One of my favourite parts of getting back into the office at the start of the year is catching up with my co-workers at Queensland Writers Centre and finding out their plans and goals for the coming year. Not just the work stuff – although we’ve got some exciting stuff coming in 2015 – but their goals for the writing projects they’re doing outside of 2015. It’s the time of year where everyone dreams big and starts putting together plans, and it’s always inspiring to see what everyone’s got coming down the line in the coming year.
It also makes me think of some of the best advice I ever received about goal-setting as a young writer:
FOCUS ON THE THINGS YOU CONTROL.
What does this mean? Well, lets take a common goal at this time of year – say, “get my novel published in 2015” – and consider what that really means.
When it comes to getting your novel published via a traditional publishing house, there’s a list of things you have control over:
- how many words you write a day
- how much time you’ve spent on your novel, getting the first draft finished
- how much work you’ve put into developing your story and revising your prose before submitting it
- the clarity of your synopsis and cover letter, and how well they sell your story
- how many publishers/agents you submit your work to over the course of the year
The one thing you don’t have any control over is this:
- a publisher responding to your novel submission with yes, we’d love to publish this
No matter how hard you try, a publishers choice to take your novel onboard is always out of your hands. It’s a decision made by a editor – or, more likely, an editor and an acquisitions team involving marketers and other members of the publishing company – and short of developing spontaneous mind-control abilities, they’re going to make the decision independently of your yearly goals.
Which is why setting a goal like “get my novel published in 2015” can quickly become disheartening, because the one thing you really want to tick off your list is ultimately out of your hands.
Focusing on the things you can control means setting goals based on things that you, as a writer, can physically control and measure. It means looking at the things that are essentially dreams, like getting a novel published, and breaking it down into the component parts that are within your ability to influence. It means setting goals like finish my novel, develop a killer synopsis and submission letter, research a list of publisher/agents/opportunities that seem like a good fit, and send out my submission letter to 10 (or 20, or 50) publishers before the end of the year. For bonus points, add write my next novel to your 2015 goal list, ’cause persistence will often get you further in publishing than those who rely on talent alone.
Doing all these things might not result in a publisher saying yes, but they’re a great way of stacking the odds in your favour and creating a yearly goal list where the success is entirely up to you.
So, with that in mind, what are your writing and publishing goals for 2015? What are you hoping to achieve before the end of the year?