Forget the Resolutions and Set Goals Instead

The past month has been a very busy one for me which is very good indeed. I started ghostwriting a blog on luxury sports car which has brought in some additional income and a regular client has been providing me with some regular work as well which brings me to the topic of this post. Now that we have passed the holidays and entered 2011, many of you are probably thinking about making New Year’s resolutions. The question is: when is the last time you made a New Year’s Resolution you kept?

Breaking Resolutions Causes Anger and Frustration

At one time I used to have at least one New Year’s Resolution every year, and it was usually to lose weight. It worked for a while but then I started slacking off and lost track of what I had intended to do. The result? I became angry and frustrated with myself, so I quit even trying.

The Process of Goal Setting

As writers there are things we need to do on a regular basis and those things should not be based upon the coming of a New Year but should be things we do every single day. This year instead of attempting to create New Year’s resolutions you will not be able to keep anyway (probably because you set your sights too high), define some achievable goals.

What do I mean by “achievable goals”? Many people make the mistake of setting their sights too high. As writers that might include any number of the following:

  • Seeing your book in print when you don’t even have a publisher yet.
  • Finishing the novel you haven’t started.
  • Finding an agent or publisher for the novel you haven’t finished.
  • Doubling your income from 2010.
  • Expecting to double your current freelancing fees.

The key is to set short-term goals and move forward from there. For instance, you might set a goal of increasing your freelance rates by $.20 a word by the end of the year or finishing your novel so you can polish it by the end of the year–then look for a publisher and/or agent. When you set small goals that are easier to achieve, you do not suffer the frustration that is common when you set your sights too high and fail.

Be Consistent in Your Efforts

Another problem that is common with people in all walks of life is lack of consistency. This is essential no matter what type of job you do, but it is even more important for writers because it is so easy for us to give up when we don’t reach the level of success we expected. Writing is a very competitive field and as such we have to be in tune with what is going on and never lose sight of our goals. Unless you work consistently someone else will obtain what you were seeking to achieve.

Strive for Perfection

One of the most important things a writer can do is always work toward achieving perfection. You should never send a manuscript to anyone unless it is as perfect as you can make it. Don’t rely on spell check or grammar check but take the time to read yourself and even ask someone else (someone who can give an objective analysis) to read it as well. Polish everything you write until it shines before you send it to a publisher, agent or editor.  There is no easier way to kill your chances of publication than to send a manuscript that is full of spelling and grammatical errors.


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cilla Clare
    Jan 03, 2011 @ 07:55:15

    Good advice! In fact, I was thinking about the same thing when I wrote this blog post yesterday –

    All we can do is continue to strive towards our goals.


    • Brenda Coxe
      Jan 03, 2011 @ 14:12:25

      That’s the truth. I plan to make this the year I accomplish more than just ghostwriting articles and really strive toward working on my fiction and getting it ready for publication. At the same time I don’t plan to rush into it and just self-publish. That is not what I want to do though I am considering e-publishing.


  2. CW64
    Jan 03, 2011 @ 13:51:52

    All of this is GREAT advice. Unfortunately, too many writers do not follow this path, and that’s a real shame. If so many weren’t so delirious and foolhardy, such advice would have to be shared in the first place.

    That comes back to the vast majority of self-publishers as well. Did the industry provide these accesses to such writers or did the said writers create it themselves? Was it the chicken or the egg? It’s interesting how self-publishing is flourishing more now than ever before–so many writers want to get published! Still, self-publishing would allow a greater degree of success if writers were to proceed carefully. Success is what you make it!

    Thanks for sharing!


    • Brenda Coxe
      Jan 03, 2011 @ 14:21:11

      There has always been the option for self-publishing but the Internet has made it easier and opened up the opportunity for vanity and subsidy publishers to take advantage of unpublished writers. Perhaps these opportunities have caused the increase in the number of vanity publishers because as more unpublished writers pay exorbitant fees just to see their name on a book, the need arises for more vendors to meet the need. This in turn gives self-publishing a bad name, one they will never overcome until those who cannot or are not willing to wait for a traditional publisher take the time to polish their work to perfection and learn what the readers want.


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  4. Nancy
    Jan 04, 2011 @ 10:48:40

    …really good post, Brenda. You make some excellent points. I have never made New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I prefer to work with short term goals. One reason is that I am able to re-order and modify them, as I work through them, throwing out what isn’t working (similar to the re-writing process).

    You have given me a lot to think about here. Striving for perfection is not one of my problems, but being consistent is…so it’s something I need to work on.

    In ref. to: “self-publishing would allow a greater degree of success if writers were to proceed carefully….those who cannot or are not willing to wait for a traditional publisher take the time to polish their work to perfection and learn what the readers want.”

    Glad you brought this up. This is something else I’ve been thinking a lot about lately…especially ebooks.


    • Brenda Coxe
      Jan 04, 2011 @ 13:53:31

      Nancy, I am glad you found the post helpful. I will say, however, I am not a supporter of self-publishing by any means. The writers’ conferences I have attended say you should only self-publish under 2 conditions: you are writing in a niche market that no traditional publisher will buy or you have tried to find a publisher or agent and really believe in your work, the latter of which means honest effort of at least 100 publishers and agents. I mentioned self-publishing because many unpublished writers (I am still working on that myself) are in a big hurry to be published and see their names in print and don’t take the time and effort to polish their work to perfection–this is why self-publishing still has the stigma it does.

      As for e-publishing, I am considering that route myself, but you don’t have to self-publish. There are many, many royalty-paying e-publishers–I once did a search and came up with over 10 pages of results. While they don’t pay advances as a royalty-paying traditional publisher does, you don’t have to invest in someone to do your art work and design either, something that doesn’t appeal to me since I’m not artistic in that respect.


  5. MyLiteraryCoach
    Jan 04, 2011 @ 21:45:03

    Brenda Coxe: Your reply to Nancy is nicely stated and, I think, captures the sentiments of many in book publishing. Thank you. Tim


  6. CW64
    Jan 05, 2011 @ 21:13:48

    >>In ref. to: “self-publishing would allow a greater degree of success if writers were to proceed carefully….those who cannot or are not willing to wait for a traditional publisher take the time to polish their work to perfection and learn what the readers want.”<<

    This is my point exactly. Thank you.

    Self-publishing shouldn't be an option, but if it is, responsible and professional behavior is still important. Self-publishing is NOT a free tick to slack off on one's performance. Professionalism should ALWAYS be maintained, otherwise the writer is ultimately committing suicide.

    I am majorly against self-publishing as well, but I understand it has its particular purposes. How it is handled is in the hands of the writers.


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