Monday, December 12, 2011

2012 Goals and How I Plan To Meet Them

Regular readers of this blog will know that I post, track, and report back on monthly goals here. This is a very powerful tool in my writing toolbox. Setting the goals gives me direction for the month, and reporting back helps keep me "honest." Choosing how to set goals is also important. If they're too easy to reach, then you're not really challenging yourself and if you are satisfied with "just" meeting easy-to-reach goals, you're not living up to your full potential. On the other hand, if they're too hard to reach, then it's a simple thing to get discouraged and give up on meeting the goals. Again, you've missed the sweet spot and are robbing yourself of your ability to be productive.

I can honestly say that I think I've been operating at pretty darn close to my full writing potential (given my other obligations) since I delved back into the writing pool this summer. I've written and sent out for submission 23 short stories since late July, totalling a bit over 50,000 words. I wrote a first draft of a novel during NaNoWriMo, another 57,000 or so words. If you include various WIPs and the few things I've started and shelved, I've written a total of about 135,000 words in that time, pretty much spot on a 1000-word a day pace on average. And I've been regularly blogging here; I'm coming up on my 100th post soon. I've also exchanged works with probably close to a dozen other writers for critique and been actively networking on various social media sites.

The point of this really isn't to brag. (Honest!) The point is that I am sure I wouldn't have done half of that if I hadn't set goals for myself in advance and that the act of setting those goals and then following through on them has giving me results which I'm very happy about.

With that as prelude, I want to talk about my 2012 goals and how I plan to go about meeting them.

My goals for 2012:
  1. Go through revisions on my NaNo project and get it out the door on submission.
  2. Write 250,000 words of fiction on new projects.
  3. Write a first draft of a new novel during NaNoWriMo.
  4. Stick to my established blog schedule.
  5. Keep my Seinfeld Chain going throughout the year. If I absolutely have to break it, start a new one ASAP.
  6. Attend one genre convention. (Thanks for the idea, Alex S!)
As for how I'll plan to attack those goals:
  1. First off, I'll still set monthly goals. The monthly goals will be derived from the yearly goals but I will work better with the greater immediacy of monthly goals. This also means that I can recalibrate as needed. (Hopefully I'd only recalibrate upwards...)
  2. For goal #1 above, my general plan is to spend time in the first half of January analyzing my first draft, time in the second half of January planning the second draft, and then making second draft revisions in February and, if necessary, March. I'm hoping to be able to request the April slot for my critique group. If that works out, then I'd spend May and June working on revisions based on the critique group. I'll also spend the first half of the year researching the process of getting a novel out for submission (Which, generally speaking, I think mostly involves preparing a set of query-related documents and querying agents. The vagueness of that last sentence gives you an idea of how little I know about that process at this point.)
  3. For goal #2 above, I expect to have a monthly word count goal. That word count goal will vary from month to month. The months that I'm heavy in revisions on the novel will have lower new-fiction word counts. I don't plan to set any month's goal below 10,000 words and I know my November goal will be 50,000. Those baselines get me to 160,000 right there.
  4. For goal #3, I'll start seriously trying to come up with a novel-length idea in July and having a 300-600 word or so ultra-high-level premise note written by the end of August. (Naturally, if one comes to me earlier in the year, I won't complain...) I'll plan on October being the month where I do serious prep work and then I'll write like mad in November. I'll aim to have 4 vacation days at work I can use to take one day a week off again like I did this year.
  5. For goal #4, one thing I really need and don't have is a queue of three-five pre-written posts which I can put up if I'm really pressed for time on a regular post day. So, I'll have a goal sometime early in the year to build up that queue and then have a general rule that I don't let the queue shrink below three posts without putting new things in the queue. The other thing I'll do is keep an eye on if it seems like blogging is taking up more time than I can justify. If I feel like that's the case, I might officially change my blogging schedule. Doing that, and then sticking to the new schedule (as long as the new schedule involves at least two posts a week) would meet the spirit of this goal for me.
  6. For goal #5, there's really no planning involved. I can't "bank" days or anything like that. I just have to make time to write every day. One thing I could do to make it less likely I have a day where things go awry is to be better about taking my netbook to work so I can write on my lunch break.
  7. For goal #6, there are lots of options. I already go to Pulpfest every year, and that's arguably related. (In fact, I was sitting in the Pulpfest panel room when I wrote up my original notes for my 2011 NaNo project...) But I'm looking to also hit something bigger. Bouchercon is in Cleveland this year, and would be an intriguing possibility. For the first time in forever I'll also have the option to go to Marcon as it won't be conflicting with my Memorial Day weekend commitments. And, of course, there are scores of other conventions out there.
  8. Finally, I'll work hard to ensure that if I run into some rocky times with one or more goals that I don't let it sabotage the rest of my goals. That's where having a bunch of great friends in the various writing communities is so valuable -- we hold each other up when we're feeling frustrated and cheer each other on when things are going well.
This post is part of a blog chain we're doing over on the Write 1/Sub 1 board at Absolute Write. Saturday, A. G. Carpenter posted her "Plan of Attack" for her goals. Next up is Jennifer B. at The Writing Cocoon. If you've got a few minutes to check out these fine writers' blogs, that would be terrific!

Also, if you've got thoughts about your own goals for the year which you'd like to discuss here, by all means feel free to do so in the comments!


  1. These are admirable goals, Michael. I came here from your #ROW80 tweet, and started nodding regarding most of them. Particularly the blog post ones - I really need to get a few under the belt for slotting into my blog post schedule on slow days - trying to create them ontime is impacting my other fiction WIP.

    I'll check out the AW bloggers too, thanks.

  2. Looks like you have a great plan already set out! I'm in the beginning stages of hashing out my plans, goals and ways to achieve them for next year - and this post just gave me an inspirational push in the behind that I needed :)

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Hunter and Yelena!

    Hunter, thanks for checking out the other AW bloggers. They're good folks!

    Yelena, good luck with your planning and I'm glad my post gave you a nudge along!

  4. Good plans. Challenging but realistic.

    While I like to keep my short term plans challenging, I tend to be more conservative on my big ones. I put the stuff I really HAVE to get done in the big goal. That leaves room for smaller short term goals.

    I usually post this stuff in the "liminal zone" the 8-day Xmas to New Year's period which is kind of between years. But even so, I'm already thinking that the big goals for next year are to write and publish another book in each my existing mystery series. (One will be a collection of three novellas, though.)

  5. Holy cow. You really have everything about set up for the new year. Kudos to you.


  6. Daring, I probably would have done this later in the month, too, but this is where I fell in the AW W1/S1 blog chain. Your Mick and Casey stories look interesting to me -- I just "picked up" the novelette off Amazon to read. Thanks for stopping by!

    Nellie, yep. I'm really thrilled with how the second half of this year has gone writing-wise and I'm excited about my plans for 2012. Thanks for your comment!

  7. Speaking of goals...

    My friend KT is getting people together around the #writemotivation hashtag to set goals and encourage each other.

    As part of this, I've already set my January goals. They're derived from the yearly goals above and are:

    1) Spend the first half of January analyzing my first draft from my NaNo project and time in the second half of January planning the second draft.
    2) Write 25,000 words of new fiction.
    3) Keep up with my blog and end January with at least one queued post for a day when I don’t have time to blog.
    4) Keep my Seinfeld Chain (500+ words every day of fiction/blogging/critique) going.

  8. You're so ambitious - go you! Good luck on all of these!

  9. Good goals, Michael.

    I especially like how you set little goals in order to reach the big goals. To build a bridge you must first measure the river, then gauge the current, then cut the trees, and so on (or something like that; i have to confess to not being a bridge-builder :D).

  10. Michael: Thanks for checking out Mick and Casey. That particular book is slightly atypical because it was written for Halloween, but it still fits the series.

    And I'll be checking out the #writemotivation hashtag too.

  11. Thanks, Nicole and Samuel!

    Daring, I haven't gotten a chance to sit down and start reading it yet, but it's near the top of my queue! :)

  12. So, somehow I managed to utterly neglect Write 1/Sub 1 in my goals, even though it was -- ya know -- the place where this blog chain originated. *sigh*

    So, new official goal #7 - Write one new short story each month and submit one short story for the first time each month.

    Plan of attack for that goal... Put it on my monthly goal list each month and, as they say, "just do it." Honestly, I expect this to be the easiest of my goals to accomplish. (Yes, even easier than the "attend a convention" one -- that one involves coordinating the schedules of six people and having funds available...) I've written something like 30 short stories in the last five months, so unless I just utterly flame out on writing altogether (and am failing at all my other goals as a result) then this one should be nearly a "gimme."

    BUT -- it is something I've committed to do. And there will be months where I've heavily involved in novel-writing/revising. So, it should have been on the list!

    So, my January goal list should also have a 5th entry -- Write one new short story and submit one short story for the first time. (These could be two different stories. If I do post-beta revisions on a December story and sub it for the first time in January, then it meets the second half of this goal. I'd still have a new story to WRITE for the month, in that case, for the first half of the goal.)

  13. Hmm... So Jennifer B. just posted her list... And it reminded me I really should have another goal on my list...

    Goal #8 - Provide quality and timely feedback on all works reviewed by the crit group I'm participating in. (Referenced in Goal #2...)

    General plan of attack - Read the work within the first 18 days of the month so I have a week to digest and write up feedback before we start discussing it as a group on the 25th.

    January-specific goal - Read the work sent to my crit group for the month (assuming there is one) by 1/18 and provide quality feedback by 1/25.

  14. Hi Michael and thanks for following my blog.

    Wow! I love your approach to your goals. You've given me a lot to think about.

    Congratulations on your productive year. I've got to go through your blog still, but I'm curious about your process for getting those 23 short stories out. I'm also starting W1/S1 (in addition to the novel challenge) next year, but I'm completely lost as to how I will approach it.

    Looking forward to sharing the writing challenges with you. Cheers!

  15. Hi, Jennifer. Thanks for stopping by!

    If you've read my blog post from this morning, you'll see that I hit a bit of "tilt" yesterday as far as dealing with my short stories! I'm feeling better about things this morning, but I think that's in part from thinking through all of those things last night.

    I don't recall which "flavor" of W1/S1 you've signed up for. If it's weekly, I would say that it would definitely be good to have a very clear plan on which story you're aiming to submit each week. (That's the harder part, since it may depend on rewriting, getting crit partner feedback, etc.) It also may be important to not let yourself get tangled up in multiple first draft WIPs; that's been one of my challenges this week.

    As to my process for getting the stories out, that sounds like a blog post in and of itself. Look for something on that one day next week... If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask me now or whenever!

    Thanks again for stopping by.