My husband and I set goals every year, as individuals and as a couple. In 2017, one of my goals was to explore the possibility of writing picture books. It wasn’t a SMART goal (more about that later), but it still propelled me forward.
That year I reached out to people I thought might be helpful to me in my “exploration.” I went to libraries and bookstores to do “research” – reading a myriad of children’s books and taking notes. I took a children’s writing class at Westport Writers Workshop where I now teach. I wrote and revised several stories. I even participated in a Twitter pitch, entered a contest, and sent out 16 query letters. Granted, that last sentence should be deleted. It was too early for me to take advantage of those opportunities and expect success. After all, I didn’t even have a critique group and hadn’t studied picture book structure and craft sufficiently. But I didn’t know that at the time.
In addition to creating goals that are SMART, goals should have other components that lead to achievement.
- Long-term goal: I want to sign with an agent this year.
- Short-term goal: I will have my submission package (four polished picture book manuscripts) ready to begin querying by Sept. 1.
- I will continue to revise the three manuscripts I’ve written and will write a new one.
- I will get feedback from my critique partners, which will be helpful as I revise.
- I will attend a conference where I will have the opportunity to take workshops and query agents above the slush pile.
- Will you check in on your progress weekly, monthly, or quarterly? Put the check-in dates on your calendar.
- Who will your accountability partner(s) be? A family member and/or critique partners? How frequently will you check in with your accountability partner(s)?
- What time of day works best for you to write? Are you going to be part of the 5 a.m. writers club, writing daily for 30 minutes, or will you carve out two larger blocks of time a week later in the evening or on weekends?
- How will you grow as a writer? What books will you read? What classes and conferences will you attend? What writing organizations and communities will you join?
- What counts as writing? Is it only writing and revising manuscripts? What about providing critique to others? Writing query letters or promoting your books? Giving back to the writing community?
My goal for this year is to write a chapter book series. I’m currently revising my manuscript for the first book, which I plan to share with my agent in March. What do you hope to accomplish this year, and what goals will you set to get there? I wish you all the best as you turn your goals into successes.
Valerie Bolling's debut, LET’S DANCE! (illus. Maine Diaz, Boyds Mills & Kane), was published in 2020 and won a 2021 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award. In 2022 Valerie’s happy to welcome TOGETHER WE RIDE (illus. Kaylani Juanita, Chronicle) and RIDE, ROLL, RUN: TIME FOR FUN! (illus. Sabrena Khadija, Abrams). Sequels to these books as well as a Scholastic early reader series (illus. Kai Robinson), are slated for 2023. Valerie has been an educator for almost 30 years, teaches classes at Westport Writers Workshop, and is a WNDB mentor. She is deeply immersed in the kidlit writing community, particularly involved with SCBWI, the 12X12 Picture Book Challenge, and Black Creators HeadQuarters. To learn more about Valerie or to order her books, please visit linktr.ee/ValerieBolling. You can preorder TOGETHER WE RIDE here and RIDE, ROLL, RUN here.