It’s October, my absolute favorite month of the year because there’s a lot to celebrate. My birthday would be one. I will turn 47 on October 3rd and then, on the 14th, my husband and I will celebrate 24 years of marriage! But I also love this month because it’s when we plan a yearly trip out of Florida to get a taste of fall in a place where the temperature hovers closer to 60 degrees than 100 degrees. This year that place is Chattonooga, Tennessee. I live for these annual long weekends filled with hot apple cider and hikes through forests patchworked with changing leaves. And then there are all the horror movies and books to read---and of course, Halloween, yay!
As I’m already in a good mood and feeling chatty, it seems like a good month to start blogging again—something I haven’t done for a long, long time. I’ve spent the better part of the last three years really doing a deep dive into educating myself on writing and on finishing up a young adult novel that was way out of my ability level and comfort zone when I first started it. Now, I’m happy to report that I finally finished that project over this past summer and am currently out on submission with it. So, I’m on to new projects (an adult psychological suspense thriller and a middle grade horror novel) and am grounded enough in what I’m doing to add blogging back in.
Since it’s the beginning of the month and I’m giving a presentation on making writerly goals with my fellow writers, Christina Farley and Vivi Barnes later this month, I’d like to make my first blog post back about goals as well. Part of my education these past three years has been about learning how to focus my energies in the most effective ways so that I can optimize what I get done. Full disclosure: my life right now is hectic. I spend nearly four hours commuting each day to get my daughter to and from her magnet art high school—this is the fourth and final year—and I spend much of the rest of the day homeschooling my middle schooler. Also, the oldest daughter has started a business taking photos for rock bands at local concerts as well as doing additional photo shoots. She doesn’t have a license yet, so the driving is down to my husband and me. Which means that basically, I spend every weekend night driving to concerts in bars and concert halls all over central Florida and many weekday afternoons ferrying her to photoshoots when I’m not taking my homeschooled daughter to her activities. My writing has to be meticulously scheduled and much of it’s done in my car, at various McDonalds and Barnes and Noble stores around Tampa, St. Pete, and Orlando. The same goes for dates with my husband, household chores/projects, and working out. So, setting goals and breaking them down into bite-sized bits is something I have spent a lot of time on.
Here’s how I do it:
Step One: Make yearly goals.
Step Two: Break those goals into manageable big steps or milestones.
Step Three: Divide the year into four quarters then place those milestones into one of the four quarters.
Step Four: Create monthly goals.
Step Five: Break those goals into weekly steps/milestones.
Step Six: Write daily to do’s based on my weekly/monthly goals.
Step Seven: Evaluate and journal my progress daily, weekly, and monthly.
Step Eight: Revise goals/milestones/steps where I need to.
I break my goals into categories as well. They fall under professional goals, educational goals, relationship goals (covers both professional relationships and personal), health goals (both physical and mental), and family/household goals. Also, every goal I choose has to be something I can control and that isn’t dependent on someone else. For example, getting a publishing house to buy the book I’ve got out on sub isn’t a goal. It is a wish, but I can’t write it down as something I’ll be able to accomplish.
Because this blog focuses on my writing and books the most, every month I’m going to post my goals for education and profession. So for October, here they are:
Reach 51k on current WIP.
Plot out all of my part 2 scenes for WIP.
Type up a character list and profiles for each one for Middle Grade Project.
Do research on object and household hauntings, psychic kids, and my setting for the middle grade project and organize them into a folder.
Brainstorm the basic story arc of the middle grade project.
Prepare for presentations for conference this month.
Brainstorm a list of idea inspirations to present to two co-writers for a project we plan to do together next year and bring to our October meeting.
Blog 1 time per week.
Take at least 3 images and post on Instagram every week this month.
Book study this month (I pick a book to study in depth each month): The Institute by Stephen King.
Read 5 books this month.
Complete a Masterclass: Udemy course on Book trailer creation.
Listen to at least one professional podcast per week.
In addition to my goals, I always prepare a To-Read Pile for the month. Here’s mine for October:
The Institute by Stephen King
The Outsider by Stephen King
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chobosky (?) This is my free choice book and only gets added to the pile for sure when I’ve finished the others.
I’ll break down my reading list by week and then make a note of how many pages I need to read each day to stay on track. From there, the other goals will get broken down by week. I’ll take my word count goal and break it down to daily smaller ones. I’ll use Pacemaker Press to track my schedule and progress. Currently, I try to only write on weekdays, 1.5k daily. At the end of the month I’ll post my progress so you can see how well I do.
How about you? Are you a goal setter or do you prefer to wing it? What is your schedule like? Do you find it hard to find time to write too? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.