A new year is starting, which is prime time for making resolutions and promptly breaking them. January 1st is the day when millions of people will start a new diet, sign up for gym memberships, and create a million other lofty goals. Unfortunately, a lot of them are doomed to fail. That's because there's a world of difference between making a resolution and setting a realistic goal. Is your New Year's resolution to write a novel this year? That's awesome! But if you actually want to get it written, you must do more than announce your goal to the world.
Set a Real Goal
To start with, you must set a realistic goal. Writing a novel isn’t specific enough, much like losing weight or eating healthier isn’t. It’s not really measurable. With a measurable goal, you’ll know exactly when you’re done. So, a good goal would be to say: I’ll write a 60,000-word science fiction novel by December 31, 2018. The goal has a deadline and it’s measurable.
You need to adjust this goal for yourself. If you want to write a romance novel, your word count may be lower. If you want to get the novel published this year, then you’ll want to get the first draft written a lot sooner. This actually brings us right to the next step.
How Will You Accomplish Your Goal?
You need action steps for your goal. You need to specify exactly how you wil ensure that you have written those 60,000 words by the end of the year. Otherwise, two things will happen: One, you won’t feel like there’s any progress until you’re really done. Two, you will procrastinate with getting started, because a year is a long time.
The second part of your goal is to specify your actions. If you wanted to lose 24 lbs by next Christmas, you’d have to break it down to losing 2 lbs each month. Then, you have to specify what you’ll do to accomplish this. For example, you may go running twice a week and cut out soda.
With novel writing, it’s just as simple, at least in theory. Since you won’t write 60,000 words in one day, you have to break it down. How many words will you write each month, each week, and each day? How many days will you write each week?
Schedule the Time to Write
Nothing will get in your way of writing that first week. And you’ll still be on a roll the second week. But by that third week, your boss will ask you to stay late, one of the kids will get sick, and your partner will ask you to help them clean out the garage. There will be too much on your plate to get everything done, and writing will be the first thing to go.
Don’t fall into that trap. Everyone has a busy life, and it’s fine to take a day off. But don’t go an entire week without writing, and don’t let a week go by without doing your best to meet that goal. Schedule it in your calendar like an important doctor’s appointment, and don’t cancel on yourself. You just need to realize ahead of time that things will come up.
I know it’s easy to say, just get it done anyway. But there’s no way around it. Maybe you just won’t get 8 hours of sleep one night. Maybe you have to postpone your night out with friends or skip watching your favorite TV show a few times. Nobody ever said writing a novel was going to be easy. When there are hurdles to overcome, it’s your job to figure out how, instead of saying you can’t do it.
Review Your Progress Every Month
By the beginning of February, you’ll have a rhythm going, or maybe you won’t. Either way, it’s a good time to look back at January to see what worked and what didn’t work. You’re not perfect, and it’s quite possible that you just didn’t meet your goal. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Instead, it’s best to evaluate what went wrong and brainstorm ideas on how to make it better.
It can be tempting to just give up altogether, but just because you didn’t meet your goals for January doesn’t mean you should give up until the next New Year’s comes around. Life is too short not to make the best of the entire year. If you got some writing done on your novel, it’s time for a pat on the back. Of course, you could have written more, but it’s important to acknowledge what you did write.
Everyone has dreams, but many of us have learned to ignore them or scale them down to make them “reasonable”. Do you think the world’s greatest inventions have been made by someone who kept their dreams, goals, and expectations reasonable? Probably not. So go for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow this year. Set big goals, and work hard to make them happen. If you want to write an amazing novel and sign a publishing deal this year for it, you can! If you want to make some passive income by self-publishing a book or two, you can do that, too!
Having big dreams of what 2018 is going to bring will make you feel more excited about your progress. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Maybe you end up writing a novel but couldn’t find a publisher, much less an agent. You still wrote that novel! That’s something to be proud of. That also means you can write another one, which will be even better than the first.
Here’s to an amazing writing year for you!