Monday, January 2nd, 2017

Happy New Year! Have You Planned Your 2017 Yet?

Happy New Year!

I wish you peace, joy, prosperity and health in 2017!

Also: I wish you fulfillment of all your goals.

Did I mention resolutions? Nope.

I don’t believe in resolutions. Resolutions are something most people make between the countdown to the new year and the champagne they drink at 12:01. Almost no one sticks to their resolutions. I gave up making them more than a decade ago.

Instead, I make goals for the new year. I plan — which is not to say that things never hit the fan and life is golden. Things do happen, and I miss goals, but I generally get more accomplished than if I’d not planned to begin with.

I’ve been planning 2017 for a few months now, both personally and professionally, and made a few decisions about what I’ll be concentrating on in 2016. If you haven’t done any planning yet, use January as your planning month and move forward from there. It’s not too late.

Begin by Reviewing Your 2016
Always review last year (last month, last week) to see what you accomplished and what you could do better. Here are some questions to think about:

– What major events happened in 2016?
     – Finish a book? Publish a book? Attend a convention or writing retreat?
– What big and small goals did you accomplish?
     – Learn how to self publish? Write cover copy? Use a new social media venue?
– What challenges did you overcome?
     – Speak in public? Submit a story to an agent? Finish a short story?
– What could you have done better?
     – Spent more time in the writing chair? Listened to your critique group or editor about something? Concentrate on area of writing: dialogue, grammar, scene setting?
– Have you become a better writer in any way?
     – Finished more scenes? Wrote more words? Took a grammar or spelling class? Studied dialogue?

Even if you’re not a writer, you can use these questions to plan, just consider them outside the writing angle.

If you’re not a writer, consider:

– What big things happened in 2016?
– What large and small things did you accomplish?
– What did you overcome?
– What could you have done better?
– Have you become a better (husband/wife/co-worker/fill-in-the-blank) in any way?

Next, Decide What You Want to Do

Now, consider what you want to be. I know that’s a bit vague, but planning your goals will depend on what you want to be at the end of the year.

– Do you want to be a better writer? If so, what is your definition of “better?” Find your voice? Improve your grammar? Write more words? Accomplish more chapters? Finish more books?
– For non-writers (or, even for writers who want to tackle both professional and personal goals: do you want to spend more time with your family? Lose weight? Improve a particular skill? Etc.

Be specific here. You can’t plan effectively if you don’t have a specific goal.

For example: “Lose weight” is not a specific goal. Instead, consider, “Lose 10 pounds by March.” For writers, instead of “Write more,” try, “Write 10,000 words per month.”

Once you have a specific goal, you can break it down into smaller steps. Work on those steps daily, and you can accomplish great things.

Are you like me? There are too many goals on your list for this year? That’s where prioritizing comes in. I’ll write about that next week…

I hope you’ll plan with me this year. Some of my goals include:

– Increasing my word-count production by 10%
– Writing a non-fiction book (as well as the fiction and short stories!)
– Taking a class on marketing

What do you hope to accomplish this year? Leave me a note in the comments! =)

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Starting Over and Getting Organized: Time to Focus

There’s been a lot of upheaval in my writing life lately, some of it spilling over from my personal and work life.

There’s the lost manuscript.

The mismanaged roofing job which resulted in water damage in the house.

The fact that because of said water damage I’ve been working out of my kitchen. (These high stools are killer on your back muscles when you’ve been sitting for a while…)

More stress at the day job than I can adequately describe in one sentence. (Trust me, it’s the stuff of a novel-length tell-all…)

There’s been some good stuff, too — I just had a wedding anniversary — but if the state of the kitchen table is any indicator of what’s going on: things are out of control.

It’s time to reign in and re-boot.

It also means focus.

I’ve been concentrating on the new stuff while I’ve got a pile of perfectly good finished stuff just sitting around. I’ve had some rejections come in (fact of life, folks, if you plan to be a writer) and I haven’t sent them back out to new markets yet.

They need to be sent off to new homes in hope of fosterage!

I haven’t decided if this current morass means I need to re-examine the goals I made in January. I need to dig out of the muck and see what’s left before I determine that.

So last night I updated my calendar from all the multiple input sources and printed it out through December 2012. (Just for fun, I stopped printing at December 21 and marked the end of the world. Remember: life is WORTHLESS without humor.) Then, I updated all my tickler files and writing deadlines.

Tomorrow… I have a class, so I’ll have to wait until Thursday to go through the finished projects and make plans for their distribution.

Then: I’m going to attack the unfinished writing projects like paying off debt: the projects which are closest to completion get written down first, thereby knocking out as many as possible, in as little time as possible.

And, damn the muse! I’m not starting anything new until all these are off my plate. (She’ll get me for that, I’m certain.)

How do you approach a re-organization?

Monday, July 18th, 2011

How Do You Cope When the Best Laid Plans Foil Your Resolutions?

Kelly A. Harmon Researches Contemporary LifeI got absolutely no writing done last week.

I was away, having a moderately fun time in a well-known location doing some research for a contemporary novel I’m contemplating writing.

Ha. I thought I’d have time to relax from the research and put in a few hours each day editing or writing anew.

One day I made the effort.


The rest? A bust…even though I meticulously prepared.

Lesson: Just take a vacation.

Or, maybe: Build more days into the “off” schedule (so that the stats don’t look so bad at the end of the year). 🙂

This week isn’t shaping up much better as I’ve got some (unexpected) travel and training to attend for the day job. Since I’m prepared from last week, it won’t be a problem to carry along the current projects…but I’m doubting I’ll find time.

Still, I’m going to try and make the effort.

What do you do when things go awry? Do you settle for less than you want to do, or bag it all together?

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Motivation for Meeting Writing Goals

SpreadsheetAs you know, last year I didn’t submit to magazines as many “pieces” — my generic term for both fiction and non-fiction — as I wanted to. Though, if I’d planned it better (rather than completely focusing on other things) I might have.

And I might have had more than the three pieces accepted for publication.

One of my 2011 goals is focused on making more submissions (which will, I hope, lead to more acceptances). But other than setting myself a reminder on the calendar, I wasn’t sure how to make this happen.

And even if I did schedule it, how could I guarantee I’d have something to submit when the time came?

Today I stumbled on a method which might work, and I wanted to share.

I keep this spreadsheet (I love me some spreadsheets) which tells me just about everything I need to know about submission I make:

  • Name of the story/article/query letter, etc.
  • Type of submission (Fiction, Non-Fiction, Microfiction [added in 2010!] Query, etc.)
  • Where it was submitted
  • Date Submitted
  • Whether it’s still out or not
  • How many days it’s been out
  • Date I received a reply
  • Notes

Over the years it’s evolved (via much writing procrastination and cat waxing) into a document which tells me yearly totals and percentages of each of those, how many total submissions I’ve made in my writing life, what kind of stories I’ve placed more often, average days out, etc.

(Yeah – there have been days when the spreadsheet, rather than the WIP, has ruled my life.

But, I digress.)

Spreadsheets being what they are, I add a line at the bottom when I’ve made a submission and all the formatting is automatic. I usually close it fairly quickly unless I need to reference something. End of file.

But, today, I added 30 blank lines at the bottom of the file….which are begging to be filled.

Such a small, visual change…but seeing the blank lines has me itching to fill them (and motivated to write something new to submit) – as soon as possible. I’m fairly confident I’ll make, and probably exceed, this 2011 goal.

What tricks do you use to motivate you?

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

2011 Writing Goals – Finally, eh?

Water Polo - Making a GoalI summed up my accomplishments for 2010 in two parts:

Part 1 – the platform building
Part 2 – the numbers

Finally, I’m getting to my goals for 2011.

I’m behind (as you can clearly see) but I wanted to put some thought into this before posting.

It was important to me to make the goals challenging, but reachable. I also wanted to be more specific than I was with last year’s goals, so that my review at the end of the year will be both easier to write, and easier to evaluate.

With that in mind, here’s what I’m striving for this year:

1 – Write 302 out of 365 days in 2011

I’ve determined that since I work full time and have a 2+ hour daily commute for the day job, it’s impossible for me to write daily. 302 = 52 weeks of the year times 6 days a week, minus 10 Federal Holidays. I’m not sure I can actually meet this goal…but I’m going to try.

Note that I don’t care if I write fiction, non-fiction or cereal box ads during any given day: writing is writing.

2 – Triple last year’s fiction output

Since I’m not planning a blog tour this year, I think I can reasonably accomplish this…with some stretching. In order to do so, however, I’m upping the goal words-per-day by 25%.

You’ll note that I’m talking percentages and not real numbers….just as I did in my year end review. I’m deliberately obfuscating the number, and the reason is simple: what I think I can reasonably accomplish in a day, and what someone else can, are different. And that number changes, based on the circumstances. Before I agreed to a two-hour commute, I could knock out 2k words easily in a day. These days, 2k is a good weekend goal.

If you’re playing along, pick a goal which you can reasonably accomplish with some effort – you don’t want it to be too easy, after all.

3 – Finish the two short stories that have plagued me since the beginning of 2010….or trunk them.

4 – Finish the first draft of my current work-in-progress novel.

5 – Write and submit 6 non-fiction articles.

Word count doesn’t matter.

I’ll be keeping track of the word count, of course, but it’s more important that I actually actually write the articles. As part of my “platform building” last year, I wrote three and submitted them to some articles web sites. I’m hoping to drive additional traffic to my site.

6 – Write at least three blog posts per week for a total of 156 blog posts for 2011.

Again, word count doesn’t matter (though it will be tracked). I simply want to remain consistent.

7 – Fifty-two blog posts must be writing prompts.

I want to maintain my “Friday Writing Prompt” which I’ve consistently published each Friday since I started in June 2010.

8 – Make 30 fiction submissions this year, only 1/3 (or less!) of which can be flash or micro-fiction.

9 – Finish reading Sol Stein’s How to Grow a Novel.

(This sounds like a gimme, but I borrowed it from the library last year and I’ve renewed it 11 times so far. I’m only allowed to renew it 9 more times – unless someone puts a hold on it, and then I must return it immediately. It’s a good book, but others keep making it to the head of the line… Putting it on this list will make me finish it. I hope.)

Finally, I come to the big goal….and I still don’t know how to phrase it correctly.

I’m going to be sending a novel out into the wild. Obviously, I would like to obtain representation this year…and yet, that goal is out of my hands. So, rather than set myself up for a pass/fail grade by the end of the year, here’s what I realistically think I can do:

10 – Send 25 query letters to agents.

Obviously, I’ve got a plan. I won’t be spamming 25 agents with my manuscript. I’ve got a carefully written, personal query letter ready to send to my number one agent of choice. And to my number two choice…and so on.

With luck, I won’t need to send all those letters, but I’m trying to be realistic. If I do wind up sending them all…I’ll regroup and make a new goal somewhere late in 2011.

What’s most important? The writing, of course. If I can finish the writing, the rest of the goals, minus Stein, should fall into place.

Can I do it? I hope so, but only time will tell.

Has everyone else set their goals, or am I the last one in the pool?

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

2010 Year in Review, Part 2

Statistics of GoalsWord Count

I’ve finally finished tallying all my numbers from last year. In some areas I’m pleased, in others…not so much. Some of my displeasure arises from the way I set my goals.

For example:

I exceeded my word count goal, reaching 174% of the objective.

This would suggest that I set my goal too low and need to increase it for 2011.

But if we discount everything I wrote except for fiction, I only reached 25% of my goal.

Yet – part of my 2010 goals were dedicated specifically to promotion of my book and trying to attract readers to my blog. So neither 174% of goal, nor 25% of goal, tell the whole picture.

I can break it down further:

I reached 91% of my word count goal in blog posts alone. And promotional guest blog posts and non-fiction articles I wrote consist of 59%. .

I would have liked to have written more fiction. I would have liked to have had more finished stories to submit. But I wasn’t specific enough when I set my goals last year. (See that post here.)

This year, I’ll create separate goals for each of these three categories of writing.

Days Written:

My goal was to write between 57% and 71% of the days of the year. (An increase over the 53% of the days I wrote in 2009.)

I wrote on 215 days of the year, or 59%.

I reached my goal, but it felt like an uphill battle most of the time.

I’m toying with the idea of trying to average 6 days a week of writing minus 10 Federal holidays. This would bring the “writing days of the year” down to 302, rather than 365.

Using that number, I would have attained my 71% goal. But: I haven’t decided if this is “cheating” or not. (What do you think?)

Short Fiction Stats

Completed Written: 3, but all were flash fiction

Incomplete: (Started in 2010) 0

Incomplete: (Started 2009 or earlier) 2

Completed Stories just sitting around doing nothing: 10 – this includes two stories which have been published and the rights reverted back to me.

Submissions Stats

Fiction Submissions: 11

Fiction Acceptances: 2, and I have 2 outstanding submissions.

So: 22% acceptances so far. This could rise to as much as 36% or dip as low as 18 % once the other markets respond.

In 2009 I submitted 25 times and had 5 sales, for 20% — roughly the same rate of acceptance. But I’d rather have more sales.

I didn’t actually set a goal for submissions in 2010, but I will for 2011.

Novel Stats

Revisions: 3/4 complete on 1
Completed: None
Started: Two
Queries: None, but did not intend to do so

For 2011, I’ll be setting a query submission goal.


3 articles written and 3 published

These aren’t counted in my submission statistics because they were guaranteed publication….but I’m not sure how to count them when I do my comparison at the end of this year. I might wind up adding them after all.

4 newsletter items written, 1 published – but the newsletter these were written for went belly up after my first article appeared.

These, too, aren’t counted in my submission stats for the same reason as the articles. Again, they might end up in the submissions spreadsheet, simply because record keeping will be easier.

Other Goals

I also wanted to:

1 – meet more people
2 – attend an additional convention
3 – do more readings

I managed to do all three, the first accomplished mostly by attaining the second two as I added Darkover attendance and readings at both the Constellation Book Store in October and the Library of Congress (with Ellen Kushner and Catherine Asaro!) in March.

I’d also intended to try two writing software programs (yWriter and Writer’s Dream Kit) and post reviews. I did try WDK, but didn’t write a review. Maybe I can find time for that in 2011.

This year, I intend to write more fiction — including finishing one of the novels I started in 2010 — and search for an agent. I’ll post official — well defined — goals later.

How did you do with your goals?

Monday, January 4th, 2010

More on Resolving…

I made a mistake!

While updating my work-progress spreadsheet for 2010, I discovered in error in the “percentage of days written” column. In my post on 2010 Writing Goals, I mentioned that I’d failed to write more than 50% of the days in 2009.

Not so: it turns out that through the magic of cut and paste, I’d introduced a tiny error in my spreadsheet on those months that don’t have 31 days, consequently adding five more days to the calendar year.

I was dividing 370 days rather than 365. So…my actual days of writing last year were almost 53%.

With that in mind, it hardly seems fair to only shoot for a total of 57% days writing this year. What’s 4%? Not much to aspire to after last year’s results.

So…I’m upping the ante over my previous ante upping:

I’m shooting for 64% AND I’m increasing my word count goals by 50%. That should challenge me.

How about you? Have you changed your goals already?

Friday, January 1st, 2010

Have You Resolved?

I have not. However, I am  setting a few goals for myself.

A few years ago I wrote a post on my old Web site about not making resolutions for the new year. I’d have to dredge it up from the archives to quote myself accurately, but my reasoning went along the lines of:

“If you don’t make resolutions, you don’t have to worry about breaking them.”

Short-sighted, perhaps, but it left me feeling perfectly content in December when others were lamenting their lack of fortitude and inability to meet their resolutions (or scrambling madly to attain what a little pre-planning during the year would have accomplished…with much less fuss.)

Now, I simply make goals. I know it’s just semantics, but I’m a wordsmith, right? Semantics are my territory!

Last year I set a modest daily goal, and allowed myself to count my blog posts as part of that goal. I exceeded my goal, nearly doubling what I set out to do.

Don’t applaud yet.

I deliberately picked a small number of words to meet because I work full time, have a 2+ hour commute daily and a youngster…

Time is slim. So I picked a number which I thought was challenging, but doable.

As I’m reviewing my records (in columnar format in a spreadsheet, with a page for each month and a line for each day, and a “yearly” page with all the months at a glance with auto percentages and red font for negative goals) because I’m just analytical like that…I realized that I’d missed my own point.

I did meet my goal of a certain amount of words per day, but I didn’t actually write EVERY day. Except for the 1st, I wrote every day in January 2009, February only has a few days filled in, the rest of the year is better…especially October, when I went on my Writer’s Retreat… but on average, I failed to write daily.

In fact, I failed to write more than 50% of all days last year….and managed to produce quite a bit of stuff: some of which was published in 2009, some of which has been accepted, and much of which is making it’s rounds to editors now.

(And now I’m sitting here wondering how much more I could have accomplished in 2009 if I’d just considered my goal in a different light.)

I’m upping the ante this year.

My goal is to write between 57 and 71% of the days of the year. The difference between the two is one day a week. Writing four days out of seven = 57% of the time; five days out of seven is 71%. I’m reserving the weekends for family, even though these are the two days that I actually have the most time to write.

I’ll be content to meet 57%. I’ll be ecstatic if I manage 60% or better. Even if I don’t constrain myself to a minimum word count, I should still see the numbers increase for 2010.

My other main goal is to get my office organized. Does anyone else operate out of boxes?

This year, stuff is getting into the filing cabinet. I started doing a bit of that as I prepared for my retreat in September, but I’m determined to get the desk cleaned off, the boxes emptied, and everything still on floppies transferred to some other media.

Some minor goals include trying out Simon Haynes ywriter software with one of the novels I’m working on. I’m also going to try Writer’s Dreamkit software. I bought and tried it a long time ago and didn’t like it…but I’m going to give it a second chance. I’ll write about both here on the blog when I’ve evaluated them.

Finally, I want to get out more and meet more people, whether it’s an additional conference, a reading or a book store. In fact…just about anywhere will do.

So… what about you? Are you resolving?