Today I thought I'd talk about goal setting and motivation, since we're all freshly into our New Year's resolutions and Laurie has posted her helpful tips on achievable goals. So I'm going to share a few things I'm continuing to use and new things I'm trying.
I no longer set resolutions. I found I never kept to them, and then felt down about such failure. So for the past couple of years I've listed what I hope to achieve for the year (with the caveat that these are not set in stone, and in the unpredictable world of publishing that new contracts, editing and release dates may take priority over writing schedules, as well as real life stuff taking over). Then at the end of the year I reflect on how I've done compared to my hopes. Toward the end of 2013, I felt I'd underachieved on the writing side, only to add up my works from over the year to a not unimpressive 100K total (approx).
So, for 2014 I've decided to keep a record of what I've written and when, hopefully giving me a more accurate word count for the year by the end. Thanks to Laurel Kriegler's example, I have a spreadsheet all set up with my current WIPs and their word count as of 31/12/13 (UK date). I'm also going to keep track of how many pieces I edit. Editing is probably one of the most time consuming, intense, and emotionally draining parts of the publishing process, and I think it'll be important to my moral to see how much I've done in that respect. Again, I'll be setting up another spreadsheet of titles, starting and finishing word count, and perhaps how many hours/days I spend on each MS. These are the two new things I'll be recording.
But the other thing I've used over the last year, and that I've found help track and even motivate my progress is word count meters. I use these ones here and keep them down the left hand side bar of my blog. I didn't make much use of them in 2012, but last year I found updating these little bars and watching them creep, or sometimes leap, toward my estimated total only encouraged me to write more. It's probably some psychological thing. Whatever, it's like the graph on NaNoWriMo. I feel competitive enough to not want my stats to drop under the line that charts the daily word target (yes, even though I haven't hit the 50K after four attempts. Seriously, it doesn't bother me. I still ended up with a ton of new words) but without getting too despondent if I don't make it. A story has to hit 2K before it gets a meter, and my target will depend on if I've already decided it'll be a short or not. I'm not always right. The one I started the last NaNoWriMo with went from 10K to 30, and is currently sitting at 43K in revision. The thing is, that doesn't matter. Getting the words down is the important thing.
And that's probably the big thing that I really learnt last year. It doesn't matter how weird the story is, or the word count, or the genre, or how fast or slow I do it. Putting the words on paper or my computer is the important thing. It's far easier to fix a page of something you think is trash than to stare at a blank page. Last year I did my first holiday themed story, my first paranormal, and my first zombie story. I can't wait to see what comes out next!
Whatever it is, I'm not going to stress over setting unreasonable deadlines or targets, and neither should you. If you find yourself constantly failing to reach goals you've set yourself, perhaps you're setting the bar too high. Hopes are one thing. Saying you are going to have this done and that done without taking other things into account is almost sabotage. And be prepared to reassess your goals maybe once a month. Maybe you lost a week from illness, or your computer died. Shift things accordingly. I know at some point I'll have edits coming, and publishing deadlines. I've already committed myself to releasing two short stories toward the end of the year, so they will take some priority. I have three kids, so school holidays and weekends have to be counted as non-writing days. I can't predict illness or getting a new book contract. Check out Laurie's tips here. Cut yourself some slack, and maybe set yourself little rewards if you make or even beat a deadline you set for yourself. Good luck!
The New Year started with a bang for me, and not just the fireworks. An exploding washing machine and a faulty boiler were merely the harbingers for something totally unexpected and shocking, though not bad as such. However, it has meant a sudden and major change to my writing/publishing plans for the year, and I'm still reeling. Stay tuned! In the meantime, I'm busy revising the freaky NaNoWriMo story that I have a request on, and waiting for news on a submission. All I can currently guarantee for this year are my two short story releases in October and November.
LIGHTSPEED MAGAZINE is once again OPEN TO SUBMISSIONS!
As you might know, this year the magazine is doing a Women Destroy Science Fiction special. Get those short stories in!
Have you checked out and downloaded the list of free SciFi romance stories listed here? After the expense of Christmas and the sales, it's a fabulous chance to fill out your Kindle at no cost.