Monday, 4 January 2016

SMART Self-Assessment

This time last year, I posted an article about SMART objectives, and listed those I was planning to achieve in the coming year. Getting ready to do a repeat performance this morning, I thought I’d better review last year’s list to see how I got on. So here goes:

My first objective was to write and publish the third ebook in the Business of Writing series by the end of January; and sure enough, The Business of Writing: Improving Effectiveness was published on Amazon on 31st January 2015.

My second objective was to combine the three ebooks and publish them as a paperback via Create Space by the end of February. Well, I missed the deadline by three months, but The Business of Writing became available as a POD paperback on 29th May 2015.

My third objective was to complete the first draft of novel #2 by the end of March; and coupled with that was objective number four, to publish said novel before the end of October. I’d put these timescales in place as my first novel took me more than seven years to write and publish - and there was no way I was going to take that long with the second one. But I realised quite early on that I had set myself an unrealistic target - and that in attempting to rush the novel out in a year, I was risking publishing a poor quality product which would destroy my credibility and lose me the readership I was trying so hard to build up. So these are two objectives I revised quite quickly. 

Having said that, the first draft of Counterfeit! is finished, as is the structural edit, and the cover design is ready. The manuscript will go to the beta readers next month and will be published in July. So I have another set of SMART objectives already in place. And since the opening section came third in the Literature Works First Page Writing Competition, I am quietly confident that the finished work will be much better for taking a little longer than originally planned.

And because I write short stories as well, I had another objective: to have fifty submissions for competitions or magazines in play by the time I went to Swanwick in the middle of August. Looking back at my note books and my diaries, I don’t have a record of how many there were on the ‘out there’ list, but I know I didn’t hit the target. That one appears on the list every year - and I always fail - but it does help to keep me writing and submitting. Last year, I took part in nearly sixty competitions and had a hit rate (win, place, or listing) of more than 30%, my best to date. 

Finally, I gave myself an objective to keep up with my weekly blog, including an occasional update on progress with the objectives. And by and large, I achieved that one. I posted every week, bar two, and also had three bursts of daily posts: during holidays in Wales and London; and from Swanwick in August.

And in 2015, I successfully completed both the 100K in 100 days challenge and NaNoWriMo. That’s 150,000 new words written in two bursts during January-April and November. They weren’t objectives in themselves, more the tools that I use to help me achieve my SMART targets. 

So, in this month when, along with many others, I will be filling in my self-assessment tax forms, how would I assess my writerly progress? Probably at 6 or 7 out of ten. Not everything was achieved, but I got a huge amount of writing done one way or another. 

And of course, I managed to sell some books along the way - but that’s a whole new topic for another day.

And what about 2016? Well, I wasn’t going to set myself any objectives this time around. I thought I would just work on the basis of: keep writing, every day; keeping it simple. But, gentle reader, you know me better than that. I can never resist an opportunity to plan, especially if it involves writing a list. So in 2016, my objectives are:
  • To publish Counterfeit! by August;
  • To publish an ebook of flash fiction by June; 
  • To get at least one story accepted by a magazine;
  • To keep blogging weekly; and
  • To have fifty submissions out there by August.
I will let you know how I get on. Same time, same place, next year? And in the meantime, a very Happy New Year to you. 

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