off, but given the calendars and schedules of the professionals you’ll be working with in order to publish a quality book, you can see that you’ll need to get on it. In 2015, I published 6 books and I was hopping around like stressed out bunny all year. If I hadn’t precisely coordinated with my editors and beta readers and then made certain to meet my deadlines, those books wouldn’t have all made it to press.
- Build Rejuvenation into your Plan. As self-published authors, we run around from project to project keeping the cogs moving in our well-oiled machine. If we aren’t intentional about refilling our creative well, we’ll get bogged down and burn out. If you want to sustain a fast-moving self-publishing gig, you must take care of your brain. Rejuvenation (for me) includes three things: Education, Vacation, and Respite. I like to plug one of each of these items into each quarter of my year. Let’s start with Education. Pick a writer’s conference or an online masterclass or select a book that you want to read about business or personal growth. Schedule that time into your calendar (at least once a quarter) and make it happen. Vacation is also important to include. We often work long hours and with a constant social media interaction and if we aren’t intentional in our time off, we will burn out. Once again, each quarter, carve out some time. Maybe you can pull off 1 week per quarter, or maybe you’ll be doing great to take a 3-day weekend. Whatever it is, include the planning of this on your Year-At-A-Glance calendar. Have a little fun with this part. Brainstorm some ideas for places you’d like to go. Take your kids to Disneyland? Whisk your partner away for a romantic getaway? Whatever it is, write it down. You work hard. Don’t forget to play hard too. And finally, Respite. You might think that is the same as vacation but it’s different. When I think about vacationing, that’s with my family or with my girlfriends or my husband. Respite time, in my world, is complete down time. I’m not vacationing with my family and I’m not at a writer’s conference. And I’m not working. Plan a day where you plan NOTHING. That is respite. That day, you wake up and you do whatever you want. Maybe you have the luxury of taking an entire weekend every quarter and you have a remote cabin in the woods you can sneak away to. Maybe you can only block out a Saturday afternoon. But block it out for each quarter. And plan nothing for that time. When that moment arrives, you can fill it however you need to. Maybe you need to curl up in the fetal position and stare at a blank wall. Maybe you need to binge-watch 5 years of TV in one week. When respite day arrives, you’ll know what you need.
- Keep Your Why Front and Center. Even with vacation, education, and respite planned into your life, there will be days when you are overwhelmed, when you get behind, and you forget your purpose. For those moments, keep your reason for your efforts in the front of your mind. Maybe you are working for your kids college fund or some great vacation you plan on taking for your anniversary. Create a vision board, or simply print a picture of your dream destination and tack it to your bulletin board. Hang on tight to your why and put it somewhere that will remind you why are hustling.
I love the beginning of a new year. There are so many possibilities. Be sure to build in time to not only reach your goals, but also to take care of yourself along the way. Bonus Tip: Be Flexible. Real life happens, and you’ll need to adjust. Plan for the setbacks so when they crop up, as they invariably will, you’ll be ready for them. That starts with being kind to yourself.
Write on, Writers!
Plan on some great education for yourself in 2017 and start with this free mini-course. Find out if self-publishing is the right path for you!