Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy New Year!

I cannot believe this year – this decade - is about to end. Ten years ago, I saw in the year 2000 with a bunch of friends at a 1930s-themed “Host a Murder” dinner … most of which I missed, due to my then thirteen month old Child # 1 coming down with gastro and vomiting on me all night. Ah, the joys ...

This time round we’re seeing in the new decade at the home of some of our dearest friends, who also happen to have a pool in their back yard; a huge blessing, because 2009 has decided to go out on a nasty old high of 42C (that’s 107F, for anyone shivering in the depths of winter!)

Kristen’s terrific post got me thinking over the year that was. I have much to be thankful for in my life – my wonderful DH and kids, good health and great friends, including the three awesome gals with whom I blog. I am truly blessed and content; and I know a large part of feeling this way is down to my writing. It is not the be all and end all of my life, and there are days when I wonder why I ever decided to do it; but nevertheless, writing is the one thing I do that is just for me, and it gives me a great measure of happiness and satisfaction. I’m especially proud of the fact I set out to write a book amidst the craziness of raising a young family, and have done just that.

I agree with Kristen that New Year resolutions are usually overrated and destined to fail; still, I think it can be a good time to sit back and quietly ponder what you may want to achieve with your writing in the coming year. That may mean nothing more than deciding the coming year is going to be so totally insane that you won’t set any writing goals at all; that you will write purely for pleasure, if and when the desire strikes. But it could also be that 2010 is the year you decide to really give writing your all, especially if you have dreams of publication. 2009 was the year I decided to give all I could to my writing. I set some goals I pretty much stuck to, which I know were a big part of why this was the year I finished the first draft of my book. I’m going to do the same in 2010, but this time the focus of my goals will be revising my current manuscript to make it beta reader-worthy, and to make a start on my new book.

Now, I know the reason goal-setting worked for me has a lot to do with the fact that I’m just wired that way - I was once an anal, goal-oriented lawyer, after all – and I know setting goals doesn't float everyone's boat … but still, if you’re thinking of setting some writing goals for yourself in 2010, here are a few tips:

The trick with goal setting is to be optimistic, yet realistic. There is no point setting goals you’d have to be superman/woman to meet. All you'll do is fail, which is not what you're aiming for at all. Conversely, I think you need to challenge yourself a little. Push for something you may not be sure you can do, such as aiming to submit an article or short story for publication, or add an extra 100 words to your word count goal. You’ll probably be surprised by what you can actually do.

Break down your goals. Say your goal is to write a novel this year. A novel is around 120,000 words – that works out to roughly 330 words a day. Not so scary when you look at it like that, plus it gives you an achievable goal to aim for each and every day.

Set goals you can actually measure and track. Rather than setting myself a goal to write a certain amount of time each day, I set a word count goal. I knew if I dithered around for two hours each day, only to produce a measly 100 words, I would be old and grey and senile by the time I finished my first draft. So I set myself a certain number of words to write and most days I would not let myself get up from my chair until I'd written that number. Then I logged how many words I actually wrote, which really helped me to pinpoint those days when I didn’t make my goal, and to work out why and fix the problem. I’ll be doing the same when I start revisions, but this time I’ll be setting a certain number of pages I want to revise each day. No idea what that magic number will be yet; I suspect it will depend on how much I groan when I do a first read-through of my SFD.

Tell someone your goals. It could be your significant other, your writing partners, your next door neighbour … anyone who will actually ask you “So, how are you going with your writing?” Over at the Books and Writers forum, posting your goals in the monthly goals thread I run is a good way to make yourself publicly accountable for what you set out to do. Oh, and printing out a simple statement of your daily goal – WRITE 330 WORDS – and sticking it somewhere you can see it when you sit down to write, is also a good reminder. Especially if it’s in a twenty point font, capitalized, and red. (g)

Rewards. I promised myself that if I did indeed finish my book by the end of 2009, I could then enjoy a few weeks of guilt-free, non-writing … which is what I am doing right now. I'm spending my extra time reading books that have been on my TBR pile forever ... it's bliss!

So, that’s how goal-setting worked for me; I hope it continues to do so as I head off into the uncharted territory of revision land in 2010. What do you find works for you when it comes to setting writing goals? And where do you plan to go with your writing in 2010?


  1. Happy New Year, Rachel! *s*

    NYE in Melbourne was a hot one...until about 9pm when the cool change and thunderstorm moved in. The temperature dropped about 10 degrees in as many minutes, and it changed to being a very soggy NYE. It was a little bit warm to be winter, but it certainly wasn't pleasant weather for being out on the banks of the Yarra at midnight to watch the fireworks!

    When it comes to writing goals - I had hoped to finish my SFD this year, but that didn't happen. Still, I made a lot of progress with my writing this year and I'm that much closer to finishing than I was this time last year. So I guess the 2010 writing goal is the same - Finish The D@mn Book! *g*

  2. I am such a horrible goals setter. I always expect big things, right away. (g) I like your list...will keep these tips in mind. :)

  3. Must... set... goals... I'll start small. For now, I'm going to try getting up an hour earlier each day, just to write. And I've got to stop letting blog and forum posts pile up before I reply - must reply as soon as I read! :-)

  4. Helen - we had that same kooky weather. 43C all day, then 23C by midnight. Bizarre. And good luck with finishing the book!

    Jen - Ah, baby-steps, baby-steps ... (g). And I just saw your latest post - good luck!

    Deniz - Great ideas. I need to get back into the early rising too, so I can get routine stuff done before the kids get to school; that way I don't waste time futzing around in my child-free hours. But that'll wait until they're actually back at school; I'm not giving up my sleep-ins yet!