What you can control: Meeting your deadlines

I enjoyed lunch with a new writer friend. As we progressed in the lunch, I asked her what her goals for her writing were, especially since she quit her job to freelance full time. She had some goals, but I could tell the question had piqued her interest.

If you want to go anywhere in the business of writing, it is imperative you set goals and then meet them, particularly when you’re starting out. If you’re one of the readers who took the poll last week that were worried about deadlines, here’s a handy-dandy way to prepare yourself now. Think of it as strength and endurance training for an upcoming race. Set some goals. Here are some examples of types of goals you can set:

1. A weekly (daily, monthly) word count goal. Or it could be a chapter goal. When I’m writing NF, my goal is 6000 words a week, fiction 10000.

2. A financial goal (usually monthly). Pretend your goal is 1000 a month. If you set this, you’ll have to logically think through how you will make that. If you write books, this is a difficult goal because the book writing business is sporadic. You might get a 7000 dollar advance one month, then make nothing for a year. So if you would like consistent income, you need to flesh out the goal more. How many magazine or newspaper or online articles will it take to make that amount of money? This will force you to go after new options, and if they arise as a result, will give you the opportunity to meet a deadline. Yesterday I sent in four queries because I could see I wasn’t making enough money in January.

3. A production goal. If you want to make consistent income, you must set a production goal, particularly in the query department. Make a goal to write 5 queries a week (one a day). Whenever you get a rejection, recycle that query to another publication. If you don’t query, you won’t land assignments. If you don’t land assignments, how can you practice meeting deadlines?

4. Make an integrity or hard work goal. For instance, because I am concentrating on making more consistent income this year, I am working hard on developing my relationships with periodical editors. Last spring an editor had to scrap one of her stories. She asked if I could turn around an article in one day (1000 words). I said yes because I knew one of my goals was to develop positive relationships with editors. I worked hard, gave her the article. We have a good working relationship now and she asks me for stories (instead of me asking her through a query). This entire relationship began with one query that eventually sold. I proved myself consistent over time.

5. Make a professional goal: go to the conference you’ve been pining after. This will force you to create that book proposal you’ve been postponing. Or decide to take a risk and attend a critique group, and ask them to hold you accountable to your own deadlines.

6. Make a project goal. Finish that novel. Write that proposal. Really learn how to make stunning query letters. Start a blog or website. Give yourself a date you MUST complete this. That’ll strengthen your deadline muscle.

So, don’t be shy. Set a writing goal for February, and then leave it in black and white in the comment section. THEN MEET THAT DEADLINE! I mean it! Let’s hear from you, writers-who-wanna-be-published!