Monday, August 30, 2010

Goals for Writers

Have you always wanted to write a book?

Are you in the process of writing your first book? Your second? Your fifth?

Whether you've written a dozen books or you've yet to complete the first paragraph of the novel you've been wanting to write for years, it is important to understand a writer must set goals if he wants to complete his first or his next book.

I've always had an interest in writing. I dabbled in it for years, even had a short story published in a widely-circulated magazine before I ever got really serious about writing.

When at last I made a commitment to be a real writer, someone who has made writing a priority, I finally set my first goal. I decided I wanted to write a book and have it published by Avalon Books. I'd read many of their books, and I really enjoyed them.

It took me a couple of years to meet my goal. They rejected the first couple of manuscripts I sent but loved the third one. A few months later "Montana Match" was published. I was thrilled, but suddenly I realized I had a dilemma.

I'd met my goal, so what do I do now?

I'd been so focused on that objective, I never gave a thought about what would come once I'd met my goal--probably because I had little confidence I ever would.

I knew I didn't want to quit writing. Like most writers I needed to write. Eventually, as I muddled through the foreign business of writing, I realized if I was going to make a career of this avocation, I needed to set goals--daily goals, weekly goals, monthly, yearly, bi-yearly and multi-yearly goals.

Goal setting, I have found, makes all the difference in getting a writer's career from point A to point B. Small goals can lead to the accomplishment of large ones.

A beginning writer may begin in this way:

Goal 1. Do my research for my book "Turtles as Pets" by the end of month 1.

Goal 2. Write one page a day of "Turtles."

Goal 3. Complete first draft of "Turtles as Pets" six months from now.

And the list would continue as above. By setting a time frame to complete each task necessary to do the necessary research and complete the first draft, the book is written at the minimum rate of one page a day--a very doable goal for a rookie writer. How fulfilling to complete that first draft! The writer has finally written the book she's always wanted to write.

Experienced writers know the first draft is just the beginning, however. Once they've completed their first draft following some form of the above goals, they'll set new goals such as:

Goal 1. Rewrite chapters 1, 5 and 10 because they suck, they're too wordy or confusing, they are full of inconsistencies, they have weak scenes, etc.

Goal 2. Read through and look for weaknesses.

And so will go the goals until the book is in its best form.

At this point the writer will set publication goals. Once the book is published, he'll set goals for promotion--book signings, book trailers, Internet promotion of all kinds, personal appearances, press releases, etc.

The point is, an impossible project such as writing a book, having it published, and getting it into the hands of as many people as possible can be achieved by setting attainable goals the disciplined writer will follow.

Imagine what it takes to become a heart surgeon or brain surgeon. Physicians of all kinds study for years and years. These gifted men and women become doctors by setting goals. First the completion of a biology class, then anatomy, cellular biology, college, medical school, internships, and so on and so on in a process which must seem like it never will end. But those who stick by their agenda and meet their goals do reach the epitome of their hopes and dreams.

If they can do it, so can we writers. After all, as difficult as the writing business is, it can't begin to compare with that of a surgeons.

Good luck with your current project, and, if you haven't yet begun your first or next project, what's stopping you? Set some goals and get started, okay?


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author

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