Publishing a NaNoWriMo Book: Setting Your Goals

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We’ve been talking about prepping for NaNoWriMo as if you’re going to publish. Okay, I’ve been prepping. The rest of you have been letting the crickets do the talking, which is really awkward, because they never want to be quiet when I’m trying to concentrate. Hopefully you’re still doing the homework. Let’s talk about setting goals and taking names. Mostly goals. You can take names if you want.

Stop for a moment and pretend you have your perfect dream Writer world. Where are you in five years? How many books do you have out? What are you known for?

Unless you have a vision for where you want this writing thing to take you, you probably should still with writing for fun.

Ooh, sorry. Was that harsh? I’ve been told I can be harsh and I’m trying to change that. But, really, if you don’t have a vision, you at least need a guide dog. Let me be your… wait, no. Scratch that. I’ll guide you. No dogs.

I read a lot of books. It’s fun for me, because I can go in and mess with the Figments or Characters, but sometimes I learn things. I read Goals by Brian Tracy and learned a few things about setting goals.

First, keys to goal setting are SMART (+2… no clever acronym for the last two):

  1. Be specific and detailed (S)
  2. Make them measurable (M)
  3. Be amazing (A)
  4. Be realistic (R)
  5. Be time-limited (T)
  6. Be balanced with the rest of your life
  7. Write it down!

First, be specific and detailed. “I’m going to write five books in the next five years.” Great. Are you writing five children’s books? Five non-fiction? Five laundry lists? For me, it’s “I’m going to write a Figments trilogy in the next five years and start a second trilogy.” I have titles for the first three books and a vague idea of the fourth. The fifth is eluding me; I think the Conductor stole it. Still, it’s pretty specific and detailed. You probably want to be even more detailed before you’re done, but this is a starting point.

Second, make them measurable. The very best goals are broken down into steps.  “I want to have book 2 published by April 2016. To do this, I need to write book 2 by December 2015. I need to edit it by the end of January 2016. I need beta Readers by the end of February 2016. When the beta Readers all run away in terror, I’ll need new beta Readers by…” well, you get the idea. Be able to measure your progress along the way.

Third, reach for the stars with your dreams.  It’s better to reach high and fall a little short than it is to reach short and never get anywhere at all.  If you think you can write one book in a year, dream a little bigger and say you’ll have fifty sales in a year.  That does lead to…

Fourth, keep them realistic. Fifty sales in a year is doable if your book is good, you catch the right audience, and you practice some good marketing techniques. (Don’t ask me about those. I’m just here to pump up your dreams.) Saying you want two million sales in the first year… maybe not so much.

Fifth, be time-limited.  In other words, set deadlines for reaching your goals. If you’re ambitious, set a deadline, then add half-again as much time. If you’re a little more cautious, take one-third of the time off your goal. Either way, don’t set a goal without setting a deadline.

Sixth, balance your goals with the rest of your life. I don’t have a life, so I don’t have to do this much (except for hiding from the Conductor), but most human Writers do. Think about family, job, school, finances, health, community and spiritual aspects before your make a crazy commitment. Don’t give up on your dreams; just make sure they work with the things that fuels your reality.

Finally, write your goals down. Lots of people have lofty goals. I have one goal about flying to the top of a mountaintop and yodeling until an avalanche buries six people. Only six. I’m a Writer. We kill things.  Anyway, I don’t write that goal down, so I forget about it sometimes. In fact, if you want to forget about it, that’s perfectly okay. But if you want to remember a goal, write it down and post it somewhere where you’ll see it often.

So, let’s just talk NaNoWriMo. You want to write a novel. No. You want to write 50,000 words. That’s both specific and measurable. You want to write it all in the 30 days in November. That’s time-limited. If you’ve done NaNo before, maybe you want to write more than this and challenge yourself (be amazing); if you haven’t done NaNo before, shoot for the 50k (realistic). Now, balance that goal with the rest of your life. Don’t quit your job, abandon your family, ruin your health, or kill your finances just to get to the 50k. Make plans to fit those other things into your life.

NOW WRITE IT ALL DOWN.  That’s right. If you don’t want to do your own, there is an official NaNoWriMo one on the website.  Just put your goals in writing.  Now post that puppy where you’ll see it daily. Not a real puppy. Your paper. Puppies are better suited for petting and loving.

Aaaaand you’re set. You have a GOAL. Wait. I have a goal. You need to go set yours.

Let me know how it goes.

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