Keeping Track of Our Goals

Why should we keep track of our goals?

The number one reason is so we don't forget our blogging date...which is what I did. YIKES!

The second reason is so we remember where we're headed and can track our success in meeting our goals, even--and especially--the small ones that will lead to the big ones.

I sat down last night and thought about the things I need to accomplish in the next month. Thanks to deadlines since last August, my focus has been on writing and meeting deadlines. Do you know why they're called deadlines? Because they can kill you! (Figuratively speaking of course. I think.) My house is a disaster. My office has become the living space for countless boxes of odds and ends and papers. I started cleaning off a shelf yesterday and now have a six inch stack of paper to shred. At least a couple of reams, probably more. There are now papers on my desk that need to be filed...but my file cabinet needs to be moved to my office.

I made a long, long list of all the things that need to be done to make my life go more smoothly in the future. It was a list of cleaning jobs, not writing, but for now I'll put the writing aside. My focus in February must be to dig my way out of the disaster I'm surrounded day and one step at a time. One box sorted a day. I have a feeling I'll be doing a lot of paper shredding in the first couple of weeks. One small area of the kitchen a day, since it's become the biggest sore spot of all. By the end of February, I hope the kitchen is sparkling, the laundry is caught up, my office looks like an office, instead of a war zone, and even the cabinets are in order.

But what about writing? Oh, I'm sure there'll be a little of that. While I'm washing dishes and scrubbing the floor, I can decide what it is I need to work on next, because that's really been the big question in my mind. Once that decision is made, I can use those washing and cleaning and scrubbing times to let my characters develop and maybe have some idea of their stories. By the end of February, I should know exactly where I'm going and with what. I also expect copy edits to arrive sometime during that time, so there'll be writing, of sorts, going on. I'll be keeping a watch on the calendar as the month goes by, knowing that by this time next month, I need to set my goals for the year. Better late than never, they say.

Setting goals takes brain time. Working toward them takes staying on track as much as possible. There will always be times when something keeps us from reaching a goal at the time we planned. When that happens, we need to ask why and find a way to correct it. Maybe we've over-goaled ourselves and need to revamp both our large goal(s) and the smaller ones that will get us there. The three schedules and the calendar I created to help me with my February goals will help keep me from wondering what I should do next--the way I'm doing with writing. I've found that having to look at what needs to be done and checking it off when it is done will go a long way in in helping me reach that final goal.

If you've made goals for 2010, how are you making sure you'll reach them?

My Name Is and I Write...

I've already posted this month about goals, so I thought I'd talk about something different. Part of knowing your goals as a writer is also "knowing" who you are as a writer. Recently I was asked by two online sites to have my interview done, to share with readers about myself as a writer and my work. It took some time thinking about and answering the many questions. But it was interesting and I had a chance to think about things that I haven't before. I'm going to share some of those questions (from both places) and hope sometime you might sit down and analyze yourself, get to know you the writer better.

Who is Starla Kaye (insert your name here) really? Are you married, have a significant other, kids? Pets? What are your hobbies and interests? What things other than writing are important to you?

If I were going to interview you in person where would we meet...describe a room of your house...or the view from your deck...or a favorite little cafe. The idea is to give the reader a sense of who you are and what you are like as a person.

When do you write? What kind of atmosphere? Do you write in the same place all the time? Do you need quiet or do you like music, noise, activity around you? Are you a night owl or a morning person? Again the idea is to give the reader a sense of who you are and what you are like as a person.

Do you take forever to write a book or do you write quickly? How many books do you write in an average year? How many have you written in your career?

What was your inspiration to begin writing?

How long have you written romance? Have you ever written or considered writing other genres? What drew you to the romance genre?

What sets your work apart from the work of other romance authors? What can a reader who picks up one of your books expect to find?

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you plan your stories before you write, or do you let your characters lead you through the story as you are writing it? Have any of your characters ever surprised you because you thought they would do one thing and they ended up doing something else? Think about an example from your work.

Can you relate any funny, heartwarming, touching stories about meeting readers or friends or family reading your work?

Can you tell me a bit about where you get the ideas for your stories, what elements attract you to a story?

Is there one of your books that stands out as your favorite? What do you think makes it stand out for you?

In your writing projects, do you have a favorite hero? Why him? What made him special to you and, hopefully, special to a reader?

In your writing projects, do you have a favorite heroine? Why her? What made her special to you and, hopefully, special to a reader?

Some authors seem to be everywhere--in groups--on MySpace--on Twitter--on various forums--just chatting and occasionally (or more frequently) promoting their books. Do you consider yourself one of the authors that is out there--highly social--or are you quieter--more reserved?

Along with that, are you on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace? Do you have a blog or a website?

We have talked about pieces and parts of some of these questions here on this blog. But take sometime to think about or rethink about the questions and have fun learning about you the writer. Plus, you'll be pretty set for an interview of your own at some point, adding in, of course, information about specific books you've written.

Just so you know, I'm one of those who attempts to be an author who is "out there," socially connected. But I'm really stumbling along with all of that because it is very time-consuming to keep up with everything.
Helpful Blog:
Main Promotional Blog:
Twitter: (Starla Writes)
Facebook: Starla Kay Criser
LinkedIn: Starla Criser

Goals vs. Resolutions

Goal: the winning post at a race or at football; hence, the end aimed at.
Resolution: the act of resolving; state of being resolved; fixed determination; constancy of purpose; solution.
Resolve: free from doubt or difficulty; clear or separate; solve; settle in an opinion; decide; determine by vote; pass a formal resolution.

The first of every year generally has people making new resolutions in which to live by in the coming year. Many resolve to lose weight, exercise, spend more time with their families and etc. As writers, we tend to think along the lines of what and how much we will write.

I, for one, do not like resolutions, no doubt due to all the failed ones of my past. If I had lost a pound for every resolution I made to lose weight, I’d be done! Goals are a horse of a different color. People often use them interchangeably but their definitions show that the goal is the end result of the resolution and somehow, I like that better.

My writing goals for 2010 are to finish the two books I am currently working on which seems simple enough, but it depends on your definition of “finish.” Mine means totally, spit shined and polished, complete and ready for publication. I figure that will take a good chunk, if not all of this year, especially since my current work has a mind of its own and continues to morph at will.

So, I am free from doubt and have a clear idea, I have solved my dilemma and settled my various opinions. I have decided and passed a formal resolution to reach my writing goals, the end I am aiming for; two complete manuscripts for an editor’s perusal and subsequent publication. (Year of which to be determined by said editor : )

Never give up and never surrender but keep pressing ever forward and you will see all your goals met in 2010. Be blessed.

Procrastination and Goal Setting (Penny Rader)

Yup. I have procrastinated about writing my goals for 2010. Who am I kidding? I’ve been procrastinating about writing…period. I thought I’d share the fruits of my procrastination with you. Maybe you’ll find a helpful tidbit or two or five.

5 Steps to Goal Setting

“…don't set wimpy goals simply because you're afraid to fail.”

9 Ways to Jumpstart Your Writing Goal

#6 has my name all over it.

Are You Achieving Your Writing Goals?

“If you didn’t meet some of your goals last year, here are some questions that you need to answer honestly, so that you do this time around.”

Baby Steps; Giant Results!

“The idea is to think big but to start small. You're full of optimism right now and you're setting big goals, but don't lose perspective.” (This article mentions the year 2004, but I think it’s okay to substitute the current year.)

Establish Effective Writing Goals

“The distance between where we are and where we want to be often seems insurmountable. Establishing effective goals can help close that perceived gap. Baby steps. Bird by bird.”

Goals and New Year's Resolutions -- How Copywriters Can Get the Most Out of Them

“Don’t just have three or four points below the main goal. Keep breaking them down until you can’t get any more specific….These specific steps give you the opportunity to take the smallest steps towards meeting your goals.”

How to Get There from Here: The Magic of Goals

"There is no failure in fighting and losing if you get up and fight again. There is only failure in quitting -- in walking away and leaving your dreams to die."

If You Write It, It Will Come - 10 Goal Setting Techniques to Use When Writing Down Your Goals

“You must re-write your goals regularly. Just like we as people change over time, so will our goals. Make it a habit to re-write your goals as often as you can. Take this opportunity to update your goals and make them even more specific. Feel free to rephrase goals you have yet to achieve as sometimes that makes all the difference.”

A Map to Your Goals

“…goal mapping gives our brains a picture of what our goal looks like – and what the steps to achieving that goal look like as well.”

Procrastination and Goals

"Do or do not do." "Dare greatly."

September Goal Setting Workshop

“Goal setting isn’t just about making a New Year’s Resolution that gets forgotten, or looking glumly back at the person you thought you would become. It’s about defining your desires. It’s about creating a map to the person you want to become and the life you want to lead.”

Setting Effective Writing Goals

“…source of sidetracking is the pursuit of someone else's goals or recommendations for ‘success.’"

What goal setting tips and tricks have been most useful for you?

Motivation: WHY

We’ve touched on many writing goals and techniques to meet those goals so far this month. I’ve enjoyed all the blogs. I did get tired just reading Starla’s. That woman has motivation.

With that word in mind, I wanted to take a moment for us to remember why we are setting these writing goal be they seven pages or seven novels we want to complete this year. The why is as important as how.

For me, the why is internal. I come from a long line of storytellers. My grandmothers, my great uncles, they told the most wonderful stories about their lives. I learned early that even the simple things that happen to us could be transformed into a story.

When I learned to read, I fell in love with books. They told me stories about far-away places and took me far beyond our Kansas farm and back again without leaving my room.
It may seem odd, but I never once thought about writing my own stories.

During high school, my best friend was not allowed to watch TV after 8pm. During our lunch hour, I would repeat to her the story and dialogue of the shows she couldn’t watch. I found out I loved to tell stories.

Then a strange thing happened. In college, I was looking for an easy course so I enrolled in Creative Writing. Oh, what fun I had. Near the end of the semester, my teacher stopped me and asked, “Have you ever thought about trying to get published?”
The thought had never crossed my mind, but after that day, it never went away.

That teacher’s words lit a slow fuse in my soul. I got married, had a baby and a career, read voraciously, but never stopped thinking that someday I would write my own book. I think now that I was born to tell stories. I believe it is a gift from God.

It isn’t easy, but I can’t stop doing it.

Why do you want to be a writer?
Where does that desire come from?
When did you know you could put words together and make a story happen?
Who showed you the way?
Who encouraged you?
Who discouraged you?
What do you want your writing to bring you?
Share with us.


Goals, Goals, Goals...oh my!

Dreaming big...I'd like to write 7 books this year for my publisher Black Velvet Seductions, 2 books for Blushing Publications, and 2 books for Red Rose Publishing.

A moment of sanity...Hopefully I can write 5 books for BVS, 2 for BP, and 1 for RRP. (Notice I've even cut back on spelling out the publishers' names.)

If all else fails...I WILL write 4 books for BVS and 2 for BP. RRP may have to wait until 2011.

Another serious goal: Cut back to only 2 blogs and manage to get my blog post here done on time.

How I'm going to accomplish my goals...sticking to a schedule of writing for each publisher. I use Outlook for my calendar and color code my writing deadlines (chapters of books, book reviews I do, final book deadlines). I try real hard NOT to move those deadlines around, but I don't always manage it.

Trash or Treasure

Last week a woman, who works at a senior center close to where I live, 'edited' the trash out of the shelves of books available there for people to read. It wasn't the torn books that went. It was the romance books--over sixty of them. I saw one that the young man who was directed to trash them brought home. It was slick and newish. That the woman couldn't understand that trash to her was hope and family feelings to others is deplorable, but it got me to thinking. And reading.

I went to my treasure closet (lined with shelves like a miniature library) and started reading. Intentionally from first book to the eighth of a famous writer's work. Then, another writer and first to fifth. And, another writer, different genre, first to ninth. All best-selling authors. And what did I discover in my treasure trove? Trash.

Yup. Trash. Are you wondering what kind? One author offered the traditional skirts-over-her-head trash. But the other two did not. Yet...trash. Because, my writerly friends, any over-indulgence of one thing is not very fun. I loved those books. Each. Individually. As they came from wherever I found them. One at a time. Treasure. Reading only one author incessantly, constantly, infuriatingly, is not an experience I want to endure again--even for research. But, what does it mean?

"It means," she whispered, "don't read one after another of your favorite author or non-favorite for that matter." But it also means, you will get very tired of your own work. Your work may not be best-selling, but if you only expose yourself to your own work you will become disenchanted with it. Dissatisfied. Sure you're only putting out drivel. Well fear not, you're probably not nearly as horrible as your fatigued brain thinks.

Put work in perspective. Read a best selling author's work and then go find some of her early works. The difference is amazing. Read some of your earliest work, then some of your recent. I'm sure you'll find the difference is amazing.

So don't just read your own work. Read others. Read a variety. Read for pleasure. Read for research. Read to make grammar smoother by developing your internal ear. Read for hope. Read for style. Read.

Come back to your own work refreshed. Come back and see the treasure in your trash.

A New Day

I was desperate for an idea to blog on today until I read Pat Davids’ blog in the wee hours of January 2nd. Her blog and the article she recommended
Look Ahead With Stoicism—and Optimism
were just what I needed in several ways. They revitalized my attitude and turned those hours into a New Day filled with hope and promise! With apologies to the article’s author, I paraphrase a segment I found inspiring:

“Repair, rebuild, and return to writing with enthusiasm. So many forces exist to pull us away from it. We have to do what we can to hold to our goals in the long run.”

Repair. Rebuild. Return. These three words provoked introspection. They inspired glimmers of hope in the midst of a self-pity party. I ended the year like Old Man Time, weighed down and battered by twelve months of hill and valley with a few health-challenged mountains strewn across the path at the end of the year. Looking at 2009 now, with a fresh prospective, it was a mixed year for me. Some writing goals met –that new web design, completed revisions, several queries and submissions (one editor request still shows promise of a sale)-- mingled with goals not met and rejections from agents and editors. Not a horrible year, just an ordinary one. But I want more than ordinary.

To make 2010 extra-ordinary I will:

1. Repair. Take an honest look at the year past. Note limitations and accomplishments with an eye toward what led to each. Ferret out what nuggets of wisdom are to be found and implement change that will turn limitations into accomplishments.
A. Faithfully keep a record of pages written. It’s sort of like pennies mounting into dollars. Words become pages which become books. Keeping a record reinforces that it IS important.
B. Set Yearly goals:

1. To part with Never to Part

2. Keep the Honour Series submitted to agents and editors at all times;

3. Complete the 5th book in the series

C. At the beginning of each month set goals for the month which are delineated into weekly goals. The smaller the goal the more manageable; the more like to be met. Allow for some room for necessary time adjustments.

January Goals:

Continuing from month to month: Write and post blog. Complete Mission Possible

1st week: Complete scene additions on Never to Part.
2nd week: Finalize scene changes in Never to Part:made necessary by the additions.
3rd week: Complete scenes in Never to Part:if necessary. Resubmit.
4th week: Review historical research and story outline on Honour’s Love. Complete Paris escape route. Review and edit Chapter One

2. Rebuild (Confidence). Examine what I do well. Do this each month adding in what was done well for that month.
A. Note my strong points and the success I have had because of them. Remind myself of them throughout the year to reinforce the positive. Use them with deliberation in future projects.
B. Read currently published books in my genre for market research and enjoyment. Study agent and market information sources to keep abreast of what is selling. Target agents and editors accordingly.
C. Continue to study and hone writing skills choosing a topic according to what crops up as I write.
3. Return (to writing with enthusiasm.) Again paraphrased from the afore mentioned article:
“Do you remember the mission? Do you remember why you began to write, what you meant to do, what writing meant to you when you viewed it from the outside, years ago, and hoped to become part of it?
Years in the writing trenches with early and then mixed success had worn me down. With health issues, beau coup medication, and that pesky thing called “life,” writing faded in importance. It still niggled and nudged; still demanded attention, but I was more and more apathetic about it.

Did I remember the mission? No, I hadn’t thought about it in ages.

Why did I begin write? That first story (and most of the others) demanded it. It gave no choice; it had to be written.

What did I mean to do? I meant to write stories of adventure and romance. I did, no, I still do that.

What did writing mean to me? Writing meant—means-- freedom, it means expression, it means my spirit can fly and soar. Just writing that last sentence lifted my spirit. How can I not return to writing with enthusiasm?

If you are fretting about writing, about unmet goals and writing failures as I was, it is time see the New Day before you filled with hope and promise! Time to look to a glass more than half full. Remember the mission. Recall what writing means to you; what it gives back to you. And Write.


Don’t you just love the new year? I do.To me, January feels like a second chance at making it right. Doing it better. The perfect time to make resolutions and set goals. Like so many others who’ve gone before me, I plan to lose the baby weight (baby is 18 so I think it’s about time, don’t you?) I vow to become a better person. Talk less and listen more. Tell my friends and family more often that I love them. Volunteer. Donate blood. Go, do and see as much as I can. De-clutter my office and my life. Write. Write. And then write some more.

Will this be the year I get that publishing contract? Will I secure another agent? I can hope all I want but nothing will ever happen unless I write. Plain and simple I have to put my fingers on the keyboard to breathe life into the words filling my brain and overflowing from my heart. Words that are meaningless unless I do something constructive with them. Recently, my critique partners extraordinaire and I set goals for the year. We have lofty plans and dreams, for ourselves and for each other.

What are your writing related dreams and plans? Do you want to enter more contests? Complete that first or subsequent manuscript? Join a critique group or additional writing group? Attend a conference or workshop? Take an online writing class? Create a webpage? Submit to an agent or editor? All positive steps toward reaching your writing goals. I find it helps to write down your goals and post them where you can see them every day. Use them to fuel your desires. Write down where you want to see yourself next year when January rolls around because we all know that the older we get the faster time flies. It’s January now. Think of this as your second chance to make it right. Do it better. Do something positive for your writing career. Do something positive for yourself.

My goals: See above list and I also plan to finish two more 100,000 word manuscripts bringing my completed total to six. Okay, I’ve posted my goals and resolutions so now it’s time to post yours. Make it public. Make it real. Make it happen. Take advantage of your second chance.


Looking ahead with optimism

I will admit it. I wasn't as keen on seeing this new decade as I should have been. My bad!

I should be dancing with joy to see what this new year and new decade bring. I had my pity party and now it's time to buck up and smell the roses or whatever that butterfly is into.

I wrote six pages today not counting this blog. That's a good day for me. Okay, I'll never equal Starla for productivity but I can improve on what "I"get done.

My goals this year are pretty simple. I will finish my third Amish book by the end of this month by writing 8 pages a day instead of my usual 2 to 4. Where do I get the extra time? No TV starting at eight o'clock at night instead of shutting off the boob tube at ten.

I will develop two new proposals by the end of March and get them in the mail. If they are accepted, I'll finish two books in 2010 by writing 3-4 pages a day on the days I don't go into work. In addition, I'll polish and resubmit a third book that has been languishing under the bed.

While I'm under there I'll break down and vacuum, too. (Cleaning house remains a low priority. Do you think the humane society would frown on my tying a dust rag to my dog's tail? I could use the help and she wags it everywhere anyway.)

So what if I have to get a job again. I'm lucky I found a job. I will be a full time writer again someday. I may have missed the brass ring this year, but it is still out there. If I don't get off the horse, it will come around again.

For a great look at what this country needs to recover, check out the article below. I was deeply moved by it.