Setting Goals

One of the things I’ve noticed with a lot of writers, myself included, is that all too often we don’t set hard goals for ourselves. We have the best of intentions. We’re going to finish that book or story we’ve been working on. We’re going to submit to X-number of markets and to to Y-number of conventions. Some of us even set word count goals. We’re good about sticking to these for a bit and then, slowly but surely, those goals begin to slip and we fall back into the old habits.

Over the past nine months, I’ve been working hard to set and keep certain writing-related goals. As a result, my productivity has increased and, along with it, my sales. Both are very good things. But it has also been difficult, especially because there have been a number of external forces doing their best to keep me not only from meeting my writing goals but my work goals as well. So the goals sometimes get pushed back — but only temporarily. And, more importantly, now that life seems to finally be getting back to normal (knocks on wood), I can see the light at the end of the tunnel on work goals and that means the writing goals will be able to fall into place as well.

So, what are my writing goals?

I almost hate to put them down because, sure as I do, something is going to happen that will throw a wrench in the works. However, I’ve learned something else the last few months. If I share my goals and let other people help hold me accountable for them, I do tend to get back on track quicker than when it was just me. It’s not quite as easy to procrastinate when people are asking what the status is on a certain project.

My first goal is to finish Hunter’s Pride, the third book in the Hunter’s Moon series written under the Ellie Ferguson pen name. Pride is currently 3/4 finished and should be going out to beta readers and my editor in a week or so. This book is a bit different from the others in the series and that’s made it both more difficult and more fun to write.

After that is the sf/space opera I’ve been snippeting here. My best guess on it is that it is 2/3 finished. Yes, I’m working on them at the same time and, yes, there is some mental whiplash but so far it is working. This particular project is the one that has me scratching my head though. I’m torn between putting it out on my own or through NRP. Another part, the fangirl part, wants to submit it to Baen and take my chances there. So, I’m probably going to ask my mentor and a few others what they think when I finish the rough draft. There are pros and cons to both approaches but, as I’ve said here and on Mad Genius Club many times, Baen is the only traditional publisher I’d consider right now. The others I’m watching to see how they adapt to the change in market.

I estimate the space opera will be finished in another month to six weeks.

After that, I will probably go back to writing something under the pen name. There is a real mental switch I throw between writing as Ellie and writing as myself. (Hey, I’m a writer. I’m allowed to be a bit weird.) Besides, my editor — more precisely, the treasurer for NRP who also happens to be her husband — wants me to do a follow-up to Wedding Bell Blues. WBB was written basically on a dare and has been both the bane and the blessing of my writing life. It proved to me that I can write outside the sf/f genres I had been doing and tossing under my bed for years. It also proved that I could make good money as a writer. But romantic suspense with a touch of humor was a stretch for me when I first did it. However, I know I can do it now. It’s just putting butt in chair and doing it.

The problem comes in with deciding if I want this third book in the year’s goal to a true sequel to WBB or just a “related” book. My gut feeling right now is to make it a “related” book where the lead characters from WBB are walk-ons only and not the main characters in this new work. I even have the first 100 pages or so of something already written than could be adapted. Yes, one of those popcorn kittens might actually find a home with this.

The final book I’d like to finish before the end of the year is the follow-up to Nocturnal Interlude. For one thing, I have already been threatened with bodily harm if I don’t bring the next book out soon. For another, I want to write this book. This whole series has been a project of my heart. It is the one series that, while it sometimes throws me for a loop as I write the books, it isn’t a chore to write. That’s not to say I didn’t fight Interlude more than the other titles in the series. I did. But that was because I didn’t want to follow my gut on it and that is never smart. I’m starting to understand that there are times I just have to trust myself and my muse and quit second-guessing everything as I write.

I can hear some of you thinking I’ve lost my mind. After all, I’m proposing writing somewhere between 300k-400k words this year. When you put it that way, it does appear to be a daunting task. However, when I have a plan and I have a feel for a book, it is very doable. In the last two and a half weeks, I’ve written 57k words on Hunter’s Pride in only a few hours a day.  A lot of it has been written in waiting rooms and other places that aren’t my normal workspace. Then there’s the fact that I am 65k words into the space opera. Those are huge chunks out of my goal already.

More importantly, I’ve discovered that doing this blog daily has helped my word count as well. It is as though it has become the jump start to my day. I can do a 1k word post in half an hour or so — it depends on how many interruptions I have and how often I have to get up to let the dog in/out/in and get more coffee.

So, what is my standard day? I get up, pry the eyes open, check the news — after getting coffee — and then do my post. The next few hours are spent on work for NRP. Then I sit down to write. Around five (sometimes sooner depending on housework needed, errands to run, etc), I stop for the day and spend the evening with family. After everyone goes to bed, I write or edit for another hour or so. I haven’t changed my sleep patterns nor have I given anything up. In fact, I am doing more and getting more accomplished by setting goals and routines.

Here’s crossing my fingers to hope I can keep up with it.



  1. I am in the same position– last year was a bad writing year for me. I was sick a lot. This year, I lost three weeks of January for the same reason. Still I am taking a workshop and editing one novel, which I hope to have finished soon. And then, I am writing again–

  2. I forget if it was Deming or Drucker who said something like ‘You can’t inspect quality into your product, but you can use measurements of your process to improve the process.’

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