Miraya Engelage is the host of The Tea Grannies writing podcast alongside author Elise Volkman and is a graduate of SFU’s The Writers Studio. She hosts a monthly writing group with her fellow alumni, and is currently querying her fantasy romance novel.
Nothing strikes fear into our writerly hearts more than a deadline. If you’re anything like me, you can’t get your work done without one. As writers, we’re quite good at saying we want to be published one day. We want to write a story that resonates with readers, one that gives them all the feels, one that will be talked about and shared for years to come. So why are we so terrible at getting it done?
Setting goals is intimidating, there’s no way around it. Sitting down with your hopes and dreams, strengths and weaknesses, not to mention your fears — it’s not for the faint of heart. Once you set the deadline, the countdown is on for stress, anxiety, and guilt. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Why is setting goals important? It’s easy to mumble our way through an answer, but the truth is, it forces us to confront what we really want. It’s easy to say, “I want to be published one day.” But sitting down to determine the tangible steps required to get there can make even a seasoned writer a bit queasy.
Exploring and deciding on your overall goals is the first step. These can and will change over time. Nothing you choose is set in stone! For example, your major goal is to get published. That’s amazing! Now you need to break it down. Traditional or self publishing? Both have their positives and negatives. What do you need to do to have your draft ready? If you’re going traditional, you’ll need a query letter and synopsis. Self publishing? You’ll need to consider editors, cover designers, and what platforms you’d like to work with. See how quickly it all adds up to be an endless, overwhelming group of tasks?
My favourite strategy to combat this is to break things down into manageable steps. Twelve week plans are an effective way to do this. The idea behind the twelve week plan is that it gives you enough time to make a significant amount of progress toward a goal, but the deadlines are not so far away that it’s easy to abandon the whole thing. You generally know what’s coming up in your life in the next twelve weeks, whether it’s work deadlines, holidays, birthdays, etc. Now you can build your writing goals into your life, instead of trying to cram it into whatever spare time you have.
Next, we have to talk about rewards. Have you ever told yourself if you just make it through the workday, you’ll get takeout? Or if you finish this school project, you can binge your favourite show? Rewards work for a reason: they give you the motivation to push through, even if you’re having a hard time. They don’t need to be expensive or time-consuming, but pick things that you don’t regularly do for yourself. Then, add one to each step of your twelve week plan.
12 Week Plan Example:
Start date: January 1st, 2022
End date: March 26th, 2022
Finish current draft by January 15th — reward: new books
Beta read friend’s manuscript by January 31st — reward: Netflix and takeout
Have first round of edits complete by February 1st — reward: dinner out
Send draft to beta readers by February 5th — reward: it’s done!
Review beta reader feedback by March 15th — reward: glass of wine & bubble bath
Complete list of edits by March 26th — reward: movie night
Look at that! In 12 weeks, you’ve finished a draft, workshopped a manuscript, finished an editing pass, sent it to beta readers, received feedback, and you’re ready for a second round of edits. And you had some awesome self care along the way. What’s not to like?
If you fail to meet your goals, don’t beat yourself up. Ask yourself why you failed. Did you overload your schedule? Overestimate how many words you could write in a day? Take a step back and adjust your goals to be more realistic for you. You want to find the right balance between accomplishing your goals and being gentle enough with yourself that you don’t burn out. It may take a few tries, but you’ll figure it out!
That’s another positive of the 12 Week Plan — you can adjust it as you go. Can’t make that first round of edits because life got in the way? Change the due date. They’re your goals. Make them work for you!
Just remember, you’ll be someone’s favourite author one day, so do yourself a favour and keep on writing.
A huge thank you to Miraya for providing this blog post! I highly recommend the Tea Grannies podcast, especially for those looking to traditionally publish.