Monday, May 13, 2013

The Importance of Strategic Goals

During April, I received two blog awards: The Liebster Award from Suze of Subliminal Coffee, and the Very Inspiring Blog Award from Mel Chelsy of Writings, Musings & Other Such Nonsense.  As part of the condition of accepting the awards, I'm supposed to answer a series of questions and share seven things about myself. As anyone who's been following me for any time will know, I'm a bit of a rebel when it comes to rules. Consequently I'll answer one of the questions and in the process share a little about myself. Suze asked the big question:

What are your goals?
When I first started writing seriously in my teens, my goal was to become a published author by seventeen. That age became twenty one. Then I gave up on age when that deadline slipped by as well. In my mind I became a failed writer. It didn't matter that I'd had short stories and art published in a variety of small magazines. It didn't even matter that I hadn't finished my manuscript. I thought I was serious about my writing and yet I hadn't achieved my goals.

Making manageable goals
So I changed my goals to something more manageable: Finish my manuscript. Before that point I'd been writing my manuscript off and on for seven years. It took me a further two years to finish it. My next goal was to get the wretched thing published. So without any industry knowledge, without the use of critique partners, and only one pass of editing, I sent it off to a total of nine publishers—all 600 pages of the thing (ah, the fearlessness of the ignorant). Not surprisingly I received only rejections and gave up.

All that glitters is not a goal
Many years later I came to realise that my goals weren't goals after all. They were wishes. A wish doesn't make things happen except in Never Never Land. Helpful goals are much like a business plan. Sounds boring, even painful, and lacks the magic of a wish, but a plan is far more effective.

Effective goals require a strategy

If I want [this] by [this date],
then I need to do [these] in [this] much time.

To write up a strategic set of manageable, measureable goals, I first needed to know what I wanted. I want to get published. Sure, but how do I want to get published? Authors have so many options these days: traditional, small press, self-publishing, agented or unagented. Even if I want to keep my options open, there are some things I first needed to do:

1. learn about the industry
2. learn about the craft
3. write a sellable manuscript
4. write the killer query
5. nurture my online presence
6. relearn to be fearless and send those queries
7. keep writing.

Each of the above points can be broken down further into a manageable strategy to achieve completion. And each point is a milestone. For example, finishing an outline is a milestone worthy of much rejoicing. If you're anything like me, you'll need your milestones. They give a great sense of achievement and they tell me I'm another step closer to achieving my dreams.

This post is getting long, so I'll stop there with a mere taste of what a true strategic plan looks like. Perhaps I didn't answer Suze question after all that, but I'm sure she'll forgive me.

What is your dream? How have you planned to make that dream come true?


Mel's book Adversarius, Shadow of the Rose: Book One is now available in paperback on Amazon

 

64 comments:

  1. Great post, and so very full of da trueness :) I think I'm rather good at goal-setting nowadays! But I still haven't got to the point where I'm ready to query or self-publish. Not even close!

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    1. Do trueness = da good
      And you'll get there. These things take oodles of time. Oodles!

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  2. Six hundred pages nine times - that was a lot of printing! Or copying?
    You can just about kill yourself in this business if you have no idea what you are doing.

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    1. lol so true. I only printed out the 600 pages once and sent it out one at a time with return stamps. That manuscript travelled!

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  3. Your list of seven--so simple, yet so hard to achieve. Good luck making it! I know how hard you work and how talented you are--you'll get there.

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    1. #3 and #6 are the hardest ;)
      Thanks for your encouraging words.

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  4. Lynda, excellent post. I think the hardest thing for me to do is sit down and write a plan. I have scads of mss that need editing to make them publishable, but I go at them one a time setting small deadlines, but I still haven't finalized a schedule as to when I want to do what. I need to make time to write out a business plan. Big undertaking, but it needs to be done. Otherwise, I'll still be plodding along one ms at a time.

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    1. Let me know how your business plan goes!

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  5. My dream is for people to read my books and get it; get the characters, the plot points, but more importantly to get the reasons I wrote the books in the first place. As far as goals go,I try not to think too far into the future, that gets me overwhelmed. Just taking each day as it comes and celebrate the victories, big and small.

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  6. An excellent post, very thought provoking. Thank you.

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  7. Small goals are so important. When I started writing, I had no goals at all. I didn't know how to write or anything about the publishing industry. I thought a person finished the book and bam, it went out to the bookstore. How wrong I was. Now I have goals but I try to make them attainable ones.

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  8. All that glitters is not a goal! So very true, Lyndy!

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    1. I get too distracted by all the glittery goodness though ;)

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  9. I do think if you stay with writing long enough and the end goal is publication, you figure out pretty quickly that wishing won't get you there. Great post. :)

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  10. My dreams change all the time, haha:) Wonderful post, and congrats on the award!

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  11. Great post, Lynster.

    Looking up at Lu's comment, I'm thinking it's gotta happen for all three of us.

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    1. Let's hope so! Oh wait. Hope isn't a strategy ;)

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  12. I love the bit about wishes no being goals! SO true, and I have a few people *ahem* in my household who really should know this by now :)

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  13. As you read today on my blog I decided to go the self-pub route. Strategic goals are essential in getting down to the nitty gritty. Thanks for sharing and look at all you've achieved. You've definitely come far from when you felt like a failed writer.

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  14. Some good advice and yes, wishes aren't goals but they can become one if analyzed and broken down into steps to the end goal.

    Sia McKye OVER COFFEE

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  15. I like that you have a strategic and definite plan to further your writerly goals!! I am in AWE!!! Huge congrats with your awards and thank you for sharing your wonderful focused writerly journey too. Take care
    x

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  16. Goals? Which goals about what things? You laid it out well.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out
    An A to Z Co-host blog

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  17. What did you have to write in 600 pages. My goodness. What happened to that manuscript.

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    1. It was an EPIC fantasy. My hubby got the manuscript bound as a surprise gift one year so now it sits proudly on the bookshelf. That's probably as far as it will go. I haven't tried to get it published since, but I still get it out on occasion and read through it.

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  18. Congrats on the awards! Very well laid goals there. I'm weird that in some areas of my life I'm much better at goal setting than others. I'm trying to get much more organized for networking and that will help with my time management for writing.

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  19. For all the news you share and the information...
    Here's an award for you at my station !!

    http://just-a-little-time.blogspot.in/2013/03/kkcreative-blogger-award_5.html

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  20. I set goals but shortly after they are turning to wishes...
    Myst have that business plan!

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  21. Hmm... I've set a couple of goals and did manage to make them for my first book. Now it's time to buckle down and do it again! And thanks for linking to my paperback. ;)

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  22. It seems so easy broken down into those seven steps! (Errmm...) Seriously though, this is great advice. Wanting to be published but having no plan to get there means it will remain a cloud in the sky. We need to make small steps forward even if there are a few back.

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  23. I write blogs and would like to come up with a book from one of them but it seems a long shot at the moment.
    http://spudsdailyphoto.blogspot.co.uk/

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  24. Hello! Very nice blog and interesting posts, great atmosphere.
      Have a nice day. :)
    Welcome to our blog about photography. +
    I hope you also enjoy it with us.

    Greetings!

    "Do what you love is not even that, but anyway"

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  25. Thank you for sharing your path, Lynda. Not only is a most helpful post, allowing me to see how similar our pasts are, but it is so generous. Thanks!

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  26. Working wishes into steps toward achieving goals is vital. Great post!

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  27. Talk about amazing insight, Lydia. Such wisdom to alter your goals to more manageable goals. I've been there. Took me a while to figure it out. Now, I've pulled back a bit in search of more manageable goals and feel like I'm slacking. *sigh* Will I ever make myself happy? lol

    Thanks for sharing more of yourself here with us!

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    1. I don't think writers are ever meant to have the easy life. We think too much--a necessary trait for our career! ;)

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  28. Hi Lynda. My first goals, er dreams, were to be published in Aussie magazines with short stories and travel articles. I've accomplished that. Then I decided I wanted to write novels...this I've done, but not finished one yet. So my goal is to finish my latest (no 4) and become a published author in 2013. I can do it and so can you!

    Denise

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    1. Good luck with your goal/dream. I'm up to #5 (if you include my first two crazy epics when I had no clue whatsoever, oh and that other one which didn't get past the first draft)

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  29. Oh, and did you see I finally reviewed Make Believe on Amazon? Charmaine did too...x

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    1. Ahhh!!! No I didn't!! Rushing over to have a look!!!!

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  30. My dream is to find a way to make enough money so I can do whatever, whenever, whereever, and however I want without anyone stopping me.

    If I can find a way to do this without getting away from my computer, even better. All I have is a bunch of theories and real world examples but hey, it's a start.

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  31. I remember being young and making my goal being published by 19, then 20, then 21, and so on.

    Creating manageable goals is wise and keeps us on our feet.

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  32. Such a concise list of goals. Thanks Lynda! I will be bookmarking these as a reminder for myself.

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  33. Excellent post! I especially like the clever line, "All that glitters is not a goal." You're absolutely right; it's much too easy to fool ourselves by confusing wishes with goals. Yeah, wishes CAN come true, but only if we're willing to do the work it takes to make it happen. (The harder we work, the "luckier" we get.)

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  34. Good point about wishes and goals. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to learn that the hard way.

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  35. LOL--all that glitters is not a goal. Love it. Good post, Lyn. :)

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  36. This is a great post! I definitely need to stick to my supposed "goals".

    www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

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  37. I don't know how you slipped by me these past couple of days!

    Great post. Think I might even bookmark. Nah. I'll remember. (famous last words of a writer).

    My goals...still the same, except with more added. But the more I hear/read about indie publishing (a good article today at Writer Unboxed), the less I'm dead-set against it. We'll see when the time actually comes.

    Short-term goal? An ebook (self-pubbed) of about 15,000 words to give away on my blog. What about? This past year: where I was, where I am, what I did.

    Actually...I think I will bookmark this.

    M.L. Swift, Writer

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    1. Oh, I'm slippery like that ;)

      I like your plan for an ebook. My hubby used to be dead against me self-publishing but as time goes by and the publishing world changes faster than my lawn grows in summer, he's starting to come around to the idea (I'm still not so certain, but that's just me).

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  38. You've hit the nail on the head. You have to set measurable goals. Those little steps help you achieve big things.

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  39. Excellent post on goals and goal setting. I see we share being a rule rebel.

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  40. This was a great post -- a good kick in the pants. I'm glad that I stopped by today. Now I need to get back to the business of writing.

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  41. Good post for a rebel.

    Hugs and chocolate,
    Shelly

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  42. Hi Lynda,

    Life's a continual learning process and we often have to reassess our goals to ensure we are on the right track.

    Maria

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  43. Congratulations on the awards, Lynda. Some people don't like awards but I think you should never say no to a token of somebody's appreciation.

    This is a very interesting post. I thought it was way too short, actually. Lynda is not a quitter. :)

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  44. "If I want [this] by [this date], then I need to do [these] in [this] much time."

    Simple and focused. That's what makes it so powerful.

    Nice!

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  45. Goodness, can I relate! I was going to be published by 16, and I guess if you count local literary magazines, I was--but I wanted my first book published by then. LOL. (The one I finished at 12 yrs old.) I'm glad I didn't get there then, but as long as that distant goal is one you're constantly working toward, it will happen, eh?

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  46. An excellent post, Lynda! And so true. I do have some of my dreams materialising now. So am happy.

    Nas

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  47. Manageable goals are so important. I have a goal to finish a book at the end of the year and I've missed a few milestones. But, I'm keeping on! Look forward to more of your posts.

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  48. What a great way to turn a personal answer into a helpful blogpost! I have to laugh (not at you, at me), when I was in my late teens, early twenties, I also had dreams of publishing a novel. I complained when it seemed everyone around me became published first. Included, I kid you not, the guy on the three-wheel bicycle who collected aluminum cans. Of course, it never occurred to me one of the reasons for my failure was that I didn't have a finished manuscript, had never heard of editing or for that matter had ever submitted a darn thing. Surely publishers rang you up all the time based on your potential? No? Sigh. Turns out we have to actually do the hard work.
    Thanks for the insight and for providing me with my own flashback!

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  49. excellent point - goals and wishes. Those are fuzzy in my head sometimes. Thanks for the clarification.

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  50. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I also appreciate the tips.

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