Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Goal Setting 101

by Mary Sutton / @mary_sutton73

I recently attended a webinar with author James Scott Bell about how to make a living selling ebooks (something near and dear to my heart, of course). As I listened, it reinforced something that I think a lot of authors overlook.

While writing may be art, publishing is a business.

Now, I've never started a business in the traditional sense. But I do know one thing: If you start a business venture without a plan, you are sunk. Dead in the water. Okay, you might get insanely lucky, but in general, going in without a plan is madness.

Part of a plan is something that a lot of people think they are really good at - setting goals. The problem is, most people set "pie in the sky" goals that are really more of a dream. A goal is something that is achievable and within your power. A dream, well, anyone can dream. Consider the difference in the following:

I'm going to get published in a magazine three times this year.

I'm going to submit to at least three magazines this year.

The first statement is a dream. I want to be published, sure. But can I make that happen? At the end of the day, no. The editors of the publication make that decision. I may have penned the next Hemingway-esque piece, but if it's not right for a publication, the editor will say "no."

But I can control the second. I can polish my story, study my craft, and put the work in the (e)mail. After that, about all I can do is cross my fingers.

Some writers may find this intimidating. But I like goals - all sorts of them. Setting a goal - and making it "public" (that is, sharing with others) - keeps me accountable. I set a goal to complete the sloppy first draft (SFD) of the third Hero's Sword book by the end of January and to get my Black Orchid novella ready for beta readers by the end of February.

Since I don't have an editor or a contract breathing down my neck, I needed to set those goals - and share them with my writer friends - to keep me honest. Otherwise, I'd spend my weekends watching horrible TV and thinking, "I can write better than this." And I'm glad to say that I met both of those goals.

But what now? Well, after last week's webinar and reading a lot, I realize that I need new goals, goals that are going to help push me toward my dream of making money off of this fiction thing. And the two most important things (for me) are going to be continuing to write and upping my craft game.

So, in the spirit of planning and goal setting, I announce my goals for the year, in no particular order.

Submit my second Laurel Highlands Mystery story. 

It's written, it's been edited, and it's probably ready to go. Now it's just a question of where (okay, not much of a question since the first is going to be published by Mysterical-e, I'll probably start there). Exactly when I submit will be influenced by...

Read at least one craft book per month.

Any writer who says she's learned all she needs to know is probably full of, well, ca-ca (to put it nicely). That's not me. I'm starting with Mr. Bell's Fiction Attack. And I will pick up his Revision and Self-editing so that I can...

Complete revisions of Hero's Sword 3 by tax day (4/15).

Based on the time from when I submitted Power Play to the publisher to when it came out, I'm guessing the publication cycle will be a couple of months. I sent Storm Clouds off in January, so it'll probably come out this spring. I actually think I can pull this one off earlier, but since a goal should be achievable, I'm going with something I am very confident in (a stretch goal would be to complete the revision by the end of March).

Complete the SFD of Hero's Sword 4 by May 31 and first revisions by July 31.

Based on experience, I can write the SFD in a month. This will also include a treatment for book 5 (since I like to plan at least one book beyond what I'm currently writing).

Complete and submit two more Laurel Highlands Mystery stories by the end of summer.

These are generally between 8,000 and 15,000 words (long story story to novelette). I've got at least two ideas sketched out. If I can get two more complete and submitted by fall, that gives me four. A fifth is scheduled to come out in an anthology at the end of the year. That allows me to...

Plan an anthology release of the Laurel Highlands Mysteries by the end of 2013

This is not to say that the anthology will be released at the end of this year - but I will have a plan. I've got decent hopes that I can get the next two sent to Mysterical-e and since they say they like series, there's a decent chance they'll be accepted. If so, the anthology may include a brand new story. Timing of the release TBD, but I can have a plan by year end (especially since one of my targeted craft/business reads is exactly how to make a plan).

So there you have it - some 2013 goals. Of course, things change, life happens, and goals need to be reset. And that's okay. Because that only means that I am approaching things with intent and purpose. These goals may change. New goals may come up. I'm staying flexible.

I believe it was Eisenhower who said no plan survives first contact with the enemy. But by starting with a plan, I feel like I'm ahead of the curve.

Image used under Creative Commons courtesy of Sean MacEntee

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