It’s that time again when authors start thinking about their writing goals for 2018. New Year’s resolutions are a common topic of conversation, and it’s important to have dreams and desires for a new year. Maybe it’s the fresh start that you need in your writing life.
And perhaps you’ve just won NaNoWriMo or completed your draft at some point this year, but you’re putting off that monster of a task that you know must come next: revision. But a fresh new year is the perfect time for you to dream big and finally tackle that draft and turn it into a polished novel.
Maybe you’ve already set your New Year’s resolution to finally edit your draft. But did you know that only about 8% of people keep their New Year’s resolutions? That means there are 92% of people who do not keep their resolutions. What makes your resolution any different? How can you keep yourself from being one of the 92%?
1. Define Your Purpose
A big reason why most people don’t stick with their New Year’s resolutions is because they don’t have a specific purpose. It’s not enough to say, “I’m going to edit my book next year.” If that’s all you go into the New Year with, you probably won’t make it past the fourth month.
You have to start with a purpose. If you don’t already know what your purpose for your book is, grab a piece of paper or open a blank document on your computer and answer these questions to help you discover your purpose:
Why do you want to publish your book? To make money? To establish yourself as a credible source? To share the joy of reading?
What do you want to gain from publishing your book?
What would you lose if you didn’t publish your book?
Are you tired of leaving your draft to collect cyber cobwebs, locked away for no one to enjoy?
You desire to edit your book, but the key to reaching your goal is defining your “why” so that your dream is no longer an abstract idea of “editing more.” Once you know what your purpose is, grab a piece of paper or your smartphone and write down your purpose. It doesn’t have to be long. Trying to keep it focused to your one or two reasons for writing and publishing.
For example, my purpose for writing fiction books is to be able to capture on paper all the fantastic worlds and characters swirling around in my head and to be able to share the joy and wonder of reading with others like so many authors have done for me.
2. Make a Plan
Neglecting this step is the other big reason why most people don’t accomplish their New Year’s resolutions. Without a map that shows you what path to take to reach your goal, you will wander aimlessly and eventually lose your way. Setting goals and placing them strategically along your route will help you stay on track and measure your progress.
Start by brainstorming ideas for every little step that you’ll need to take to get from where your book is now to where you want it to be—published for others to read and enjoy. These goals can be anything that you would like to accomplish over the course of editing your book. One goal could be “add emotional depth to my protagonist,” and another could be “read through my draft and mark plot holes.”
Don’t spend time worrying about how you are going to do these things, in what order you should do them, or that dreaded feeling that you forgot a step entirely. Just like brainstorming ideas for a story, this is your chance to get down all the things you want to do for your manuscript, and more ideas will come as you write goals down.
Organize Your Goals
Using the brainstormed list of goals you already compiled, rearrange them in the order that they need to be accomplished. You could create large categories with sub goals or one long list. For example, your first big goal would be to reread your manuscript. A sub goal under that could be to read your manuscript looking only for long sections of dialogue with no action or description and marking those pages to revise later.
Once you have your categories and lists organized in the order you want to accomplish them, separate them into monthly, weekly, or daily goals. It’s important that you have at least weekly goals that you can use as mile markers so that you can check your progress and make sure you are still moving forward.
Keep Track of Your Goals
There are so many different tools available to help you keep track of your goals and help you stay on track. If you don’t already know whether you prefer paper or smartphone or one planner or app over another, you will just have to experiment with a few until you find what works for you. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
You might also find that you use different tools for different tasks. I use all of the above tools, but each one has a completely different purpose. For example, I have a giant wet erase wall calendar that I use for my word count goals during a month, allowing me to easily see and keep track of my daily word count. But I use Trello as my editorial calendar to keep track of my blog post ideas, which ones are written, which ones need editing, etc.
3. Work the Plan
Once you’ve completed steps 1-3, it’s time to get to work. That’s right. That novel won’t edit itself, unfortunately (wouldn’t that be great though?). You can plan all day, every day, but in the end, if you don’t carry out that plan, then it’s useless.
It may be at this point that you start to question whether or not you have what it takes. Whether or not your novel is really worth all this work. I know because I’ve had those thoughts every time I finish a first draft. And every time, I have to be reminded that all this work will be worth it in the end when I get to hold my finished novel in my hands. You’ve come this far already, so don’t stop now. Take your plan and put it into action.
Bonus Tip: Accountability
If you really want to make sure you don’t back out on your editing plan when things get tough (because it will get tough), then ask someone you trust if he or she will hold you accountable through this process. I truly believe that accountability is the most forsaken but vital key to accomplishing our goals, no matter what those goals are. It’s a lot harder to procrastinate editing your book if you know that your friend is going to ask you every week what progress you’ve made.
Give someone a copy of your goals with their due dates, and establish some sort of accountability schedule, whether you will text every day, call each other once a week, or meet up once a month. The point is that you both know what is expected and how often it’s expected. Then, let that person hold you accountable.
One more note of encouragement:
Slow progress is better than no progress.
It’s so easy for us writers to beat ourselves up because we aren’t yet where we’d like to be, because our book will never be good enough, or because we can never stick to our goals. However, I would much rather make slow, consistent progress than to get sucked down by these thoughts and only write or edit a couple of months out of the year. If you have a goal of editing 1 page a day or 25 pages a day, that’s great! It doesn’t matter if someone else is editing 100 pages a day because you are making progress on your book. That’s what’s important.
So, why not start now? Share in the comments below what your purpose for publishing your book is or some of your goals for getting you from an unpublished author to a published author, and then start editing your book!