Monday, January 16, 2012

Goal Setting the Special Ops way

I learned some valuable lessons about goal setting when I did Bob Mayer’s Warrior Writer course a couple of years ago. I shared a few of the things I learned at the ROSA get-together on 12th January, and as promised in my last post, here's a summary:

The most important thing I took away from Bob’s course was the realisation that it isn’t enough just to have goals. You need to have Strategic Goals, backed up by Tactical Goals.

Those little new year’s resolutions (eg. Write 500 words a day) mean very little if you don’t have a big plan, or what Bob Mayer calls a Strategic Goal.

What is a Strategic Goal? It’s your overall writing goal - the long term goal.

Having an overall goal is essential to keep you focused on what you want to achieve. You can also have a strategic goal for each book, or for each year.

But before you decide what your Strategic Goal is, here are a few points to ponder.


Your Strategic Goal should be one sentence, with a positive verb - the action you will take. This action must be something you can control. (ie. NOT “I want Random House to buy my book before the end of the year” but rather “I want to submit my book to Random House by June”).

The sentence should be concise, clear, have an achievable time-frame and a visible outcome (so ‘Be a better person’ doesn’t really work as it’s too open-ended.) And most important of all, as with everything in life, you need to keep it positive, as a negative goal sets you up for defeat.

As an example, my Strategic Goal for 2012 is: 
I want to have at least four stories on sale or sold before the end of the year. 
There’s a time limit, it’s specific, and has a visible outcome. It might seem like it’s out of my control, but since I already have one novella published, a second sold, a third finished and ready to send, and the fourth is part of an anthology I’m looking to self-publish with friends, it is achievable.

As Bob puts it, “The one sentence is the What, not the How”.


It is also important to know why you want to achieve this goal, as this will help you clarify and achieve it. Knowing where you want to end up will help you determine this goal.

What is your passion, and your driving force? Do you want to write this book because you have something you want to teach others, because you want to be published and have the validation of a book on the store shelves, or because you just want to finish something you’ve started? Do you want to make a long term career out of this writing gig, or write just one book to help others?

There are no right or wrong goals. Just what works for you.


The How is what Bob calls Tactical Goals. This is where the ‘write 500 words a day’ or ‘finish this story by June’ type of resolution come in.

These are the smaller, supporting goals you’re going to use to achieve the grand goal, and you can have as many as you need.

My tactical goals?
• Submit Innocent Abroad to my current publisher
• Submit Once Upon a Time to Mills & Boon
• Write for at least an hour every day.
• Before the end of April, complete two short stories for self-publication
• Have another full-length category romance ready to send to M&B by the end of this year (earlier would be even better).

Those are just a few of my writing goals. I have business goals too, to promote my existing books and to start teaching writing this year ... I won't bore you with the details, since I'm sure you get the picture by now.

As you achieve your goals, they change. This is perhaps the most important step of all. "Finish my first novel" should not be your goal for five years running. You need to move forward and keep challenging yourself. So "complete one novel this year" becomes "complete two novels this year." OR “be published before I’m forty” becomes “Make the NYT bestseller list by forty five.”

And yes you can do any of the above. Other people have done it, so you can too!

I highly recommend one of Bob’s online courses, or you can buy his Warrior Writer book on Amazon.They're good for a whole lot more than just setting goals.

So what is your Strategic Goal for 2012?

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