Celebrating 2015

For the past several years (2012, 2013, 2014), I have kept track of the accomplishments for the year. Last year I kept a monthly celebration page, which I called my “Book of Stars” (I originally posted about that here). This year was particularly challenging for me, which I wrote about yesterday, so I’m particularly excited to look back on all I did accomplish. I didn’t meet every goal, but I know I’m a better writer on December 31, 2015 than I was on January 1, 2015, so that is something that I can be excited about.


Bookish Things

  • 1st book published—Ancient China (ABDO, 2015)

ABDO Cover

  • As a result of that, I got to sign my first books, see my book in a public library, and speak at a literacy conference.

2015-04-23 15.29.24

  • Mentor Text E-book published and up for sale on my website

Mentor Texts for Writers Book 1 Cover


  • Writing Marathon–February
  • ReFoReMo—March
  • Poem a Day—April, I completed 30 poems alongside Linda. Many thanks to Renee for teaming us up!
  • PiBoIdMo—I was not a winner, but I did work on getting ideas down in November.
  • Write Daily 30—December, I worked on revising a middle grade in 45 minute sessions each day. Thanks to Linda Urban for organizing this!
  • 12×12—All year. I wrote 6 new PBs and did 25+ revisions.

Guest Posts


  • Read 423 picture books (this does NOT include the books I read for my job at my job, just the ones I read at home for personal writing growth)
  • Read 47 longer works—novels and adult NF

Writing Workshops

  • Luray retreat with Candace Ransom
  • SCBWI MD/DE/WV Conference
  • WOW Conference
  • SCBWI Mid-Atlantic Conference

Book Events I Attended

2015-03-19 20.48.00

  • Kate DiCamillo at Virginia Festival for the Book
  • Cece Bell (at Hollins)
  • Maggie Steifvater (at Hollins)
  • Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Politics and Prose Picture Book Panel
  • National Book Festival—so many authors
  • Margarita Engle
  • Duncan Tunatiuh
  • Natalie Lorenzi

Middle Grade Novel Writing

  • Revision in progress since November

Other Writing

  • Got back into the submission game again after a hiatus
  • Received several helpful critiques from agents and editors at various events

Keeping track of the things I DID accomplish definitely does make me pumped to do more writing. So here’s to 2016!

What are you most proud of from 2015?


How to Survive a Move with Your Creativity Intact

It’s no secret that we moved this year. I’ve moved a lot in my life, having grown up in Thailand and Malaysia, and moving multiple times in my adult life. But this one was different. This time I said good bye to a place I’d lived in longer than any place else in my life. And this time I had kids.

Before the move, I had a great writing routine.

Then we put our house on the market, and I started job hunting. We sold our house, and moved into my parents’ condo. Then we had to find a new house and I had to make decisions about my new job. I had a summer full of temporariness. We moved into our new house, but I still had commitments for the summer to keep, so we were back and forth across the state all summer.

I’m now a few months on the other side of the move, several months into my new job, my kids are settled, and I am back in a good writing routine.

Looking back on the transition makes me absolutely exhausted.

One of my biggest fears was not being able to hang onto my creative life in the midst of it all. I definitely don’t think I excelled at it, but there were some things that keep me afloat during a stressful time.

Postpone Goals

I had big plans to revise a novel in March-May of 2015. That was right in the thick of my house selling, me getting job offers and having to make decisions, and us buying a house.

For me, I have to be in a book, really in it, almost every single day when I’m drafting and revising a novel-length project. I just know that’s how I work best. Otherwise, I spend a lot of time trying to remember where I last left off.

When all of the major decisions hit at once, I abandoned that novel-revising goal, and I told my writing friends I abandoned it. You know what happened? They wholeheartedly supported my decision and they helped validate that decision. They helped me give myself permission to take a break from it.

I picked it back up in November and December of 2015. And that time away was actually so helpful. I ended up cutting characters, cutting chapters, rewriting big chunks of it. I’m still working on it, but I am sure that it’s a better revision that I could’ve done in the spring.

Morning Pages

I realized during all of those times I was trying to separate one decision from the other one, I needed to write. I process things both verbally and through writing them down. So, as my husband and I talked over our choices, I also wrote down pros and cons and my feelings, those intangible things that still played into my decisions.

Once we moved, I had a thousand things on my mind. I had my to-do lists and I also had my emotions, and my children’s emotions, and the emotions of reuniting our family after living apart for nine months.

Moving takes up a lot of headspace. I wasn’t coming up with the most stellar writing at this time and I was having trouble focusing on the writing at hand because I had all of this junk in my mind. I also had new job stress and the kids’ new situation stress.

I brought the morning pages back out. There were some mornings that all I could do was morning pages. But it was okay because it helped me free up some of that creative energy.

Eventually, I was able to do more than just morning pages.

Stay Organized

My life was upside down for many months—basically from February-August. I used a bullet journal to help keep all of my to-do lists organized. It helped me keep all of my writing goals and my life transition mess organized. For more information on how I do bullet journaling, read this.

Small Victories Matter

Last year I wrote about my Book of Stars. This year, I incorporated it into my bullet journal.

Bullet Journal: Book of Stars page

Bullet Journal: Book of Stars page

When August rolled around, and I was feeling pretty depressed about all of the goals that had derailed, I flipped through my “book of stars” pages for each month. When I saw the books that I had read and book that was published and the speech that I delivered and so much more, I began to get out of my funk.

No, I didn’t accomplish all of my goals in 2015, but dang it, I did a lot!

Revise Your Goals

For me, I had to pare things down to what was really, really important. My day job hours changed, my commute increased, and I wanted to make sure that our family time was intact. That meant, I had to be strict about my writing hours and really keep them to the morning only.

That meant, some things had to give. I blogged less. I tried not to be scattered in a million different directions. I tried to be focused on what I really, really wanted to do.

Embrace Setbacks

As you’ll see in my post tomorrow, I’m excited about all that DID accomplish. I did way more than I gave myself credit for. However, one of my big, disappointing setbacks was not being able to draft a new novel.

However, I am embracing it. I realize that this got put on the back burner NOT because of procrastination, but because I made a conscious decision to hold onto my sanity and put that goal off for a few more months.

It’s on my list for 2016. Am I disappointed? Yes. Do I regret it? No.

I’m a type A, driven person. Sometimes it’s harder for me to say NO to myself than to push myself.

So, I think this setback was, in fact, a victory. I learned to recognize when I’d taken on too much and that I needed to re-evaluate.


Trust me, the move wasn’t perfect. The transition to my new schedule required some adjusting. But I’m happy to say I found my way back to my writing.

What life transitions have derailed your writing? How did YOU find your way back?

Focus on March

In 2014, I vowed to be more focused in my work. I wrote about quarterly goals and monthly focus. Now that the month of February is almost over, it’s time to start looking at March. I’ll admit, I overshot what I thought I could get done in February. But I’m still proud of all that I accomplished.

If you are working on a monthly focus each month, time to start writing down what you are planning to do in March. If you haven’t been doing it yet, it’s not too late.

Template for Monthly Focus (Click on the image to download)

Template for Monthly Focus (Click on the image to download)

We’re All in This Together: Writing Goals for 2014

Last month our WAITT members talked about accomplishments for 2013. This month, it’s time to look forward. We are sharing at least one writing-related goal for 2014 and how we are going to get there. I can’t wait to see what these ladies accomplish in 2014!!!

Sue Heavenrich

Archimedes Notebook

The beginning of the year seems like a great time to focus on “new beginnings”. But it’s not beginnings I need to focus on; it’s endings. So one of my goals this year is to get stories finished and sent out the door. And that means revision. Which is why this past week I’ve been participating in ReViMo – a week of focusing on revising manuscripts.

That’s just my first step. The next is to take those revisions to my critique group for feedback – which means further revisions. Then comes the scary part: sending them out into the world.

Now, time to commit some numbers to this goal. I want to submit 6 new manuscripts this year. That means spending a month finishing something I started during PiBoIdMo or (later this year) from the week of writing nonfiction picture books (aka: WOW). And then another month to revise and get feedback and revise. To keep myself on track I’ve taped a 3X5 card to the wall near my desk. It’s got 6 boxes- each just the right size to write in the name of the story and the first place I submit it…. starting with the story I’m revising today.

Amie Rose Rotruck


My goal is to get back to writing my OWN stories.  Not just writing.  Writing my OWN stories, as in I create the world, the characters, the history, the maps, everything.  Why does this need to be specified in those terms?  I am, I must admit, a bit of a Fangirl about certain things.  This has been a bit of a double-edge sword in my writing career.  On the one hand, it lead to my first and second published books, which certainly is good for my resume and getting my name out there, plus showing to potential editors that I can work to a deadline (well enough for the same publisher to hire me again).  For both Bronze Dragon Codex and, to a lesser extent, Young Wizards Handbook, I had the chance to write and play around in a world (in those cases, the world of Dragonlance) that I’ve loved since I was in middle school.  That took up most of my time from 2005-2009, interspersed with working on only two other books: my Hollins thesis (Thread) and a middle grade novel (written mainly to see if I could write a book within a year that wasn’t a work-for-hire).  I then took a break after my daughter was born, and resumed writing seriously in 2012.  During 2012, I auditioned for two book-packaging company projects, as I kept hearing about ideas that I really wanted to work with.  Thus, when I acquired an agent in early 2013, I was somewhat embarrassed and appalled to realize that I only had ONE book of my own that was in publishable shape.  I’d gotten seduced by the fun of writing work-for-hire (which I often describe as writing fan-fic and getting paid for it) and the absolute high of actually being PUBLISHED, even if it wasn’t 100% “mine.”  After I acquired my agent, I focused on working on a sequel to Thread and also began another project, as I felt the middle grade novel needed some serious revision and didn’t seem to be the type of thing my agent would be excited about.  But.

Last summer I found out that my favorite movie of all time was running an author contest for someone to write a prequel novel to the movie.  Once again, I found myself with a chance to write and play in a world that I loved with the chance of it leading to publication (I’ve never quite seen the point of fanfic writing, as why write something that you’ll never legally be able to publish?).  I spent most of the latter half of 2013 working on my contest entry, neglecting my “own” worlds yet again.  I don’t regret doing that at all and I am still VERY excited about the contest and really, really, REALLY hope I win.  But while I wait for them to select a winner, now is the time to start building my own portfolio, as it’s quite embarrassing to have been taking my writing career seriously since 2001, semi-seriously since 1992, and only have one polished novel to present to an agent.  Do I regret taking on work-for-hire?  Absolutely not, since I love it.  However, to grow my career, I do need to create something new, not just hang out in someone else’s playground.

So, goal: complete and polish one new novel that I can present to my agent.  That, and finish excavating my office so I’m not writing in complete chaos!

Carol Munro


Freelance writer since 1996

I’ve set two major goals for myself for 2014. First, I’ll study craft and improve my skills. I’ll spend time at conferences, workshops, and seminars, online and on location. And I’ll write-write-write, revise-revise-revise, polish-polish-polish. Second, before year end I will have an agent. I want to find someone I can count on as a partner in my writing career, someone who won’t pull punches with me if I try to pass off mediocre for polished, someone who’s respected in the industry and is a knowledgeable professional.

I’ll achieve both these goals by maintaining focus, evaluating my progress on a bi-weekly basis, reviewing what still needs to be done for me to be successful. An eye on the prize kind of thing.

There’s so much to learn about working in the picture book industry. I think it’s important to focus on one aspect at a time. In 2012 I studied the industry itself, learning about the publishers, their submission guidelines, their catalogs. The eye opener? How closed the doors were to unpublished and unagented writers. In 2013, I decided I needed to read a heck of a lot more picture books, and I wanted my first kid-lit contract. I read 500 picture books (being a Cybils judge helped me achieve this goal), and I sold a story to Highlights.

Do I think setting goals works? You betcha! If you aren’t setting goals, do it.

Do I think I’ll meet my 2014 goals? You betcha! If not, what the heck am I doing here?

Life is short. Go get what you want! I mean it.

Donna L Sadd

Varied Posts from a Gal who Wants to be a Writer when She Grows Up!


My writing goal for 2014 is the same as it was last year…to learn the craft. I graduated Mira Reisberg’s The Children’s Book Academy, and am currently taking Susanna Leonard Hill’s awesome Making Picture Book Magic course. Additionally, I joined Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 at the Gold level this year and, hopefully, plan to begin submitting a few manuscripts as well.

I will be attending Kristen Fulton’s WOW Picture Book Writer’s Retreat, GA in July, and Pat Miller’s NF 4 NF- Children’s Writing Conference Nonfiction for New Folks, TX in October.

I also try to participate in every writing challenge that I can to practice my skills and because the camaraderie spurs me on. Currently, I’m doing Shannon Abercrombie’s Start the Year off Write and am doing daily poetry posts to my blog for Kat Apel’s Month of Poetry (#MoP14).

I’ve included links because it’s not too late to get involved, and the courses are ongoing.

Alayne Kay Christian

Author of  “Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa”


Represented by Erzsi Deak, Hen&ink Literary Studio

I have tons of goals brewing in my head. However, there is one thing I am certain of. . . . For me to be as successful as I want to be this year, I need to get focused and stay focused on what is most important to me – my writing. How am I going to achieve that goal? Currently, I am evaluating my time by asking myself, “What things am I allowing to steal me away from my craft?” But even when I am done evaluating my time and freeing up more time to write and edit, what will keep me focused? I need a plan. And I have one. I plan to take advantage of some of the fantastic forms that Marcie Flinchum Atkins offers on her blog. As a life coach, I know quite a bit about setting smart goals and little tricks for holding myself accountable. I’m not so good at organization. But Marcie has created forms that will give me a shortcut to getting organized, setting my smart goals and remaining focused on them. Here are a few links that will lead you to the forms and some thought provoking posts on organization and goal setting for writers. Thanks for sharing, Marcie!

Organize Your Writing Life Posts

Goal Writing Posts


 Vivian Kirkfield

Educator – Parenting Speaker – Author

My main goal for 2014 is to get my work out there. As I read blog posts written by successful authors, I observe that most of them have been plugging away for MANY years…studying the craft, making time for writing (BIC=butt in chair), revising and submitting. You know what they say about the lottery…if you don’t play – you can’t win.

For 2014, I am (as American Idol judge Randy used to say) IN IT TO WIN IT! And winning it doesn’t necessarily mean getting a book published (although that would be lover-ly). It means doing whatever it takes to make my writing the best it can be and seeing to it that agents and editors SEE it.

The steps I plan to take to climb this ladder (will one of you please keep it steady?) are

  • Participate in writing challenges (like January’s Start the Year off Write and ReviMo and November’s PiBoIdMo)
  • Participate in 12×12 at the Golden Book level and make better use of the Forum than I did last year
  • Participate in Rate Your Story at the Pro membership so that I can get feedback on manuscripts
  • Take Susanna Leonard Hill’s Making Picture Book Magic class next month
  • Continue my involvement with my two critique groups that each exchange manuscripts once a month
  • Continue participating in FB groups like Sub Six
  • Continue blogging once a week with Perfect Picture Book Friday and an additional 2 days each month for Goal-Busters and Will Write for Cookies (David Seow in the spotlight for January…Jane Yolen, Emma Walton Hamilton and so many more in the months so come.)
  • Make multiple bowls of popcorn with an ice cream cone chaser every night while watching a movie classic with my husband
  • Gratefully accept all the encouragement and support this incredible community doles out!

Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Children’s and YA Writer

One of my goals this year is to spend more time in revision. I write across multiple genres, so I have a multitude of revisions I need to do. Here’s the plan:

1) Revision of an older middle grade novel. I will be working through THE PLOT WHISPERER and really dissecting it.

2) Revision of a newer middle grade novel. This first horrible draft is DONE. I’ll be a attending a revision workshop in March to work out a plan for revision for it.

3) Picture Book Revisions

* First, I made a list of the current drafts I have and what the status of each. Here’s a post where I talked about how I’m doing that.

* I’m participating in ReviMo, which ends today. However, the posts will still be archived, so if you are looking to revise picture books, I’d head there.

* I’m participating in a picture book workshop in June.

* I’m involved in 12×12 (which you still have a little bit of time to sign up for, if you’re interested). I’ll be doing revisions and new drafts this year.

Your Turn

What is one writing-related goal YOU have for 2014? Leave us a note in the comments. I can’t wait to see what we do in 2014!


Guest Post at DIYMFA on Focusing

I’m guest posting over at DIYMFA on FOCUS for 2014. If you follow my blog regularly, you have seen much of this information before, but you can still hop over there and check it out.

If you would like to download the printables I mention, you can download them on my GOALS page.

Quarterly Goals Template

Last week, I mentioned that I am not setting huge goals for a year in 2014. I’m trying quarterly goals instead. Then each month, I will pick a FOCUS and really try to hone in on certain things for that month. I’m hoping this will provide me with more flexibility and more concentrated focus.

Recent Posts

* 2013 in Review

* Quarterly Goals Explanation and Monthly Focus Template

* Weekly To-Do Lists

During the month of December, I’m trying out my monthly focus page, but I’m also trying to finish my goals for the first quarter of 2014. Here is my template for quarterly goals. I made two.

The first template is for people who want to see one goal on a page.

Click on the image to download the template

Click on the image to download the template


The second template is for people who want to put multiple goals on a page.

Quarterly Goals 2 Screenshot

Click on the image to download the template

Remember to make your goals SMART. I’ve written about these types of goals in the past. Remember to pre-plan action steps you need to take to get there. I also like to document steps I’ve actually taken and their results.

I’ll be posting reminders throughout 2014 when it’s time to start taking a look at the new quarterly goals.

Here’s to a productive 2014!

We’re All in This Together: Celebrating 2013

The WAITT group is so inspiring to me when I see how hard they are working on making their writing better and getting it out into the world. We are celebrating 2013 and all that we have accomplished this year.

What is one writing-related thing that you accomplished in 2013? What steps did you take to accomplish this? 

EW Clark

Novelist, Young Adult & Middle Grade


I wrote a middle grade novel, LOOSE, and revised it, changing it from first person to close third.  Because I knew this revision would be a huge undertaking, I decided to print it out and totally rewrite it.  I have a tendency to over-write.  In revising this way, I saw huge chunks that felt too dull or repetitious — and I threw them out!  It was WONDERFUL!   I netted a 30% shorter MS, but I bet I cut closer to 50%.  Then I read it on my e-reader as my critique group (the heart of much of my writing improvement in the almost 4 years we’ve been working together) read it.  I made other significant changes as a result of those reads.  The final product is much more suspenseful, creepier, and better plotted.  It is with my agent now and my fingers are crossed — it’s the best novel I’ve written so far, and I am hoping, hoping, hoping!


Vivian Kirkfield

Author – Educator – Parenting Speaker

All writers – love to write. Most writers – love to see their work in print. Few writers – love to submit. No writers – love rejection.

I wrote for many years, but never submitted ANYTHING because I was: a) afraid of rejection b) foolish c) ignorant of how to go about it d) too busy with other responsibilities and obligations e) all of the above
The answer is ‘e’ – all of the above.

How did this change? I: a) participated in Susanna Leonard Hill’s writing prompts and holiday contests, b) joined Julie Hedlund’s 12×12,  c) took part in Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo d) connected with this incredible kid lit community (including SCBWI, Sub Six and my 2 fantastic critique groups) , e) all of the above
The answer again is ‘e’ – all of the above!

The one writer-related thing I accomplished in 2013 was to SUBMIT – 11 manuscripts to 12×12 literary agents, 3 or 4 manuscripts to Rate Your Story, many entries to contests like Cheerios, Susanna’s holiday contests and other blogger’s events, 1 manuscript for professional critique, several manuscripts directly to small publishing houses. AMAZING! From no submissions to more than two dozen! The steps I took were to participate, join, interact and connect with others who had either done it (and knew how and could teach me) or who wanted to do it (so I wouldn’t feel so alone).
Thank you everyone! Happy Holidays – I’m looking forward to a wonderful 2014!


Lori Degman

Children’s Author


I think the biggest writing-related thing I accomplished in 2013 was creating and teaching an adult workshop on writing in rhyme.  The Ela Public Library, in Lake Zurich, IL, had a writing series called, So You Want To Write For Children?” and I did my workshop, Nail Your Rhyme, Every Time, in April.  I had never taught a class on writing rhyming picture book stories, but I’ve been writing them for years, so I thought it would be a breeze to teach. As I started preparing, I realized I didn’t know very much about rhyming poetry.  I knew how to write in rhyme but I really didn’t know any of the related terms – and there are a lot!  So, before I could make my powerpoint presentation (which ended up having 100 slides), I had to do a lot of research.  In the end, I learned a lot and the workshop went well. Phew!


Alayne Kay Christian

Author of  “Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa”


Represented by Erzsi Deak, Hen&ink Literary Studio


I imagine people are sick of hearing about it, but I have to say that my biggest accomplishment in 2013 was fulfilling my dream of achieving representation by literary agent Erzsi Deak from Hen&ink Literary Studio. http://henandink.com/index.html


The steps I took to accomplish it were as follows:

  • I set a goal to submit six different manuscripts to agents in 2013. By the time I signed with Erzsi in November, I had sent out 37 submissions for 9 different manuscripts. I subbed to 5 editors and 22 agents.
  • I started Sub Six, so I would have some company while moving toward my submission goals. We encouraged and supported each other all year long as we worked toward our goals. It also helped to hold me accountable by sharing with the group each time I made a submission. https://www.facebook.com/groups/SubSix/
  • I did lots of research on agents.
  • I joined 12 x 12 with the gold level membership, which offered an opportunity to submit a picture book manuscript to one agent each month. I lucked out, and Erzsi was the June 12 x 12 agent. I lucked out a second time because Erzsi asked to see more! http://www.juliehedlund.com/registration-for-2014/
  • I joined the Agent/Editor Discussion groupwhere we discuss agents and editors; submissions and acceptance or rejections; and share information about agents and editors. https://www.facebook.com/groups/299530846844884/
  • I continued (and continue) to improve my skills by increasing my knowledge about writing.
  • I got lots of great advice from my fantastic and smart critique partners.
  • I wrote and edited my butt off (I only wish the butt had really leftJ).
  • And I had friends and family with lots of crossed body parts wishing me luck and supporting me all the way.
  • Although there were times that I felt like throwing in the towel, I never gave up.

Robyn Campbell

Robyn Campbell’s blog

In 2013 I finally realized my dream of being published. I was one of the authors in the Crock of Charms anthology. The anthology is near and dear to me as I was responsible for rounding up a few of the authors to be included. I also had an article (however short) to be accepted by the SCBWI Bulletin. It should be in the next edition. So ever so slowly I’m beginning to realize my dream. The steps I took to accomplish these two achievements are very simple. I write every day. No matter what. I don’t care if it’s a sentence. I also keep my eyes open which is how I found out about the Crock of Charms. In 2014 I will have an agent. I just know it! I’ll keep writing and honing my craft so when the time comes I’ll be ready!


Donna L Sadd

Varied Posts from a Gal who Wants to be a Writer When She Grows Up!


After self-publishing my children’s picture book, LUCCI- The No Smoochie Poochie, on Amazon in January 2012, I spent the better part of that year ‘building my author’s platform’.  I picked my head up in December to realize that my writing had taken a back seat.

This January, I vowed to focus solely on my writing and learning the craft. The best thing I did was join Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12. I took a bronze membership because I didn’t have stories to submit to agents, but joining this vibrant, smart and sharing community alone, opened all sorts of doors to me!I joined my first critique group with other 12×12 members; learned oodles from authors’ guest posts; discovered classes, like Picture Book Academy of which I am now a graduate; followed other children’s book writers blogs; joined contests, like Susanna L. Hill’s; participated Kristen Fulton’s WOW Nonfic Pic and Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo; and got accepted into another critique group of more experienced writers. I even revised LUCCI, which will be up any day now.


Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Children’s and YA Writer


2013 was the YEAR OF REVISION. I spent a lot of time revising. I still have so much to learn and many more projects to revise, but I know I’m a better writer at the end of 2013 than I was at the end of 2012.

* In 2012 I drafted 12 picture books through 12×12. In 2010 and 2011 I participated in the Picture Book Marathon. So I had loads of picture book drafts. Some horrible. Some with a lot of promise. I still joined 12×12 in 2013, but I was less concerned with drafting every month and really concerned about revising at least one manuscript each month. I did a lot of extreme revising that involved cutting, sorting, drawing (not illustrating, but stick figures for my knowledge), and color-coding. I learned a LOT. I still have a lot to learn. But several of my picture books have benefitted from my extreme revision.

* I accomplished a big revision of a middle grade novel. I took Cheryl Klein’s Plot Master class and learned a lot about what was working and not working. I’m also signed up to take a novel revision retreat in the spring, so I know that will help even more.

2013 was also a YEAR OF SUBMISSIONS. I sent a lot of various manuscripts out. I sent out short stories, book proposals, picture books, my middle grade novel, and my YA novel. I’ve learned a lot from the process. I’m thankful for the very kind and very specific rejection letters I’ve gotten. Specific is good in my book because then I can know exactly what wasn’t working for that reader.

* 12×12 has helped with the picture book submissions because I’ve had a community who is committed to picture book writing and submissions.

* I joined Alayne’s Sub Six group where we hold each other accountable and encourage each other in submitting.

* I kept track of all my submissions including a submission spreadsheet and an agent spreadsheet (which includes possible people I want to submit to as well as who I’ve already submitted to).

* Knocking on all these doors led to some freelance work, several articles, and a 1st place contest win for Children’s Writer Newsletter.


Your Turn

What did you accomplish in your writing life in 2013?

2014 Goal Setting Re-Vamped

Last week, I went over the good, the bad, and the truth about 2013’s goals. Even though many things DID work, I’m always looking to make things much better.

Because I found that so much can change in a year, I wanted to shorten the timeframe of some of my goals. Instead of planning for the whole year, I wanted to leave some wiggle room–wiggle room for anticipated projects, anticipated learning opportunities. And I also wanted to be more organized with how I focus my learning and writing.


Quarterly Goals

I am going to make quarterly goals in 2014. I’m going to look at three months at a time and make overall goals. So here is my quarterly breakdown.






For example, I’m going to plan for January-March now, in December. I’ll plan for April-June at the end of March.


1) Effective Planning

I think this will work better for setting realistic goals. I will know my personal schedule that far in advance. Frankly, I have no idea what next October will bring, so while I have an idea of what I’d like to do, I’ll be able to plan much more effectively in September for that time of the year.

2) Less Time to Procrastinate

If I plan for something to be due in October, I will probably procrastinate until the last possible minute. However, if I know something must be done in the next month or two, then I can set goals and tasks to complete those goals more realistically.


Why I’m Excited About This

I think in several month spurts. I think it’s the teacher in me. Sometimes it’s harder for me to predict how much I can get done in 12 months, but I can usually anticipate 1-3 months in advance.


Monthly Goals

In addition to quarterly goals, I’m going to make monthly tasks lists in an effort to help me focus more. I have so many things I’d like to master, but when I think about them all at once, I get overwhelmed and think I don’t have time to do any of them. So, each month, I’ll have a different focus for my writing and a different focus for my learning (new things I want to master).

Here is my template for each month:

Template for Monthly Focus (Click on the image to download)

Template for Monthly Focus (Click on the image to download)



This is where I’m going to pick something to focus on. For example: “Revision of XXXX Project”



This is the place for all of those things I want to master. I’m keeping a list of courses I’d like to take, conferences I’d like to attend, and researching when I can fit them in. For example: “Complete the Video Idiot Boot Camp” and learn how to make videos.



I have several non-fiction projects I’ve been putting on the back burner. I want to make them a priority in 2014, so every month, I’ll research something. Also, I’m doing quite a bit of research for my fiction WIP, so I can add that under research as well.



I tend to buy books and then forget I have them or never read them. When someone recommends a book to me, I want to add it to my list. I’ll fill them in. For example, I want to read about how to make better PowerPoint presentations because I have a couple of those coming up in the first quarter of the year. For example: “Read BEYOND BULLET POINTS by Cliff Atkinson”.



These are the big projects I’m working on. I’ll list names of projects I’m focusing on. For example: “Finish revision of XXXX Picture Book.”



I have some goals that are blog related, so I’ll put these here. For example: “Research NF PB for mentor text post.”



I keep major writing deadlines for various projects or upcoming contests on Google Calendar. I’ll add pertinent dates for the month here. For example: “January 31 Highlights Fiction Contest Deadline”


This is an example of how I set up my December Monthly Focus

This is an example of how I set up my December Monthly Focus

I’m going to post this above my computer for the month. This way I can stay focused when I start to engage in another project that isn’t a priority.

Weekly To Do Lists

I mentioned last week that my weekly to do lists were something that helped me to focus. I posted my template for my writing to do lists here.

I’ll use the monthly template to help me create weekly to do lists.


Keeping it All Straight

I have a Scrivener File that has everything organized.

2014 Writing Goals Screenshot


Follow Up

My plan is to do a follow up reminder post just before the beginning of each quarter. If you are doing quarterly goals, then you can remember to create ones for the new quarter. If you are doing yearly goals, I think quarterly check-ins are great ways to stay focused. For my quarterly goals sheet template, click here.


2014 and You

What are YOU doing in 2014 to keep your eyes on your writing goals? Leave me a comment and tell me what you’re doing!

2013 A Year in Goals: The Good, The Bad, The Truth

Before I look ahead to 2014, I thought I should look back to 2013, what worked and what didn’t work in my writing life.


The Good:

I created SMART goals for 2013. I liked setting up my goals this way because it helped me create tangible tasks for each goal.

The Bad:

I didn’t do a great job of keeping track of the goals all year long. I did complete many of them, but as far as documenting every little task related to each goal? Well, that became pretty cumbersome.

The Truth:

I also found that as the year went on, things changed. I needed to derail the timeline for one project because I got a YES to a freelance project. That isn’t a bad thing. It looks like I didn’t complete some goals, but truthfully I was working on things I couldn’t have anticipated when I made the goals in December of 2012.


By the Numbers

The Good:

I created 11 goals for 2013. I fully completed or exceeded my goal for 7 of them.

I mostly completed 3 of them. I anticipate 1 more of these will be complete by the end of the year as I’m focusing on it in the month of December.

The Bad:

I didn’t even attempt 1 of them.

The Truth:

I’m not sure why that 1 was even a goal. I’m not sure I totally understood its purpose, which is probably why I didn’t do it.


What Worked

Google Calendar

I implemented Google Calendar, setting up different colors for my personal life, writing deadlines, blog posting schedule. This really worked and I could post deadlines or reminders well in advance.


My Google calendar minus the personal stuff. I didn't think you wanted to see my appointments.

My Google calendar minus the personal stuff. I didn’t think you wanted to see my appointments.

Weekly To Do Lists

I maintained a weekly to do list. Every weekend, I’d assess what needed to be done in the week ahead and worked on it.


To Do List Template from Microsoft Office Templates

To Do List Template from Microsoft Office Templates

Submission Log

I was able to look back at my submission log and really assess how much I’d done over the year.

Submission Log Spreadsheet Sample

Submission Log Spreadsheet Sample

Where I Am Going From Here

I’m going to try to do quarterly goals and monthly focuses for next year. This will help me re-evaluate more often and adjust as necessary.

Stay tuned to next week. I’ll share my working template for 2014.

Your 100%

Monday nights are yoga nights. It’s the perfect day—the most stressful day of the week because I’m getting back into the swing of things.

One of the things I most admire about my yoga teacher is that she really tries to make the class work at varying levels. It’s restorative yoga, so many people have body aches and she wants to do whatever she can to help ease some of that.

There’s one line that she says:


I love that. You know why? If you are new or you are hurting, she is not comparing you to herself or to the guy who’s been in her class for ten years. She wants, even expects, everyone to only go to THEIR OWN 100%. It looks different for different people.

My 100% is different now than it was 9 months ago, and I hope that my 100% is different a year from now. I get better and I can stretch myself farther.


What does this have to do with writing?

My 100% is not the same as my writing professors who’ve been in the business for 20 years. My 100% is also different from a person who just started writing seriously 6 months ago. But it doesn’t matter.

You need to do your 100%. You have to give it everything YOU’VE got. It may not be the same as anyone else.

“Measuring your dream against someone else’s is toxic but the idea of measuring progress is important. Without a way to measure what you’re doing, you’ll never really know how much your dream has grown as a result of all your hustle.”

QUITTER by Jon Acuff


Tracking Your 100%

How can you tell if you’ve grown? Has your 100% changed? You can keep track of what you’re doing: your goals, your daily progress. How you do that is as individual as you are. But keep track. That way, you’ll know if you are continually pushing yourself and moving the 100% marker.

Push yourself as far as you can go. Don’t measure yourself against someone else.

Do YOUR 100%.