4 Must-Know Tips to Reach Your Writing and Publishing Goals

by | Aug 9, 2013

by Carol Brill

Carol is a frequent commenter here, and this is her first article as a guest author. Carol is also a leadership coach and trainer, and today she gives us 4 very valuable tips for those times when we get stuck, either in our writing, or in all the tasks needed to publish your own books. They are practical and helpful. Read on.

I’m a pretty persistent person, but I won’t lie. More than once on my journey to write and publish my novels Peace By Piece and Cape Maybe, I considered giving up, taking a hammer to my keyboard, and destroying every draft.

One of those discouraging times was about two years ago, when I started to research self-publishing and book marketing. I thought the hard part was over. After all, I’d succeeded in writing two novels. How challenging could publishing and marketing be?

I was a social networking neophyte. The more I researched, the more the list of indie marketing must-haves–Goodreads, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, a website, blog, newsletter/mailing list, platform, book trailer–nearly did me in.

As my initial meltdown wore off, my persistence gene kicked back in, reminding me that in spite of being clueless about how to craft a novel when I joined my first critique group, I’d reached my goal and written two books. Couldn’t I apply the same goal achievement tactics to self-publishing and marketing?

Here are the tips that helped me succeed. Regardless of where you are in your writing and publishing process, these simple tips can help you realize your goals, too.

Tip #1—Put Your Goals in Writing

If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance you’re a writer so it seems fair to ask, are your goals written down?

Experts say that unwritten goals are really just good intentions—written goals more than double your chances of success. According to psychologist and author Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., only 20-30% of unwritten goals are realized.

That means 70 to 80% of the time intentions do not do it, you need to write your goals. The good news is you’re a writer. Who is better equipped to write a killer goal?

Google “S.M.A.R.T goals for goal writing help”. You’ll find a wealth of information and tutorials online about writing goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound.

Tip #2—Be Specific

To get where you want to go, be precise about your destination.

self-publishingFor years I said, “I want to write a book.” A lofty goal but not very specific. Would it be fiction or non-fiction, romance or business, historical or contemporary? Until I knew the specifics, it was impossible to start.

Think of it this way. If you are in New York and want to visit your aunt in Florida, you don’t just program Florida into your GPS. You put in a specific city, street name, and address. It’s exactly the same with writing specific goals. Eventually, “I want to write a book” became, “I want to write a contemporary novel for women about family, relationships, and love.” That more specific goal gave me a place to start and more importantly, it gave me a clear destination.

Tip #3—Chunk It Down and Commit to Timeframes

To achieve a goal, especially a lofty goal like writing and self-publishing a book, it helps to break the work down into the concrete nuts and bolts that will get it done. I like to think of it this way: When Christopher Columbus stood on the shores of Spain and announced to Queen Isabella that he wanted to sail to America, he was still standing on the shores of Spain! To get to America he had to chunk it down into the nuts and bolts—buy lumber, build a boat, hire a crew—you get the picture.

“I will build a platform” is an intention, not a time-bound plan. As you chunk-down your tasks and make them time-bound, you identify exactly what you will do and when you will do it.

As I stuck my toes into the self-publishing process, my chunked-down list included weekly commitments like:

  • Research and follow at least two blogs about self-publishing (Thankfully, Joel’s blog was one of them)

  • Create a Facebook page

  • Meet with Richmond (a self-published author friend) and pick his brain about his process

  • Create a Goodreads account

  • Visit the Createspace homepage and research author services

  • Build a blog page

Chunking it down makes the goal manageable and gives you small wins along the way. Those wins recharge your batteries to master the next week’s task.

Tip #4—Include the Power of “If/Then” in Your Plan

If/then planning means deciding in advance what you’ll do when something derails your plan. Life is unpredictable. Although I consider my weekly self-publishing and book promo commitments sacred and non-negotiable, stuff happens.

My if/then plan includes things like, if we have company for the weekend and I can’t be on the computer, then I will get up fifteen minutes early all week to complete my tasks in the early morning.

Having an if/then plan prevents you from feeling discouraged, resentful, or powerless when everyday life threatens to derail your plan.

Word by word, sentence by sentence, chapter by chapter, these tips helped me write and self-publish my novel.

How about you? What is your writing or publishing goal? And which of these tips could help make this the year you attain your goal and hold your dream in your hands? Let me know in the comments.

self-publishingCarol Fragale Brill‘s novel Peace by Piece is about unshakable first love and complicated second chances. Carol’s fiction has been recognized by Poets and Writers and The Best of Philadelphia Stories, and her work has been published in Wide Array, New York Journal of Books, the Press of Atlantic City, Philadelphia Stories, and various online e-zines and business journals. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. By day, she is a Leadership Coach and Trainer. Find her blog at 4 Broad Minds, and her book reviews for New York Journal of Books. Her second novel, Cape Maybe, will be published this fall.

Photo: bigstockphoto.com

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  1. Carol Fragale Brill

    Veronica-Mae, being a 24/7 caregiver is a definite challenge that many writers including me don’t face.
    sounds like you’ve found some solutions.
    at times I’ve used a tape recorder to multi-task and capture entire scenes as they unwound in my head, during my commute to work.
    Meeting goals is often about setting priorities and reevaluating where we spend our time. for instance, I periodically ask myself questions like, Are the volunteer jobs more important than your writing?

    • Veronica-Mae

      Carol – thank you so much. I must think about a recording device perhaps, something I can keep in my pocket.
      My main volunteer job (Clerk to a Guild of craftsmen) is a commitment I have accepted, and it does give me great feelings of satisfaction and a pride in my abilities and achievements. In a situation where I am constantly put down it provides a sense of my own self worth. Another commitment (Parish Councillor) will cease at the next election as I will not stand again. Is my Clerk’s job more important than my writing ? Hmm. I am certainly not one of those whose urge to write is so strong they put aside all other considerations – but then I am not writing novels or fiction

  2. Veronica-Mae

    I found a very old notebook the other day – I had written down several goals, things I wanted to achieve. I have not even accomplished one of them. I also have two books started and never finished and two or three ideas for books in my head. My IF/THEN is difficult because the IF is……if my disabled husband constantly interrupts me because he wants me to do something for him, find something for him, help him with something, sort out his computer problems, or just wants to talk about something at great length, then…..what?

    • Joel Friedlander

      IF you set aside specific “quiet” times (even if they are brief, maybe start with 15 minute segments) when you’re not disturbed, THEN you’ll soon be able to start completing the items on your list.

      • Veronica-Mae

        setting aside my own time is virtually impossible because I ever know when I will be required at a second’s notice. I cannot even meditate. I have tried working after he has gone to bed, but that way I cannot get to sleep and wake up late and hung-over. My mind also does not work so well late at night. I actually write much of my stuff in my head while doing the chores, but I do need to write it down quickly or I forget it.

    • Carol

      Hi Veronica-Mae, some situations are harder than others. I agree with Joel, start small and celebrate little wins.
      You mention you found a notebook with goals not met. Another key to reaching goals is to keep them visible and read them often. A tip I use is to write a few words that remind me of my goal on a sticky note and put it on my computer monitor, or dashboard–somewhere I will see it often. The frequent reminder has a way of keeping us focused and moving forward. Hope that helps. Carol

      • Veronica-Mae

        Thanks Carol, I have notes all over the fridge but they are for things I NEED to do, shopping lists etc. Husband is quite able to sit down and write away at any time at the drop of a hat – I need to be in the right frame of mind. Then I just get started and he wants something – hard to keep on track with what I want to write and how I want to say it. I forget very easily what I wanted to say. I do manage a few short stories (fiction) but the (non fiction) books require quite a lot of research which is time consuming. And as well as full time caring I also have a number of voluntary jobs.

  3. Katy

    I have a little notebook, and I started a “Goals” page. Well, it started on one page. On the left, I put the Goal. On the right, Progress. I kept putting those in. Now I have 12 pages of Goals, yikes. I started a separate running score, by day, of activities related to marketing.

    I was feeling overwhelmed, when I went back to some of the early goals, and realized I had COMPLETED some of them (LOL)! So I started putting a red check mark by those goals. Wow. Progress. And all those little daily running tabs served as a reminder of how I was pushing forward each day.

    When I’m feeling discouraged, I look back at the goals and progress lists and get a reality check of just how far I’ve come. Helps keep the momentum going.

    • Carol Brill

      Hi Katy, you’ve added another really good reason to write goals–the chance to look back and celebrate your accomplishments. All the best continuing to check off the goals on your list.

  4. Alethea

    Thanks for your insight Carol. My husband and I are writing a book currently and we will use your tips. Thank you again.

    • CarolBrill

      Aleathea, all the best to you and your husband. Hope to see you post here periodically on our progress. Carol

  5. Carol Brill

    Hi Venkatesh, I neglected to mention, I’m also quite a good baker! Glad my comments helped bake your thoughts :)

  6. Venkatesh Iyer

    Thank you. You have crystallized some half-baked thoughts in my mind.

  7. Colin Dunbar

    Hi Carol
    Very interesting article. I found your If/Then idea practical. A while ago I shared the strategy I use with my writing… https://www.pubmybook.blogspot.com/2013/04/time-management-for-self-publishers-plan.html – I find that having available time is probably the biggest hurdle. With regards to writing down goals, I make it a rule to keep only 3 goals on a 3×5 card on my desk – sometimes these are short-term goals that can be completed within a week; sometimes longer term goals that may take a couple of months.
    Thanks again.

    • Carol Brill

      Hi Colin, Congratulations on not only writing your goals but also limiting to just a few at a time. Thanks for sharing your blog post on Time Management. I like the reminder to keep goal timeframes realistic.

  8. Greg Strandberg

    I find it helps to write down my goals for the next day before I shut the computer down for the night.

    I’ll usually do a simple list numbered around 1 to 4 and put down the things I want to write the next day. Often I’ll put word counts by those to make it even more specific.

    It feels good ticking those off as they get completed, and I have a higher sense of accomplishment as the day progresses.

    • Carol Brill

      Hi Greg, like you, it helps me to focus on a short daily list. I learned another technique years ago to rate the items on the list as 1=urgent, must be done, 2=important, but there’s time, and 3=nice, but not urgent or important.
      The rule is to focus on 1’s so you are accomplishing what’s most critical

  9. Carol Brill

    Thanks Tina.
    I’m curious, do you put your writing goals in writing? carol

  10. Tina Chan

    Nice advice! I remember learning about the SMART goal setting in school :-) I find that giving myself deadlines definitely motivates me to write more. Thanks for sharing



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