Janet on Why Writing Goals Can be Tough and Letting Go of Control.

I used to be really good at setting goals and achieving them.  When I worked in sales and marketing goals were a big part of my day. I had goals for each account I called on, goals from my sales manager, marketing, brand managers. I had weekly goals, monthly goals, yearly goals.  I was a goal getter.

I find making goals as a writer much more difficult because this is not always a business of black and white. There is a lot of grey, and as an author I also find there is much I don't have control over.  And that makes it sometimes more difficult to make concrete goals and complete them.

For example, before I was published I could set a goal that I would have a book published in the next year. Well. I couldn't really make that happen. Not really. I could do all sorts of things to try to make it happen. Write the book.  Make it the best it could be. Revise it. Send it out. Get feedback. But I couldn't MAKE someone decide to publish it.  Same with the goal for getting an agent.

After publication goals became a little easier, but still not the same as the world I left behind. When I was in sales I was all about numbers.  I needed to achieve them after all.  I had to sell X amount of product, which was all tied into my goals. I had control over those numbers to some extent. I could analyze and see what I needed to do to sell more of something in one area, in a given time period. I could plan it and make it happen. I had tools. I had will. I was driven and liked to be challenged.

With books, it's so different. I can make goals as far as finishing a book. Yes. I would definitely like to write a new YA novel next year. I can set myself a timeline. But even as a published author, I still have to sell that book.  I'd like to do it BEFORE I write it. And there's no guarantees.

I can make craft goals. Which I will. Reading two new craft books for 2012. That is a goal. As is improving my craft. But how do I  measure that success? How do I know if  my goal is achieved if it isn't 100% measurable.  For every person who thinks a book is a wonderful addition to the YA category, there's another person who thinks the same book is drivel. It's a subjective thing, this book business.

With my sales background, I also find it a little tough not to know exactly how many books I'm selling at a given time. I do find out eventually of course. There's royalty statements and of course, there are weekly Bookscan number updates on Amazon. I have an idea. But that doesn't give you the whole picture. There's no comparables. I can only see my books. I can't see how my books are doing compared with others in my genre. It's not what I'm used to. I want facts, figures, analysis. Concrete ways to help and to fix and to build and....


Fortunately, I am with a great and progressive publisher, Sourcebooks and my editor is amazing at providing me with feedback about sales. I think she's clued in to my desire to know numbers and she helps out when she can. And that's amazing. I know it's not the case with all publishing houses. So I'm lucky they are willing to feed my obsession!

I guess what I have learned is that goals as writers have to be flexible. I need to let go of some of my control issues. I can make goals. I will complete a new YA novel next year. I will continue to work on my craft. I will book more school visits. I can even make that a concrete number. 5?  I will go to at least one writing conference. I will apply for a writing grant.

I'd like to include goals that are a little less self serving. I am putting on a writing workshop at one SCWBI meeting already in 2012. I want to try to share my experiences with other writers in my community who seek some of the knowledge I'm lucky enough to have as a published author.

I want to do something with teens that is helpful. A great goal for me is to find a mentoring program.  See, already so many things I have control over and I guess that is what I have to focus on.

I feel fortunate to be at a point in my writing that I'm actually writing on a deadline. Right this very moment. I sold a book on proposal, and it needs to be done in a couple of weeks. How often did I dream about that?  How often did I hear authors complain or worry about deadlines and think how wonderful that sounded?

I'm hoping that 2012 is going to be a good year! I have a new Sourcebooks title coming out in the fall. I'm super excited about it. I'm going to be in the DEAR TEEN ME anthology! I'm hoping for a new book sale too!

All I can do is continue to do things to nurture my writing soul. I am fortunate and lucky enough to be in this crazy wacky business and I want to enjoy the ride for as long as I can.

Not knowing numbers or concrete facts is just a part of the wild ride. And things are changing. So quickly. With the growth of e books and new technology some day I may look back on all of this with fond nostalgia.

Happy Holidays to all the YA OUTSIDE THE LINES readers!

Happy Goal Setting!


  1. Love this post! I am lazy at heart, but have tried to make "goals" this year when it came to writing. But in reality, I just have to keep going at it, working on becoming a better writer, and finishing a story. I can give myself deadlines for stuff to get done with a story, but then there will always be rewrites, etc. Learning to breathe through it all should be my main goal, lol

  2. Great post! I especially love "do things to nurture my writing soul." That's going on my list :D

  3. So much happening. So much to come. Keep setting those goals!!

  4. So true, Janet--as a writer, you really do need to focus on what YOU can control...

  5. You have a busy and fulfilling year ahead. Enjoy!


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