I often harp on the importance of setting writing goals over here at the blog and often push the idea that if you set specific goals, you can achieve anything you set out to do.
But it isn’t always that easy.
I know the experts all agree that writing down your goals is the best way to reach them, but they’re overlooking something very important:
You can write down your goals until you’re confined to wearing carpel tunnel wrist braces for the rest of your life, but you’re just wasting your time if you have no plan to actually follow through with them.
To use myself as an example, there are plenty of months where I’ll say something like “This month I’ll submit a new short story somewhere.” Then I write it down and say, “Perfect. I chose a goal. I wrote it down. Now it will get done.”
But then for some reason, the short story doesn’t magically write and edit itself, find an appropriate market, properly format itself and then submit itself after carefully reading the guidelines.
It’s almost as if the story is waiting for someone else to do all the work.
It’s pretty obvious what the problem is. Simply saying you’ll do something without having a detailed plan on how to do it won’t work. It’s like saying “I’m going to be a millionaire” but having no plan to save and invest.
In order to get a short story done in a month (which is much more time than you should need, btw) you’ve got to have a list of things to do and deadlines attached to each item on the list.
For a quickie example, a 3500 word short story goal could look like this:
- Come up with an idea by November 1.
- Write 200-300 words per day until the first draft is complete. Say November 14.
- Find an appropriate place to submit the story to on November 15.
- Do a revision with that place in mind by November 20.
- Take a couple of days away from it and work on something else. If you have a critique group, send out a copy during this time.
- Re-read on November 25 and give yourself a few days to do a second revision.
- On November 28-29 do a final revision and also format your manuscript and cover letter and make sure you’re following all of the submission guidelines.
- Submit the story and report it to Duotrope on November 30.
Like I said, this quickie example gives you a lot more time than you should need to finish a short story, but the point is to have specific tasks and deadline to meet.
And that’s much more efficient than simply stating, “I’ll write a short story this month.”