Hot on the heels of releasing Kirsten’s newest book, A Shadow’s Kiss, comes the release for Shadows Wake (7/15/14). 2014 has been a special year because, in part, each of us published this year. Four completely different genres, too!
Milestones are great things. They bring a sense of accomplishment, pride, and progress. I was just thinking about the milestones each of us hoped to reach in personal and professional lives this year, and I’m so proud to be part of Sarcastic Muse.
Meeting a milestone can also lead to letdown, even a feeling of being lost. going forward.That’s why I feel it’s vital to have several milestones on the horizon. The rhythm of publishing can leave you bereft if you let it, or it can perfectly move you along. There’s always a delay between the draft and the edit (or should be) and there’s always a delay between the final polish and the launch. Those are the times you can fall into obsessiveness or worry depending on your personality type, and they are practically the same thing.
Move on to the next book or project.
The best way I’ve found to combat nerves or self-doubt or let down is to start the next book. I like to build up drafts so there’s always something to work on. Since I always end up dithering about what to do next, which is
more like having to choose between a dozen desserts or purchases, those extra drafts usually mean there’s progress happening all the time. One of the joys of writing is that we get so many ideas and plots and characters just from the act of writing that we (hopefully) jot down and can use as soon as the current book is complete. Don’t hesitate to start the next project. Write the next book.
Have clear goals in mind.
If you haven’t taken the time to think about your writing goals, do it. How many books can you submit or publish in a given year. How many short stories can you polish and submit to anthologies or file away for your own short story collection? How often do you want to publish? What are your hopes and dreams? For example, you might want to publish six titles by the end of 2016. That helps you budget your time and stay on task, right? It doesn’t matter if those titles are a mix of novel, short story, non-fiction, or what have you. Make the list.
It might help to take a blank sheet of paper, draw a line down the middle, and two parallel lines across to divide the sheet into six roughly equal boxes. This gives you a planning sheet of two-month increments (Jan/Feb, Mar/Apr, etc). Or just draw one vertical and one horizontal line for the quarters of the year. Write out the big goals for each segment and then break those goals down into action steps. This is a really good time to block out space for non-writing events such as Kirsten’s and Amanda’s trips to writers conventions, Michelle’s schedule of finals and thesis presentations, etc. I have half the month of October and the whole month of January blocked out for time with my grandson.
Create a road map to your goals.
By having a clear set of goals in mind, you have a road map to follow. If there’s anything you need to learn or a skill you need to develop, that needs to go on your map as well. Use the major goals from your grids to crate monthly and then weekly goals. Set deadlines. Share them with someone who will check up on you. Do your best to line things out so there’s always something to do. Some parts of the process are times of waiting (resting the draft, waiting for a class to begin). Find ways to fill that time with things that support and help meet your goals (social media, research, pre-write, etc).
Set your schedule.
Once you have your goals broken down to monthly and weekly levels, complete with deadlines, get out your calendar and schedule the time. Calculate your daily word count against your deadline. For example, if you want to complete a 90,000 word draft in six months, you need to write 3462 words a week. Break that down into five, six, or seven days to give you a daily word count goal. (Note: with practice, you will write faster. Keep this in mind while setting future goals. Three thousand words (or more) a day isn’t out of reach if you have the time. Busy single moms are still ahead of the above example if they write 500 words a day, every day. If you need help finding time to write, let us know. Kirsten is a busy mom with two kids, Amanda’s work schedule is just insane, Michelle is a full time Masters student, and, until recently, I worked and cared for my toddler grandchild. We can help you find time).
Stick with it.
You have schedule and goals on paper. Now comes the hard part. Stick to it. Every day. This is how you develop the good habits and the discipline to reach those goals. To use an old stand by, this is where the rubber meets the road and you put your map into action. (It’s also the toughest part).
Plan to re-evaluate your goals every few months just to make sure you have the right schedule. If you work faster than expected, adjust your deadlines. If you find you can only get 250 words out every day, adjust your deadlines. Do not stop. Keep moving forward, keep protecting the habits and discipline.