Set Your Writing Goals

How long have you been thinking about writing your book? You may have wanted to become a writer your entire life or you may instead have just recently come to the realization that you have something to say, and that the best way for people to hear you is through a book. But it really doesn’t matter where or when you decided to write your book. What matters is that now that you have made the decision, you don’t allow your dream to gather dust in a desk drawer or in a long-unopened computer file.
Writing a book is difficult. If you’ve never written anything longer than a three- or four-page report or even a ten-page short story, taking on a project as large as a book probably seems like a daunting task.
I have been writing most of my life; I’ve written short articles as well as long, book-length projects. I began my career as a newspaper reporter and editor, and only after several years of writing on a daily basis did I decide to strike out on my own as a freelance writer.
Over my years as a freelancer, other writer friends often asked me to edit the books they were writing. After working with several authors I noticed a pattern. Many of the writers I worked with started their project with great enthusiasm, writing every day, getting up at 4 a.m. to finish a chapter, or staying up long after midnight. But after a few weeks or months their fervor waned. Real life intervened; the kids got sick, the job required overtime, a vacation or illness in the family disrupted their regular routine. The excuses were many and varied, and because they were invented by writers they were all very, very creative. But no matter how creative the excuse, in the end, it was always the same story: the book never got written.
A few of the people whom I worked with did finish their projects and went on to publish their work. But even though I began to work as a book editor for more and more authors, I noticed the success rate for finishing projects never improved; it remained about one in five. Then one day I got a call from a person who worked as a career coach, teaching young people how to become more successful in advancing in their careers.
Bob had never written a book before, but he told me he planned to write one in three months and have it published before Christmas. It was May. I laughed; I’d known many people with years of experience in writing who couldn’t finish writing a book in that kind of time, let alone deal with all the other details of book publishing such as editing, proofreading, designing a cover and getting the book printed. But Bob was enthusiastic and insistent, and he also planned to pay me, so I agreed to work with him.
It was a great experience. We learned from each other. I taught Bob about the art of writing, and as I read his work and talked with him I learned about planning and project management, budgeting time and goal setting. Bob met all of his goals, completed his book and published it by Christmas. Working with Bob was my first experience in the techniques that good coaches—whether they are sports coaches, business coaches or life coaches—use to help their protégés meet their goals. Since that time I’ve not only read and studied more on coaching, I’ve worked with other coaches who also wanted to write books. As I learned from each person that I worked with, my success rate in helping my clients finish their book projects also began to increase.
Writing a book is hard work. Writing requires time, creative energy, a sense of purpose and a plan. It is often this last step―a plan―that writers forget about. You would not hop in your car and start a road trip from Florida to California without making preparations such as researching places to stop along the way, arranging a tune-up for your car and obtaining a roadmap or GPS to guide you. A book is no different. Before you begin to write, you must do the planning.

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