One Writer’s Journey

October 10, 2018

Setting Goals: 5 Steps to Getting the Writing Done

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:22 am
Tags: , , ,

When you write full-time, people have no problem telling you how lucky you are.  “You get to do what you want every day?”  While that isn’t quite true, I am far too easy for people to find, I do acknowledge that this is pretty awesome.  But it can still be tricky to squeeze the writing in.

Squeeze it in?  You bet.

When you have an eight-hour day and you are working on something tricky, it can be really had to put the writing off.  And then put it off some more.  And then it’s bed time and look how clean the windows are!

With that in mind, here are five steps to help you meet your writing goals.

  1.  Set concrete goals.  Yes, that’s right.  Oddly enough, to meet goals you have to set goals.  Strange but true.  Your goals also have to be concrete.  Not “I am going to write this week” but I am going to write 15 minutes a day, Monday through Friday.”  Make it straightforward so that you know you have been successful.
  2. Know what works.  This may take some time. Write down the goals that you set.  Write down what you managed to accomplish.  Then take a look at what worked.  Some people do better with word count goals.  “Write 200 words a day.”  Others need a time frame.  “Write for 15 minutes.”  Others need what I call writing specific goals.  “Finish a draft of my new picture book.”  “Write 2 chapters of my novel.”
  3. Evaluate.  Once you’ve worked toward your goals for a week or two, review them.  Are they working?  If not, try something different.  I can’t coffee shop write.  It is too distracting.  A friend can’t write at home.  The quiet is annoying.  If things are working, that’s good.  If not, try something new.
  4. Look for positives.  As you work to set your goals, look for the things that work well.  If you are a morning writing, set a goal to write in the morning.  If you need an outline before you write, include this in your goals.  Work with your strengths.
  5. Adjust upward.  As you develop a writing habit, nudge your goals upward.  Try to write for a longer period.  Try to write one more day a week.

Just remember to be realistic.  I remember reading that an author I idolized wrote 5 days a week, 8 hours a day. As a new writer, I found this very discouraging.  I was doing good to write for 20 minutes!  That was before I developed a solid writing habit.

Find what works for you.  Adjust it as you go.  Soon you’ll be adding words and pages to your count and making progress.

–SueBE

 

Advertisements

July 23, 2018

Goals and Progress: When What You Have Isn’t Working

“This week I’m going to finish outlining my mystery.”

I’m part of an accountability group and each week we set goals. Truthfully, I lost track of have often this was my weekly goal.  But week after week I made no progress whatsoever.  What to do?

Admittedly, my to-do list tends to be way too long.  No one could accomplish it.  But when one thing gets carried over for about two months, then I know I have a problem.  Step 1 in solving said problem is figuring out why it was a problem.

Yes, I’ve been busy but I’m always busy.  So that really wasn’t the answer.  I didn’t want to keep messing with the outline. I wanted to write.  Even after I figured this much out, I didn’t make progress.  I was stuck on the thought that I absolutely had to finish that outline.

Finally I realized that I was noodling over individual scenes in detail.  Those scenes revolved around one particular plotline.  What if I try writing it one plot line at a time?

  • I have the mystery plot in which a dead body is found and suspects are investigated.
  • I have the church choir subplot.  The church choir is what my main character and her sidekicks have in common.
  • I have the romance subplot.  One sidekick’s older brother is the romantic interest.  Unless of course he turns out to be the murderer.
  • Then I have a sub plot for each suspect – romantic interest, one sidekick, victim’s wife, the choir director, and a mysterious man spied arguing with the victim.

What if I try working on these one at a time?  That’s where I am now.  Ultimately, it may not work out.  But I have to say that for the first time in two months, I’ve made progress – 750 words on a new chapter.  I say new vs first because I know it is not my first chapter.  And that’s 750 words in two days.  Not too bad given 2 months of nothing.

When you have a project that you truly want to work on but you aren’t making any progress, it’s time to take a look at your goals.  Is it your approach that is wrong?  The goals themselves?  Trying the same thing week after week just isn’t a good idea if you are getting no where fast.  Try to figure out what is behind the project and see if you can find a new set of goals to get you moving.

–SueBE

 

January 26, 2018

5 Minutes a Day: First You Have to Believe

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 7:38 am
Tags: , , ,

5 Minutes a DayIn September 2017, one of my fellow Muffin bloggers challenged everyone who reads the blog to state a big, hairy, audacious goal.  I decided that I wanted to finish a draft of my new chapter book.  If I could just squeeze in 5 Minutes a Day.

The problem was that shortly after decided this I landed a contract for two more teen nonfiction books.  Writing one of these books in just under two months is tough. Writing two in just over three was going to be brutal.  But I didn’t want to give up on finishing my chapter book.

When I set the 5 Minutes a Day goal, I had two chapters or 1000 words.   I hadn’t made noteworthy progress in 2 weeks.  But even working on the other two books, I managed 5 Minutes a Day.  Doing this for one month resulted in a finished draft. At 6,400 words, I knew it was short but it was a draft.  I blogged about this on the Muffin.

Reader response to this blog post surprised me.  People were absolutely floored that i had managed to do so much in five minutes a day.  I must have had an extensive outline.  I must have known exactly what to write. I must have some special trick because this just wouldn’t work for them.

Sure, I had a sketchy outline.  Ten chapters.  Two or three sentences per chapter.

The most important thing that I had?  Belief.  I believed that I could accomplish something worthwhile in 5 Minutes a Day. Without that belief, I wouldn’t have tried.  Without actually trying, I would not have finished my draft.

I hope you are ready to join me in making strides in your writing career throughout 2018.  But the first thing you must have is the Belief that it is possible.  You must believe that 5 Minutes a Day can help you achieve something worthwhile.  Why?

Because without that belief you won’t even try.

Click here to read another 5 Minutes a Day post.

–SueBE

 

August 17, 2017

Tension: Make It Count

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:39 am
Tags: , , ,

mixed-climbing-1204218_1920When we start a new piece of fiction, one of the things that we need to figure out is how to add tension.  One of the best ways to do this is to give your character a goal but have something stand in her way.

This something can be external. Perhaps two young characters want to win the grand prize but only one can be the big winner.  Not only will the two characters be in competition, they might also throw extra road blocks in each others way.

But the roadblock can also be internal.  The competition involves a spelling be.  Your character spells like a champ but has horrible stage fright. How will she ever compete in front of the entire school?

Tension is a tricky thing.  Give your reader a little tension and they turn to the next page.  Good, you’ve got them hooked.  But to keep the pages turning, you need to increase the tension.  One of the best ways to do this is to have some decision made by your character make things worse.

In the first example, your POV character might attempt to sabotage her competitor only to have it earn her a detention or time out.  Unfortunately, the rules say that only good student citizens will be allowed to compete.  The POV character has put her own eligibility in jeopardy.

In the second example, the character is given advice on how to control stage fright.  Unfortunately, in round 1 when she speaks to the back wall vs making eye contact, she stumbles and nearly falls of the stage.  Now she’s really scared to be up there.  Will she be able to keep going?

These are the steps that I’m working through in my current WIP.  I know more or less what will launch the adventure.  I know how it will end.  Right now I’m working out how to keep the tension up and within acceptable limits given that my characters are eight years-old.  It isn’t like I can leave them hanging from a cliff – or can I?

–SueBE

 

 

June 6, 2017

Writing Plans

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:31 am
Tags: , , ,

I had a plan for the week.  In fact, I posted about it yesterday.  I even updated my to-do list and printed it out.

Then I checked my e-mail.  From: My publisher.  Topic:  DAPL, at last.

One month after she told me she would send me the rewrite request, one week before I have another book due, it arrives in my in-box.  Sigh.  No, I’m not complaining about her.  She and I have been chatting back and forth.  This wasn’t her delay.  She was also waiting . . . and waiting . . . I’m just fussy because a perfectly good to-do list was just blown out of the water.

That said, it is important to have a writing plan.  I have a tendency to work with both monthly goals and weekly goals.  The monthly goals cover big picture things like “submit to X agents/month” and also contracted projects.  The weekly goals help me meet the monthly goals. The weekly goals also remind me to do things that have to be done on a weekly rotation (what goes up when, when I have to have X done for my students,  etc.)

Without goals I tend to drift about aimlessly.  I know people who are okay with this but I’m a goal oriented person.  I find it unsettling in the extreme and I don’t mean unsettling in a freeing, creativity inducing kind of way.  It just feels off.

With goals, I get things done.  That said, I clearly need to be flexible.  And with that in mind, I had better get to work.  I have two books due next week!

–SueBE

December 28, 2016

Goals for 2017 and What the Bent Agents Want

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:56 am
Tags: , , ,

Agent HuntOne of my goals for 2016 was the earn 50 rejections.  I failed miserably.  There are three reasons for this.

  1.  Many people simply do not respond NO.  If submission guidelines say something like “if you don’t hear from us in 10 weeks consider that NO,” I considered no response a NO.
  2. Others are just S-L-O-W and I am still waiting.
  3. Because many of my submissions are to publishers with whom I have a relationship, I got acceptances.  That really messed with my number of rejections.

To make my goal this year (100 rejections since I am starting this in January vs July), I am going to pitch to several agents a month so I was especially happy to see this post from the Bent Agency, telling what each agent wants right now.  Not surprisingly, some things really caught my attention including:

Gemma Cooper asked for “a MG or YA set during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair? Ideally a mystery.”  I love World’s Fair history.  Love it.  I don’t have anything along these lines but this sure would be a great book.  And it looks like she and I may have similar taste.

Molly Ker Hawn is looking for “Fast-paced, highly imaginative YA fantasy like REBEL OF THE SANDS” which I happen to be reading and loving.  So I think I have something that would appeal to her but it is largely still in my head.  Yep, that stinks.

Not quite but close.  What I need to find is an agent who wants sarcastic irreverent looks at reality as told through both fiction and nonfiction.  Where oh where are you my agent?  Of course, I’m not going to hook up with this person until I get serious about by search and submissions.  So with that in mind, I better get back to work…

–SueBE

December 19, 2016

Goals for 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:47 am
Tags: ,

happy-new-years-985741_1920Recently one of my WOW friends wrote a post about resolutions.  One of the things that Jodi wrote about what the reality that the holidays often derail even the best writing intentions.  She thinks that that is the reality behind come up with resolutions or goals for New Years.  It isn’t so much that it starts a new year but the fact that December has been so splendidly unproductive.

That’s definitely something to think about.  But I’m also finding myself thinking about how well my goals for last year went.  I don’t want to set new goals until I judge how this year’s goals worked out.

As I recall, I set three goals.

  1.  Read 100 or more books in 2016.  The GoodReads reading challenge let’s you set a goal of reading X books/year.  I suspected that I could read about 150 but said 100 because that seemed less “braggy.”  Really, I just wanted to find out how many books I read in a year. I quit keeping track in September at 112 books.  I accidentally marked an analysis of the book vs the book itself and couldn’t deselect it.  This took reading from fun to aggravating so it had to go.
  2. Start reading my way around the world.  Reading a book from every country in the world in one year seemed overly ambitious so I was going to try to do it in 5 or so years.  Was.  That should give you a clue.  I didn’t want to do all of the easy countries this first year — US, Canada, Great Britain, etc.  But I was shocked to discover that anything in the middle east is more than a bit tricky.  Part of the issue is that with political turmoil (the polite term for war), people move around.  So does X author count as Iranian, Afghani or French?  Again, things quickly became un-fun.  I love to read books from and about other countries so I know I’ll keep doing it.  I’m just not going to be systematic about it.
  3. Earn 50 rejections.  I read a blog post about an author whose goal was to receive 100 rejections in a single year.  I saw this about half way through the year so set my goal at 50.  Looking at my tally, I have 2.  Yup.  Two.  Annoyingly enough, several people I have yet to hear back from and things are still marked (Submittable) as “under consideration.”  And I’ve gotten several rewrite requests.  And then there are two or three things that I won’t hear about until January.  That said, I think this one is a solid goal.

My way of thinking right now is to focus on 100 rejections.  I’m going to do this by working much harder to find an agent.  I think an agent will help me get better paying gigs and I have a kid starting college next fall.  I have been remarkably ho-hum about doing the work needed to submit to an agent.  I need to start pulling out the print outs of the ones that intrigue me and sending a manuscript out to four or five at a time. I have two pieces ready to go.  Even if I do all of the leg work necessary to submit wisely, this is a pretty solid way to tally some rejections.  Almost no one gets accepted by agent #3 or 4.

And submitting to 100+ agents and publishers will definitely help my bottom line.

So what are your goals for 2017?

–SueBE

February 5, 2015

Try Try Something New

pathWhat goals are you consistently failing to meet?

For some writers it is the amount of writing they want to do.  They can’t seem to reach that word goal or the number of pages.

Other writers want to break into a specific market.  It could be picture books or children’s fantasy.  Yet, they are earning nothing but rejections.

Or it could be an earning goal.  Maybe you want to earn enough to pay your son’s tuition but you aren’t anywhere close.

Whatever it is, I’m asking you to take a look at your approach.  Consider the first time you tried to meet this goal.  What steps did you take?

Now think about the second attempt.  What steps did you take that time?

And the third attempt or the fourth attempt or the eighth.  What steps did you take?  Were they the exact same steps or very similar steps each time?  If so, shake things up.

For many of us, try, try again means try the same way time and time again.  We don’t change our approach in any meaningful way because we’re sure that we just didn’t try hard enough, weren’t lucky enough or somehow missed the big break, the secret handshake or the golden ticket.

I’d like to challenge you.  If you’ve been trying to meet a certain goal and failing, shake up your approach.  Can’t reach your word count goals?  Quit putting off your writing until you get home from work.  Maybe you’re a morning writer.  Try writing before work or during lunch. Can’t break into your chosen market?  Don’t just set word count goals or a goal to send out a certain number of queries.  Take a class.  Go to a conference and network.

Come up with a new approach.  It just might take you someplace new.

–SueBE

 

February 4, 2014

Goals: How are you doing with your 2014 goals?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:52 am
Tags: , , ,

Goals 2014Just popping in to ask you how you are doing with your 2014 writing goals.

I set three different monthly goals and one year long goal for myself —

  1. Submit a target dollar amount each month (monthy);
  2. Send out an old manuscript (monthly);
  3. Send out a new manuscript (monthly).
  4. Work on a manuscript I am passionate about.

Goal #1 was a success but just barely.  I may have to alter this goal for the summer months.  Or, by then, I might be better at targeting markets that pay well.  We will have to see how this one pans out.

For goal #2, I sent out one of the picture books that I rewrote on Picture Book Idea month.  The changes I made weren’t huge in that I replaced two spreads.  That’s it.  But my husband noticed the changes immediately.

Goal #3 was met when I submitted a batch of Valentine’s Day activities to Education.com.

Goal #4 was not my greatest success.  I requested and picked up two library books.  That was it.  Blah.  I need to sit down and read them next week and reread the comments from my critique group.  Then I’ll be ready to get back to work.

I try to review my yearly goals about once a month.  If I wait much longer than that, it can be difficult to get back on track.

How are you coming with your goals for 2014?

–SueBE

January 23, 2014

Writing time

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:38 am
Tags: , ,
My dry erase to-do list from heck.

My dry erase to-do list from heck.

Something hit me last week when I was participating in ReviMo (a picture book revision challenge).  When I signed up, I hoped to have a week free to devote to my rewrites. After all, when I committed to this, I didn’t have any deadlines.

Then my nonfiction writing class was scheduled.  Yep.  It started during the same week as ReviMo.  I couldn’t very well play hooky when I’m the teacher, but it was only one more thing.

Certainly, I could do ReviMo and launch my class.  No problem!

Then I landed an activity writing job. No way was I going to turn this down but that meant that ReviMo was now 1 of 3 things I had to get done in a single week.

One of three.  How was that going to work out?  Actually, pretty well.

  • On the first day, I revised Prey vs Predator, pulling out two spreads I had added to please an editor.  When she didn’t buy the ms., I left them in place in spite of the fact I didn’t like them.  Now they’re gone and I replaced them with two new spreads.
  • On day two, I edited the main body of Prey vs Predator.  I found some repetitive language and weeded that out and I also cut.  That may not sound like much but I cut 140 words from a 910 word main manuscript.
  • On day three, I cut my 300 word back matter by 60 words.  As a whole, the manuscript is now much strong.
  • Day four brought out an astronomy manuscript, Sunrise to Sunset.  I want to rewrite it as a cumulative text but kept getting lost in the details. I spent the day working them into a spreadsheet.  I doing this, I saw that I had a gap and gather what I needed to fill it in.
  • Day five, brought another day with Sunrise to Sunset, creating a whole new draft on index cards.  This saw the creation of a chorus as well as the beginning of the cumulative effect.

Not bad for a week that was chock full of other work.  

The lesson?  I really don’t need a week with no other commitments to make worthwhile progress on a manuscript.  Yes, sometimes a large span of time is necessary, but, more than anything, I just need to do it.  Small time, long time, neither one will make a difference if I don’t sit down and write.

–SueBE

 

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: