Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Goal Planning Workout

Yesterday, I hosted a mini-workshop at my local SCBWI Schmooze. We met at the nearby Borders and by the end of the session, we were all excited about taking our writing to the next level in 2008. Here are several strategies we discussed:

Set Personal Goals as a Writer
If you’d like to improve your craft and become a better writer in the year ahead, choose one or two specific goals to work toward. (Add other goals to this list if some come to mind!)
1. Become better at self-editing. Make a check-off list to help you self-edit your manuscript, including the following:
*Read each sentence and make sure it IS a sentence that starts with a capital letter, contains a subject and a verb, and ends with appropriate punctuation.
*Circle run-on sentences or sentence fragments. Fix.
*Circle every passive “to-be” verb. Change most to active.
*Check that your idea flows smoothly from point A to point B. Rearrange chunks of text if necessary.
*Check for genre specific items such as realistic dialogue and smooth transitions.
2. Become a better member of your critique group. (Join or start a critique group if you aren’t in one already!) Think about what you appreciate in the other members and make it your goal to improve. You can improve by arriving consistently on time, listening enthusiastically to other members’ projects, writing at least two positive comments on every page of their manuscripts, and wording criticism so that it is both constructive and encouraging.
3. Learn or polish basic grammar rules by reading at least one grammar book this year such as Write Right and The Elements of Style. Purchase an inexpensive copy of the Chicago Manual of Style at a used bookstore and refer to it often as you write.
4. Read a how-to book on improving your genre.
5. Read as many books in your genre as you can. Study them analytically. Type favorite sections out, word for word.
6. Keep a writer’s notebook of favorite author’s best samples, favorite character names to use in your projects, new ideas, and lists that can help you improve your writing.

Schedule in Time to Write on Your Calendar
1. Make a blank one-week calendar that lists every hour you’re awake. Make two copies. On the first one, shade in the actual times you wrote last week. On the second one, shade in times in the week ahead that you plan to write. Planning ahead helps make writing a reality. If possible, make a new calendar for each week ahead or purchase a daily planner and schedule in your writing time each week BEFORE the minutes slip away.
2. Set three main goals for the year ahead:
Goal #1: Work on a manuscript dear to your heart. Devote a portion of your writing time each week to work on a manuscript you feel passionate about. Steady progress on this manuscript helps keep you writer’s passion alive. Working title of this manuscript is:
Goal #2: Write small projects to get published on a regular basis. Newspapers, community magazines, newsletters, and online publications are great. No pay or low pay is fine. It’s important to see your name in print and work with editors through the process of deadlines, assignments, and word counts on a regular basis. Prospective publishers you plan to target include:
Goal #3: Work on a bigger project geared for publication. This is a SPECIFIC process and involves you first finding ONE particular publisher you want to write for. Dig deep in your writer’s market guide to narrow down your search. Then research that publisher and write an original manuscript or query to fit into their product line. Your target publisher is:
3. Determine the minimum and maximum amount of time you plan to devote to each goal each week or month in the year ahead. If you haven’t been writing at all, it’s perfectly fine to schedule in a minimum of one hour writing each week. To start building a successful career, however, plan to devote about a fourth of your time each week or month to Goal #1, a fourth of your time to Goal #2, and half of your time to Goal #3. This balance will help you progress forward step by step. If you already have solid writing time scheduled in each week, keep this same balance of time for these three goals to keep your writing passion alive, be regularly encouraged by seeing your name in print, and work steadily towards your goal of having a successful writing career.
4. Based on the exercises you just completed, write down your short-term and long-term goals:

Goal Planning Guide
1 Week Goal
Goal #1:
Goal #2:
Goal #3:
Reward if you meet your goals:

1 Month Goal
Goal #1:
Goal #2:
Goal #3:
Reward if you meet your goals:

3 Month Goal
Goal #1:
Goal #2:
Goal #3:
Reward if you meet your goals:

1 Year Goal
Goal #1:
Goal #2:
Goal #3:
Reward if you meet your goals:

5 Year Goal
Goal #1:
Goal #2:
Goal #3:
Reward if you meet your goals:

If you’d like to share personal strategies and goals you’re planning on incorporating in the year ahead to take your writing to the next level, I’d love to hear from you!




Ask the Author:
Attention teachers, home-schoolers, families, kids and everyone who loves to read! If there is a question you'd like to ask about my newest book or my life as an author, post your question as a comment on my blog. I will be selecting questions to answer on my blog throughout the upcoming Virtual Book Tour celebrating the release of my newest book, D IS FOR DRINKING GOURD: AN AFRICAN AMERICAN ALPHABET. Mark your calendars to join in the fun! The tour starts February 1, 2008.

2 comments:

writer@marybk.com said...

Very impressive, Nancy. I always thought I was organized but the work you and your group have embarked on make me feel I barely have life in order!

Nancy I. Sanders said...

The beauty of doing this is that it helped all of us at the workshop actually plan AHEAD to write rather than just losing track of the time in the busyness of life and not getting any writing done. Happy writing!
-Nancy