How to Make Better Writing Resolutions in 2016

5 Ways to Make Better Writing Resolutions in 2016

Better writing resolutions should be something we make all year ’round. But there is something about January 1st that always seems to get people to focus, both on everything you didn’t get done last year and everything you hope to do this year.

But let’s stop hoping, shall we?

This year, take your writing resolutions beyond wishful maybes and make them happen. If you’ve failed to accomplish all your writing goals in the past, it might be because you were doing your New Year’s resolutions wrong. Do them right this year and you’ll see untold benefits—in both your writing and, I’ll wager, every other area of your life.

The 5 Ways to Make Better Writing Resolutions This Year

Here are five ways you can make better writing resolutions this year:

1. Differentiate Between “True” Goals and “Fake” Goals

True goals are goals that are meaningful for you. We’re not talking just “oh, wouldn’t that be nice?” kind of goals. Earning $500k a year or getting a movie deal are things pretty much everybody would like. But that doesn’t mean we’re actually committed to making them happen.

There are also the goals we think we should be making. These are usually guilt-driven goals, fueled by either a social standard that may or may not exist or by others’ expectations of us. In themselves, they may be great goals (write for an extra hour after supper instead of watching The Amazing Race), but if they’re not goals you’re personally passionate about, they’re not true goals.

True goals are things that burn in your soul. They may be really hard things (like writing for an extra hour after supper instead of watching The Amazing Race), but they’re things that matter to you enough to make them happen.

2. Be Specific

Once you’ve identified the better writing resolutions you want to see happen this year, write them down. And be specific. “Write for an extra hour every day” is a good goal. “Write more” is not.

3. Do It By the Numbers

I hate numbers. And, honestly, they hate me back (I came that close to flunking high school Algebra and I couldn’t do an equation now if you paid me). But numbers tell the truth. Numbers keep us focused and on track. If your “write more” goal turned into a specific goal of “write a 100k-word novel in one year,” then you need to crunch the numbers in order to make that happen. How many words are you going to need to write each month? Each week? Each day? Each hour?

Knowing the numbers and the timeline of your better writing resolutions will help you keep on track over the long course of the year. Otherwise, you may find yourself staring December 2016 in the face with only 50k words in your Scrivener doc.

4. Be Realistic

I sometimes get carried away by the grand possibilities of the New Year. A whole new twelve months! Think of all I can get done!

inevitably resolve to do more than is humanly possible, and I’m inevitably disappointed by the time December rolls around again. Overachieving is good, but, after a certain point, it’s also not the most productive mindset.

When you’re crunching those numbers, make sure you’re creating daily, weekly, and monthly goals you can accomplish in relative comfort. Plan to push yourself a little bit, but also leave room for the real-life stuff we all know is going to happen between now and the next New Year’s Eve celebration.

5. Create a Game Plan

Now that you have some solid data on your better writing resolutions for this year, it’s time to get down and dirty and create a game plan. Figure out the exact steps you need to take to make these goals happen.

  • What are you deadlines?
  • What tools or resources do you need to get started?
  • What are the various steps involved?
  • And most importantly–what’s the very first thing you need to do to start the ball rolling?

Do that one tomorrow. No excuses.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! What are your better writing resolutions this year? Tell me in the comments!

5 Ways to Make Better Writing Resolutions in 2016

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Comments

  1. Happy new year!

    Good post. I haven’t made any writing goals just yet. Well, I have some but I don’t have a gameplan necessarily. Planning doesn’t come very easy for me because I’m on the other side of the spectrum. Or somewhere in between.

    Could we hear more about the planning process in the coming days? Being a wishful thinker and having a gameplan to achieve your dreams is a HUGE difference. That’s what got me writing in the first place! It was a complete gamechanger. Pun intended.

    As a panster, I normally don’t make any kind of resolutions. It’s just not in my nature. Except for 100 book reading challenge of course. But all is not lost. I’m beginning to formulate something of a gameplan. I assume after I finish outlining and structuring your novel books that should change ?.

    But there’s all kinds of different birds in the writing field I’m sure. I’m definitely a “different” bird. If I plan too much, it stifles my creative process. I need to leave room for some spontaneity. But if I don’t plan at all, the creative juices are hindered and not that productive. So I can’t chuck spontaneity out the window, but I don’t want to be unbridled either. Know what I mean?

    This will sound primitive to most of you, but I’ve been having a ball just with the 6 aspects of the story premise! Having a blast with it. Using it as a basic outline for a serialized fiction novel I’m doing on channillo.com. So you could say planning or having a gameplan is THERAPEUTIC.

    Why should we allow our dreams to die? Just because we lacked a gameplan? I’m sure there are thousands of writers who are just wishful thinkers. Passively waiting for their dreams to magically fall into their lap. That was me for two years! Two years of floundering gone to the wind and never to return.

    So this is a good post. It’s great to dream, but if we don’t put wheels on it, we’re going nowhere fast.

    Thanks

    Benjamin

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Goal game plans will necessarily be unique to the goals themselves. If we’re talking the goal of “writing a novel,” then, of course, my best solution is the outline! But I always encourage writers to find the outline process that works for *them*. For some, that’s a detailed plan like I use; for others, it’s something much more lightweight, like the premise sentence. For still others, they use a hybrid of pantsing and plotting.

      You might find this article interesting: Can You Structure if You’re a Pantser?.

  2. My writing goal for 2016 is two fold. First start writing and last finish what I start.

  3. I’m hoping to continue editing my recently finished draft, and also start (and finish) another story I’ve had in mind. I’ve been on a celebratory break since completing the one story, but it’s almost over, though I haven’t been totally slacking: I’ve been making my way through classic authors. That counts as work, right? 😉

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’ve been on a short break too. I finish Wayfarer‘s first draft at the beginning of December and gave myself the month off, since it was crazy anyway. Back to it on Monday!

  4. I agree 100%. Make your goals specific, put them in writing, and set a deadline.

    And don’t beat yourself up if you fall behind. There is no shame in reevaluating every few months and to see if you’re goals are still realistic. Sometimes live gets in the way, and that is okay 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Definitely agree on the “no beating self up.” We have to make it safe to aim high by not putting undue pressure on ourselves.

  5. Thanks for the reminder on goals. This is very close to the SMART acronym for goal setting which you can find here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMART_criteria

    The specific words that match the letters can vary, but here’s one set:

    S = Specific (The more specific, the better)
    M = Measurable (can you give a specific yes/no for when you meet it?)
    A = Attainable (Is it possible?)
    R = Realistic (Is it plausible?)
    T = Time-bound or Trackable (if you don’t have a target date, it’s not really a goal.)

    For example, “I will write more” fails on several counts, while “I will write 2000 words this Saturday” is a well-defined goal.

  6. Steve Mathisen says

    Making realistic goals goes a long way to making them achievable.

  7. Great advice and Happy New Year! My resolution is to finish my third novel by the end of the year. You give some great tips in helping me achieve this.

  8. I’m so excited for this new year. 😉 And wonderful post! Thank you!!

  9. Kinza Sheikh says

    I just have a game plan but no goal that I want to achieve in the end.
    I am planning 2k fresh word count everyday, and other than that? Well two hours dedicated to planning, since I am a hybrid writer.
    And a specific amount of editing time everyday. I haven’t delved much deep into those waters. So I can’t be sure how much time I will need for editing per se. But doing it daily is one thing that is concrete.
    And that’s how I am planning to tackle 2016, don’t know if I end up finishing five projects, or still not done with one. That’s not part of the plan. Making the daily habit is.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      2k words a day is a healthy goal I’d say. Good for you! Now make it happen minute by minute.

    • Sounds great Kinza. I can definitely relate. Appreciated what you said about making editing a daily habit. I’m still afraid to touch mine. Like its a corpse or something.

      • Kinza Sheikh says

        That is a feeling mutual on both ends. But I am trying to stick to it and actually it isn’t as bad as I anticipated. Bad, but not that bad. 😉

  10. Sitting down now with coffee, looking back at where I fell short on my 2015 goals, and using that to fuel my 2016 goals. Thanks for this motivating article with real meat to it. I’ve shared it with my writers group as well. 🙂 Happy New Year!

  11. How much time do you guys dedicate to writing per day?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Two hours of novel writing is what usually happens for me on a daily basis.

      • Do you include note collecting as part of your writing? Sketching and so forth? Does that count or actually writing it out?

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          Yes, definitely, if that’s the part of the process I’m working on at the time. “Writing time” might be dedicated to outlining, researching, drafting, or editing, depending on what I’m working on.

  12. While my line of writing wouldn’t focus on the sheer volume of words, I definitely understand setting specific goals.
    What does make it hard though, is knowing that the process (from beginning to end) will likely run over a calendar year and end sometime mid next year.
    I know many of you can work multiple projects at once, but I’ve really struggled to adopt that approach. I feel like working on two projects or more, at once, strains my creativity and saps my strength! Especially when I could be spending just as long as a novelist writing a story that’s only 90 to 100 script-pages long.
    I think the important thing for me is setting those specific goals (“I’ll have my first rough-outline done by February 1st…”) and keeping myself on-track to accomplish them!
    Thanks K.M. for the sounding board 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I don’t like doing two similar creative projects at the same time either. I can write one story and edit another on the same timeline, but that’s about it. I feel it is incredibly important not to let ourselves feel pressured by other people’s processes. For instance, we hear so much these days about the importance of writing quickly and churning out a large number of books quickly, in order to sell well. But that process isn’t something every author is going to enjoy or thrive on. If we let ourselves feel pressured into adopting that model, we may be losing more than we’re gaining.

      • That’s a good point to bring up, good enough in itself to be its own article! Honestly, it’s crazy with some of these super-popular authors: they seem to churn out at least a book every year, sometimes two! Like the James Paterrsons and the Lee Childs of the writing world… I honestly just don’t see how they could manage a family/marriage and all the other things that come with life like: fixing dinner, cleaning the house, grocery shopping, pick up dog p– you get the idea!

        • Good point. It’d great to have a post on this subject. Thanks for sharing.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          Some of them are doing more than that! I know authors who are putting out two or more novels a year. Makes my brain hurt just thinking about it. :p And, yes, I actually am mulling a post on this! I think it’s an important topic for a number of reasons.

  13. Great post!

    I would agree with everything here, and I also think that it is important to reward yourself for achieving goals you set yourself.

    One thing that helps achieve goals is if I can identify any obstacles beforehand and try to eliminate them or compensate for them.

    Getting other people’s buy-in, too, is important, especially if the achievement of a goal will involve some sacrifice on the part of someone else – a spouse, say.

    I also find it useful to break goals down into more minor objectives. That gives a sense of progress and also makes the overall goal more achievable.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I agree. Focusing small keeps us productive. It’s important to have long-term goals, but we can’t focus on them day in and day out.

  14. Thanks for the motivational article and for reminding us that specificity is important for goal-setting. With that in mind, I have three specific goals for the writing year

    Finish cleaning up my NaNoWriMo winner, and self-publish it

    Write at least one blog post per week — two if I’m extra motivated

    Write new fiction for an hour each day, on average

    Happy New Year, and thanks again.

    Adam

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Awesomesauce! These are excellent goals: challenging but immediately applicable and definitely doable. Keep at it!

  15. Lots of good points here.

    As an infant writer, I find it challenging to focus on one thing. I’m all over the place. Guess part of my goals this year is too learn how to focus more, complete projects like nanowrimo, and be more productive.

    But I almost can’t help myself. Maybe I’m ADHD. I feel like if I don’t get these stories out of my head that I’ll lose them. Is that bad? But I know my main priority is to edit and flesh out nanowrimo 2015. First and foremost. And I can’t wait to attend the spreecast. Is it still Jan 20th?

    Ah, so much to take in and learn. Trying to pace myself with learning as well. Hope you didn’t delete the top 10 posts of 2015 because I’ve got 5 or 6 more to go.

    Thanks

    Happy writing

    Thanks

  16. My goals for 2016.

    1) Publish two novellas in my space opera series. Aiming for February and September, but these months are a little arbitrary because I just don’t know how long it will all take. Once I have two under my belt I’ll be better able to set goals for 2017).

    2) Write a story with my daughter.

    3) Write a first draft of another novella for fun (first draft is so much more fun than the purgatory of editing and revising)

    4) where possible, take 1 day per week from my day job for writing work.

  17. i just choose one idea or word per year. Last year it was to write better sentences. This year, it’s ‘craft’ in general. I’ll be reading some books to help me do it. But having just one word helps me focus throughout the year.

  18. Hope-Marie Palmer says

    Hi, KM. Great post!

    I have a question. Do you have a suggestion as to how student writers can find time to write on top of assignments and tests and projects and all? 🙂

    Thanks!

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