Blogger: Mary Keeley
You’ve heard the axiom, plan your work and work your plan. Sound advice but so often glossed over or under-applied. Now is the time to begin thinking . . . and preparing. You have three months to set goals and develop your plan that will enable you to hit the ground running when January 2, 2013 rolls around.
Set your 2013 goal, but don’t stop there. As coach Tom Landry once said: “Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.” In other words, once you set your goal, what are you going to do to achieve it? If you don’t have a plan of action and follow through on it, you can’t expect to reach it. Here are a few examples to start your thinking.
- Do you want to obtain an agent—not any agent, but the right one for you? Begin (or continue) to research agency websites and develop a sense of an agent’s personality and values. Prioritize your list of agents you will query. If you are an unpublished author and don’t think you will have your proposal ready by the first week in November, it is better to send your query after the first of the new year to avoid its being buried or overlooked in an agent’s inbox. Agents (and editors) will be focused on wrapping up current business between Thanksgiving and Christmas so they can take time off during the holidays.
- Do you want to submit your professional proposal to agents and publishers? Note the submission guidelines on each agency or publisher website. Organize the query and proposal requirements for each agent and editor you plan to query. Record this information on an Excel sheet. (I’m partial to Excel sheets for their simplicity and data organizing options, but any efficient tracking tool will work.) This takes the guesswork out of trying to remember what individual agencies and publishers require—and the inefficiency of keeping separate notes. If you haven’t done a proposal before, you can find some tips here and in other posts on our Books & Such blog. Next, write a basic proposal document from which you can tailor a distinct proposal for each agent or publisher.
- Do you want to grow in your craft to the level that will receive a contract? Schedule time daily specifically to read books on writing. In the process you’ll identify your weak areas. There are good books available, and you are probably aware of many of them. Look here for a few suggestions to start. Follow through and read them. I wouldn’t suggest you forego reading great novels and nonfiction books because you’ll learn indirectly from those too. But if your main goal in the year ahead is to grow as a writer, concentrate time with good craft books—and practice, practice, practice the skills you learn in your WIP.
Plan strategically for the writers conferences you hope to attend in 2013.
- To alleviate economic restraints from being a major obstacle, begin now to set aside a little money each week in a “conferences” account. Request donations to the fund for your birthday and Christmas gifts.
- Mark your calendar to check conference websites and re-visit them weekly until the faculty list and schedule of daily sessions and workshops are posted. This will help you to plan which conference(s) you want to attend. I believe Writers Advance! Boot Camp Feb. 1-3, 2013, at The Billy Graham Training Center, The Cove, in Asheville, NC, is the first conference in 2013. Correct me if you know of an earlier one. This conference offers The Badge of Honor Writing Contest to attendees. The prize is a book contract. Check it out here.
You may have more than one goal you want to accomplish in 2013. Great! But be realistic. If you have children at home, a day job, or other commitments, you’re better off focusing on the action steps you will take to reach your one main goal than to try to achieve too many and not reach any of them.
What first steps will you take to set your goals? What goal do you want to reach in 2013?