Simple Goal Setting for 2020

The New Year is just hours away, and I wanted to talk about setting goals. I know, again, lots of blogs and articles appear today on this very subject. I apologize and hope my thoughts are of value and perhaps freeing.

Goal setting for me gets complicated. It’s supposed to help set a course and give direction. But for me, goal setting ties me up in knots, because I can’t keep it simple. Which means I set myself up for failure before I begin.

As I’ve said in previous posts, I’m a list maker and they can get quite long and exhausting. Unfortunately, that is the way I approach goals. If three goals are good six is better and four hundred nineteen are optimum.  I exaggerate. Well, maybe a bit.

Let me explain. I can’t make myself settle for a few specific goals. I must grab as many as I can, like a child who doesn’t want to share any toys. They fall out of my hands and into the hole of failure. Can any of you relate?

This year I want to strive to keep my goals simple: write, social media and sell books. Only three. Sounds reasonable, right?

Now, I’ll break those down into more specific goals. Again, my list-making gene comes into play and I must be careful not to micromanage each goal.

Writing words:

  • Write 1,000 words on my novel a day.
  • Write two blogs a week.
  • Write one guest blog a month.

And then take my hands off the keys before I add write five articles a week and fifteen devotionals a month. Some writers can do all these additional things handily. I am not one of them.

Social media:

Next, I’ll break down social media into manageable bites. I have a marketing person who does much of this, but I still need to interact personally on social media. Overthinking content makes this a hard area for me. (An excellent idea for another post.) I often place my hands on my keys and can’t think of anything earth-shattering to post, so I post nothing. When I post a picture of my elderly mom or share, I’m ill that often produces more responses than clever prose. This year I want to try to be more fun and spontaneous and see if that doesn’t promote more interaction.

Book Sales:

Sell books is a large category with lots of sub-goals. I need to decide which book events or local festivals I want to devote Saturdays to and add them to my calendar now.  Find book clubs, talk to bookstores about book signings. (There aren’t that many in my area anymore.) Decide where I’ll invest my money online to make sales and look for podcasts and radio opportunities. And write a compelling newsletter every month that keeps my readers eager for my next book.

Few goals still take time

I think even these simple goals will take more time than I expect so I’m going to tie my hands behind my back least I’m tempted to add writing three novels at once while editing four others.

I’ll let you know if I kept it simple in 2020. I’d like to know your thoughts on goals setting and what you hope to accomplish this year.

May you have a productive writerly 2020, my friends.

 

Navigating Submission Guideline

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Submitting to publications is daunting. And if done wrong discouraging. Some of the biggest mistakes for novices are not following basic submission guidelines. Whether you are submitting to a magazine, periodical, blog, book publisher or agent there are basic guidelines everyone needs to know and follow.

We’ve all heard over and over read the submission guidelines before querying a publication. For my purposes today, I am assuming you are doing that.

Sometimes the instructions can be confusing and we wonder if we can do things differently. The answer is a resounding NO! NO! NO!

Your words will get delegated to the bottom of a very large slush pile or deleted.

Attachments

Send your manuscript as an attachment. This means do not put your manuscript in the body of the email. There is usually a paperclip icon or an attach button somewhere in your email template. Click that. Your computer files will pop up. Pick the file you which to attach. Once it is in the box for sending click to open button and it will transfer your file as an attachment to your email.

This also goes for bios and photos.  If it says attach don’t place them in the body of the email. Once they are in the body it is hard to extract them and place them where they are needed on a web page or magazine page. Jpegs for photos and book covers are the easiest to work with. Unless the contact asks for a press release, one sheet or other document that has the photos and bios on the same page send each item separately as an attachment.

Links

If the publisher wants links to your work or social media find the web address for your links and place them where the publisher has requested. Send your URL. Make sure the links work. If you have samples of your writing not on a website. Send samples as attachments.

Correctly title attachments

I may have an article title CC V2. If I send it to a publisher with this title it will never see the light of day. Because that title means nothing to them. But if I rename that file Coffee Caper by Cindy Huff or Flash Fiction Coffee Caper or Cindy Huff Coffee Caper FF it makes it a lot easier for the editor to find my submission in the sea of other manuscripts.

Often publisher’s guidelines state exactly how they want your attached manuscript labeled. Be sure you rename to before attaching and pressing the send button.

Photo sizes

If you are attaching photos, book covers or head shots be sure to check the size requested. Do your best to provide exactly what they needed. A too large photo has to be resized. A too small photo may not be usable if it must be enlarged. The pixilation becomes blurred as it is resized.

Formatting

Most often the formatting of a manuscript of any kind is Times New Roman 12 point font, double spaced. Articles are left margin justified (no indenting) with two spaces between paragraphs. Fiction is first line left justified for first line of chapters while all other paragraphs are indented (Not space bar five times) with tab set at 0.5. Margins all around should be 1.0 all around except a book manuscript where the first page is 3 inches from the top.

Check the publisher’s style guide for specific formatting instructions.

Submitting directly on websites

Some websites such as Chicken Soup for the Soul have a specific page for submissions on their website.  You fill our your personal information and cut and paste your article into the space provided. Some have you attach your manuscript on to their form. If a publisher has a submission page never send your story via email.  They will delete it without reading it.

If you don’t follow the directions provided in the guidelines to the letter your work won’t even be read.

Word count

If the publisher requests 600 words don’t send 601. Often, I have read in the Q & A section of many publisher’s guidelines there is always the question will you take a manuscript that is longer than your acceptable word count. And with rare exceptions it is usually a resounding NO. Be sure your offering doesn’t exceed the word count.

Deadline

Never send anything after the deadline. You are wasting your time and not being professional. Unless the publisher gave you the assignment and you have their permission to submit late, don’t do it. There are periodicals and publishers who only take submissions during specific months. If that submission period for example falls between April and July. Don’t send anything in early either.

Submitting reworked pieces

Some publications will allow you to remove a submission and replace it with a newer version. Don’t even think about changing out your submission unless it is stated in the instructions.

SASE and contact info

Few publications ask for a self-addressed stamped envelope anymore. But if you need to submit by snail mail be sure you include an envelope with appropriate postage for your piece.

Electronic submissions must have your name, email and phone number in the cover letter or wherever the editor requests it be placed. If you fail to do this your words will be rejected because they have no way to contact you. And no they aren’t going to search the web for your identity because they must buy your book. It will never happen.

hook-881443_640Double check

Before you press the send button, or seal the envelope be sure you have followed every step laid out on the website.  Only after you are confident you haven’t missed anything should you press submit or lick the envelope.

A final thought

Whether you are writing for a magazine with a huge subscriber base or a friend’s blog always be professional when submitting. It will make the editor or blog hosts job so much easier.  And the possibility of being published is much greater.

What’s the most confusing thing you have found in submission guidelines?

 

 

 

Speedbo: More than A Monthly Goal Challenge

Speedbo participant

In the midst of working, helping with grandchildren and meeting the needs of my elderly parents I embarked on an adventure I almost skipped. I joined Speedbo for the month of March.

Speedbo ended yesterday. For those of you who missed my blog explaining Speedbo let me catch you up. Speedbo is sponsored by Seekerville. You sign up to accomplish one or more writing goals during the 31 days of March. Unlike NANOWRIMO you can devote the month to editing rather than just write. What you write and how you want to reach your goals is up to you. Send your goals to Seekerville and get started.

My goal

I wanted to write a new novel rough draft. I missed my 62,000 word goal by 1200 words. My goal was foremost about writing daily and word count was a great marker. Two thousand words a day no matter what. Matter did interrupt a few days, and I made most of that up by going over my word count other days. Technically, I wrote four new blogs during the month so my total word count for the month exceeded 62,000. But this word count made me a little shy of a completed rough draft but closer than I have ever gotten in a 31 day time frame. I am so excited to look back at all the interruptions and realize I still did it.

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What I learned.

  • I can write any time of day. I don’t just need to write in the morning. Being a morning person I tend to lose momentum in the creative department as the day lengthens. A few days this month my most creative times were evenings.
  • I discovered I can write in noise. My 2 year old granddaughter has developed a shriek lately that is like chalk on a blackboard. When I’m in the zone screechy two-year olds and loud giggles don’t reach my conscience mind.
  • Putting butt in chair can become a bigger inspiration than any muse or word prompt when you have a deadline. Every day I sat at my laptop and wrote. I could feel the inspirational parts rise out of the mess of words.
  • Even under pressure my characters still tell me what to write. I think they might be a bit pushier under pressure.
  • Scriviner software makes writing a manuscript easier. I chose to write by scenes rather than chapters. Now I can rearrange and expand on them and place them in the order I want in the editing process.
  • I still got reading in even in the midst of this self-imposed deadline. I read fewer books but I found the time.
  • I still got blogs and devotions written. Doing those helped stimulate my brain when it got numb from writing my novel draft.
  • Less TV is a good thing. There are times my family has games shows and reruns on that can draw you to sit and rest your work-weary mind. Choosing to write instead got my word count done.

What I knew before I started

  • I will work hard to meet a deadline. I work better with a deadline. My writing muse seems to appear more easily under pressure.
  • I get the other important things done because I make time each day for those things.
  • Family will always come first with or without a deadline.
  • Having an accountability partner only added to my determination to succeed. I’d acquired a new accountability partner at the beginning of the year. Knowing I had to report my progress every week already had me fired up about writing.

Conclusion

I will do Speedbo again in the future; it is life changing. Now I hope the habit is embedded in my DNA. So I will continue creating my own deadlines to see if I can maintain momentum throughout the rest of 2015.

Have you ever done Speedbo or NANOWRIMO or anything like them?

 

 

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