Yesterday, I challenged my blog readers to post comments on their goals for the coming year and actions that they plan to take today. I’ve read through all the comments, and many of you have your Big Picture clearly in mind. You have goals for the year (some of you have lots of goals.) But not many of you mentioned what actions you planned to take today to move closer to your goals.
This is really fundamental, so I’ll talk about it some more. One of my goals this year is to sell and write my next novel. That’s a goal–the big picture. But I didn’t complete it today. Was today a failure? No, because I took two specific actions that will move me closer to that goal.
One of those actions burned several hours of my time. I completed and submitted an article that may eventually end up getting widely read and enhancing my name recognition. So this was a marketing/publicity action. It needed to get done today, because of deadlines with the publisher, so I did it today. This was a Must Do action, so I did it first.
The second action I took was to do one particular exercise on my first three chapters. These are the chapters that I’ll be sending in with my proposal, so I want them to be as good as I can make them. I analyzed all three of them–almost thirty pages, and I saw some things I can improve on in my writing. This type of action is the kind of thing we writers have trouble with, because there is no immediate penalty if we don’t do it. The only penalty is that nothing actually gets done, but since we typically only do a small increment of work every day, it feels like it’s OK to miss a day. And it’s all too easy to miss a lot of days, and wind up getting nothing done.
The third action I’ll take (as soon as I finish this blog) is to hold my annual Board of Directors meeting, followed by my annual Shareholders Meeting for my corporation. These will be short meetings because my wife and I are the Board of Directors and the Shareholders. I wrote up a President’s Report for 2007 last week, which I’ll present at both meetings. The report tells what I achieved last year and lists some goals for 2008. (Since I have a corporation, these meetings are an annual requirement.)
Three actions in one day–one marketing, one craft, and one administrative. That’s enough for me!
A few of you mentioned actual actions that you took today (or planned to take). Let’s look at some of those.
I subscribed to your newsletter!
Randy sez: Good! That’s a very specific action that you can easily do in one day. Tomorrow, there’ll be a new action that builds on today. A side note: the normal date for sending out my e-zine was Tuesday, which was New Year’s Day. I decided that it would be better to NOT send out the e-zine on a holiday, so it’ll come out NEXT Tuesday.
I made 12 phone calls today to build my speaking platform!
Randy sez: Sally, you just became my hero. I LOVE to see a writer who gets out there and takes action. That’s a lot of action. If even one of those calls leads to a speaking engagement, then you earned yourself some money today, AND built a solid plank in your platform. Waytogo!
Today: I will reorganize my workspace to be free from distractions when I’m working on a project.
Randy sez: Once again, that’s a good solid action. You may or may not complete it today, but I’ll bet you made more headway than you expected. A year ago, I committed to getting better organized, as many of my e-zine and blog readers know. In quite short order, my desk and office became a much more pleasant place to work AND I began getting more stuff done because I could find stuff when I needed to. For those of you who need a kick in the butt to do something similar, let me recommend the “Clean Up Your Act!” series of teleseminars that I did with Allison Bottke, who was the driving force behind me finally getting my act together.
Inspired by your last topic with Susan Meissner, about a week ago I setup a log where I am tracking my writing efforts.
I already have an estimate of how many words I have left to write, and so from that I have made the spreadsheet “Writing Log” calculate my predicted finish date.
Based on the progress I have made over the last week, it is predicting I will be finished on May 26th! That assumes that I write a little over 400 words a day, which should not be a hard goal to achieve. Obviously if I can go faster, that will be better, but just seeing that date motivates me to not let it slip and to keep plugging away.
I have been slowed down doing plot-rework during December, so it is really exciting to be back writing again.
Thanks for the inspiration, Randy!
Randy sez: Excellent! When I am writing a first draft, I do this too. I always work with a spreadsheet that contains my list of scenes for the book (using my Snowflake method of designing my novel). I just add a column that tells how long I spent working on each scene and another column on how many words the scene is. Then I can track how many actual hours a book takes, and can predict pretty well how long the book will be and how long it’ll take to write. Waytogo, Robert!
Now for those of you who posted goals for the year, I’ll ask again: What action are you going to take TODAY to step toward that goal? Get specific! It doesn’t need to be a big action, but it should be specific and concrete and achievable in one day.
Nothing happens unless you take action! What action will you take today?
Sally Ferguson says
Thanks for the encouragement Randy. I am learning a lot about the BUSINESS of writing and managing my time from the posts.
Keep up the good work!
Mary E. DeMuth says
Today I am:
*Finishing up tracking my sales for 2007 (with spreadsheets…should make you excited, Randy)
*Handing in some character charts for my novel
*Calling on two speaking gig possibilities
*Finishing up my upcoming MOPS talk
*Designing a cover for my friend’s ebook
*And, if there’s time, work on taxes (ew)
This is one of those piddly days where I do a bunch of little things at once. When I am in major writing mode, my first priority is to pound out 2000 words.
Lynn Squire says
My harddrive died yesterday never to again be resurrected so this morning will be consumed with getting the new harddrive up to speed with reloading backups, etc.
Once this is done, I will get my books in order to take to the accountant – which means I must also make an appointment with the accountant.
In the midst all this I will be taking the dog to the vet for shots.
If I have time after all that I will begin work on a proposal.
Pam Halter says
Before I even read today’s blog, I pulled up the character files for my trilogy. Since I’m getting ready to begin the second book, I wanted to refamilarize myself with everyone involved. I also added some information and tweaked my loose outline. Now I’m ready to go.
I’m also getting ready for a writer’s retreat weekend in two weeks. We’ll be brainstorming and writing as well as having fellowship and devotional time.
Carla Stewart says
Action Plan for the day:
I’ve already been to water aerobics and dropped off a trunk full of things at Goodwill–Both fulfilled a life goal of fitness and organization.
Next up: Coordinating flight plans to Mount Hermon with a friend and filling out shuttle form–Progress toward my goal of attending Mount Hermon for the first time (yesssss!)
Pay Bills–clearing the way to start writing on my new novel Monday morning.
Work on scene list for said novel–You posts with Susan M. reinforced the pre-planning I’ve been doing in December.
I ususally make my action plan the night before–mentally, at least, so that I wake up ready to go. Do I always follow it? No. Perhaps one of my goals should have been to write down daily action plan and STICK with it.
Thanks for the prodding, Randy. I’m ready to get busy.
David McKee says
Today I signed up at “Critters Writers Workshop” (http://www.critters.org/) so that I can start to read critiques, do critiques, and get critiqued. This is a solid step toward improving my writing.
I also switched today to the awesome (AND free!) writing software “yWriter4” which is a very good fit with the snowflake methodology.
Thanks, Randy, for giving me the kick in the pants I needed! I was starting to feel gloomy about the new year and wondered why I should be down, when I had already formed some worthy goals in my mind…then, after reading your post, I realized I had not put any of my goals in writing yet. And I’ve heard that you likely will not accomplish your goals without writing them down. So that is my first plan of action: write down my major goals for the year. The second action I plan to take is to record some fresh ideas about a story that’s been simmering in the back of my mind for quite a long time. Last night, after a long creative drought, random elements of the story suddenly began to flood my thoughts, and I’m determined to write them down before I forget. I haven’t had much time to work on my fiction writing since I started graduate school, so even putting ideas on paper is a major action for me. I’m excited!
Eleyne Presley says
Plan for TODAY.
Write. Today’s goal is 1500 words. I am SO close to writing ‘The End’ on the rough draft of Nov’s NaNo novel. Clean up some more of the ‘junk’ on my desk. I am in inveterate small-pieces-of-paper note maker and they tend to just stack up. Locate the notes I made for an article so I can get that baby written next week. Print off some old short stories that I need to rework.
All of these activities will move me a few steps closer to my ultimate goals for 2008.
Thanks for asking about these things. Just writing them out like this is good ‘motivation’ for me.
One of my goals for the year is to get my office organized. This is a major must. Yesterday I bought plastic tubs with lids. These will be used to store tax records and other archived papers in another building without having to worry about mice chewing everything up. This will free up space in my office as well as a good chunk of space in the closet of our guest bedroom.
Today I plan to start filling those tubs.
“Tweak” aspects of the novel in my head while fulfilling family and community resonsibilities.
Figure out the forms for Mt. Hermon.
Sit down and polish the first chapter.
I have goals that can’t be measured, like learning all I can, doing the best I can on the wip, finding balance, blah blah blah. But I could spout these forever and never take ACTION as Randy so gently but firmly insists.
My list of measurable goals for the YEAR that someone must be dying to know:
1. Finish the Stinkin First Draft in 25 writing days (rotflol)
2. Find an author or two in the genre who would read it for structure and flow.
3. Write a second draft and forget about resisting the urge to edit as I go.
4 Attend Mt Hermon, with a subset of goals for that.
5. Focus the content of my blog and get on a regular blogging schedule
6. Take a creative writing class, preferably at the same community college as my sons so I can wave and scream “Hi sweetie! Where’s your lunchbox? Did you remember clean undies today?”
7. Read 5+ books on writing
8. Read 10+ novels (hey, I’m confessing to y’all my worst sin as a writer – I don’t read much.)
9. Read the bible in one year, with the help One Year Bible Online – which is cool because I spend wads of time at the computer already and it’s easy to see on the big screen (www.oneyearbibleonline.com)
Action so far today:
A. Did the math – which is much easier than actually doing the writing and tricks me into thinking I’m doing something productive – I figure I need 35k more words to finish the stinker.
1500 per day is roughly 25 days. No sweat. Trouble is, I haven’t figured out how to get 1500 wds down in a day. Thanks to all I’m learning on the craft, I’ve developed a Simon Cowell critic in my head. I can’t get two sentences down without hearing a whiny Brit accent drawling out “That was appolling. Definitely the worst writing I’ve ever seen.” Add to the voice in my head a loving family, bless em, who are put out if I don’t chat as I write.
B. Developed 2 more goals:
10. Kill Simon
11. Spare the family, but figure out how to get them to leave me to it without offending.
Remaining Action on my writing goals for today:
C. Stop piddling all over Randy’s blog like a puppy and do today’s bible reading.
D. Write 1500 appalling words
E. Marinate blog ideas
F. Crack open my Christmas present: Gail Gaymer Martin’s new book, Writing The
Christian Romance and read a chapter or eleven
If I can do these, in addition to the activities that are a part of a seemingly responsible person’s life, I’ll be quite pleased.
Then there’s tomorrow. 🙂
Pamela Cosel says
Your blog has been most inspirational the past few months, and thus, I have been spurred to take more writing action, as have the others who lurk here, due to your coaching, Randy.
In December, I had got an idea for a new novel, and in the past few weeks — now including the New Year — have developed characters, know most of the major plots points and direction, even the story’s ending. Quite an accomplishment for me, who sees writing novels as a daunting task. (My forte has only been newspaper and magazine articles, along with marketing materials.)
Related writing action taken was again reviewing and studying your Snowflake document, Randy. That has helped tremendously in my “new” novel process. I actually think this book will be one I really complete this year!
Given that it is only the first week of January, I feel good that I’ve taken more action in the past couple of weeks in getting a lot done on one, large writing project than I have in the past six months on others. Last night, I did research online to gather more information for events in the plot. I’ve taken action every day, in one way or another. Thanks for your pushing us to do that.
Therefore, I intend to complete “Run For the Roses” this year!
I also plan to post more regularly on my blog — once a week for 2008, instead of monthly or less, as I did last year. (http://offthebookshelf.blogspot.com)
AND…as a new owner of the Amazon “Kindle,” I plan to enjoy learning more about the world of e-books. So far, so good. It’s a great little device. Thank you, Santa Claus!
Mary Burch says
Thanks to health improvements, I am able to work more faithfully on my writing. One of my New Year goals is to write at least 1500 words each day. It has been like pulling teeth to get the words on paper because I am on the last chapters of my current novel. I know where I want to go, but getting there isn’t as easy as I expected. I have to tie everything up in a neat bow and set the stage for the sequel.
I expect to finish it next week. I’m not sure how I will measure my work in rewwrites and editing, but I hope to develop some guage to keep me on track.
My goals for the year are to edit the new novel and a book my sister wrote, and to make gripping outlines for two previous novels. I have two YA spec fictions I want xubmit to publishers this year.
I didn’t post a goal because I’m still recovering from the holiday and I couldn’t decide what it should be.
I want to go back and edit an old project and then get it submitted to somebody again and I want to write a new book and try to get it published. I would really like to find the time and money to attend a writers conference too.
Today I want to finsish the spreadsheet I’m working on. It’s almost there so I think it can done in one day.
ML Eqatin says
OK, Randy, here’s what I did:
Yesterday I finished a huge writing goal. I cleaned my laundry room. And what, you might ask, does that have to do with writing? Because I HATE LAUNDRY, and when it packs up, it makes me feel defeated, and that translates into less creativity writing. So with a little prodding from the Spirit, I addressed my load of ‘writer’s block.’
It paid off. Today I got up and finished sections in three different chapters which I had left ‘for later’ because they were pivotal and tricky and hard to get right. Plugging those plot holes means the next 100 pages are ready to be sent to my oddball but effective review process, see below.
Then I followed up on my emails for a speaking engagement at a large Renaissance symposium. Not paid, but prestigious, and important to me since these ‘rennies’ are both one plank of my platform and a ministry.
Tomorrow I’m going to go through several emails from teenage test readers and see what they think of my YA novel so far. They can be harsh. But after I process through a certain amount of immaturity, they give me the best insights.
Karla Akins says
I LOVE the shareholders and board of directors meeting idea! THATS what I need to do with my husband! It would get him more involved and he wouldn’t feel left out! The light bulb just went off! So I’m going to add to my list of “things to do this year” a “write a report for 2007.” THANK-YOU for sharing this important idea. I feel sooo excited. He is out of town for a few days so I will really be able to work on this and “surprise” him. Today I will plan a night with the two of us alone, and create a romantic atmosphere and cook his favorite dinner and then after “dessert” present my report…maybe that’d just work…
On another note, the one thing I will do today to work toward my big goal is get the exercise machine out again (it was put away for company) and clean off my desk and also create a good cozy spot for me to get away and create in my favorite chair. But I just became a grandma again a week ago so tonight I get to go play with the baby! So today won’t be as full as normal for working towards my big goal. (Which, what bigger goal is there in life than family??)
Melissa Stroh says
Yesterday I continued some necessary research for my historical fiction series I’ve been working on. I have an ongoing compilation of information that I’ve gleaned from various books on the subject. It’s a virtual book in and of itself! Today I’m going to throw out a few scenes that have been floating around in my head for the prequel of the series. They’re just too good to let slip by, so I have to write them now before I forget!
Goals…I’ll add here.
Yesterday I decided to discover the wonder of spreadsheets and started tracking daily wordcount and hours–I’m not sure I WANT to know, but it might come in handy. Spreadsheets are adictively obsessive.
I also got yards ahead by doing nothing the last two days, taking a step back and noticing the forest. Now I have the direction to step back in again and prune some trees! Or, at least find a promising rabbit trail…
Thank you for all the tips and encouragement!
Tami Meyers says
Since I have three part time jobs, one of which just became full time for the next six to eight weeks, I’m finding it hard to make time to write.
In the past when this happened I’d get started on a project, then work and home obligations would get in the way (I haven’t been able to convince my husband that fasting is biblical, or that dust is a great wood preservative). By the time I got back to my WIP the momentum was gone and I was so far off track on both plot and characters that I couldn’t make sense of anything.
My goal is to finish the first draft of my WIP this year. This means I can’t waste the next six to eight weeks. Instead, I’ve decided to use the time to get personally acquainted with my characters by creating a detailed profile for each one. I will develop the setting so that the reader feels like they’ve been there, but will be careful not to bore them to death with all of my amazing research. Finally, I will use these snippets of time to plan my plot so that I have a better idea of where I’m going once I have the time to get going.
To accomplish these tasks I will spend between twenty and thirty minutes every day creating the profiles and plot plan. When my job becomes part time again I will re-evaluate my time/goal ratio and recalculate how much time is required to reach my main goal.
Suzanne Lieurance says
The main thing is to do SOMETHING every single day that relates to your writing career and your writing. Many little things over time add up to something BIG!
The Working Writer’s Coach
I moved my workspace out of my office and into the dining room (No internet access), and it’s AMAZING how much more I’m getting done!
Great post! I also have found it’s helpful to pull each New Years goal into the 5 steps each will take.
FOr example: Write a novel
Step 1: Map out solid writing time (get up early, lunch time)
Step 2: STICK TO IT
Step 3: Set up a log
Step 4: Write XX words per day
etc etc That’s how I keep my writing goals.
Carrie Neuman says
Alright, you’ve all talked me into the time tracking spreadsheet, and I’m glad you did. I may not have worked on my short story or novel, but I did spend two hours writing for other projects. Before, I’d have dismissed that and whined about not getting anything done.
Also, I ordered a new book on writing that the reviewer said goes into a lot of detail on subjects like character, plot, structure, etc. I think I must have graduated to the Junior level when I wasn’t looking. Everyone’s websites are starting to look a little shallow to me now. I know I need to have a solid structure, now let’s have a discussion of what the major types are and what kinds of stories they lend themselves to.
I guess Randy’s blog is a good example of why other sites don’t. It takes days to cover most topics, and I guess most folks don’t have that kind of patience.
Gerhi Janse van Vuuren says
My year only starts today. I was on leave till now and deliberately did not plan any definite actions until today.
I’m in a bit of a bind. This year I have decided to quit my job and start a business with my wife. Maybe it is more, quit my job and help her to make her business make enough money so that we can have a decent income – so that I can spend time on my projects, expecially writing. It involves selling the house, quitting my job, moving accross country to be closer to family and support, AND building the business as a matter of priority.
That being said, I want to keep the process moving in my own writing because I don’t want to start at square one only when I have the surplus time available.
My goal for the year is to write a novel, applying every good idea and technique I can find. I hope to find enough spare cash to buy Fiction 101 and work through that but that depends on the big hairy scary goal mentioned above.
I have been brainstorming concept ideas for my novel during my holiday. A bit more structured than just thinking about it but less logical than the snowflake method. I created a number of index cards with collaged items on it, images, snippets of text and dialogue etc. On the back of each card I am writing notes of a scene inspired by the collaged items, cross referencing between cards. When I have enough done I will play around with them in order to develop a proto story structure – then I will either write a Draft Zero or do a Snowflake, or do both at the same time.
Today I will brainstorm three more proto-scenes and I will clear a drawer in my desk just for my writing project.
I will also outline an ebook I am co/ghostwriting with my wife.