By Annie Cronin Romano
As writers, we push ourselves to keep learning and improving. Writing workshops. Courses. Conferences. Critiques. We jot down ideas. Write the outline. Finish the draft.
But when do we pause? After all that craft work…after all that writing…do we ever take a few moments to sit and take in all we’ve learned? Do we check to see if it’s working for us? Because with all that effort put into our craft, we must be getting better at it, right?
Not taking time on a regular basis to process all we’ve absorbed through honing our craft—be it from a workshop or a critique—is one of the foremost disservices we writers do to ourselves. Yes, we certainly try applying what we learn, but it’s just as vital to stop for a bit and review all those writing suggestions and strategies we’ve gathered. Take some time—whether it’s once a month or after you finish a draft—and dive into your folders and file drawers. Pull out those notes you’re taken and handouts you’ve received from conferences and workshops. What suggestions have you implemented? Which ones have you avoided? Then look at your writing. Have the tips you’ve implemented strengthened your work? Perhaps you prefer your original version. And what about those strategies you haven’t tried? Maybe they seemed too difficult, or too time consuming, or maybe they’re not a good fit for your writing process. What if you use a style or suggestion that’s out of your comfort zone to rewrite a paragraph, a page, or a chapter?
Sometimes all the information we take in while honing our craft can be overwhelming. And we can’t possibly apply it all. But remember to stop. Take a breath. Then pull out those handouts and notes and read through them. Pick a few strategies you want to try. Review your writing based on what you’ve learned. And get your money’s worth out of all those enrichment opportunities you gave yourself.
It’s How You Say It
~ by Amanda Smith
As I prepared my yearly goals for 2017, I studied my 2016 goals, asking myself which goals I met and why. More importantly I pondered which I goals eluded me, and why. In Take Control of your Goals in the New Year, Annie blogged about setting goals that are within your power. Her aggressive 2016 goals were hard to accomplish because of factors beyond her control.
Some of my goals for last year, were sunk by, wait for it... phrasing. I aimed for 50 rejections during the year. Having heard of other writers who set this goal, I figured aiming for rejections would motivate me to submit more queries. It worked for the first two months, until those rejections started pouring in. All I could think was, “Ten more months of this?!” The rejections completely stopped me in my querying tracks. For months, I sent NO queries, even though I had multiple submission-ready Picture Book manuscripts. What I thought was a cutesy, fun, roundabout goal, turned out to be a complete switch-off. Collecting rejections might spur on some writers. I am not that writer.
This year my writing goals include very specific submission goals: To send novel queries out in batches of 10 during certain months. I took into account school vacations and busy times of the year to determine which months I will send out these queries. This goal focuses on the part of the process that is my responsibility. My ultimate goal is, after all, to get yesses. Of course, there will be rejections, but my goal still highlights progress, and requires action from me.
This year, as you set your writing and submission goals consider the following:
Tools for Staying on Track
By Francine Puckly
Here we are. Two weeks into the New Year. How’s it going? According to statisticbrain.com, only 68.4% of resolutions make it to the end of week two. And the percentage of people who report success in achieving their resolutions? A whopping 9.2%.
Like soaring over a lovely green meadow, our goals and resolutions are colorful, pristine and doable when we’re flying at a bird’s eye view. But it looks a whole lot different when we’re in the trenches doing the work. There’s a lot of mud.
So two weeks in, when one third of all people have given up on their goals for the year, let’s talk about some basic tools to keep us on track in 2017.
CHALLENGING BUT DOABLE GOALS
How do your annual goals look and feel now that you’ve launched the new year? Even the most thoughtful goals are set to challenge us. After all, it wouldn’t be a resolution to improve our craft or elements of our daily lives if we thought we were already perfect. But if you feel your goals are slipping away after a mere two weeks, it might be time to regroup and revise. It’s better to adjust than to abandon. Check out two of Annie’s goal-setting blogs: (Take Control of Your Goals in the New Year) and (The SMART Key to Your Carrots). Be sure your goals are completely within your control and not relying on divine intervention or other miracles from the publishing industry!
Staying on track is tough work. Daily life can derail the best intentions. Children aren’t the only ones who benefit from routine! I’ve come off a very busy and highly disruptive ten weeks, but I realized last week that I had exactly 30 days without any scheduled travel or guests in my home. It presented the perfect starting point for a 30-day challenge to reestablish a routine that I crave and need. As Twyla Tharp insists in her book The Creative Habit: Learn It and Live It For Life, creativity is “augmented by routine and habit.” Our routines are repeatable and doable, and we’re far less likely to skip doing important daily tasks that feed our creativity, projects and goals.
Once we have a schedule it’s still difficult to stay on track with our goals if we’re constantly distracted by…well, everything. Phones and computers ding and demand our immediate attention. Laundry piles whisper to us. But, good news! We can shut them out.
My number one go-to tool is the timer on my phone. Over and over, day after day, it is the one thing that picks me up by my plot-straps and gets me back to the page. With a clock ticking, I have permission to focus. And the timer works for everything from plotting to decluttering my workspace to free-writing to help me break through writer’s block. You can also time energy-draining habits such as Twitter, television breaks, or those cute little videos on Facebook that suck up precious time.
For laundry, you just have to shut the door. But for people trying to reach us about anything and everything, here are just a couple of electronic solutions:
Research shows habits are formed in 21 days, and the best way to make a change is to hold yourself accountable.
Pens, Stickers and Charts
The easiest trackers of all—red pens, stickers, and the like—can be used to mark daily accomplishments and provide visual satisfaction of having completed your tasks. Good old-fashioned charts have come to my rescue more than a few times as well. I used a chart to track my progress during NaNoWriMo, and I have a 30-day chart for the next few weeks to make sure I’m re-establishing routine. Keep those goals in front of you.
While I prefer the paper method for tracking a streak, Kelly showcased Habit List in December (Make 24 Carrot a Habit - Get the Habit List App). There are several other tracker apps out there in the electronic world, including Twords, Productive, Coach.me, Momentum, and Habatica (which includes tracking your rewards! How cool is that?!).
With appropriate and challenging goals, a conscious commitment to routine and focus, as well as a tracking method, you’ll be able to keep a tight rein on your goals. This year, let’s blow past the 9.2% success rate!
by Annie Cronin Romano
Ahh, here we are again. Weren’t we here last January…staring over the cusp of a newborn year into its canyon of vast potential? (Yes, that tiny squirrel in the picture is you, and that gigantic chasm is a whole heck of a lot of potential.) It’s quite overwhelming, that sense of unknown possibilities. What does the New Year hold for me? you wonder. No, wait. Let’s rephrase that. What will I put into action to make this year spectacular? That’s better! Don’t leave it to the fates of the New Year to do something for you. Sit at the controls of your life. Push the buttons. Turn the dials. Determine your goals and see them through to the best of your ability. Will you achieve all the goals you set for yourself this year? Maybe. Maybe not. But if you do not set them, you certainly have no chance of reaching them.
One key to meeting your goals is to make them challenging yet still within your power. (Yup, I said power. You are powerful, you know.) For instance, setting a goal of landing a book deal probably isn’t the wisest objective, because you’re not the only person who controls that decision. But a goal of researching and submitting to three agents a month? Writing a chapter a week? Registering for your first writing conference? Or beginning that writing project you’ve been tossing around your brain for a few years? Those are goals you have the power to achieve. Those are challenging and doable.
Last year I set a goal for myself to write one picture book draft a month. I started the year strong, with four picture books drafted in four months. I was a rock star! I was unstoppable. (Just ask my critique group. I got pretty arrogant.) Then an unexpected life event happened, and I was thrown off track for several months. This event derailed the possibility of meeting my goal, as I hadn’t built in any time for unexpected occurrences. I also realized, as the year progressed, that I hadn’t allowed sufficient time to revise those drafts. I had several half-shaped mounds of clay which I’d submitted to my critique group but no schedule to rework them. Not the smartest plan. So this year I again have a picture book goal, but I have built in more time. I now realize that life has a habit of getting in the way, and those ideas are by no means finished once they’re drafted. So this year I plan to draft, submit to my critique group, revise, resubmit to my critique group, revise again, glaze, polish, buff—you get the idea—three to four picture books. It's a far more reasonable goal which builds in some time for unexpected twists in the road as well as the revision that produces far better writing in the end.
So, yes, here were are again at the start of a new year of unlimited potential. What goals will your set for yourself? Take a seat at the control panel, assess your current position, and start planning. Use your power! Before you know it, you’ll be pushing the buttons and turning the dials on your writing goals for 2017! Happy New Year, and Happy Writing!
At it's core, 24 Carrot Writing is all about setting goals.
We are sharing our 2017 goals in the hopes that it will help you set your 24 Carrot Writing goals for the year.
Everyone's writing plan and work patterns will be different. We hope you find ideas and inspiration in the yearly goals we are sharing and can map out your own goals for the year.
The possibilities are endless and the slate is clean. Set your goals. Make your plan. Then jump out of bed every morning ready to put your plan into action.
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