How to Make Your Writing Goals SMART


Last year one of my goals was to open a Twitter account.  IMG_4050

On December 31, 2011 I posted my first tweet. I don’t think I would have done that if I had only thought or even said to myself that I should start tweeting. I knew it was something that would help my writing career; social networking builds platform, right? But without a clear, specific, measurable goal, I would have gone on thinking about something I should do, but probably wouldn’t have done it or at least not for a long time.

This week I met another goal!

I submitted my first proposal to an agency. Again, while I knew it was the next step, and headed in that direction, it took a specific, measurable goal to accomplish it. My writer friend encouraged me to submit it within a few days of us talking or wait until after the holidays. That specific deadline challenged me in the best way to take care of something on my writing list in a timely matter. Without a measurable goal, you know the story…I’d probably be sitting here working in short bursts of “shoulds”. Instead, I have a proposal sitting in an agent’s office. (Thank you Sherry!)

But how do I make my goals S.M.A.R.T?

Most of us self-motivators have heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals, introduced by Paul J. Meyer in Attitude is Everything.  These goals are: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.  Let’s see how we can convert some “shoulds” into SMART goals.

Instead try: By the end of this year, I will open a Twitter account and post my first tweet.

This is a specific, measurable and time-bound goal because I listed a particular action to be accomplished within a set time period.  At first, a Twitter account didn’t seem attainable because I’m not very accomplished with technology, but as it didn’t require a degree or special class, I could attain it by simply checking into it. The goal became more relevant as I blogged and wrote more to build a platform.

  • I should learn my craft.

Instead try: I will attend at least one writing conference this year and practice writing by turning out 1,000 words per day. Or I will subscribe to Writer’s Digest and read each issue to learn my craft; and I will practice by writing 500 words per day.

You can see that naming an action like attending a course or subscribing to and reading a magazine and actually writing a specified number of words each day is specific, measurable, relevant and time-bound. Attainable may depend on your finances or time so adjust as your resources allow. If you need to work an extra three hours per month to save money for a conference, that can be an additional goal.

  • I should work on my novel.

Instead try: On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I will spend two hours writing my novel. Or, I will edit my novel from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. every morning until its finished.

  • I should look for an agent.

Instead try: By (fill in date), I will choose five agents from the list on Michael Hyatt’s website.

  • I should submit a proposal to said agent.

Instead try: By Friday of this week I will submit my proposal to the first agent of five on my list. After three weeks, if I have not heard anything, I will submit to the next agent. (Make sure these agents accept simultaneous submissions.)

 

I think you get the idea. Make it specific, doable and with a deadline.

Happy writing!

What ways have you made goal setting work for you? Has this post been helpful? I’d love to hear from you!

Throwing Out a Lifeline


There is so much great information out there!

Sometimes abundant good advice can be hard to sort through. I don’t know about you, but my mailbox is loaded with tips on writing, grammar, blogging and marketing. It’s easy to feel saturated and a bit bloated by it all–a little like you may have felt yesterday after Thanksgiving dinner!We love it all, but can’t eat like that every day.

That’s why I try to pass along the advice that I find particularly helpful at various points in my writing journey. I’ve told you about some wonderful books, Everything by Mary DeMuth and Wonderstruck by Margret Feinberg, for example. And Michael Hyatt’s book Platform has been encouraging and helpful in building mine!

But today I wanted to pass on to all my writer friends one of the blogs that has been especially helpful in the area of writing fiction. I’ve not only read it, but actually put it into practice! The tools are easy to understand and broken down into simple instructions. I hope you will find it as helpful as I have. You can find The Fiction Writer’s Guide to Writing Fiction on Nick Thacker’s site: http://www.livehacked.com/books-products/

Happy Writing!

 

 

 

How to Become a Professional Writer


“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

Richard Bach

This quote caught my attention earlier this week.

My apologies to you whose blog I “stole” it from because I didn’t make a note of where I saw it when I copied it down and now, can I remember where it was?? Of course not! This is the life of reading so many words from too many places; and getting old. There’s a lesson here about citing sources, I’m sure. Thank you unnamed author. May you be justly rewarded in some fantastic way! (If you are that blogger, and read my blog as well, would you be so kind as to let me know so we can settle up?)

My response to the quote above was, “Wow! Really? Then there is hope for this amateur writer because I will not quit!”

Seriously, the quote may seem facetious, but it holds a simplistic truth. Sometimes, all it takes to succeed is us not giving up. I think of my daughter, Ashley, who recently ran a half marathon in Vancouver, Canada. It was her first, and she didn’t quit. She crossed the finish line (in a relatively decent time even) and became a marathon runner. Still, she had put in training time.

While the simple theory of the quote encouraged me, I also considered all I’ve been doing to become a professional writer. Nearly a year and a half ago, I finally decided to take writing seriously and began doing everything I was told.

Here’s my list:

  1. Take writing seriously. I know I already wrote that, but that is how important the step was for me. I had to choose to write for real. Not just say it, or dabble in it, or read a lot and dream about it.
  1. Learn to write well. In high school and college I was told I had a gift for writing. For some crazy reason, I believed that meant everything I wrote and sent out for publication would be snapped up with a grateful “Thank you for gracing us with your wonderful work.” After a dozen rejection letters, I felt crushed and indignant. Then I decided I must not be any good after all. When I humbly accepted that I had things to learn about writing, my writing improved. Imagine that! I’m still learning. We can always learn something new or perfect what we already know. Mt Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference has been invaluable.
  1. Write. Seems like a no brainer, but honestly I can spend a lot of time doing “writing” tasks without typing a word. 10,000 words or hours or something… Bottom line: we need to put in a lot of hours actually writing.
  1. Build a platform. What’s a platform?? Honestly, this has been the hardest part for me. First to understand the need, then to be genuine about it and finally to simply put in the time to learn the technology and make connections. I’m currently reading Michael Hyatt’s book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. I’ve already learned so much in just a few chapters! (Like now I know that I’m supposed to write a disclaimer–according to FTC rules–saying I’m not being compensated for mentioning Michael’s book or Mt. Hermon. I list them simply because I think they’re so helpful.)
  1. Learn to write fabulous book proposals. So my book is done and in the final stages of editing, but how’s someone going to hear about it unless I can pitch it well to an agent or publisher? Guess what? I’m reading a book about that too.

It seems like a lot of work because it is.

I’m fortunate to be able to work full time (ha! I use that term loosely) on my writing, but it’s still a challenge to spend so many hours doing something without being paid and think of it as a “job.” Explaining to people what I do for a “living,” that I write…for nothing, presents a challenge in my mind. But I’m trying to see it as an investment. As in a startup company. Like a professional. One day it will all pay off.

What’s your list? How have you turned pro by not giving up?
 

Worth Celebrating?


It’s the small things.

Yesterday, I received word that an article I wrote was published online at Bucket List Publications.  I’ll confess that my heart made a little flip flop of excitement. I ran downstairs to tell my husband.

“That’s great darling! We should celebrate!”

I assured him that I thought one small article written for fun and exposure rather than pay hardly seemed worthy of a celebration. A sense of achievement did fill me with a bit of pride though.

Today, my son sent me a text saying he had read my article and really liked it. Again, I chuckled at how something so seemingly insignificant could mean so much to me.

I replied to his text with:

 It’s encouraging to have something positive happen in the direction you’re headed even if it’s a really small something.

As writers we spend so much time putting in the work: learning our craft, writing, editing, rewriting, making connections, building platforms, marketing our work—and sometimes it seems as if we’re not getting anywhere.

Will I ever make a difference? Will anyone notice? Will my message be heard or helpful?

Then someone puts your words in print (or cyber print as the case may be). A crisp breeze of relief blows through your spirit, and you think Maybe, I am making progress!

Thank you Bucket List Publications for the breeze you sent my way!

 

Do you have an adventure to share? When have you felt a cool breeze of encouragement blowing your way?

For some amazing stories of adventure and extreme challenges, check out Bucket List Publications and editor, Lesley Carter

 

Brand Yourself


I think I’ve finally grabbed hold of the message.

This past year of writing, I’ve wrestled with all the usual writer issues like:

  • Keeping my butt in the chair (distractions at home with family…need I say more?)
  • Putting actual (and many) words on a page–or computer screen now that I’ve succumbed to technology
  • Believing I have something worthwhile to say
  • Learning how to craft my words into something enjoyable and inspirational to read
  • Publishing…to e-book or not to e-book; that is the question

But the one element that’s kept me in a headlock is platform. I’ve taken classes, read articles and looked at author websites. Voices of various publishers echo in my head “You have good content, but you need a platform.” A platform shows why people should listen to you. Your brand showcases your expertise.

Branding–Like a cowboy with a searing hot iron on a cow’s rump??

Okay, I’m teasing. I understand what branding in the marketing world really means. A previous job as an editor/writer for a Christian ministry brought me into direct contact with the concept of branding as we toyed with various ‘looks’ for the author/speaker who was my boss. But the concept, while understood, felt vague when I attempted to apply it to myself.

Then, this week I read something that Regal editor, Kim Bangs, was quoted as saying. It grabbed me.

Brand yourself, not your writing.

Thank you, Kim!! I’m sure you’ve said it before, even to me at Mount Hermon, or at least in your workshops, but I finally get it. It finally makes sense to think about my passion, my ministry, and what God has for me to say to help the world. Like an umbrella, my unique brand will cover all my writing and speaking.

So I’ve been searching for the meaning to life this week.

The meaning for my life at least, and the purpose for my writing. Who am I? What am I all about? What do I give to others?

I’ve been collecting what people say about me through comments on my blog or remembering when someone felt encouraged by something I’ve said to them. That means I need to listen and accept compliments they offer.

I’ve considered what gets me fired up. I love to see people grow from one place in their lives to the next especially when I’m allowed the privilege of  helping them move along by encouraging or instructing them, or being a champion on their behalf!

Platform is about you.

Or me. It encompasses who we are in relation to others’ needs. I’m finally seeing the point.

So, what is your life about? What’s your passion? Your platform?

I’m looking forward to reading Michael Hyatt’s book now that I’m finding myself and my purpose in writing. Understanding is a good place to start, but now I want to apply all I can.

If you see something that might help me grasp my brand and platform, please feel free to share a comment. Likewise, if you would like my input, I’d be happy to check out your writing too.

Happy branding.