Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How to Attain Your Writing Goals

One of the many hats I wear is that of a certified life coach where I assist clients in reaching certain goals (e.g. losing weight, changing careers, finding a partner). I've had several clients whose goals were to publish a book and thought I'd share how general coaching tips apply to this specific goal.

1) Break down your goal into smaller, manageable steps. I like to use the metaphor of mountain climbing--when you stare up at the top of the mountain from the bottom, it can seem like it will take forever to get there and you might be too intimidated to even try. If you focus instead of taking "x steps at a time," you will soon find yourself halfway up the mountain and feel more empowered and confident that you will reach the top. To relate this to writing, if your stated goal is only "Write a novel," you may not know where to start and feel overwhelmed, so the key is to break the large goal into smaller steps.
Better goal: Write 1,000 words per day (or one chapter per week, etc.)
The important thing is to make the goal manageable for you in order to set yourself up for success, and to always include a time frame to push you to reach the goal. When I'm doing a first draft, I set a minimum goal per day which helps me to crank it out.

2) Focus on what you can control. Say you have a goal of wanting to lose weight and your only stated goal is to lose 25 pounds. So many things can impact your daily weight that this goal leaves a lot out of your control, but if you focus on what is within your control, you might come up with a goal of exercising 5 times per week and cutting out refined sugar (NOTE: this goal also incorporates step 1). With writing, your goal might be to "Get an agent" or get published but that is also (sadly) not under your control. What is in your control is writing the best query and book you can, and then researching the industry.
Better goal: Submit 5 queries per week to agents that represent my genre.

3) Surround yourself with supportive people. I once worked with a client who was trying to lose weight, and she complained about a friend who kept pushing french fries at her. This "friend" was not supportive of her goals and frequently attempted to sabotage her. You are more likely to succeed in anything if you have a supportive person at your side. For writers, this might be your critique group, blog friends, spouse, family, etc. If someone is telling you that writing isn't a "real" job or puts down your goals, run away as fast as you can!

I'm also a motivational quote nut and hand out a sheet of my favorites to clients at their first session, so I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

"Whether a man thinks he can, or thinks he cannot--he is right." - Henry Ford

Have you tried any of these yourself? Any other tips that you've found helpful with your writing goals?


  1. Those goals all make good sense. In order to implement my actual get-words-on-paper goals, I've found that I have to somehow combine them with Internet avoidance, either by finding a location without wifi, writing longhand or using programs that block access.

  2. Yes, I like the one about only setting goals for what you can control.

    I wrote my first two novels fairly quickly and with lots of passion. Now I'm working on novel #3 while querying for #2, and am having a harder time finding that passion to drive me forward. Especially knowing that a finished manuscript doesn't mean landing an agent. I think I'm going to have to figure out a number of words per day goal and just stick to it.

  3. Jeanne--internet avoidance is a great one, and it's SO hard to do! There's also a program called something like Write or Die, where it starts deleting words if you don't type for awhile. I'm scared of that one. :)

  4. Rachel--working on a new book while querying is great advice. Good luck with the querying--persistence is another part of the process. :)


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