But there’s more to soccer than meets the untrained eye. Pre-designed plays, defensive and offensive maneuvers, skill, and an understanding of the opponent all factor into this grueling sport, as does endurance and training—and a strategic game plan.
Writers need a game plan, too; otherwise, we’re like the clueless soccer player, running randomly around the field, kicking at an elusive object, hoping somehow we’ll connect and make a sale.
Perhaps the most important part of the writer’s game plan is developing writing goals— daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly.
What’s a goal, anyway?
This seems elementary, but unless you understand exactly what a goal is, you’ll be like the clueless soccer player who’s better left on the sidelines.
A goal is the specific end result for which you work. It is measurable and is something over which you have control. For example, my overall goal as a writer is to be published. While that goal is measurable (publication), it’s also vague and not one over which I have control.
How do you write goals that are specific, measurable, and controllable?
Take, for example, this article, which was published in Christian Communicator in January 2009. My goal was to write a well-written article of no more than 650 words on setting writing goals and submit it that week to Christian Communicator.
Nothing fuzzy about that goal. It’s specific in that I stated the topic, the length, the market, and a definite time I’ll submit the manuscript. Think 5 W’s and H of journalism:
- Who? “I”Me
- What? A 650-word article about setting writing goals
- When? That week
- Where? Christian Communicator
- How? Well-written
- Why? To give writers an understanding of both the importance of goal-setting and how to do it
The goal has standards that can be measured: Is the article within the suggested word count? Am I staying on topic? Am I following the editor’s guidelines? Am I on target as far as the deadline?
It’s Something I Can Control
Although I take great pains to submit my best work, I have no control over whether or not manuscript is accepted for publication. So I state the goal in terms of what I can control:
- Quality: ("well-written”). Submit only my best work. Have someone read and critique the manuscript before I submit it. Stay on topic and deliver what I promised, following the publication’s writers’ guidelines, including word count.
- Punctuality: (“this week”). Send the manuscript by the deadline—before, if possible.
- Professionalism: (all of the above). Remember the skilled soccer player? He trains to become the best he can be, so he can build up endurance and persevere. Good writers plan their work and work their plan as they formulate daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals, then follow through with them. They are also flexible, adapting and reformulating those goals to fit changing scenarios. They develop a good offense in terms of a submission plan and meet disappointment and rejection (defense) with persistence. They understand—and seek to understand better—the world of publishing as a whole, and the specific publication to which they want to submit their work. And always, always, they strive to learn writing techniques and hone their skills.
Share Your Goals
I send my weekly goals to my online writing critique group, as well as a brief recap of what I accomplished the previous week. It helps me not only to be accountable, but also to recognize my tendency to over -schedule.
Like soccer, freelance writing can be grueling, with goals just as elusive as kicking that ball in the net. But having a game plan in place helps you—in training, enduring, and reaching those goals.