Saturday, December 1, 2007
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Monday, October 1, 2007
Saturday, September 1, 2007
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Sunday, July 1, 2007
Friday, June 1, 2007
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Monday, April 30, 2007
After the query, article, requested manuscript and/or photos are ready to be sent, we need to track them. Before, you send them or just after, if you send an e-mail submission, you should document a few things. This information will help you in the future with your sales and your tax attorney or accountant will love you at tax time.
Take the time now to get into the habit of tracking your subs. You should develop a simple spread sheet which you keep in a online file folder, or do as I do, start a hard copy file. I hate having to flip back and forth to list things in an online file; maybe I am just lazy.
I have a notebook for a master file, and then I have a tracking sheet for each piece sent out in the appropriate folder. It takes me less than a minute to document the info. When I pull out the manuscript or article I can read exactly who the piece has been send to and when. This is also very helpful when you send simultaneous submissions.
My tracking method is simple, I made my spread sheet in about 15 minutes, using my Excel program. There are many other spreadsheets programs, use what you have.
Divide your spreadsheet into columns and lines, making a small chart. I write big so my rectangles are large. My chart includes headings for Title, Date sent, Publication/ Addy sent to, Editor/phone #, Reply date, Accepted(A)/Rejected (R), $paid, Rights, Comments. If you are sending an email with an attachment, document this in the comments section. Make sure you have the email addy listed here.
I always send a read receipt using my Outlook mail program. This is like sending a registered letter. It doesn't tells you who received the email, but that someone at that e-addy opened what you sent. I started doing this and have actually used it when an editor told me she had not received my article with photos yet they showed up in her paying e-zine. When I pulled up the e-receipt, she paid me, and issued an apology with a proper byline correction in the next issue. The pay was small, but the credit was important.
I have a similar chart for my photos because I sell those as well. If I sell a photo with an article I note photo# in comments section, but the sale is reported on my Photo tracking sheet. On the photo sheet I list the photo # under title heading, along with all of above info duly noted. If I sell all rights to a photo (rare), then it has to be noted there. I also make a notation with the title of the article in the comment section on my photo tracking sheet this way they are cross referenced.
I know this seems like a lot of work, but once you have several manuscripts out there, you will appreciate these sheet.
After you send the work out, get busy writing something else. Don't sit around waiting on the mail, the reply comes no sooner.
Good luck with your tracking, may we all have more acceptances than rejections noted.
Thankfully we're still in our write mind,
Monday, April 23, 2007
Each writer handles their projects differently. Some only work on one project at a time, others juggle many at a time. I operate with the later school of thought. I have never done one thing at a time. Even when I was in grade school, teachers always had us working on several different projects. Once I became a wife , and now grandma...well enough said there.
I am not being critical of those who only work on one piece at a time, I just can't work that way.
I currently have about 8 projects going, these are all different manuscripts. I also have my freelance articles and photography work I work on.
This scares many writing friends. I do not have ADD, as most have accused me of, I find it allows me more flexibility if I get stuck. What it does require is good project management.
First thing I do is gather my supplies. As soon as the back to school sales start I buy about 200 spiral note books with about 100 pages of paper in each. You can usually get them for between eight to ten cents per notebook at this time of the year. I also stock up on note cards, pencils, etc. at these sales.
When I am ready to start a new project I take a permanent marker (your choice of color) and write "WIP-and the working title" on the cover. I also write "If found please return to with my name, address, and phone #" on the inside cover. First few pages I write a synopsis of sorts... what I think think the story is about. Following that up with an outline. I hate outlines by the way, but I use them as basic chapter division. Each roman numeral is a chapter. Again this just allows me to brainstorm a bit.
My next step is to just day dream about the story. I write down random thoughts about characters, settings, plots. I don't try to be logical; anything goes here. Since I already have the story "outlined" I have a good idea where the story is going. Be prepared, writers are often surprised where the characters lead them when they are in the middle of writing a chapter. Go with it.
After I get all of the crazy possibilities down, I then do a story web, which continues the brainstorming process. My next step is to create characters. I dedicate a few pages to each character, that will be filled at a later dates. Then the characters come alive. I fill in all pertinent info. Name, physical characteristics, birth date, parents names, siblings, home address, work address, everything I need to learn about my new friend here. As the chapters are written I go back and make notes about what happened to the character noting the chapter #. Depending on the length of the book. I usually allow for about 10 pages for major characters and 3-5 pages for secondary characters, and 1 page for minor characters. This process allows me to make certain a character doesn't have blonde hair and blue eyes in Chapter 4 and green eyes and brown hair in Chapter 10 without good reason.
In subsequent pages, I document any research I might need to do. If I am writing about a restaurant in Boston , then I note where I found the info. I also create a file folder with the working title and put any pamphlets, menus in the case of the restaurant, or computer print outs on research I have there.
I also start another notebook where I start writing the manuscript out long hand, which I prefer to typing on a computer. I can work on the story anywhere and then transcribe it when I need to, or hire someone to do it for me here while I am working on something else.
I have one file drawer in my desk with hanging files which I place each WIP and related files in when I am not working on them.
Finally, I repeat this process with each project I am working on. Just a note I don't necessarily sit down and write out everything at one time as mentioned above. Some days, I just work on characters for one story, another day I research an NF at the library, etc. This is the beauty of my system. I can reach in grab one or two folders depending on the size of the project, throw everything into a briefcase to take it to the library, or spread it all out on my desk to work on it. If I get writer's block on a project, I put it aside and work on something else. Usually takes about an hour and I go back to the original project.
None of these projects are at the same stage of writing, due to the diversity of topics and staging differences,I juggle them easily. This system may not be for you. Many have asked me how I organize them, and now are enjoying using this method. A mentor shared it with me, my promise was to do the same for others.
If this doesn't work for you, I feel you need to find what does work, because as a writer you will have to develop a system for project management.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Here are twelve helpful hints I had to come to grips with before things started to feel normal, hopefully they will make you more calm, cool, and collected as they have me. My productive is up as well.
- Understand there is no such thing as time management. It is a myth.
No matter how much we need an extra 18 hours in our day; there is always only 24 hours in a day. Time is constant, it doesn't change no matter how much we wish it would. We can only manage ourselves and what we do with the time that we have.
- Identify your time bandits. Many of us fall prey to timewasters that steal our writing time which we could be using much more productively. How many games of Hearts or Mahjongg are too many? How much research is too much? TV shows, get togethers with friends, net surfing, message boards, reading and sending e-mails, IMs, blogs, websites, phone calls, etc. What are your time-bandits? Do you spend too much time doing any of these? Keep a detailed log tracking all of your activities for a week to get an accurate picture of where your time bandits are. Make a plan to eliminate them. (see #3)
- Create time management goals.
Remember, the thrust behind time management is changing our behavior, not changing time. We will start by eliminating our personal time-bandits. Pick one. Set a goal. Ex: you will not take personal phone calls, except for emergencies, while you are writing. BTW an emergency is not your best friend's plea to go to the mall, or gossip about the new neighbors. Reward yourself with 15 minutes of Mahjongg or reading email.
- Implement your time management goals into a plan.
You have identified specific goals in #3, so extend those over into a plan to achieve your goals. Don't expect perfection. You will be setting yourself up for failure. Chart your progress and reward yourself as your behaviors change to achieve whatever general goal you've set for yourself. Optimally this will increase your productivity and decrease your stress.
- Use tools.
The first step to changing our behavior is to get a physical handle on our life. To start learn to physically and visually manage your time. We must know where we are going now and plan how we're going to spend our time in the future. Buy a datebook such as a Day-timer or Franklin Covey, or a PDA. If you prefer a software program, Outlook is good. It lets you schedule events easily. It has the capacity to be set to remind you of events in advance, making your time management easier. I am a visual person and actually use both, a Franklin Covey date book system and Outlook. I like the idea of the PDA, but it is too small for me to read comfortably. I do have friends who swear by them.
- Learn to say no. One of the hardest things for me was to learn to say no. If something came up at (fill in the blank)....work, school, church, anywhere; I was the go-to person. I am known as someone who can multitask and seem to do things effortlessly. People were shocked when I started saying I was booked and couldn't do things. Guess what? The world still continued to turn, and events went on that I wasn't coordinating...amazing but true. Unburden yourself from guilt and extra activities. Give someone else a chance to be PTA president, room mom, and know the kids will survive with store bought cookies.
- Prioritize, prioritize, and prioritize some more.
At some point each day you will have to prioritize to get your time and tasks scheduled. I do mine right before I go to bed each night. It allows me to wake up knowing the day is set. Some prefer to do this each morning. My mornings are too full, so the nightly routine works best for me. This session should prioritize the tasks for that day and set your performance benchmark. If you have listed 30 tasks, how many of them do you truly need to accomplish? I also do a monthly prioritizing session at the end of the month; it helps me plan out my upcoming weeks. I list everything I want and need to accomplish. I prioritize them into categories The must-dos, the need-tos, and the want-tos. I schedule as many as I can into my next month's schedule. By doing this I find I actually accomplish more want-tos than I did previously. Keep your daily schedule handy and check the items off as you complete them.
- Learn to delegate.
You are not a superhuman one-person show. Let your family help. The kids can learn to cook simple meals. My daughter and son learned to make sandwiches, and heat soup when they were seven years old. With the advent of bagged salads, and other convenience items, children and husbands can throw together a healthy dinner at least one or two nights a week. Have a pizza night and order up a pizza and movie for the family. Children and husbands can help with household chores as well. So what if your husband has pink underwear, or the kids beds don't have mitered corners. As long as the sheets and underwear are clean and the beds are made, life is good. If House Beautiful calls you can hire a maid before the photo shoot. Speaking of housekeeping services, hire someone to come in to do a major cleaning once a month or week. In the long run it will save you time and money. With your writing, pay a teenager or college student to transcribe your manuscript, or run copies, or run errands. You can also outsource jobs you don't like to do. Large companies do it all the time, so why not you?
- Establish routines and stick to them.
As with young children things usually run smoother if we have a predictable pattern. Most of us don't like the unexpected. Occasionally you will have a day where nothing goes as expected. Learn to roll with those days. Pick up the pieces and move forward. This is not to say spontaneity is dead, but routines keep us sane.
- Set time limits for tasks.
This is a good habit to get into when prioritizing. Set a expected yet reasonable amount of time to accomplish a task. Answering email will consume a whole day if you let it. Set a limit of one hour a day for this task and stick to it. I usually have one day a week I do all of my correspondence like queries, etc. I answer my emails in 15 minute intervals. I write for an hour or more then answer the mail for 15 minutes. It helps break up my other writing tasks.
- Make sure your systems are organized.
Do you waste a lot of time looking for files on your computer? Take the time to organize a file management system. Is your physical filing system slowing you down? Redo it, so it makes sense to you. You should be able to easily find any file folder you need. This goes for all areas of your life. Phone numbers are a problem for me. I set up Rolodex files for business and family numbers. I have thousands so putting them in a cell phone was too cumbersome. Is your kitchen organized can you find the matching lids to those storage containers. Remember the time-bandits. Each little minute you spend looking for something adds up to hours over the week. So spend some time finding what works, get organized, and keep motivated.
- Use waiting time productively.
No matter how well organized you are, it's impossible to avoid waiting for someone or something. Don't sit and twiddle your thumbs. Always carry something to do, read your research or a book, balance a checkbook, brainstorm story ideas, plan weekly dinner menus, make a shopping list. Carry a small spiral notebook or I also carry a micro cassette recorder to make notes or dictate a scene rumbling in my head, or give a detailed description of a person I to see in my next best seller.
Practice is required in writing and time management. Take control of your time. You'll be happy you did.
Monday, April 9, 2007
One should also note everyone has their own style and method of organization. It has to work for you. If you run out and buy all of the fancy new fangled organizing tools and you forget how or what you did, they are worthless. I also keep mine simple, so I will stay motivated to be organized.
I find my life to be hectic, as most of us do. I am definitely a multi-tasker, therefore I need to have a moderate sense of control in my life, thus organization is a must.
Over the next few weeks, we are going to explore my organizational tricks. I welcome your comments. Remember these ideas may not work for you, tweak them or toss them. The idea is to find something that is helpful and will save you time, energy, and make you more productive.
So for today take a critical look at your style and methods of organizing your writing (and life). Make a list of what is working with your organization, and what isn't working. See if you can analyze why or why not?
Off to see what I find...
Saturday, March 31, 2007
Business cards and a professional letterhead
You can design a letterhead at no cost on your computer, and save it as a file to use for whatever correspondence needs arrive. You can also have it printed at a local print shop if you prefer, include your name, address, phone, fax and e-mail. Avoid cute logos like pens, quills or parchments, and don't use a title, like author or freelance writer on your stationary, these are signs of an amateur. I recommend using a linen or parchment stock in a neutral color such as ivory or gray for letters, but not for manuscripts.
You can design and print your own business cards at home as well. Just make certain they look professional and are printed on a quality card stock. I now have some of my cards professionally printed, but I still print cards that I include with my books, or hand out at personal appearances and events at home.
A fax machine
Some editors prefer the ability to fax contracts or galley proofs of your article to you. Being able to receive and send faxes can save time in correspondence and at times your sanity. A fax is also a good way to send an editor last-minute changes or materials. Never fax queries or manuscripts, unless the publication's guidelines specifically states they accept them.
Do you find you are constantly running someplace to copy contracts, clips, correspondence, and any number of other things. By having my own copy machine I save valuable time, money and energy.
You might want to invest in an all in one machine. You can purchase one for about $150. In the last seven years, I have gone through three Hewlett-Packard machines that have printing, copying, fax, and some even have scanning capabilities. Not because they are of poor quality, but because I flat wore them out. No need to worry about repair, it cost more to repair a printer than it does to buy a new one. My HPs have easily paid for themselves within a couple of months. They are also a tax deduction. I recommend you research the machine which works best for you.
An external hard drive
This is the most efficient way to back up your files, particularly if you have a lot of them. They can be purchased with variable memory size options and you can upgrade within reason for more memory.
A flash stick or jump drive
These are similar, and are inexpensive alternatives for smaller and more regular backups. They are small thumb sized devices which come with a wide range of memory storage. Each one works from a USB port, and I've found them extremely helpful in file maintenance.
There's really no easy way to print single labels or envelopes on a printer without a hassle, and unless you have easy access to a typewriter (what's that?) it's a pain to do it. There is a handy new tool which lets you print mailing labels with the touch of a button... just paste the address for a letter into the labelmaker window, and viola it's done.
This is the easiest way to convert images and copied documents to electronic files.
Just remember this is a wish list. You can always leave the list out or circle photos in your office supply catalog as subtle hints.
My next big wish on my list is a laser printer, but the one I want is pricey; so I have to get busy writing, or gets lots of birthday and Christmas money.
Still in our write mind,
Saturday, March 24, 2007
We almost are complete with our writing space, but we do need to talk about basic office writing supplies.
We're going to need the following:
- Several reams of good-quality, 20-lb. white bond paper
- A box of 9x12 mailing envelopes
- A box of #10 (business size) envelopes
- Extra computer disks (both for back-up and for submissions)
- Postage in various denominations. (As you can invest in an inexpensive postage scale that can program current postal rates up to one pound, and buy postage that corresponds to those rates.)
- A supply of pens, pencils, felt pens/markers, in a variety of colors.
- Paper clips,(large and small ones) I also recommend butterfly clips for large manuscripts.
- Erasers, small ones for pencils and a large gum one.
- Rubber bands, multiple sizes and I recommend wider width bands.
- Rulers,I recommend both a 6 inch and a 12 inch ruler.
- Post-it notes, lots and lots of notes. I mainly have small and medium size to write myself notes on my manuscripts.
- File folders, also hanging folders if your file cabinet uses them. BTW I am very much into recycling so there is nothing wrong with scavenging used file folders for your office. I encourage it.
- Labels, you can reuse folders by using adhesive labels to rename the file. You can also have a different color label assigned to the different genre or projects you are working on, whatever makes sense to you. Address labels with your return address are helpful if you like them. I still usually hand address mine. You can also reuse the large mailing envelopes by covering the old address label with a new adhesive one. I normally recycle my envelopes like this when I am sending info to a writing buddy or family.
- Note-pads or spiral notebooks, both large and small. Large note-pads are great for jotting down interviews or research notes; small ones are good to keep by your computer (and everywhere else) to jot down ideas, reminders, etc.
These basics should get us ready to write. I am off to our office supply store to restock.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
I am listing some of the most necessary books here. Start with the basics and build as you can accommodate them in your budget. I prefer hard cover books. I love handling my resource books. It allows me to flip back and forth. I know you can flip on the web, but it is usually from site to site. It is merely my personal preference, do what is best for you.
A good dictionary that defines obscure words as well as everyday words is essential. I actually have three, they were gifts. A Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition, The New Oxford American Dictionary, and Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. These links will take you to Amazon, so you can compare prices and features of each. You'll also want a thesaurus,Roget's is good, as is Webster's.
If you plan to write technical, medical, or scientific articles, it's wise to invest in the appropriate dictionaries for those, too. If you choose to write multi-cultural articles, you will want to invest in dictionaries of the languages you will be researching. You can usually find any of these at second hand or close out tables in bookstores for reduced prices..
A note if you are just translating your work to another foreign language, there are free translation programs available online. One major word of caution, these are literal word translations, if you use them be aware the translation may not be saying what you want it to say. As with colloquial expressions, a translation is not always as it is meant to be understood.
A few more essentials you will need to invest in as soon as possible are style guides and markets guides.
Market guides gives you detailed information about the markets you will be writing for. You will need access to the most current information available. Most market guides have annual editions, You will need to stay current, editors' info changes rapidly.
Here are the first ones I recommend:
Christian Writers' Market Guide 2007: The Essential Reference Tool for the Christian Writer (Christian Writers' Market Guide) by Sally Stuart
2007 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market By Alice Pope
2007 Artist's & Graphic Designer's MarketBy Mary Cox
2007 Writer's MarketBy Robert Brewer
A style guide is basically a rule book for how to write well. Some of the best style guides, which editors base their standards of writing on, are:
The Elements of Style: A Style Guide for Writers by William Strunk Jr.
The Chicago Manual of Style by University of Chicago Press Staff
The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage : The Official Style Guide Used by the Writers and Editors of the World's Most Authoritative Newspaper by Allan M. Siegal and William G. Connolly
As time and budgets permit you'll want to expand your library to include writing reference books as well as books that relate to your particular areas of interest or expertise.
Here are some worthwhile books for writers:
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books, Second Edition by Harold D. Underdown
The Essential Writer's Companion: A Concise Guide to Writing Effectively for School, Home, or Office by Editors of The American Heritage Dictionaries
Writer's Guide to Queries, Pitches & Proposals by Moira Allen
Writer's Digest Guide to Manuscript Formats
The Little Style Guide to Great Christian Writing and Publishing by Leonard G. Goss and Carolyn Goss
Childrens Writers Word Book (Children's Writer's Word Book) by Alijandra Mogilner and Tayopa Mogilner
Every Writer's Guide to Copyright & Publishing Law, by Ellen Kozak
How to Write a Book Proposal, by Michael Larsen
The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, by Tom and Marilyn Ross
The Self-Publishing Manual, by Dan Poynter
The Portable Writer's Conference, edited by Stephen Mettee
Here are three must reads for writers, (IMHO). They all have been out for many years so you can find used copies for minimal expense. I have read them many times over. Hope you enjoy them as well. They are:
On Writing by Stephen King
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
WRITING DOWN THE BONES-FREEING THE WRITER WITHIN by Natalie Goldberg
Good reading and writing.
Friday, March 9, 2007
Did you notice I said, “own computer.” Most households have a home computer, usually shared by all family members. If your home is as mine was, then you may find your writing time plays second fiddle to homework, games, paying bills, downloading music, reading blogs and general surfing. I found it was difficult enough to find time to write without having to compete with my husband and children for computer time as well.
A writing computer should be a first priority, if you don't have your own computer. It will be your most important business investment. It doesn't have to be an expensive model with all of the bells and whistles to start. You can purchase a basic model that includes a printer, modem, screen, and all the software you'll need to start writing for around $500 or less now. You may be able to get good deals on used computers. Many computer outlets sell reconditioned computers. You can also find computers and laptops online along with used hardware and software. There are legitimate dealers, but also plenty of scammers. In any case, shop around, compare, and know what you are buying. Buyer beware!
I recommend your computer be equipped with Microsoft Word; this is the most commonly used program by publishers. Word documents can be produced by both PCs (Windows) and Macs (Macintosh), so use whichever platform you're most comfortable with. Most Macs today produce PC disks, so you don't have to worry about publications with incompatible systems.
Many writers, don't have space for a full size PC, and buy laptops. Current laptops now have the same capabilities, or more than some older PCs. Most have as much power and memory as a PC, with the added portability advantage.
I also recommend getting a separate keyboard and mouse. I find a full-size keyboard much more comfortable and ergonomic than a laptop keyboard particular on my long writing session. I also recommend getting a large full-size flat screen when you can afford it. The flat screen takes up so much less desk space than my old screen.
Most new computer systems come bundled with an inkjet printer. Depending your system some are good, some just mediocre. If you are not happy with your printer, consider investing in another one, saving the current one for a back up or selling it to upgrade to a better quality model. You can find high quality inkjet printers for less than $150. Watch for sales and get the bonus of rebates.
One tip: In most cases, it will cost more to repair a printer than by a new one. I have been through three printers in the last seven years. I eventually upgraded to an all-in-one printer/copier/scanner/and Fax machine for around $350 after rebates. This saves me time and money not having to pay for copies, scans, and faxs. I get fast, near laser quality printing, plus the option of lesser quality draft printing copies, which saves ink, and money in the long run.
Most of us feel we can't justify the expense of a new computer until we’re earning money from our writing. Businesses do require certain start-up expenses, writing is our business. Know your own computer is the best start-up investment a writer can make; it will also be tax-deductible, which family computers are not.
Get one as soon as you can. You are already creative, so get busy and think of ways to raise the funds to buy your first big investment. Have a garage or yard sale when you clean out the extra room you will be using as your office. Have marathon writing sessions and sell 20 articles instead of 10 each month for a couple of months; at $10 an article, there’s $200 you didn’t think you had.
Still in our write mind,
Friday, March 2, 2007
These tools and resources fall into two categories: necessities and optional extras. The necessities are items we’ll need to acquire before we can go very far in our work, even if this means buying them before we earn any income. The extras are important, but can usually wait until we see a profit.
The first thing we need to establish is a place to write. Each writer is different, some of us need quiet, and others need to work where there is activity and background noise. You may need to experiment to see in which environment you thrive. With the advent of laptops, more writing environments have opened up, libraries, coffee shops, beaches or parks, chose one and write. Many writers have several preferred locations to write or research. I prefer to sit on the little deck off my office with a cup of tea early in the morning, jotting notes from my research. I write better in my office with music geared toward the scene I am writing playing quietly in the background.
Some writers start their careers from a corner of the kitchen table or a spare room, it helps tremendously to have a space, even a small one you can call your own, devoted just to writing. Most writers feel this space requires a door that can be closed against interruptions, distractions, and family and friends. Another advantage of a separate workspace is it usually qualifies for the home office tax deduction.
In your office, you will need some basics:
- A desk or table for your computer
- Good lighting for your computer, reading and work areas
- A flat surface to spread out notes, books, and other materials
- A file cabinet or boxes to file research notes, articles, correspondence, etc.
- A drawer or container to store your writing supplies
- A shelf or book case for reference books
- A chair with good back support
Don’t rush out and buy the mahogany desk, unless you are independent wealthy. I do recommend getting a good chair because hopefully you will be writing a lot. I started out with a salvaged kitchen tabletop laid across two old file cabinets, and a dining room chair. I gradually was able to by a cheap computer desk from a local discount store. Many months later, I purchased an expensive high back swivel chair at a closeout sale at an office supply store. This how I operated for over 20 years.
Six years ago, I did earn enough to buy my two new desks, and a new chair. One desk is for my computer only. A second desk… because I like to spread all of my research, notes, papers, and outline cards out when I am writing. I write my rough drafts in long hand. This allows for room to work. The key is personalization: make the space yours; and make sure your family and friends respect the times you’re working in that space.
I write this not to brag about my office, but to say to start where you are and build as I did.
Heading to organize my cluttered desk,
Friday, February 23, 2007
In addition, a good way to determine long-term goals is to ask ourselves where you want to be in six months, one year, five years, and ten years. By answering this question, we define our vision for a writing career or our lives. We will become better able to determine which writing projects will contribute to or detract from our long-term goals.
Most times long-term goals build upon one another. If you are a freelance writer as I am, a long-term goal might be to collect 30 plus clips your first year. The next step once you've established a portfolio from varied sources, you might choose to devote your second year to targeting better-paying magazine or newspaper markets. You might decide to remain a generalist, or chose to specialize. It can be lucrative to establish yourself as an expert in one focused field, yet conversely, there is a definite need for writers who can give voice to more diverse topics.
Long-term goals help us decide our end destination; short-term goals help us decide the correct route to get there. If our first year goal is to collect 30 clips, our short term goals would include conducting market research, writing queries, and writing and submitting a certain number of articles per month.
Usually short-term goals are measured by output. Within control realms, these output goals are those in which we alone have sole control over results. Only we can control that, we mail five queries per week, or write ten articles or stories per month. Note… good short-term goals have specific time frames some examples would include:
- Number of hours we spend writing per day or week
- Number of pages we produce per day or week
- Number of queries we submit per week or month
- Number of projects, articles, stories, or chapters we write per month or year
As writers, we must continually assess our goals, have we set them too high, too low? Are we on track, ahead of schedule, or falling behind in meeting our goals? It's important to take stock of our progress regularly. As we meet these goals, are we closer to our long-term goal, or are they still out of reach?
Making these regular assessments will help us if we need to change our long-term goals, or to see if our short-term plans are working to support them. If while assessing our one-year goal we find we accomplished it after three months, it's time to set a new long-term goal.
On the other hand, if after we assess our weekly goal, and find we have sent out two queries per week for the last three months and have yet to receive a positive response, it is time to reevaluate our short-term goal. Maybe we need to take a class on effective query letter writing at a conference or online course. Alternatively, perhaps we need to change genre or ideas we’re pitching, and/or target different markets. In other words, don't waste another day doing the same thing if your efforts haven't brought you closer to your long-term goal.
This is the beauty of goal setting, when we make them our own, they are not carved in stone, and we can change them. If a goal is becoming burdening to us, it needs to be re-evaluated. Many times a goal, morphs into something else before we realize it happened. A goal with special significance for us last year may have lost importance now, yet what we dared not aspire to is suddenly within reach.
Our interests change, our dreams may change, our skills will change as our writing matures; with these changes our goals should change as well. Goals are only highly effective tools, which we utilize to reach our dreams and aspirations.
We should look to our goals with a positive attitude. Each time we reach a goal, we are afforded the opportunity to look back and see our progress on our journey. We can see how far we have come, how much we have learned and achieved, and how our efforts and hard work have paid dividends. Even if we fail to meet a particular goal, we can garner lessons from mistakes. By working to reach our goals, we are putting forth serious and productive efforts in our writing journey.
Friday, February 16, 2007
You say you want to become the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, but you have yet to commit the first word to paper. One immediate attainable goal is to read a book on novel writing. You might choose to take a writing course on-line or at a local college or university instead. These are all realistic and measurable steps in reaching your long-term goal to be a novelist.
Your next goal might be to write your first story, write the outline of your novel, or actually write your first chapter. Following that, you might seek feedback, by joining a critique group or by sending your story to an editor. Each short-term goal marks a step toward your long-term dream. Each goal stands as attainable on its own.
When setting attainable goals, we must be honest with ourselves with what we are capable of achieving at this stage in our writing careers. If we have yet to earn a dime from writing, it is unrealistic to set the goal of becoming self-supporting in six months. If we've never written more than a passionate letter to the editor on the litter in our neighborhood, it is unrealistic to expect our 500-page Great American novel to be completed and sold within the year.
Setting attainable goals isn’t always easy. We are in a hurry to obtain success, so we initially are tempted to strive for overly ambitious goals. The more ambitious and unrealistic a goal the bigger chance we will fall short of meeting the goal, become discouraged and quit, resigning ourselves to failure. We must remember these are our goals, solely for our own benefit and not based on others expectations.
Attainability also means recognizing what is realistic in writing markets. If there is an upswing in science fiction, and we don’t write in the science fiction genre, it is unrealistic to expect to be self-supporting writing science fiction stories.
In the end, like running a mile, our realistic and attainable goals start by taking a small step, are tough enough to make us sweat and stretch to reach the end, yet not too difficult to cause us to throw our hands up and quit.
Challenge: List your attainable goals, including the small steps to reach them.
Keep running and writing,
Friday, February 9, 2007
Many of us qualify our goals. Some examples:
- To be a better writer.
- To be a successful, self-supporting writer.
- To be a good writer who produces interesting and worthwhile books.
- To write five short essays on parenting.
- To spend two hours a day doing something with writing.
- To put down my parenting ideas on paper.
Our goals are useless when we can’t decide if we’ve actually met the goal. Isn’t it always possible to become a better writer as we grow in our writer’s life? We must then quantify our goals ---goals that have measurable forms of output or results.
Some examples of clear and measurable goals might be:
- To write three pages a day for six months.
- To compose and send out two queries per week.
- To write five parenting articles in the next two months.
- To spend two hours each day, four days a week, experimenting with writing fiction, non-fiction, poetry or essays.
- To create a writer’s notebook for a minimum of six months, exploring ideas on parenting and other topics, and to use the ideas to create at least six polished pieces.
- To be self-supporting within 18 months by earning $3000 per month.
Our writing goals should reflect our own values and decisions about our lifestyle, and not the judgments, expectations, or recommendations of others around us. Each goal must be based solely on our abilities, efforts, and desires, not the wishes of well-intentioned family and friends.
Our challenge now is to list some measurable writing goals. Remember you can also list measurable life goals.
In my write mind,
Monday, February 5, 2007
In reality, it is easy to get off track with someone else’s goals for you, or even suggestions and recommendations for each of us on how we to obtain success. Writing magazines, books, courses, and yes, even blogs all have formulas and keys to successful goal setting. Most fail to mention these suggestions and formulas will not work in every scenario or for every writer. Our job is to research and study what has significant meaning in our writing life.
For each of us to be consistent in pursuing a writing goal it must be valued and make sense to us. A meaningful goal will spur a writer to continue when the drudgery of a writing task occurs. Writers are told to write every day, keep a journal, and to schedule a time to write by getting up early or staying up late. What if you are more productive at night, but can’t schedule any time late at night due to a job schedule where you get off at 2 AM? Or if you are Susie or Sam Sunshine in the mornings, but your mornings are filled with endless tasks of getting lunches packed, breakfast cooked and all three kids carpooled to school prior to working a day job, what then? The journal and assigned writing times are not meaningful or realistic for you. You will have to re-evaluate what works for YOU and implement it into a specific goal which does work.
After defining your goal, be wary of getting sidetracked by what appears to be a worthy goal, but really does not lead you in a direction you want to go. Let’s say you want to become a children’s picture book writer, while a wonderful dream, you are also faced with feeding and clothing three children of your own. What to do? Most children’s writers cannot support their families solely with their children’s stories; so it is easy to postpone writing the picture book. After all one isn’t paid a penny of an advance until after the book is in under contract, but yet there are bound to be more lucrative jobs, which will pay the bills.
Turn these competing projects into a win/win situation. You might spend 25% of your writing time working on your picture book, and the other 75% writing articles for various paying markets and genre, and still work a "day" job. Each writer will have to ascertain what a meaningful balance is; but be care not to pass up an opportunity because it doesn’t seem immediately meaningful and fulfilling. Taking a writing course on researching may seem tedious, but it could be the best investment in reaching a long-term goal.
Our writing challenge is to honestly look at our writing life and define what is most meaningful to us. What can we change to enhance our writing goals leading to our ultimate success?
Be strong; find the meaning best for you,
Friday, February 2, 2007
One of the greatest challenges for writers is a lack of consistent structure in our workplace, wherever that may be. There normally is not someone there to keep us on task. No one telling us how to write, when we have to do it, and what exactly we have to write, much less if we have completed the task well.
There are many ways to lose sight of a goal. An important point to remember is while acceptance and publication are definitely signs of success, rejections are not ultimate failure. Writers are not in control of editorial decisions and the market factors that determine whose submissions will be accepted. There are suggestions to employ which will increase acceptance. These we will save for another day.
Writers long, dream and even lust for publication. One way to obtain that dream is to learn to set realistic goals. Goals are not our dreams, longings, or lusts. They must be meaningful, measurable, and attainable definitions for our work.
Over the next few weeks, we will explore each step to setting realistic goals in more detail. I have decided to devote one blog entry to each step in setting our goals. Our dreams will be fulfilled, as we map our specific goals to reach them.
If you haven't already, commit your dream to paper; remember to dream big. Start brainstorming steps you might take to fulfill your dream.
Next up what is a meaningful goal?
Here's to fulfilled dreams.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
If you have not already done so buy yourself a calendar. Make certain it is something your will use. It can be an expensive date book with multiple features or a dime store special, both still have 365 days in them.
You may choose to have one calendar for a master overview, and then do a calendar for each project as I do. With one project I bought a long spiral bound lined notebook for $1.00. I divided each page into thirds and numbered them with days and months. The notebook gave me ample room needed for specific notes, goals, and deadlines for the project.
Clear goals help us stay focused as a writer. When we know and choose what we want to accomplish we can arrange our time and priorities to get everything done. It helps alleviate and manage the stress in our lives.
Many of us are procrastinators; some of are afraid of success, sabotaging it with inaction. Others are overwhelmed with commitments. Some overachievers; some of us are just lazy. The sage advice on how to eat an elephant... one bite at a time, in applicable here. The most effective writers have clear organized goals, which can be baby steps to a long term goal.
Over the next few weeks we will be blogging about starting anew with our writing. We will start from square one, even us seasoned writers can stand a good review.
Today start with a clean slate, outline some realistic goals you want to accomplish this year, and look at your calendar to see how you can divvy up your schedule to take one step at a time to accomplish all of your gaols.
Ready, Set, Go to a great writing year!
Friday, January 26, 2007
First, a bit of my history… I went through a period of total self-doubt. I have been writing stories since I was a kid. I was a very active, somewhat gangly kid. I have always been curious. I loved exploring anything and everything. Books became my solace when others teased me; they also provided an outlet for my insatiable desire for mystery and adventure. I truly had plans to become an Air Force fighter pilot (like my Dad) or a Navy SEAL. Unfortunately, early in my life, my dreams were squashed. I lived in an era where young girls were encouraged to be teachers, nurses, or wives. Not that there is anything wrong with those life choices, but I wanted more.
I devoured books on many eclectic subjects. My favorite subjects were science and math. Yet again, girls were not supposed to like those subjects, so I turned to books. I read books on science, math and geography. I love the mystery and adventure of far away places and how things work. I read probably two biographies a week, too. In addition, you guess it; my favorite works of fiction were mysteries.
How is this relevant to our current writing? A common piece of advice is to write what you know. Sounds simple, but it can be more complicated. I know a fair amount about non-fiction material, but you have to be able to share the info with others without talking down to them, particularly if writing for children; and not be preachy, teachy, either. We can come away looking aloof. With fiction, it can be trickier; we have to make it believable, but entertaining and captivating.
So how does one walk this tightrope? I wish I had a magic wand, potion, or formula, but I do not. I can tell you the first thing we must do is being willing to fail, because we will. We all feel devastated when the first rejection letter arrives. After a few, we usually start doubting our abilities, and feel that everyone who reads our work will soon know we are a fraud. I used to ask my husband, “Who in their right mind would believe I am a writer? They all know I’m a fraud, right?” Fortunately, we had been married long enough, he knew better than to answer those two questions.
So what should we do first? I have found planning is the key. Over the next few weeks, I hope to share some ideas, which have worked for others and me. For now, try writing everyday. I know some people cannot, but even if you write for 15 minutes a day, it is practice. Practice leads to accomplishment, in whatever you practice.
I am learning to play the guitar; if I do not practice, I am certain I will not succeed in playing songs. Trust me, I have healthy skepticism friends will not be able to distinguish what I play as a song even with my practice. With that aside, I do encourage you to write.
Finally, realize other writers do like to hear of your success. It gives them the opportunity to have hope they too will succeed. And with some of us, it may even be … “Well, if she (he) can get published then I know I can!” LOL Seriously, know most writers will be our best resource, even before our family and friends. The ones closest to us tend to tell us what we want to hear.
My challenge for us today is to write for 15 minutes, and commit to paper what our writing goals are for the next 3 months, 6 months, year, 5 years, and 10 years. We will not worry how silly we think they are… dream big! We will discuss goals next time.
Remember we are in our write mind.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
As we progress through the next months, you will see new things develop. I want to offer writing quotes to inspire and ponder. I plan on providing writing tips, hints, and writing prompts shared with me. I also have plans to link us to professional sites and resources.
My goal is to develop a blog we can share with each other....and support our write mind.