It’s January, the traditional month where folks set some goals and by today have forgotten all about them. That is, except for writers. We tend to try to reach some lofty goals for a while longer, probably spurred on by the caffeine high from NaNoWriMo last year.
Here’s the thing — goals should not be set in concrete. I know there are a few folks who would disagree with that, but hear me out.
As life and Internet surfing goes on, all of us are like information sponges. We learn new things all the time. That data and information is the foundation of our goal setting process. The problem is the foundation is built on a giant pile of Jell-O Pudding, probably butterscotch because this is my article and I get to choose the flavors.
Things change, sometimes on an hourly basis. A good example is the sudden shutdown of Cohesion Press back in November 2017. As far as anyone knew, they were doing great. Their business had expanded to offset printing instead of print-on-demand, and their novels could be found in brick and mortar bookstores. Their author stable was pretty deep with some talented dark fiction writers.
Now, if one of my goals was to get published by Cohesion by the end of the year, and I had been polishing the manuscript to the point where I was about to click the submission button, what then? My goal is now impossible. Should I just delete the Word document and try to find another publisher and write a new novel for them? Of course not.
My goals have to change with the new information. Cohesion is dead, rest in peace. My goal needs to shift to finding a good home for a novel that I spent months on. New data, new goals.
This happens across the entire industry and in all genres, and it is imperative to keep up as best as you can. Shift your goals when you have some new information. If the sparkly vampire genre suddenly takes a dive, adjust your goals and maybe write a sparkling zombie tale. Zombie strippers! (Note: Been done and there’s even a graphic novel series. Really.)
So take all of this goal-setting with a grain of salt or a glass of single-malt. Set some overall SMART goals, but be ready to take advantage of any new information that finds its way onto your computer monitor when you should be writing. Remember that goals should be focused on something you have control over. Winning the Hugo award this year is not a reasonable goal because it’s up to a large group of folks who probably have no idea who you are. Writing a novel to the best of your ability is a goal you have complete control over, as is writing at least 250 words every day. Even better, stack some goals like writing 250 words a day and finishing a novel this year. If you focus on the first goal, you’ll have a complete 60,000-word manuscript in 240 days. That gives you plenty of time for edits, polishing, and publication or submitting to agents and publishers.