Raise Your Bar

by Jennifer Slattery

It seems everyone wants to be a writer. And who wouldn’t? You work from home, plan your own schedule, and live in a fantasy world much of the time. But of the tens of thousands (perhaps even millions?) around the globe longing to pen that first novel, only a small percentage will actually follow through. Even fewer will see their work in print. Peruse agent and editor blogs long enough and you’ll soon learn why this is true.

Most editors publish one out of every one hundred submissions.Some even less than that. Which means, if you want to succeed, you need to rise to the 99th percentile. A daunting task, I know. Like anything else, you won’t get there by accident, or by twiddling your thumbs. If you want to be part of that top one percent, you’ll need to work hard, when others rest. Persevere when others give up. Improve when others remain stagnant. Unless you view writing as a hobby, you’ll need to approach it with intentionality and determination. For me, that equates to setting daily, weekly, monthly, and annual goals.

At the risk of using a cliché…. They say “Shoot for the stars and you may hit the moon. Shoot for the ground and you’ll hit it every time.” Here’s how this plays out in writing. Set a daily word count goal, although you may not always reach it, chances are, you’ll pound your keyboard for a while. Let you writing “fit in as it may”, most likely, other things will often crowd it out. Plus, I believe, this trains negative habits and makes that first deadline much harder to meet.

I write fiction novels, freelance articles, review for Novel Reviews, do freelance editing and marking for Tiffany Colter, the Writing Career Coach, write for Christ to the World Ministries, do marketing and function as host for Clash of the Titles, and send material monthly to Internet Café Devotions, Samie Sisters, Devo Kids, and the Christian Pulse. This doesn’t leave a lot of flex time.

But it does leave plenty of writing time. The other day, as I evaluated my schedule and the demands on it, I plotted out my year. I want to write X number of novels in a year. (Side-note: In my opinion, if you’re not prepared to continue to produce, don’t query that agent or editor. They’re not looking for a one-book dynamo. They want to invest in a career author.) I also want to write X number of Christ to the World programs per year, X number of articles, and have X number of monthly writing commitments to maintain. Using average word count estimates, I added how many words I need to write in a year in order to meet all my commitments. Yearly total = 203,000 words. Ouch! Only not really. 203,000 ÷ 12 = 16,917 (rounded) words per month. Doable. This means, writing five days per week (although I actually write six) in order to reach my annual word count goal, I need to write 845 words per day. Very doable. In fact, if I bump it up to 2,000 words per day (my normal output), I can even take a few days off along the way.

How about you? Are you prepared to do what it takes to rise to the 99th percentile, or would you prefer to hang out on Facebook? (Wonder what a similar annual breakdown of sitcom watching or FB chatting might look like. Ouch! So many wasted hours!) What would you like to accomplish in the given year? What do you need to accomplish each month in order to reach those annual goals? Then break it down by the day. How much time will you need to spend behind your keyboard? And what activity do you need to cut out in order to find that time? Television watching? Internet surfing? Scrapbooking? Sounds painful, perhaps, but remember, we’re talking about rising to the top one percent.

Feel free to share your goals here. The rest of us will find your commitment challenging and encouraging.

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Jennifer Slattery writes Missional Romance for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. Her debut novel, Beyond I Do, is currently available for preorder at a 26% off discount. You can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-I-Do-Jennifer-Slattery/dp/1596694173/

Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.

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