Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Three Steps to Meeting Your Goals

At the beginning of year, many writers create a list of goals. For the first few weeks we are all gung-ho and working feverishly. Then something happens. Life gets in the way. On top of that, our calendar is filled with unrealistic goals or goals that aren't specific, timely, or measurable enough to accomplish them. We get discouraged.

How do we stay the course? How do we work our goals into our daily schedules and make them happen.

Look at your calendar and find an hour. Maybe it won't take that long, but give yourself time to truly consider the goals you have set. Bring your calendar and your list of goals with you. I prefer to do this outside of my house--libraries work well.

STEP ONE: Review your goals one at a time and make sure they are S.M.A.R.T

In order to move forward, your goals need to be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Let's say your goal is to publish your first article in 2019. That's great, but it's too vague. A S.M.A.R.T. goal would look like this: I will publish my first article by the end of 2019; researching my topic and writing the article by February 1, having a final draft by March 1, and performing market research in April to begin submitting to select magazine publishers by May 1.

Why is this important? Deadlines are marks on the calendar. They are dates you can see and shoot for. Just as important, instead of having to wait until that article is published to feel like you accomplished something, you have these targets along the way that keep you motivated.

STEP TWO: Break down your S.M.A.R.T. goals into small tasks.

Now, let's take that S.M.A.R.T. goal and break it down into small tasks. The to-do list to research your topic might look like this: perform online research, set up interviews with experts, conduct interviews with experts, and visit the local library for additional resources. Then you need to estimate the time necessary to complete each task.

STEP THREE: Time block your calendar.

Pull out your paper or electronic calendar. It's time to get serious. The best way to accomplish your goals is to structure your time so you work most effectively and efficiently. Time blocking will help. There are plenty of online templates to make this easier. I prefer a weekly planner in half hour increments.

The first thing you do is plug in all the things you know you can't change: the day job, picking up the kids from school, exercise time, doctor appointments, etc. The empty blocks are where you tuck your small tasks in. Maybe Monday morning at nine you have half an hour to perform online research. Wednesday at noon might be a great time to call or email those experts to set up interviews.

What's the best part about time blocking? It shows you where time is being wasted, so you can reclaim it.

If you want to meet more of your goals this year, create S.M.A.R.T. goals, break them down into small tasks, and then time block your calendar. You'll be glad you took the time to set yourself up for success.


Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of Little Shepherd, A Christmas Kindness, Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving, and Amos Faces His Bully. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at http://ccmalandrinos.com and her children’s book blog at https://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com






Sunday, February 3, 2019

Getting Published - 6 Hot Tips

By Karen Cioffi

There are a number of articles and posts discussing whether it’s important to have a degree in writing in order to be successful in your writing career. The articles that I’ve read all agree that it’s NOT necessary. But, there are at least 6 essential steps you will need to take to reach the golden ring of publication.

1.  Learn the craft of writing

While it’s not essential to have a degree in writing, it is essential that you learn the craft.

You can obtain this knowledge through a number of avenues, such as:

a.    Become a part of a coaching program or club. Just make sure the instructor or coach has the necessary credentials to teach or guide.
b.    Research blogs and sites that offer instructional articles on the genre you are writing in. You can also find articles through the article directories.
c.    Attend writing conferences. Even if you can’t go in person, or can’t afford to go, there are a number of free online conferences that offer great workshops, networking, and even pitches to publishers. One such conference is the Muse Online Writers Conference.
d.    Join a critique group that has new and experienced writers. Critique groups are a great way to learn the ropes. The experienced writers will provide a kind of one-on-one tutoring. Through the critiques you receive you’ll begin to notice your common errors and how to correct them. Through the critiques you give, you’ll be able to pick up on errors much quicker. All this will help you to hone your craft and become a confident writer.
e.    Read books about writing, self-editing, and books in the genre you are writing. Study these books.

2. Write and keep writing
 Remember the old expression, ‘practice makes perfect.’ It’s important to make time to write every week, whether it’s daily or specific days, or even if you have to squeeze it into your schedule. The more you write, the more comfortable you will feel about writing.

3. Read your work, proofread your work, self-edit your work, revise your work…repeat

This is where you apply the information you’ve reaped from Step 1. After you think it’s ‘really’ good, submit it to your critique group. Then repeat Step 3. When you think it’s perfect you’re ready for Step Four.

4. Submit your work

In this step you can take two paths:

a.    Submit your work to an experienced editor. This is the path almost all writers will advise you to take. The editor is trained to spot things that you and you’re critique group will not. Yes, it will be an expense, but there are some reasonable and experienced editors out there that you can take advantage of.

b.    If you cannot afford an editor, be sure to carefully read a book about self-editing, print your manuscript out and go over it with a fine tooth comb. When you feel confident that it’s as good as you can get it, start submitting it to publishing companies and/or agents.

5. Read publishers’ guidelines carefully

Along with reading them carefully, you need to follow them carefully. Publishers have more submissions than they can handle, if your submission doesn’t meet their guidelines it would be highly unlikely it will avoid the trash pile.

6. Persevere

It’s not necessarily the best writer who gets published and has a successful writing career…it’s the writer who perseveres. Writing can be a long and arduous road and is usually filled with a great deal of rejection. But, if you work toward your goal, learn your craft, and keep moving forward, you have what it takes to become published.

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, successful children’s ghostwriter, and online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. Check out her middle-grade book, "Walking Through Walls."