Goal Setting – A Two-Pronged Approach

Saturday 22 Circled
A few weeks ago, I mentioned a blog post I read on the ACFW group blog. The post was titled Seven Days to Better Writing and was written by Janice Hanna Thompson.

In that post (which you can read here), I mentioned how helpful Janice’s article was and that I’d come up with a writing schedule as a result of the article.

I’ve been working my new plan for a little over a month and it’s working so well, I thought I’d share it with you.

A Two Pronged Approach

One of the things Janice – and others – stress is the need to set goals. I’ve spent a fair amount of time talking about the importance of goal setting when it comes to my writing life. I’ve also spent a lot of time setting and tracking my own goals.

But I discovered one area for which I hadn’t even considered goal setting. Long-term production.

This realization stemmed the process of setting 30-day, 1-year, 3-year, and 5-year goals. I’m good with short-term goals, but have never looked past the end of the current year when it comes to goal setting. So this part of the exercise was an eye-opener. The most eye opening discovery was that – based on my current plan – it will be four or five years before I have anything ready to pitch. That’s a long time.

So I began thinking about ways to speed up the process and give the appropriate amounts of time to each project. A plan that allows me to polish a finished novel and write a new novel concurrently.

The First Prong: First Draft

I started out by plotting the stages in my writing process. Planning, each of four quarters of drafting, a cooling down period, and a buffer period (just in case). Seven steps.

There are 52 weeks in a year. That comes out to just about 7.5 weeks per step. I shortened the cooling down period (which is usually no more than two weeks) and that left 50 weeks for six steps. A few adjustments here and there and I ended up with the following schedule.

Planning and Research: 9 weeks

Write the First Quarter: 9 weeks

Write the Second Quarter: 9 weeks

Write the Third Quarter: 9 weeks

Write the Fourth Quarter: 9 weeks

Cool Down: 2 weeks

Buffer Period: 5 weeks

That looked reasonable. And possible. A new first draft in one year or less with enough buffer period to allow for sluggish spells anywhere in the process.

The Second Prong: Revisions

Concurrent with the First Draft is revising or polishing a previously finished draft. I made a few changes to reflect the change in focus and the resulting schedule looks like this.

Evaluation: 2 weeks

Research: 7 weeks

Revise the First Quarter: 9 weeks

Revise the Second Quarter: 9 weeks

Revise the Third Quarter: 9 weeks

Revise the Fourth Quarter: 9 weeks

Cool Down: 2 weeks

Buffer Period: 5 weeks

In the Background

The beauty of this plan is that there’s time to jot down new ideas as they come to mind. Not too much jotting, mind you, because that leads to the risk of the new idea taking over. But I have a list of potential stories with a few paragraphs that should be sufficient to spur my memory later.

I didn’t give this part of the plan a set time period. It’s like a background running program on the computer. Always there and always active, but rarely noticed.

The Goal

The idea is to work through two manuscripts every twelve months. If it took three drafts to get from the germ of an idea to a marketable manuscript and if this schedule works, I would end up with three polished and marketable novels by the end of the fifth year.

I would also have another two to four somewhere in the pipeline. There would be something reaching market-ready status and something new taking shape every year.

At least that’s what it looks like.

The Process

Even though I don’t currently have a manuscript at either first or second draft stage, I’ve found a way to implement each of the two prongs.

I began with three stories at the top tier. Stories that either have already been started as novels or that are well-advanced in the planning stages. I’ve given one week to each of them, asking questions, exploring options, going through the usual planning process. Each day, I give at least one hour to whatever story is on the schedule for the week.

On the second level are three other stories. Each of them is a good candidate, but each one requires more work than any of the three top tier stories. Each day I ask a question about each story and write until I have five answers. The first week, I listed five reasons why I should choose each story. The second week, I listed five reasons why I shouldn’t choose each story. The third week, I looked for solutions to each of those problems.

Conclusion

It’s still early in the process, but I’m excited about the progress that’s already been made and the outlook for continued progress. I think I can finish each stage in the First Draft Schedule more quickly than I’ve allowed and that’s good.

But if I can’t, I can make use of those buffer period weeks wherever I need them.

The schedule is flexible. If I find I consistently take less time at each step than is allowed, I can make adjustments. If the time frame is a little tight, there’s room for adjustment that way, too.

But the biggest benefit, so far as I can tell at the moment, is that I have a schedule to work by. I know what I’ll be working on this week. I know what I’ll be working on next week. The days have become productive in both areas and that’s encouraging after having spent so much time ‘wandering in the forest’. I’m not out of the woods, yet, but there is a trail to follow and it looks very promising.

Very promising indeed.

Question for You

Do you have short- and long-term goals in place? How do you track progress toward those goals?

Carrie

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