Seven Habits of Highly Effective Authors: Habit Four

by Tami Dane on June 14th, 2010
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Hello again! I hope you’re enjoying this series. Please, if you have questions or comments, don’t be afraid to post them.

Ready to move on to habit number 4?

Highly Effective Authors set realistic goals and know how to reach them.

When I was just starting out, I was clueless about publishing. I’m not ashamed of that fact. I think I’m in the majority, at least that’s my opinion, based on the comments I’ve heard from new writers. How many times have I heard, “If they’ll publish this crap, anyone can get published.” Or “This is garbage. I should write a book. At least mine’ll be great.” I’m not saying I thought the published books I read were crap. Quite the opposite. But I did think that it would be fairly easy to get a book published. After all, everyone who’d read everything I’d written loooooved it, including my high school creative writing teacher (Hey, don’t laugh. Those nuns were tough!)

I was going to be an overnight success.

Heh. Righttttt.

So, my first goal (selling to a major house in one year and making the NY Times list) wasn’t exactly realistic. Anyone want to tell me what’s wrong with that goal, besides the fact that it was close to impossible to achieve?

Going back to day two, Highly Effective Authors know the business side of publishing. They realize the submission process usually involves months and months of waiting. And because of their knowledge, they are able to set themselves up with daily, weekly, monthly and annual goals that are both achievable, aggressive…but most importantly, under their personal control (and yes, this is what was wrong with that first goal).

Highly Effective Authors treat their writing career as a business. As entrepreneurs, they appreciate the need for long and short term goals, realizing those small, well-planned steps will lead them in the right direction a lot more quickly than huge leaps this way and that. And they also understand the smaller successes make it easier to weather the rejection storm that’s very likely coming their way.

Highly Effective Authors also possess a certain single-minded determination to reach those goals, no matter what hellish situation real life throws their way. Not that I’m saying anyone should neglect their kids, their sick grandma, or their day jobs–but it’s true. The ones that really want it bad, seem to somehow juggle a lot of obligations.

Okay, so now that we’ve covered the general gist of today’s habit, how does one apply it to him/herself?

A. Begin by sitting down and thinking realistically about what aspects of your writing career you can control. Helpful hint: response times to submissions and acceptance/rejections are outside of your control. Bribery doesn’t work.

B. Decide where you want to be by next year at this time (For instance, “I’ll have three books completed and submitted to ten editors/agents by the start of September” or “I’ll have one book completed and submitted to my A-list agents by December”). Be as specific as possible.

C. Determine what steps you need to reach that goal. (Three books equals 1200 pages. That’s 100 pages a month, plus time for editing/polishing. First book edited by December and submitted to the first five editors by January 1.).

D. Break down those steps into manageable daily goals, taking into account some down time–days you won’t be writing, like holidays, weekends, whatever. (30 pages written per week, six days a week, five pages a day)

E. (This one’s the most important) Make the commitment to meeting those goals every day.

F. Finally, celebrate every time you meet those goals. Did you meet your daily page count? Have some chocolate. Or enjoy some time playing on the Divas. Did you finish a book? Treat yourself to a pedicure or a dinner out with someone special. Select whatever rewards that’ll keep you going when the temptation to let a goal slip hits you. Believe me, it will.

Do you want to be published so bad it burns in your gut? If so, you’re half way there. Set those goals and work, work, work.

See you next time. I’ll give you a little hint of what’s next. Habit 5’s a four-letter word.

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Categories: writing

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