3 Ways to Help you Keep those New Year’s Writing Resolutions

by Erica Vetsch, @EricaVetsch

The New Year has arrived, and with it, a slough (sic) of resolutions for the coming days. Lose weight, quit smoking, join a gym, clean out your closets. The list is endless, and while well-meaning, they often don’t come to fruition.

If you’re like me, you have also been known to make a resolution or two when it comes to your writing, only to find somewhere around February 1st (or sooner!) you’ve cut all ties with those pesky, idealistic resolutions and have relaxed back into your old ways like sliding into a pair of comfy slippers. And then, when I look back on all I hoped to accomplish and didn’t, I’m frustrated and discouraged.

I suspect, I am not alone in this. So, how can we make resolutions that stick, set goals that we can actually attain? Here are three ways I’ve found to be more successful in making and keeping resolutions. (For the record, I don’t care for the term ‘resolutions.’ I much prefer ‘goals,’ so I will use that instead. It’s a mind-game thing for me…my brain and heart just respond better to reaching for a goal rather than fulfilling a resolution. But you use whatever you need to in order to get you across the line.)

  1. Make them quantifiable

It’s all well and good to say, “I’m going to write more this year.” But what constitutes ‘more’? A few words more? A few minutes more? Set a goal you can track. Such as: Write 15 minutes per day, M-F. Write at least 500 words per day. Write one page per day. All of those things are quantifiable. Whatever your threshold is, whatever you need to stay on track and be able to say yes or no that it was accomplished that day, set that goal, then go get it!.

What if your want to sign with an agent? “Sign with an agent” is quasi-quantifiable, in that by the end of December of 2018 you will be able to check yes or no to whether you did, in fact, sign with an agent, but so much of that process is out of your control and therefore un-quantifiable. A better goa;, and one that you are better able to keep is to say, “Query X number of agents this year.” Even better if you can break it down further. “Query two agents each month.” Make a chart, keep track of whom you have queried and when, and their responses. You will know each time you re-evaluate whether you’ve kept up on your goal or not.

Perhaps you have a goal of “Making my writing better this year.” Yet, how can you quantify that? Instead, perhaps set a goal of reading a writing-craft book each month. Enter a writing contest to get feedback (and then apply that feedback.) Find a critique partner to exchange work with. Do quantifiable things that will make your writing better.

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  1. Make them realistic.

“This year, I’m going to write a New York Times Bestseller.”

“This year, I’m going to sell four million copies.”

“This year, I’m going to quit my job, retire to an island in the Pacific, and write a classic novel that will be used in literature classes for the next five hundred years.”

Those are awesome goals. And if you know exactly how to go about making those things happen, please, shoot me an email! But they’re not realistic…at least not for the majority of writers.

Just as unrealistic is to say “This year, I’m going to write 5K per day, seven days a week, holidays included.” Or, “I’m going to finish seven novels this year.” Who knows, maybe 35K words per week is realistic for you, or seven completed novels in a calendar year is a cake-walk, but for most of us, that just can’t happen. It’s important when goal-setting to make sure that you are being realistic, or else you’ll wind up chucking the entire enterprise. What’s realistic for you? How much do you normally write in a day/week/month? Are you only able to write on weekends, or after the kids are in bed? Take that into account. Set goals that will stretch you a bit, but ones that are attainable. Do you usually write 1000 words per day? Can you push yourself to write 1200?

Don’t forget to include a bit of downtime in your goals. Nobody can (or should!) pursue their writing career to the exclusion of all else. Plan for some time away from writing when setting your goals. Plan for some family time, some vacation, some wiggle room for unexpected events like illness or a new job or a new puppy. J

  1. Make yourself accountable.

Accountability can take several forms. I used to publish my monthly goals on my blog on the first day of the month. I would evaluate how I had done with my previous month’s goals and set new ones for the current one.  That bit of accountability to my blog readers kept me working on my stated goals.

Some people have accountability partners, and those partners don’t have to be writers. A critique or local writer’s group is good for this, but so are spouses and friends and moms. Tell someone what you want to accomplish, get them on your team, and give them permission to ask you how you’re doing on your goals.

I know of one writer who made a pact with a fellow author, setting a goal for a daily word count, and if he didn’t meet it, he had to pay his fellow author cold, hard cash! This might be a little extreme for you, but if that’s what it takes to get you writing, it’s always an option. J

Accountability doesn’t always have to mean something negative, either. Work in a reward system. If you accomplish such and such a writing goal this month, you will reward yourself with: __________. Post it on the fridge. Get yourself a cheering squad, a spouse, a roommate, your kids, whoever. A little positive peer pressure can go a long way.

This year, I challenge you to be deliberate about your goals by making them quantifiable, making them realistic, and making yourself accountable. Get your plan and your team in place and make 2017 the year you take a step forward in your writing career!


 My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, TX

Fashion artist Priscilla Hutchens has a grudge against the army that has ruined her family and taken the people she holds most dear. When her twin niece and nephew are left orphaned at Fort Bliss, Texas, she swoops down on Fort Bliss to gain custody of them immediately.

There is just one thing standing in the way—Post surgeon Major Elliot Ryder, who is also the twins uncle, also claims the children and thinks he knows what is best for them.

Priscilla and Elliot will cross swords, but each will have to lay down arms if they are to find a lasting peace on which to form the family both are longing for. Who will win the battle? Or will a truce be called for the sake of love and family?

ERICA VETSCH can’t get enough of history, whether it’s reading, writing, or visiting historical sites. She’s currently writing another historical romance and plotting which history museum to conquer next! You can find her online at www.ericavetsch.com and on her Facebook Page where she spends WAY TOO MUCH TIME! www.facebook.com/EricaVetschAuthor/

New Year’s Writing Resolution

by Peter Leavell, @PeterLeavell

New Year’s resolutions and toddlers—cute, but better when they belong to someone else.

This year, there’s one resolution I’m focused on, and that’s finding my invisible culture so that I have permission to be obsessive about my writing.

What does that mean?

Invisible culture: The intangible aspects of a group setting that reinforces good or bad behavior, not always through explicitly written rules, but through codes of conduct that a newcomer would need to interpret and learn, so they mightfit in comfortably.

A group of bank robbers will not act like bakers. They’ll probably look more like…well, more like writers, really.

For example, let’s get controversial. Church and clothes. Is there a doctrine that defines what clothes to wear in worship? EVERYONE MUST WEAR EARLY CHRISTIAN ROBES. 4th Peter 1:9. The end. Controversy over.

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But one fellow goes to church topless. Dude. He’s getting looks from disapproval to lust. His attempt to bare his soul in worship falls too short, and we’re eager for him to show respect to God and to everyone else. But he’s from tribal Africa, where it’s hot, and clothes are hard to come by. Instead of everyone else in the church going topless (this example’s getting out of hand), we’re going to encourage him to dress up a bit.

Invisible culture makes us comfortable. But it’s more than that. As Angela Duckworth says in her book, Grit, “The culture in which we live, and which we identify, powerfully shapes just about every aspect of our being.” These are “invisible psychological boundaries separating us from them.”

Clothes in church are a vital part of worship—naked will simply not do. Swearing at the priest or pastor will be discouraged. Writing on the wall ‘Scrooge McDuck is My Homeboy’ at work will probably not put you in good graces with your boss.

But it’s not just negative fences invisible cultures build. Libraries encourage reading. Churches encourage spirituality. Good families encourage safety, openness, and love.

If you want to be a writer, find writers and join them.

Allow yourself to be taken by the culture.

Go to writer’s conferences. Write in libraries in coffeehouses. Get a job selling books. Teach English. Ask her on a date, go to a bookstore, each buy a book, and going somewhere romantic to read. Be cool with Hemingway and TS Elliot and get down with Byron and grow close to Chaucer. Freak when Victor Hugo sais ‘Perseverance, secret of all triumphs.’

As the incredible author Brandilyn Collins has said, there are writers, and there are normals. Embrace your inner author nerd. We’re team writer!

The secret of being a great writer? Obsess your gift. People respect authenticity, particularities, and odd ducks, especially when it falls just short of recklessness.

Allow yourself the comfort of the writing culture. You’ll find when looking at writers, you’ll stop saying ‘that’s the way they do things,’ to believing ‘this is how and why I do things.’

And sitting down to a computer, opening up a vein and bleeding out a story won’t seem such a bizarre act. It will simply be who you are.

 


Shadow of Devil’s Tower

Philip Anderson is a reluctant gunslinger whose fame has spread through the Dakota Territory. He can’t escape his reputation as the hero who took down the entire Maxwell Gang, and he’s even had a popular dime novel written about him. All Philip yearns for is to live a quiet life raising horses and to finally marry his beloved Anna. He’d gladly give up his half of the treasure map his murdered father left behind, but until Jacob Wilkes is captured he can never hang up his gun. Bent on destroying Philip and everything he loves, Wilkes has his eye on the hidden cache. And on Anna.

Just when Philip thinks he might be able to bury the demons of his past, the unthinkable happens and Anna and her family are kidnapped. Riding his Arabian mare Raven, he is forced into the race of his life as he desperately tracks his enemies across the desert. Can he rescue Anna before it’s too late? Joining forces with old friends like Teddy Roosevelt and Running Deer, Philip is pushed to the breaking point. Will he ever be free, or must he make the ultimate sacrifice for those he loves under the shadow of Devil’s Tower?

Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. For entertainment, he reads historical books, where he finds ideas for new novels. Whenever he has a chance, he takes his wife and two homeschooled children on crazy but fun research trips. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com

Setting Goals

by Yvonne Lehman, @YvonneLehman

We can easily get caught up in the Christmas season and before we realize it, the New Year is here. Think about your life and goals you had last year. Did you meet them? Do you have goals for this coming year? Whether you make specific goals for a New Year or just strive to learn, grow and produce according to your abilities, consider that the coming year may be a new beginning or greater effort of enriching your life.

One of my goals is to make a daily writing schedule (which I have to do when on deadline) and stick to it as much as possible. Also, I want to study the many books I have on the craft of writing. I easily get caught up in writing and leave little time for reading. I’m adding that to my goals — read more of the great books that line my shelves.

The above is a paraphrased version of what I posted on a writers loop for responses. Below are some excerpted suggestions that might be of help to each of us.

  1. Gain a clear understanding of your goal and what you want to achieve
  2. Have a timeline for when you want to complete your goal (someday is not one of the days of the week)
  3. Find someone to keep you accountable and moving forward
  4. Get out of the house. Go to a coffee shop or if you need quiet go to a library
  5. If days are filled with work (at home or otherwise) get up an hour early for working on a project
  6. Learn to say “No” to a lot of activities that aren’t fulfilling
  7. Manage time better
  8. Have a goal of “making goals”
  9. Be sure your calendar indicates time for pleasure
  10. Without goals it’s easy to spin one’s wheels and waste time

One person said her year was filled with surprises and new relationships because she made goals. She didn’t reach them all, but achieved more than if she had not made the goals.

Another gave a response we could do before making our goals: Set apart a time in December to pray, draw near to God and hear what the Holy Spirit is saying regarding our goals.

One of my goals a few years ago was to volunteer some of my time in giving back to the Billy Graham organization since my writing career started in the 1980’s at the Billy Graham School for Christian Writers. That conference opened up a whole new world for me.

When aspiring writers tell me they don’t have time to write, I reply that they must make time. I realized if I really wanted to show my appreciation, then I would follow my own advice and make time to volunteer.

On a few Saturday mornings, I go to the Chapel at the Billy Graham Training Center, also known as The Cove. My favorite part is leading the tour through the sanctuary and up to the prayer room. There is no way I can begin to give anything near the blessings I receive, relating to visitors who come from all over the nation and some from other countries.

There’s a special feeling in that prayer room when people kneel at the round table in the center of which is a lighted globe, beneath the slant of the ceiling making a point beneath an eighty-seven-feet tall steeple and an eight-feet tall cross. That symbolizes our need to pray for the world, and that our prayers go up to our Father in heaven — the one who sent his Son, Jesus, whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas.

I’ve learned that when I make a goal to give, not to receive, the blessings flow! And I can even be a blessing to others.

Happy New Year, and God Bless!


 

Christmas Moments

Gigi Graham’s grandchildren are looking at the pictures in One Wintry Night, written by Gigi’s mother and the children’s great grandmother, Ruth Graham.

In the fourth Christmas Moments book, 41 writers with 51 articles are saying “Merry Christmas” to the world by, again, donating all their royalties to Samaritan’s Purse, an organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people (www.samaritanspurse.org).

The writers of this book share some of their memories of Christmases past that include happiness, joy, lighthearted celebration, family traditions, singular occasions, happy times, trying times… and so much more.In its own way each story illustrates how, no matter what our circumstances, at Christmastime we will find happiness and joy when we decide not to focus on ourselves and instead choose to celebrate Christ’s birth.

If you love stories that express the wonder of Christmas, touch the heart, and stir the emotions,you will love Merry Christmas Moments.

Yvonne Lehman is an award-winning, best-selling author of more than 3,000,000 books in print, who founded and directed the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for 25 years, is now director of the Blue Ridge “Autumn in the Mountains” Novelist Retreat. She earned a Master’s Degree in English from Western Carolina University and has taught English and Creative Writing on the college level. Her latest releases include Have Dress Will Marry (Heart of a Cowboy collection, Mountainbrook Ink), Better Latte Than Never (Winged Publications), Stupid Moments and Additional Christmas Moments in the non-fiction Divine Moments series (Grace Publishing). Her popular 50th novel is Hearts that Survive – A Novel of the TITANIC, which she signs periodically at the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge TN.

How To Be a More Productive and Successful Author

by Victoria Greene, @vickyecommerce

You’ve made up your mind; the ideas are there and so is the drive, but just how difficult is it to become a successful author? After all, so many people set their hearts on writing a book, yet only a fraction of those who begin ever make it to the end. The problem is, writing is all too easily put aside for other things, delayed one more day, or excused due to writer’s block.

Maintaining your productivity levels after an initial burst of enthusiasm is often the biggest challenge. Once your momentum declines, and progress begins to slow, it can be extremely discouraging. Meanwhile, productivity mantras urging you to write every day can quickly begin to feel more like criticisms than encouragement.

Yet there will be other days when writing feels like second nature, and the words will flow readily onto the page. So what can you do to ensure you have more of those days than the other kind? Fortunately, this is easier than it sounds. By identifying the things that are slowing you down, and developing positive working habits, you can dramatically increase your productive potential.

Planning the Path To Success

As with every creative pursuit, if you wish to succeed as an author, you need to approach your work with the same commitment and conviction as you would any other long-term goal. Plan ahead, know your limits, and be prepared for the days when it simply isn’t fun.

Set clear goals for each month, and break those down into manageable weekly targets. This means you always know what you’re working towards, and you can quickly identify where your sticking points are. If there is one project that always holds you back, it may be time to reevaluate how you approach it.

  • Decide how much time you can spare for writing each week, and schedule accordingly
  • Set daily priorities and aim to get the most important tasks out of the way first
  • Schedule time for breaks. Insufficient rest will eventually wear you down, which will ultimately decrease the quality of your writing
  • Reward yourself. Productivity is hugely influenced by your state of mind, so you can reinforce good habits by rewarding yourself for successfully reaching your goals
  • Take some time away from your workspace. When you take breaks, try to leave your work area, even if you just go into the next room
  • Where possible, get some fresh air and exercise. Writing is a sedentary pursuit and it is too easy to find yourself stuck indoors for days at a time, barely leaving your desk

Know What You Want

To give yourself the best shot at becoming a successful author, you need to have a clear picture of what you hope to achieve and why. Think about what you are willing to give up in order to be able to give your writing the time and commitment necessary.

To maximize your productivity, you will need to identify the things that distract you or slow you down. This may mean using web-blocking apps such as Freedom or SelfControl, or even turning off the internet altogether.

Identifying bad habits is also part of this process. Are you the sort of person who can spend an hour worrying about a single sentence? Learn to recognize that your writing does not need to be perfect on the first runthrough. Set yourself a maximum time for dwelling on an individual issue, and when that time is up, you need to leave it and continue writing. You can return to it with a fresh mind at a later date.

Failure Is Part of the Process

Not every day will go according to plan, not every manuscript will be perfect, and not every idea will turn out to be as great as it first seemed. These apparent failures can often be demoralizing, yet they are a natural part of your development as an author.

For every finished work, think how many drafts have been discarded, and for every 1,000 words you have written, how many have you deleted along the way? Yet it is far easier to perceive these alterations as contributing to the creative process.

That is not to suggest you should dismiss your failures, any more than you would ignore a typographical error. The trick is to recognize when things aren’t working, and figure out how to fix them.

Promoting Your Work

Of course, completing a written work is not the end of the journey. To be able to sell your work and raise your profile as an author, you need to ensure that people can find you. Websites such as Goodreads enable you to host Q&A sessions, and even offer physical or digital copies of your book in their giveaways, which can be a great way to get some early publicity. Meanwhile, in addition to turnkey self-publishing platforms like Amazon’s Kindle, you could consider selling your work directly through your own website.

Ecommerce CMS platforms such as Shopify can facilitate this process by handling many of the time-consuming aspects of creating a functional and coherent ecommerce website. This then frees you up to focus your marketing efforts elsewhere, and, of course, to begin working on your next project.

Here’s how to market your book from the inside out.

Be Your Own Boss

Whether you are just starting out, or a developing author looking for ways to refine your approach, the most important thing to remember is to do what works for you. Like every endeavor, writing takes time, energy, and dedication, so you need to make sure that you plan accordingly.

Everyone works differently, and only you can determine how often and how much you are prepared to write. Even so, while it may take some trial and error to find your groove, if you keep these techniques in mind along the way, you will arrive fully equipped to be the focused, prolific, and successful author you already knew you could become.


Victoria Greene is a brand marketing consultant and freelance writer. She has her own blog at VictoriaEcommerce, as well as writing for other websites. Victoria is a big advocate of maintaining good writerly habits and using tech to help stay productive.