You start out in January vowing to write every day, or promise yourself you're going to finish two novels by the end of the year. By Valentine's Day, your plans are falling behind and they're completely forgotten by the time you're making summer vacation plans. Come November, you look back and wonder why you couldn't manage to finish your goals. Sound familiar? The problem isn't that you're making New Year's Resolutions, it's the way you're going about it. Making vague promises about your writing is about as effective as telling yourself that you're going to lose weight. If you don't have a road map for how to find somewhere, you're never going to arrive.
Most resolutions are too vague; they're not a good plan for success. This year, you won't make any. Instead, you'll substitute a workable plan that's guaranteed to increase your word count and further your author career if you follow it. It takes work, everything worthwhile does. But doing the work ahead of time sets you up for success for the entire year.
Your plan will be a series of SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Each goal you make within these perimeters is one that will point you in the right direction and tell you how to get where you're going.
A specific goal answers those old journalism questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Yes, you want to be more successful in the coming year, but what does that success look like? How do you plan to get there? Publishing two books in the coming year is a wish, not a goal. Writing every day, five days a week, is specific and attainable.
Saying you'll do something is great, but you have to have a way to measure your progress. Vow to write 2,000 words a day, and to keep a record of how well you do. Post a calendar and put stickers on each date that you write. Add a marble a jar every time you hit your word goal, and remove one on the days you don't. Have a specific goal in mind as a stopping point for each day. You don't have to stop, but you're allowed to if you like.
All things being equal, can you attain this goal? Is it within your power to grant this ending? You can't plan to make the New York Times bestseller list. It's not within your power to grant that. It is within your power to contact 75 book reviewers and give them an advance reading copy of your book, hoping most of them will leave a good review for your book.
You can add up a massive word count if you give up television and spend every waking moment writing, but that's the road to burnout, not success. Push yourself, but not to the extent that you have no other life. Your job, your family, and your health are all important, too Balance is crucial.
When will you do this? Your 2,000 words will result in how many books in a year? Plans have to be grounded in a time frame. You'll publish two books in a year, write for three months straight before taking a day off, work two hours a day, five days a week. Someday is for dreams. Your plan for 2016 has to have a solid time frame in order for it to become a reality.
Keep the Faith and May the Force be with You!