Thursday, May 30, 2013

Achieving Writing Goals the SMART Way

We all have goals as writers. Some folks want to write more. Some want to get published. Some want to write better. Some want to finish their project. Others want to start. So many goals, so little time. So, what do we need to do to achieve these goals? Well, the details are different for everyone, but if we apply a standard formula, the steps are pretty much the same. Using the SMART method (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound), anyone can create a path to achieving their goal.

So, let's take a look at an example.

SPECIFIC This is where you lay out your goal. It's important that your goal is as specific as possible so that it can answer to scrutiny. What do you want to accomplish? Why? As we're talking about writing, let's have a goal that most writer's have: "I want to increase my per day word count so that I can finish novels quicker and produce more content over the course of the year." Nothing vague there. Let's move on.

MEASURABLE It seems obvious, but this is where you define how you will measure the success criteria for achieving the goal. In this example, it's a matter of being able to point to a higher word total per day and, therefore, more finished projects and content (eg, I write 500 words a day now and publish a novel every year. I want to write 1000 words a day and publish 2 novels a year).

ATTAINABLE Is this a realistic goal? Is it achievable? Have I set the bar to high? And, if it isn't achievable now, what tools or resources do I need in order to achieve this goal? You may not even know the answer to this right away. Do some research. Find out how others have gotten over this hurdle. In our example of "writing more," I'm sure there are many answers out there. However, you need one that works for you. There may be several ideas that you can use at once (eg, carry a notepad wherever you go, write before you go to work, write on your lunch break, set your alarm a half hour early in the morning and write then).

RELEVANT How much does this matter to you? Guess what? If you don't care, you'll probably never achieve the goal you set. It doesn't matter what it is. You don't just accidentally accomplish anything, right? Well, at least for me it doesn't work that way. You have to want to get there. And, it has to make sense for you to get there as well. You may be at a point in your life where the additional stress of another goal, or a particular goal, isn't worth the hassle. But, you must also consider that by achieving the goal, you may relieve other stressors in your life (eg, writing 2 novels a year may increase my cash flow and pay a couple of bills).

TIME-BOUND When? When do we start? Now. How soon before I start evaluating my progress? Two weeks? A month? If you don't set a time boundary, you're setting yourself up for failure. We're creatures of habit and if your goal involves a new one, you've got to put it into motion right away. Even if your goal isn't habit related, you should still have a due date at which point you need to assess your progress toward your goal. Have you met it? And, if not, what went wrong? What can you do to get back on track? Do you need to adjust your goal, or the process that you're using to achieve it?

I hope this provides some guidance for setting and achieving goals. The SMART criteria were first described in the November 1981 issue of Management Review by George T. Doran as a method for writing goals and objectives for management. I think it's a good tool for just about any goal-setting objective.

What do you think?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Can You Hear That? My Book Is an Audiobook!

As I mentioned several weeks ago, my debut novel, Multiples of Six, was in production to become an audiobook. Narrated by veteran movie voiceover actor Eddie Frierson (IMDB,, I could not be happier with the end results. It is now available through, Amazon, and iTunes (clicking this last link will open iTunes).

From the author's perspective, the process is relatively easy. You just have to go through the grueling torture of listening to your own words spoken back to you. I mean that in the most loving way, of course. But, I found it exceptionally difficult to hear my own writing. Not that it was badly written or poorly spoken (did I mention how awesome my narrator is?), it's just mine... and I've only ever heard those words in my head as I wrote them and as I read them. It's definitely a leap of faith on many levels, but Eddie was able to produce a gem. I really love what he did with the characters.

If you're an author and you've been wondering about audiobooks, head over to (an Amazon company) and check it out. With luck, you'll find someone to team up with to produce your own book.

Have experience with audiobook production and sales? Please share your story!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Fan Fiction Gets A Venue - Amazon Announces Kindle Worlds

Fan fiction's new best friend.
Amazon has announced a new platform available to authors called Kindle Worlds. "Amazon Publishing has secured licenses from Warner Bros. for Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries, with licenses for more Worlds on the way."

Definitely an interesting development and another sign that Amazon is doing all the right things for independent authors. While I don't personally have an interest in fan fiction, I can see this being HUGE for those who started their writing this way. It will be interesting to see what other licenses Amazon acquires for Kindle Worlds in the future.

What do you think?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Let's Tell a Story

5 Essential Parts
A while back, I wrote a piece about how to plot your novel. Well, today, we're going to break that down
even further into its basic elements. How do you go about the “simple” process of telling a story. I've read and seen a lot of answers to this question, but we're going to keep it as simple as possible.
At its base level, there are 5 parts to a good story; foundation, change, significance, culmination, and purpose. That’s not to say that these are the only parts or the order in which they must appear. However, take any one of these away and you might be left with a story that doesn't feel whole. And starting to write before fully understanding what makes your story complete can make the experience harrowing. Writing can be challenging as it is. Let’s go through the parts and see what we have.

1.       Foundation – This is the “Once upon a time…” or “A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…” aspect of the story. What’s the norm? What’s the average day-to-day like in your story? Even if it’s just a glimpse, providing this information gives your story a platform on which to build. We don’t always need to put this up front, but we need to know it’s there. No character should live in a bubble… unless your story is about a character in a bubble… so, show the life that goes on around him/her/it. Bob was a hard-working man who loved life and his family.

2.       Change – Something needs to change the status quo. You’ve established the norm, so now you need to introduce the catalyst that induces a change to which your main character(s) needs to react. The extent of the change need only be relative to the main character’s need to be affected. Folks have a tendency to assume that big things need to happen in order to invoke change in a story (eg, death, cataclysm, zombies). However, sometimes the smallest stones make the largest ripples. Bob loses his well-paying job.

3.       Significance – The change has occurred. What does this lead to? How is your main character’s daily life affected? In life, as in the stories we tell about it, events aren’t usually cut and dry; Bob can’t afford food anymore and is forced to kill his neighbor. Hmmm…seems like we might be missing something. Like maybe some details? Bob can’t afford food anymore; Bob’s neighbor offers to give Bob help, but he wants something in return (a night with Bob’s wife); Bob’s got nowhere to turn and is running out of options; Bob’s sadistic neighbor taunts Bob and threatens to… and we could go one, but you get the point. A series of events then leads us to the…

4.       Culmination – …and in the end, Bob and said neighbor struggle in a fight to the death before Bob comes out on top. Extreme? Yes. Overly simplified? Indeed. But, you get the picture. You’re significant events must lead to a focal point, or climax. This is where everything comes together and the conflict that has propelled the story to this point is resolved, one way or the other.

5.       Purpose – Why did the character just go through all of that? What’s the resolution, or the new norm? Essentially, what’s the moral of your story? I would argue that this is the most important part of your story. What is it that you’re trying to tell the reader? When Bob is arrested, the police discover that his neighbor is a wanted serial killer and Bob is exonerated and they all live happily ever after (except for the neighbor, obviously). The moral? Don’t mess with Bob.

These 5 points create the thread of your story. While the order of the story thread can vary, it’s rare to find a good story that doesn’t incorporate each one of these. If you have an idea for a story, determine which of these parts you know and which you don’t. I often have 1, 2, and 4 in mind before I ever start writing, but 3 and 5 can often be the most difficult to put together on the fly. Starting your next project with all of these pieces in place can make the story-writing experience that much more enjoyable.