Sunday, June 19, 2011


Many years ago, when I decided to actively explore becoming a writer, I got ready by gathering all the information I could about writing books for children. Next, I set goals on how I would go about making my dream a reality.

For me, setting goals has been the most important part of the writing process. Unstructured and disorganized by nature, I knew that if I were to accomplish the ultimate goal of getting published that I would need accountability and a timeline from which I could measure success.

I needed clear goals, and I needed pressure, but I also needed rewards! In the early days, I set goals where if I wrote a certain amount of pages, I would reward myself with additional reading time, or a trip alone to the library.

I stepped it up a bit after I discovered contests in The Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market. Contests worked for me because they came with a list of strict guidelines including specific formats, word count, and last but not least: a deadline. Not to mention, they were great practice for getting ready for future submissions. Every time I sent off an entry, I’d treat myself to a trip to the bookstore to purchase a new book, or simply give myself the rest of the day off.

After I’d accomplished some contest success, I felt comfortable enough to move to the next level—conferences. Getting ready for a conference meant preparing myself with everything from elevator pitches, to feedback from one on one critiques, to meeting complete strangers and networking. The experience and knowledge gained at a conference were invaluable rewards.

Joining a critique group was next on the list. I was terrified at the thought of face-to-face critiques with people I’d never met, but it seemed all the successful writer interviews I’d ever read recommended joining a critique group. And since my goal was to become a successful writer, I stepped out of my comfort zone and signed up. Talk about deadlines and accountability--my group meets every two weeks and we push each other to not only submit material to each other, but also to contests, agents, editors, or whatever the case may be. The experience, sharing of information, and the friendships have been life-changing.

So, many years and goals later, I have met personal deadlines, graduated from the safety of anonymous contests to face to face pitches with agents and editors, endured the brutal honesty of a critique group, and as difficult as it was to let go and face the possibility of rejection, I sent my completed YA novel out to agents...

I’m overjoyed to report that seven weeks ago, I reached my goal of obtaining an agent!! My reward is huge—I’m going to the RWA Nationals in NYC and I get to meet with my agent in person!!

And after my agent approves my revisions and sends my manuscript out on submission, I plan on meeting my ultimate goal: getting published!!

…Then I’ll start all over with a whole new set of goals; )

Do you have any goal-setting tips you’d like to share?


Lisa Tapp said...

Congratulations, Collette, on goals accomplished! One of the best goal-setting ideas I've come across lately involves group accountability. Our local RWA chapter takes one week a month to do a writing challenge. Individuals who participate post their daily/week-long goals, and report in to the group daily on goals accomplished or missed. It really motivates me to write a little longer than I might have without all those watching eyes.
Good luck with your next goal!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Congrats Collette on getting an agent. And sharing your step by step process to read that goal. I've been realizing the importance of goals this year. They are helping me to stay on track and accomplish more.

Kristin Lenz said...

Congrats Colette! We're looking forward to hearing more news along your publishing journey. I agree, critique groups and contests help to meet goals. Sometimes, we post our yearly goals on the SCBWI-MI listserv, then revisit at the end of the year to share accomplishments.

When I feel overwhelmed with a book, it also helps me to set smaller goals, such as finishing a query or synopsis. And I'll use screen time as a reward - I'll close down my browser so I can't check email or Facebook until I've written a certain number of pages/hours.

Kurt Hampe said...

I've had the privilege of watching your process from the outside, so it's fun to learn more about what is going on inside your head. I have no doubt that you'll meet your final goal--especially because it is its own reward.

And yeah, having crit every two weeks keeps me on my toes.

Kristen Simmons said...

Collette, this is great. This process is so overwhelming without setting specific, achievable goals. You have accomplished so much, I have no doubts that you'll be published soon!

Colette Ballard said...

Thanks, Lisa! I keep wanting to join in the writing challenge, but I've had other goals or deadlines at the same time and my brain can only handle so much pressure at once: )

Natalie, thanks. Goal setting is great, but don't forget the rewards: )

Kristen, i totally need to try closing down my browser-great tip!

Thanks, Kurt! And yes, we have to stay on our toes because we have a kick-ass crit. group!

Thanks Kristen--it's really cool to have a support team who 'gets it', whether it's crit. group, blog team, followers, or writer acquaintances. i feel very blessed!!

Jus Accardo said...

Great post, Colette!

There's nothing cooler than setting a goal and seeing it achieved.

Without setting daily goals, I'd be lost. I'd have no focus!


Kristin Lenz said...

The Literary Rambles blog just posted about an "end of the day list" to help with meeting goals.

Colette Ballard said...

I'm with you Jus!

Kristen, I checked it out and i love that idea!

Tracy Bilen said...

I like to set daily word count goals for myself. And I agree, contest deadlines are awesome for pushing yourself!