Make Your Writing Goals S.M.A.R.T.E.R.!

I have this goal that plagues my to do list, but I NEVER get around to completing it. It’s my fault and not because of laziness, but because it wasn’t properly set. The SMART technique is a realistic goal setting system that can benefit writers or anyone. BUT there’s an awesome variant that you may not be aware of. It’s called SMARTER!

Let’s discuss.

All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible.

– Orson Swett Marden

What does S.M.A.R.T.E.R mean?

S.M.A.R.T.E.R. stands for Specific Measurable, Achievable Realistic, Time-bound, Evaluate, and Re-do (whew!). It’s a variant of “S.M.A.R.T.” which is a criteria that helps make your goals accomplishable. The “E.R.” (Evaluate and Re-do) is what you do after putting your goals into action.

To make a goal S.M.A.R.T.E.R., you need a general goal.

General goals get a bad rep for putting too much focus on the result. They seem harder than they really are, and we feel like crap when we haven’t completed them. They’re just too darn broad.

But… you need a general goal before you can make it S.M.A.R.T.E.R.. Also, break your goal down into smaller steps so it’s not result focused.

My goal:

I want to be an author (too broad).

I want to write a short story (better).

Specific

A specifically stated goal mentions what you plan to do, how you’ll do it, and the due date. We can’t do much at this point since all we have is a general goal, so the first order of business is to make it S.M.A.R.T.. Then we’ll make it S.M.A.R.T.E.R..

I promise this will all make sense.

Measurable

How do you know when you’re done? How can you track your progress?

You can track the progress of your writing project by word count, page count, chapters, and so on. Just make sure you have a number in mind!

My goal: I want to write a 5,000 word short story.

Achievable

Do you have the resources necessary to achieve your goal?

A resource could be something tangible, like a USB flash drive, notebook, or organizer. It can also be something intangible, like a word processing software, commitment, or time.

Also, take into account every responsibility or distraction that could affect your goal (work, family obligations, school) and decide if it’s still achievable. If it’s not, you may need to adjust something.

My goal: I write in Scrivener (not affiliated), back up my work via a USB flash drive, and use a planner to track my progress. That’s pretty much all I need for writing. I always write in the morning when I’m not too busy, so time isn’t a problem. Writer’s block may wear down my commitment, but I can fight against it by outlining my short story ahead of time or relying on good ol’ fashioned grit and filling my creative well with reading.

Realistic

Why did you make this goal? Is it relevant to the life you have or want?

There needs to be a point to your goal or else it’s just valuable time wasted.

My goal: I want to be an author and writing something, like a short story, will help me get there.

Time-bound

When do you want to complete your goal?

Set a due date! This keeps you motivated and prevents procrastination (hopefully).

My goal: I want to write my novel during July’s Camp NaNoWriMo. That’s 161 words a day–easy! In case life is a jerk, I can stick to my original plan of getting it done by the end of the summer, but I’m aiming for July 31st.

Revisit Specific

Now you can specifically state your S.M.A.R.T. goal.

My General Goal: Write a short story.

My S.M.A.R.T. Goal: Write a 5,000 word rough draft during July’s Camp NaNoWriMo. I’m going to do this by writing 161 words a day and keep track of my progress via Scrivener and my planner. The due date is July 31st (or September 1st) at midnight.

Do you see the difference? The reason I did the “Specific” step last is because I wanted to flesh out my original goal first.

Evaluate

This step only happens after you’ve tried your S.M.A.R.T. goal. Take some time to analyze what’s working and what’s not. Check your performance. What did you struggle with? Do you need to lower the stakes or increase them?

For example, you may want to decrease your word count goal or extend the due date if you’re having trouble keeping up. Or maybe the hours in your job have changed and you have to adjust something.

Re-do

Detect a problem? Go back through the S.M.A.R.T. criteria and make a new goal. Put it into action and then evaluate how things are working for you. Going bad? Re-do it. Going good? You’re golden.

WARNING! It may tempt you to use the Evaluate and Re-do steps as excuses for procrastination. DO NOT DO THIS EVER! I suggest limiting yourself to one (OK, two) re-tries.

The SMARTER system takes into account that we’re human. Sometimes we stretch ourselves thin or we discover that we’re capable of more than what we thought. Whatever the case, it’s an adaptable oopsie button that prevents us from throwing in the towel.

Good luck!

Additional Reading Material

My Summer Goals and (my sorta borrowed) Accountability Method

Have you ever set a goal but didn’t do it because of procrastination or discouragement? Did you feel like total crap, too? I know your pain.

I think that this behavior stems from a lack of accountability. So I decided to change all that by making some summer goals for myself. The whole point of this challenge is to make my goals public so that I feel more responsible in completing all or half of them by the deadline (September).

I got this idea from Jenna Moreci, a YouTuber and author, who’s productivity increased thanks to this method. According to her:

 

“The risk of public humiliation is a very effective motivator.”

Jenna Moreci

With that said, my goals are to…

 

1. Finish Editing Ruin

For those of you who don’t know, Ruin is a fantasy comic that I’m working on. I just finished the third draft four weeks ago and plan to spend the entire summer editing the crap out of it. Then I’ll let go of it for the sake of production.

2. Outline the sequel to Ruin

The idea is to be able to write five books in the series. I’ve already wrote a rough synopsis for the sequel—I just have to flesh it out.

3. Finish Editing Retaliation

Retaliation is a science fiction novel that I’m working on. I’m currently fixing some issues that I hope I can finish sometime this quarter.

4. Start Drafting Retaliation

After I’m done “editing” (see #3), I’ll implement my notes into another draft.

5. Read 2 (or 4) Books

I’ve only read critical texts, college anthologies, and pricey textbooks this past semester. I need some aliens, ray guns, magic, espionage, and whatever other fiction I can get my hands before I go NUTS.

Since I’m a slow reader, I’m making this one flexible. I’m looking forward to reading Rise of Empire by Michael J. Sullivan and Strange Magic by James A. Hunter.

6. Write a (or 2) Short Stories

Another flexible one. I want more writing in my life, but I don’t want this to overshadow my other larger projects. I’ve already started writing a murder thriller that’s so dark and gruesome it scares me.

7. Write a (or 3) Guest Posts

After my blogging hiatus last year, I want to be more involved in the blogging community. The hope is that a blogger (or three) will be willing to allow me to post something on their sites.

I’m actually already ahead in this one (no…I’m not cheating!). Again, it’s flexible because I don’t want this to overshadow my larger projects.

8. Post Once a Week

If guest posting doesn’t satisfy my need to rejoin the blogosphere, posting once a week sure will. That’s 14 posts total!

9. Be more active on social media (Twitter/Facebook/Pintrist/etc).

I feel like my social media feeds are lacking something: Me. Don’t get me wrong! I retweet, like, and comment (sometimes). I just think I should be a little more active—not spammy active—just mellow active.

10. Get Podcasting Equipment

Yep, I’m planning on launching a podcast! I pretty much have all of the equipment save for the intro/outro music, media host, and editing software. You’ll hear more about this in the future so keep an eye out!

 

And there’s my ten goals for this summer quarter. Although I’m aiming to get all of these done, I need to complete a minimum of five goals to win the challenge. Should be fun.

You can use the same accountability method to help with your productivity too. Don’t forget to link back to this post!

I’ll let you guys know how I did in September!

Later! 🙂

3 Cheap Ways to Back-Up Your Writing Projects

Imagine you’re sitting at your computer writing a long awaited scene. Everything is going smoothly until your computer gives a high pitched squeal (Buzzut!) and shuts down. How do you react?

If you backed up your work, you’d probably freak out at first but would later calm down. All you lost was some illegally downloaded ebooks and those pointless cat videos you favorited. Your precious stories, however, are safe—Whew!

If you didn’t back up your work…well, you’re basically screwed. Cue tantrum.

I’m here to tell you about three cheap methods you could use to back up your writing so you wont have to experience such hardships. Not only that, but I’m also going to give you the pros and cons of each method. Keep in mind that there are other methods to backing up your work, but these are the ones that I’m most familiar with.

 

1. Scrivener ($40)

Scrivener automatically creates a back-up file on your computer’s hard drive (or wherever you want to save your back-ups) when you exit a project file. It also has an option where you can zip the file to reduce the amount of digital space it takes up.

The only downfall to having Scrivener zip your work is that it takes a few minutes for large files. Regardless, having your files zipped is uber helpful if you’re saving your backups on an external device with limited space like a flash drive or SD card.

To get the most out of this feature, I suggest combining Scrivener with one of the two methods below.

 

2. Flash Drives ($3.00 – $10 for our purposes)

Flash drives are small USB devices used to storage digital things. The price for one depends on the amount of space that’s installed on it. Generally the more space it has the more expensive it will be—but it’s a one-time investment.

Luckily, word documents are only a few hundred kilobytes so you don’t need to buy the most expensive flash drive you can find. For example, I used an 1gb flash drive that I got in the seventh grade until last year! The only reason I changed it out was because the connector was getting uncomfortably wobbly.

There are two ways you can use flash drives to back up your work. (1) Save a version of your novel on the device and update it every so often. (2) Create your novel on the device and work from there.

I set scrivener to save a zipped version of all my novels on my 8gb flash drive. The only thing I have to worry about is accidentally loosing the device (which would suck).

 

3. Online Options (FREE)

There are companies that allow its users to save their files on that company’s servers (aka “the Cloud”). Some even have apps that automatically update their servers with your files. A few of the most famous ones are OneDrive, Dropbox, and Google Drive.

What’s really cool about saving your work on online servers is that you don’t have to clutter your computer or external devices with duplicate files. Heck, the only thing you do need is access to the Internet.

One of the downsides is that you’re limited to a certain amount of space (2gb for Dropbox and 15gb for Google). Again, word documents don’t take up a lot of space so it should be good for your writing purposes.

I’m compelled to mention this, but there’s also the possibility that the company could get hacked which puts your personal files at risk. I don’t know about you, but the thought of someone in my personal files is like discovering that a roommate went commando in my PJs.

Not fun…

 

There you have it! Now that you know these three cheap ways to backing up your work, you have no excuse not to. Unless, of course, I freaked you out with the hacker joke (oops).

If you liked this post, consider subscribing. I’m now offering free world building templates to new subscribers—so check it out! Also, help me serve you better by filling out this survey (you can also view the survey here).

 

What are some ways you guys back up your work?

I’m Back: With a Gift, Opportunity, and Updates

It’s true, I’ve been silent for awhile (like a year). However, I wont bore you with the details because that is not what’s important. What’s important is you, dear reader/subscriber.

Many of you have been genuinely concerned with my disappearance and have not only kept in contact with me, but have also encouraged me to make a return into the blogsphere. Well, I’m back and I’m going to put an emphasis on connecting with you and helping you in anyway I can.  I’m offering an opportunity and some goodies as a way of saying thank you. In addition, I have a favor to ask and some general updates.

Guest Post Opportunity

I’m now offering guest posting opportunities to anyone who is interested. You don’t have to be an “expert” to post on the blog. I feel that everyone has something to share and will have the chance to do so—as long as they follow these guidelines.

Guest posting is a great way to get your message out into the digital world. You’ll expose your message to people you probably wouldn’t have met if you had posted on your own blog. Bonus if those people actually share your message via their social networks!

Why not give it go at Inky Tavern?

FREE World Building Templates

I feel grateful that so many helpful subscribers have taken the time to sign up to Inky Tavern. I want to give back to you guys by offering you the gift of assistance.

I find that the biggest challenge to writing a new story, or writing a current one, is keeping everything organized and well developed. It wasn’t until I started using a “Story Bible” approach to my writing did everything become easier. The templates that I’m offering you are two of the many world building templates that I use for my own writing. They are designed to give your world building efforts a jump start! I hope you find them useful!

New subscribers will automatically get the gift by getting forwarded to a secret page. Current subscribers can get it by sending me a direct message or letting me know in the comments.

Community Survey

I want to be more valuable to you guys! To do that, I feel that I need to figure out more about you. That is what this community survey is all about. In taking it, you help me and this site improve. You can take the survey below or take it via this link. Thank you!

General Updates

In other news, keep an eye out for an official post from me sometime this week! Also, many of my WIPs are nearing production stages which is REALLY AWESOME! Check them out here.

 

Other than those things, everything is going great on my end! I would love to hear how you guys are doing. Tell me in the comments below.

Keep These Things in Mind this NaNoWriMo

Participant-2014-Square-Button

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow! Are you excited? Nervous? NaNoWriMo can be a fun experience, but also a stressful one. Don’t fear! Here are eight things to keep in mind during your noveling quest:

1. Reading is like Oil

This is a sure-fire way to keep your imagination rolling! Read your favorite author’s books and get sucked into their world. Some writers don’t agree with reading and writing at the same time because they feel that the author’s style may seep into their own. However, reading before writing isn’t a matter of imitating the craft of another writer, it’s about keeping your imagination on standby. Read for enjoyment!

2. Keep a Journal Handy

There’s nothing more frustrating than forgetting a perfect scenario, idea, or conflict that would’ve brought your novel to life. Unfortunately, ideas have a way of popping up when you aren’t near a pen or paper. You can eliminate this frustration by keeping an idea journal nearby. It may also be a good idea to keep a second journal around for freewriting to shake off the cobwebs before delving into your manuscript.

3. Have a Receptive Mindset

It’s a wise idea to be in a receptive mindset to cultivate ideas for both current and future manuscripts. Also, try to be open to new ideas that pop up during the drafting phase. Forcing your novel in these new directions could be just the thing your story needs.

4. Close Out Negativity

Negativity can appear from anywhere: from the lips of our loved ones, from our bosses, from our supervisors, from the world, or even from a complete stranger. However, the wellspring of negativity is strongest within us. Heck, writers have even given it a fancy name: the inner critic.

The critic is a major “fun sponge.”  It will find reasons to tell you why every idea you come up with is stupid. Not only that, but it will make you hesitate or doubt yourself. It’s your job to tell it “no.”

Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

-Steven Pressfield, Do the Work

Don’t get me wrong, the critic is a necessary force in editing but not with creating.

5. Claim Your Kingdom

When you sit down to write, make sure it’s at a time and place comfortable to you. If you’re a morning person and you love to feel the rays of the sun kiss your cheek when you write—write then! If you like the feel of the carpet under your toes and a nice cup of java in your hands—do it. If you like to write in the dark with the sound of your spouse snoring—have at it. Claim you spot and write like Kings/Queens.

6. Be a Time Thief!!

Always use any free time given to you to write your quota of words. Write during your half-hour breaks or as you wait for your kid in the school parking lot. If it seems like you don’t have time to write, try making a point of getting something written in the morning before starting your day. There’s always time… you just gotta seize it.

7. Follow the North Star

What got you into writing? Was it because you hoped you could make money? Become rich and famous? Was it for a loved one? You? Maybe you have something to say or prove?

Whatever it is, make sure it makes you feel like crap when you quit. Keep it in mind as you write your way through November and let it be your determination. Let it force you to the finish line and, when November is over, let it remind you that this is just the beginning.

8. Have Fun

Write what tickles your fancy and have devilish fun with it! (I don’t think I can explain that any simpler, do you? 🙂 )

Good luck out there, WriMos!

A New Tag…A Social Media Tag!!

About a month(?) or so ago, Kate Jane created this interesting Social Media Tag that I think will catch on (or have already caught on). It creatively uses a number of social media platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, as a frame for writers to talk about their current (or past) WIP. I’m going to use Burwood Murder, a short story, for this tag. 🙂

Here’s how it works:

The Rules:

Copy the questions below and answer them. Then, tag five people to do the tag and notify them; make sure to leave a comment including your post’s URL for the person who tagged you, so that they can go read your post!

The Questions:

  1. Twitter: Describe your plot in 140 characters or less.
  2. Facebook: With the parents/grandparents flooding this site, who is your oldest character?
  3. Instagram: What does one of your characters look like? #selfie (find the closest picture you can!)
  4. WordPress: Designing your theme is the funnest part, so how would/did you design your book cover?
  5. Tumblr: Naming your blog is so difficult! What did you name your book?
  6. Spring.me: Get your weirdest questions answered. Ask your main character one weird question, and have that character answer.
  7. Pandora/Spotify: What kind of music are you playing whilst writing? If you don’t listen to music, what do you think your main character would listen to?
  8. Myspace: All good things must come to an end! What is one book idea that you were really into, but lost interest in?

My Answers:

1. Twitter: Describe your Plot in 140 characters or less.

He was chasing down a murder story…until he became one of the victims.

2. Facebook: With the parents/grandparents flooding this site, who is your oldest character?

There are a lot of older people in this story, but the oldest is Walter who runs a junkyard.

3. Instagram: What does one of your characters look like? #selfie (find the closest that you can):

Let me tell you something: You’ll be surprised of the type of pictures you can find browsing the Internet. (*shudders*)

Anyway, if anyone could look like my MC, Drew, I think it would be this guy:

mechanic-electoronics-431x300

4. WordPress: Designing your theme is the funnest part, so how would you design your book cover?

I think if I could make a book cover for Burwood it would have a murder object, like a hammer, smashing something off screen (or off-cover I should say) with blood forming the title.

Gnarly, right? I thought so to. I don’t think its very original though, lol!

5. Tumblr: Naming your blog is so difficult! What did you name your book?

To be honest with you, I never settle on a particular title. I usually just name my drafts after a symbol/idea that came to mind when I was drafting/outlining the story. The “symbol/idea” for Burwood is murder in a small town.

6. Spring.me: Get your weirdest questions answered. Ask your main character one weird question, and have that character answer.

ME: Have you ever wished you could fly?

Mysterious Murderer: I think this would be a different story if I could do that.

7. Pandora/Spotify: What kind of music are you playing whilst writing? If you don’t listen to music, what do you think your main character would listen to?

I didn’t listen to anything while I wrote this, but Drew may listen to heavy metal or techno.

8. Myspace: All good things must come to an end! What is one book idea that you were really into, but lost interest in?

I tried to pen a romance novel a few years back…but the thrill quickly dissipated and I lost interest. Heck, I can’t even remember what it was about! I guess it’s germinating somewhere in my unconscious…somewhere

Tag, You’re It:

  1. Luther Siler
  2. Miska Jenkins
  3. Taylor Grace
  4. Nirvana
  5. You want to try? Knock yourself out.

Create like a Child and Plot Without Structure

NaNoWriMo forces us to remember what writing is about: having fun, unleashing our creativity, and coloring outside the lines. It’s the perfect opportunity to break away from plot structure and rekindle our passion for pure imaginative storytelling.

How? By keeping it simple.

Centuries ago, Aristotle noted in his book Poetics that while a story does have a beginning, a middle and an ending, the beginning is not simply the first event in a series of three, but rather the emotionally engaging originating event. The middle is the natural and causally related consequence, and the end is the inevitable conclusive event.

In other words, stories have an origination, an escalation of conflict, and a resolution.

Steven James

I’m no genius; however, I think Aristotle may have been referring to this guy:

fiction

Keep it in mind as you sketch your story these next few weeks. Try to loosen up and plot without following rigid structures. Harness the spirit of NaNoWriMo and create like a child.

Besides, you can always edit it later…

Three Ways Students Can Balance Their Writing and Academic Lives

Pursuing an educational goal and keeping up with your creative writing isn’t the most easiest task in the world. School can become so overbearing that it forces us to prioritize it over our creativity. Although this choice may seem responsible at the time, it’s really an avenue towards a more stressful dilemma: unproductively.

In order to keep myself from feeling unproductive, I do the following three things:

 

1. KNOW THY SCHEDULE

In fiction, thieves usually spend a bit of time scoping out a territory before infiltrating it. They discover all the possible entrances, emergency escape routes, and the precise moment the guard jabs his finger into his nose.

Ok, you wont be doing any of that; however, it’s still a good idea to analyze your day-to-day schedule.

You may also want to spend some time (I recommend a week) learning your instructor’s routine:

  • Do they arrive early, late, or on time to class?
  • Do they open the doors early?
  • Do they give breaks midway into their lecture?

Analyze your routine, too:

  • How long does it take you to study? (If you have to, time yourself)
  • What are some of your other responsibilities?
  • When do you have breaks?

 

2. BATTLE PLAN

Now that you have a general idea of your academic week, see if you can squeeze some writing in. Can you…

  • Write during class breaks?
  • Get up really early to write?
  • Take a ten minute homework break to jot down some ideas?

Come up with a monthly wordcount goal and break it down into chunks. Also, see if you can schedule small writing sessions during the day.

 

3. EXECUTE

By following the above steps, your current dilemma may shift from “I don’t have time to write” to “I’m too darn tired to write!” The solution to this problem is simple: suck it up and write.

 

SOME EXTRA TIPS

  • Don’t prioritize your creative projects below your school work. Make them equal.
  • Carry a notepad with you (or some word processing device) to jot down ideas that you may have throughout the day.
  • Find time to read for fun.
  • If your schedule is ruined by some unforeseen circumstance, don’t freak out. Reschedule and keep writing.

 

What do you think? If you could add something to this method, what would it be? If you tried this method, how did it work for you?

One Lovely Blog Award! Yipiee!

It’s a rewarding feeling when I log onto my blog or open up my email to find awesome messages from my buds! It’s a wonder that there are people out there who even read what I write and I’m truly grateful to them. Vik Tory Arch and Kaleiyah-P are two such people. Both nominated me for the One Lovely Blog Award and said that they liked what I do here on the Tavern.

Thanks gals! I’ll do my best to keep my posts coming for peeps like you.

lovelyblogaward

Ok so the rules are…

  1. You must thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog. You must list the rules and display the award.
  2. You must add 7 facts about yourself.
  3. You must nominate 15 (or more) other bloggers and comment on one of their posts to let them know they have been nominated.

7 Random Facts about ME

  1. My favorite color is green
  2. I like stories where the villains are relatable
  3. I’m a clutz so you shouldn’t trust me with anything fragile
  4. I hate the feeling of falling behind!
  5. Butterfingers are my favorite candy
  6. Defiance is my new favorite MMORPG and TV series
  7. The Black List is another favorite show of mine

Tag You’re It!

  1. J.H. Mae
  2. Nirvana
  3. Luther M. Siler
  4. Mishka Jenkins
  5. Taylor Grace
  6. Raevenly Writes
  7. David J Delaney
  8. Arya
  9. Sabrina Wolfheart
  10. Damyanti
  11. D. Emery Bunn
  12. Winter Bayne
  13. Story Medic
  14. Carol J Forrester
  15. Rachel Carrera

Freewrite 11: Disconnect and Write

You’d figure she’d get a headache…

Quick! Grab a pen and paper.

Got it? Now distance yourself from every piece of technology in your home (cellphones, laptops, TV, teleportation devices, laser guns, etc). If it’s not deterimental to your health, leave it! I personally suggest that you take a field trip into the backyard or a local park.

Distanced? Great.

Get cozy. Write for fifteen minutes.

 

The point of this Freewriting exercise is to pull you away from all distractions (twitter, facebook, email, texting, your blog, so on) forcing you to do one thing: Write. Be hard on yourself! Don’t go back into your home or pick up any piece of tech until you’ve written something.

What should you write about? That’s your choice.

 

Freewrite #11 Goals:

  1. Get away from technology. (Go in the backyard, park, coffee shop—somewhere!)
  2. Write for fifteen minutes. (I suggest using a pencil and notepad)
  3. Don’t censor / edit yourself.

 

Once you’re done pat yourself on the back. You’ve just done one of the hardest things for a writer to do. If you want to share what you wrote on your blog—FANSTATIC! If not, let me know how this experience helped (or did not help) you in the comments. Good luck!