When I first started as an author, I had a naive view of the industry. I expected the long hours in front of the computer, slaving away at the keyboard, and I was ready. I had my comfy chair in the living room set, my trusty laptop ready to go, and plenty of snacks (often cookies, sometimes chips. Okay, perhaps even a Snickers bar or three) to give me sustenance when I needed it.
I was a man with a
Or so I thought.
It turns out I really had no plan at all. Oh, sure I had tons of stories to tell and endless characters just ready to be set loose in those worlds, but that wasn’t a plan. That was my product.
I had no direction for my career.
That’s when I had to ask myself the big question:
Just what was my writing goal?
That might seem like a silly question for an author to ask him/herself, but it isn’t really. How can we know if we’ve accomplished something if we’ve never set a goal to be met?
I think many writers tend to look in the here-and-now and not in the future. I know that’s what I did. I had my head buried in my computer and in the stories I wanted to tell that I wasn’t cultivating my career in the way that I should have. After all, I was an author not a business person. Writing was my craft. I didn’t need to focus on anything else.
But I was
Just like any other profession, I had to take stock of where I was and where I wanted to be. After all, the only way to get where you want to go is by charting a path.
So, just what was my writing goal? Well, I want to be a full-time author. No big surprise. Writing is what I enjoy doing the most.
What I had just done for myself though was give myself a goal, an end product to be reached. Now that I had that goal in mind, I could now plot a course to get there. I couldn’t just magically arrive at a self-sustaining writing career. There’s no genie in a magic lamp for that!
I had to lay the ground work to get there. That involved more than just writing books, lessons I learned by talking to other authors and attending the Dreamspinner Conference in Chicago, where I attended a very enlightening session led by fellow (and prolific) author Andrew Grey.
Apparently, writing books was only a fraction of what I had to do. If I wanted to play in the big leagues, I had to bring my big league game.
Setting Goals and Meeting Them
But didn’t I already do that when I said I wanted to be a full-time author? Yes, but that was my end goal. What I had to do now was figure out how I was going to get there.
In order to be a self-sustaining author, I realized I needed to write more books than I was currently publishing. I had to take stock of my full time job and family commitments and come up with a plan for the year that would help get me there.
So I have planned to write 240,000 words before the next Dreamspinner conference in 2014. That translates into roughly four books. Whether that’s a lot or not doesn’t matter. The goal fits in my life, which is important, but more importantly it moves me forward on my ultimate goal to being a self-supporting author. Additionally, the goal gives me motivation to meet it and perhaps even surpass it.
If I can write four books, great! But what if I end up writing 300,000 and produce five books. Then, I’ve exceeded my goal and gotten myself even closer to my end goal.
So, now I strive to write 1,000 words a day, and I force myself to keep track of my progress. When I exceed my daily goal, I reward myself with a cookie, or chips, or a Snickers bar. If I don’t meet it, I drown my sorrows with a cookie, or chips, or a Snickers bar. But the important thing beyond the rewards or punishments is that I’m holding myself accountable.
That is a great place to start.