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December 29, 2017

An Early Happy New Year to You — 6 Steps to
Setting Goals & Jumpstarting Your Writing

By Shawn Thomas Anderson

Over the summer, I gave a marketing talk at the INTO THE WORDS membership showcase for The League of Vermont Writers. I led a group of writers through a series of exercises that I developed to help them get to know themselves better and articulate their dreams, personas, and motivations to others. Now that it's winter and the new year is upon us, it’s a good time to dust off the notes and apply the information to set attainable goals for next year’s writing and beyond.

1. First thing’s first — take some time to do a little soul-searching. Journal or jot down a few notes about what’s important to you and your writing:  What do you want from your writing? Where do you want to take it over the next year? What motivates you to write? Where are you in the writing and publishing process? What are your strengths and successes? Where do you need to work a little harder? What tools and resources do you have in place to help propel yourself forward?

2. After you answer questions like these, you will have a ton of rich, interesting information to work with — a solid foundation to set some useful writing goals, fuel a marketing plan, drive web/social-media content, fortify your writing platform, and even arm yourself with conversation ammo for when an editor or agent leans over the table and says, “So tell me all about you?”

3. I find that the important thing about setting goals and a writing plan is to keep it simple and keep it flexible. Break down your goals by weeks and months — even assign tasks to days, if that works for you. I like to write mine down on old-school week-at-a-glance and month-at-a-glance calendars. AND I do it in pencil. It’s important to hit your goals, but you don’t want to beat yourself up if you need to adjust the timeline. It’s better to tweak them as you go versus throwing your hands up in the air and abandoning them completely. Remember, erasers are writers’ best friends. Keep your plan fluid, nimble, and adaptable, so that you can stay focused and hit the objectives in the year to come.

4. Keep writing and marketing-platform goals connected, but on their own path. I find it helpful to place these goals side by side in a notebook or on a bulletin board where I can easily reference them, but I keep them separated as much as possible. When it comes to maintaining a balance in your writing life and prioritizing, the writing should always trump the marketing.

5. Celebrate the goals your hit! As writers, we tend to beat ourselves up and deny ourselves the pats on the back that we rightfully deserve. To savor every victory along the way, find yourself trusted writing friends to act as your pep squad. Have a conversation to establish mutual support and encouragement. Reciprocate by identifying and celebrating these friends’ accomplishments. The feeling of good will keep the positive vibes flowing and everyone moving forward. Remember, all steps — even the mistakes — are key to learnings, and progress towards your ultimate goals.

6. Be realistic and don't beat yourself up. Accept that some goals are going to fall short and even the most well-engineered writing plan can go astray. Keep going. Keep writing and revising. Keep building and enhancing that writer’s platform. The only real mistake you can make is doing nothing at all.

Here’s to a happy and productive new year!


Shawn Thomas Anderson is a copywriter and brand specialist by day, writer of young-adult and middle-grade fiction by night, early morning, and whenever he can find the time to get the words written down. He loves writing short stories and has published several in various anthologies. Shawn attended the University of Vermont undergrad, and has his master’s degree in Communications and Integrated Marketing from Emerson College in Boston.

He lives a far-flung corner of the state known as Northeast Kingdom. It’s a magical place where moose, bear, and deer wander through your backyard, and everyone rocks flannel. It’s a great place to work, raise children, and write, write, write.

Follow Shawn on Twitter at @ShawnTWrites and check out his website at shawnthomasanderson.com.