Set Your Goals.

My aim is always to write a novel in a year though things never quite work out like that. During the actual writing stage, I’ve always keep a record of my daily word count, but this year I started writing the latest book on January 1st. An excellent opportunity to get myself organised and set goals for the whole year.

MAKE YOUR GOALS SMART

SmartAdopting the SMART principle, a realistic daily word count for me is around 500 words. Allowing for life (holidays, social events etc) getting in the way as it so frequently does, I’ve set myself a target of 2,500 words a week – 10, 000 a month, which meant I should be able to write a first draft in 9 months which should be easily doable. True, that only gives me 3 months to redraft, get feedback and publish – a tall order, but I’ll deal with that when I get there!

Many of my friends write 2-3,000 words a day. That may well be possible if you have already spent weeks, even months drafting a detailed plan and much of the time-consuming research, but that’s not the way I work. I know my main characters – tour manager, Fiona Mason and MI6 chief, Peter Montgomery-Jones – the country where I set the story and have some idea of its theme and where I want to end up. For me, the fun is writing to find out what happens. Yes – it means I write slowly, frequenly discarding whole passages when a better idea comes along and I need to research as I go along, but after 9 completed novels, 6 of which are published, it’s the way I work best.

MARKETING GOALS

Equally important are marketing goals BUT it is vital to decide exactly what you want to achieve. Keeping in mind that much of marketing is about promoting yourself – getting yourself noticed – not selling books.

Adopting the SMART principle again, time and technical prowess (or in my case, lack of it) restricts my options of what it is practical for me do.

social media – from Twitter to Pinterest there are so many ways to networkbut it’s better to do a limited number well than attempt to spread yourself too thinly. I plan to concentrate on:

  • blogBlogI don’t have time to blog more than once a month
  • Facebook – post on my Crime Writer Author page at least once a week and occasionally on some of the various Facebook groups I belong to.
  • Goodreads
  • Guest blogs, blog tours etc

Being active in these areas means that you need to read other people’s blogs and posts and comment meaningfully on them, all of which takes time but can be valuable. NB – posting may be fun but it can become very time consuming, not to say an excuse to put off actual writing but is probably one of the least effective ways to actually sell books.

  • talks – often result in sales of physical books. Working as a cruise lecturer, I sometimes see a spike in my eBook sales when I return home.
  • Press releases and interviews – obviouslyimportant around the time of a book launch
  • Book promotions – I use Kindle select and space them out through the year.
  • Marketing Project – each month, I’m planning on getting to grips with a larger one-off project:- January – website overhaul; Feb – putting my latest book (published as an eBook at the end of last year) into Createspace to publish it as a paperback; March – looking in Audible with a view to publishing an audio version of one of my books.

KEEPING TRACK

Weekly record

I’ve bought a diary with the all the days of the week down the left hand page – where I write down the total number of words in the novel so far and the day’s word count plus a tick or cross down the right side of the page as a quick guide to whether or not I’m achieving my target.

The right hand page is blank and here I write down everything I’ve done to meet my marketing goals.

The Year’s Plan

I have drawn up a table in word (some people prefer an excel spreadsheet) listing all my goals which I can record or tick off at the end of each month.

Jan Feb Mar
WRITING GOALS
Word count 10,335 words
Courses / books on writing Forensic Science Course Writers Holiday
MARKETING GOALS
Project Optimise website Createspace Audible
Blog Self-Marketing Setting Goals
Blog comment 1
Facebook posts 5
Speaker clubs Interview arranged

My writing goals include anything which helps to improve my writing skills. As a crime writer, the six-week online Futurelearn Forensic Science – Solve a murder course, is excellent and valuable research. I now know a great deal more about how evidence is collected at crime scenes and about DNA, fingerprints and firearms. [Futurelearn courses are free. I did two last year – one on writing the other on forensic psychology re witness evidence at a crime scene.]

I have two whole bookshelves of books on writing – some not opened since the day I flicked through them when I returned home after buying them. I need to make time to actually read them!

HOW IS IT WORKING?

I can certainly say this plan has given me more motivation.

It has not been easy. The first few days I was writing a Resolutions - 1 1000 words a day BUT I then decided the opening was not strong enough. It had to be scrapped. 3,500 works gone in a single stroke. My daily total was fine but the novel total took a serious dip. However, I did make the monthly goal – just!

The only thing I failed to do much about was optimising my website though I did make a start.

The idea seems to be working for me. I’ll let you how it’s gone at the end of the year.

If, like me, you have a hard job getting down to it at times, give this a whirl.

Have you ever tried working out your personal plan for the year? What works for you? I’d welcome any comments.

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