In the last few weeks, the newspapers and magazines have once again been discussing the value or otherwise of making New Year resolutions. Even in Writing Magazine you’ll find various articles urging readers to consider their writing goals for the coming year. As we know only too well, generalised objectives – start the novel you’ve been planning on writing – finish the novel that’s been dragging on for some time – find an agent or publisher etc may all be well and good, but unless those ambitions are underpinned with specific actions within a defined timeframe, the likelihood is that that is what they will remain – ambitions not achievements.
I wish I could claim that I set out a detailed timetable of targets every year which I religiously follow. I thought I might try for 2020. I set out my three main goals for the year –
- Finish rewriting last year’s novel – ‘Undercover Geisha’
- Write the next Fiona novel – ‘Blood and Jane Austen’ (That’s simply the working title)
- Put some serious effort into social media and promotion and marketing (currently non-existent!)
I drew up the table, labelled up the three columns along the top plus a fourth column for holidays, cruise lectures and writing conferences and the rows from January to December down the side – then more or less came to a halt. Apart from the new novel – research in January, first draft by August plus a cruise lecture booked for September, my chart is not exactly helpful. Perhaps the fact that I’m a natural ‘pantser’ (writing by the seat of my pants) rather than a plotter when it comes to writing novels, (I do try to plot but until I start writing, it’s impossible to know where I’m going) explains why setting out a detailed work schedule is not a productive experience for me.
Back in 2015, I produced a very detailed time plan and from the looks of things, I did religiously tick off the tasks I’d accomplished more or less until the end of the year. Despite following the SMART principle (keeping it Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timed), I seriously miscalculated the promotion/marketing goals I’d set myself. How I ever thought I’d get to grips with twitter in a month, heaven knows. Every year, I promise myself I’d learn how to tweet, but the whole concept still terrifies me as does things like mastering audio. Despite buying the Scrivener software two years ago and doing a course on how to use it, I’m back to relying on good old dependable Word and keeping a scene by scene record of the novel’s progress on Excel. Technology and I just don’t work well together. However, this year it will be different. I intend it to be my top priority. First stop – find out from my writer friends what works best for them.
The best piece of advice is not to take on too much. There is no point in setting yourself up to fail. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, perhaps we should all set out in the New Year confident that we will achieve those modest goals that we have set ourselves. If by the end of January, we are already slipping back in some quarters, let’s not allow guilt to take over and be tempted to give up, but instead, take comfort in the thought that we will catch up. There’s a lot of support out there. I’m always ready to provide a listening ear whether things are going well or badly, so keep in touch.
Wishing you all a New Year filled with promise, success and a sense of achievement whatever your goals may be. Happy reading – I hope you find a wealth of wonderful books to read that will transport you to new places, introduce you to new friends and leave you with a lasting sense of satisfaction when you turn that last page. For the writers among you may you achieve your heart’s desire be that publishing your first novel or your latest, but above all else, that profound sense of self-worth that comes when you know that what you have written is really, really great.