Tag Archives: Happy New Year

Time to Update Your Bucket List for 2015

By Patricia Stoltey

I don't do resolutions anymore. Goal setting is good (see yesterday's post from Liesa Malik for more on that topic), but updating my bucket list ranks at the top of my year end ToDos.

Just because something was important enough to add to my list in the past doesn't mean it should stay there until I finally do it. I kept "A ride in a hot air balloon" on my list for about ten years, had plenty of opportunities to fulfill the wish, and chickened out every time. It's now off the list forever.

"Visit Greece" used to be on my list, but no longer. "One more trip to Paris" is on the list now, and that one can remain on the list as long as I'm alive and mobile. "Return to Norway" is a permanent entry as well. This is a photo I took about ten p.m. (early May 1998) from the window of a cabin that sits on a corner of the land my Norwegian ancestors once owned. I took that bucket list trip by myself, a true adventure for an upper-middle-aged lady who was accustomed to spending long hours at a desk.Norway_Through the Cabin Window at NightThere used to be a few other ambitious excursions on my list. Once upon a time I had a few items such as "Hike the Appalachian Trail" and "Walk the Camino de Santiago" on my list.

Stop laughing. I was serious at the time.

I have replaced those lofty dreams with "Walk every trail in and around my town" which is still a challenge in this outdoors-oriented corner of Colorado but can be accomplished (at least, it can be accomplished once I get this stupid knee fixed and buy a good, sturdy walking stick). A bucket list must be flexible and dynamic.

I put big writing-related items on my bucket list, too. "Make the New York Times Bestseller List" can stay on the list as long as I'm alive and writing. "See one of my novels made into a movie" is another favorite. I'd even like to "Win the Colorado Book Award" someday. My bucket list must include only achievable dreams, or at least dreams I've convinced myself I can achieve, even while others may call me delusional.

What about you? Do you do resolutions, goal setting, and/or a bucket list? What's at the top of your preferred list for 2015?

The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers blog will return to its regular Monday through Friday schedule on Monday, January 5th. The regular monthly post for Kevin Paul Tracy has been moved from January 1st to January 7th. The regular monthly post for Mary Gillgannon has been moved from the 2nd to the 12th.

I wish you a wonderful new year, full of joy and great accomplishment.

Setting Smart Goals for 2015

By Liesa Malik

New Year's Resolutions. Bah, humbug, right? The whole practice of writing down what amount to goals that seem firmer just by calling them "resolutions" can be intimidating and defeatist.

Me? I've always liked this clean-slate time of year.  At least for a week or so I haven't goofed up my brand new year.  I really will lose those ten pounds, leap tall buildings in a single bound, write that best-selling novel that gets turned into an Academy Award Winning motion picture, earn millions, and go live in the Bahamas when Colorado winters get to me.

But wait!

A resolution is a goal, a plan, a firm decision--not a wish and a dream.  And here's where the conflict begins.  As writers, our job is to live in a semi-dream state for a good deal of our time.  Without our imaginations we couldn't conjure up the stories we do.  Without a wish, our heroes and heroines would be, well, just like us.  We need that skewed perspective on life.

But as professional writers, we also need a foot firmly planted on the ground.  We need to take our literary vision and make it a reality. So how can we blend the two?

In my work as a marketing professional for twenty years, I've had this conflict a lot (both with my own goals and those of my clients).  Over time, I've learned to embrace it, and one of the best tools I know to do so is the S.M.A.R.T. goal. Here's how it might work for a writer.

One: Dream Big

Think of all the writing projects, awards, accomplishments, and kudos that could happen this New Year.  Go ahead.  Shoot for the stars.  Say things like, "I will finish that novel I've been working on and write a complete second novel to boot!" or "I will write twelve short stories that will make it into the finals of the Writer's Digest annual competition."  You can even go so far as to jot down, "My mother will be so proud of me!"  Whatever your heart truly desires.  Take time to enjoy a great vision of  yourself (hey, we're all entitled to a holiday gift from ourselves, right?)

Two: S is for Specific

Now take your dreams and turn them into a list of goals.  But be specific.  Writing a novel is a good goal, but a novel can be a romance, a murder, a sci-fi piece, and a novel can be 80,000 words or 120,000 or anything you determine is right for your project.  The point here is to choose what specifically is right for you.  Go ahead.  Look through your dreams and write down a few specific goals.

Three: M is for Measurable

Eew! As writers, measurable sounds an awful lot like math--hex, gag, whatever!  But being measurable doesn't have to be intimidating.  Let's say you've chosen to write a novel in the mystery genre. That's nice and specific.  But let's make that goal measurable by putting a word count to it.

"I will write a mystery novel with a goofy protagonist who likes romance but keeps stumbling across dead bodies in 85,000 words."

Wow. That is both specific and measurable. Cool. What's next?

Four: A is for Actionable

Now is where we start to deep dive on a goal.  What actions can we take to get that novel written? In other words, what smaller goals do we need to put into place to make that new novel appear in electronic form instead of in dreamworld hopes?  Here are some things I would consider as good actions:

  • Make a character list
  • Write character biographies or backgrounds
  • Develop a theme or life question that really challenges me
  • Write a list of obstacles or challenges that might appear by putting two or more of my characters in a life-defining situation
  • Write a short outline of "what happened" from each character's point of view
  • Make a master outline (sorry pants-ers, us plotters need this sometimes)
  • Write 1,000 words a day in my first draft

Five: R is for Realistic

Ouch! Who wants real in a creative writing project?  Well, to be honest, I do.  I have a hard time thinking that maybe one day I'll have a novel published when I don't have a plan to get that novel written.  For a goal to be realistic you need to be in control of the outcome.  You can't say "I'll get a contract for six new novel sales this year" because you don't control the editors and agents who might offer that contract.  However, you can say "I'll pitch to twenty agents and editors each month this year," and then you can have realistic hopes of landing a contract.

Six: T is for Time-Bound

Again, this may sound restrictive at first, but in reality a project with a beginning, middle and END is very satisfying.  Let's say you've been working on a novel for oh, six or seven years.  Will this be the year you finish it?  YES!  If you tell  yourself you'll have goals X,Y, and Z done by June 15th and that date comes, you have the power to say, "Know what? I've put enough time into this project. Do I still want to invest more in it, or do I want to go on to something new?"  That isn't being a quitter.  That is being realistic.  Some projects work, and others don't.  If you're into your new novel and the deadline (decision time) looms, you can sit back and say, "Okay, I'm behind schedule, but I can get back on track by doing . . . " It's your decision.

Yes. I like resolutions.  But I love SMART goals.  Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a New Year that's filled with SMART writing success.

A New Year: A New Writerly You

By J.A. (Julie) Kazimer

Yeah, yeah, January 1st was thirteen days ago. Get over it already, you’re probably saying to yourself, or a busload of captive passengers, who, by now are looking at you a little strange.

Yes it was.

But just because half of our resolutions are already ripped apart, most by January 3rd (after all, who vows to eat more seaweed? That stuff is fine in sushi, but not great with hotdogs…). This doesn’t mean it’s over for the rest. We can always make new ones.

A few days before the New Year, I did a facebook survey (and we all know how scientific those are) on what most writers are resolving to do in the upcoming year. You wouldn’t believe the answers (oddly enough many included weird things with chocolate. What can I say? Writers are just plain weird). What surprised me most about the answers were, no one vowed to give me millions of dollars.

Right? I couldn’t believe it either.

My stingy facebook writer friends’ lack of generosity aside, the main resolution imparted was finishing a project, either one they’ve been working on or starting a brand new one and finishing it by the end of this year.

A great goal for every writer.

One of my editors, before he was my editor, asked me while we were in a pitch appointment at the CO Gold Conference in 2010, how long would it take me to write a book, from word one until it was ready to submit? I smugly said 1 year. He raised an eyebrow.

And guess what?

Our last contract was for two books, both to be finished in one year. For those writers like me who are bad at math, this means, one book every six months. Yes, I sort of feel sick just thinking about it. But in this publishing world, a book a year won't cut it for a new author. We need to push harder and write faster.

So now that you've resolved to quit writing all together...

Other resolutions my writerly friends shared involved submission (promising to send stuff out weekly or so many a month), getting an agent, self-publishing (designing cover art, hiring a copy editor, formatting, etc), and marketing (the bane of all author existence), and a few odd resolutions about plastic-wares.

Learning craft was also nice to see, but we all know RMFW and those who are thinking of joining because of this fabulous post don’t need to learn craft. We are naturally awesome (though the workshops and classes by RWFW members are, of course, the reason why we rock so much more).

The other big resolution was to write.

Simple and to the point.

We aren’t writers unless we are putting words on the page (i.e. computer screen, yellow legal notepad, college-ruled white paper, that journal you got for the holidays from your grandma, etc).

So in 2014, let’s forget losing weight, getting healthy, quitting vile habits, and instead, focus on doing what we love, which, sadly isn’t giving me money, but writing, in whatever method or madness works for you.

Did you make a writerly resolution? Did you break it yet? If not, what is it? If so, what will be your new-today resolution?

I’ve vowed to be more social, in person, so if you catch me trying to be a hermit, please call me on it.

Happy 2014 to you!

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J.A. (Julie) Kazimer lives in Denver, CO. Novels include CURSES! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale, Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons, Dope Sick: A Love Story and FROGGY STYLE as well as the forthcoming book, The Assassin’s Heart. J.A. spent years spilling drinks as a bartender and then stalked people while working as a private investigator. For more about Julie, visit her website and blog.

Connect with Julie on Twitter and Facebook.