Are You Making Writing Resolutions? Should You? (and What’s A Behag?) By Sue Moorcroft
11 January 2024
For some, the making of New Year’s Resolutions motivates them to plot a path towards achieving that desire. The year seems shiny and full of promise.
I find goals useful at any time. My writing life’s strewn with them, but I call them deadlines. At the time of writing this post, I have deadlines for the proofing of my June 6th 2024 publication, Under a Summer Skye; for a spring-time magazine short story; and for the submission of the first draft of my autumn 2024 book (working title A Starry Christmas Skye but already up on online retailers as Skye Sisters Trilogy book 2). I even have a deadline to submit this post, though it’s a self-imposed one to leave my January as clear as possible, to allow me to plunge back into my first draft of A Starry Christmas Skye.
I note these goals on my electronic calendar and because I’m an annoying/driven/self-motivated/bloody minded person, I normally meet them. If I recognise that one is unachievable, because of illness for example, I move the goal. This isn’t to be confused with giving up. It means me letting my editor know in good time that we need to agree a new deadline so that she can adjust her own schedule. More on this later.
But what if a goal is more general and there’s no publishing contract involved?
- Choosing a goal can make us think clearly about what we want.
- Deciding how it can be achieved can tell us how much we want it.
If we choose, for instance, I’m going to write a new novel by the end of this year, and that means writing every evening, we might be setting ourselves up for failure, because sometimes we’ll be exhausted and want to read or flop in front of the TV. And once we’ve failed, we might let the whole idea go. Further goals, like submitting to agents and editors or setting out on the road to self-publishing will become redundant because we never finished the book.
Then should goals be realistic?
- If we make a goal realistic, there’s a good chance we’ll have time to meet it (and fewer excuses for not achieving it).
- But then are we choosing a goal just because it’s achievable, rather than going for what we really want?
- So … we could set the goal we want but adjust the length of time needed as the work progresses?
The third looks ideal and for many can work brilliantly. If, like me, there’s a contract involved, it might mean the agreed moving of the goal that I mentioned earlier, but I’d only do this if I had to. Writing two books a year means that if I ask for an extra month, then there’s a month less to write the next book. This is why unless I’m too ill to write or there’s a family emergency, I work extra hours to meet the deadline after all. I appreciate this may not work for everyone.
What about behags? (Big, hairy, audacious goals)
When I was tutoring, I sometimes encouraged students to set ‘behags’. This might seem counter to what I said about the risks of making goals unachievable, but a behag of I’m going to get this book traditionally published just MIGHT encourage students to approach an agent rather than believe it’s too difficult. It MIGHT make them send out emails to editors they’d like to work with. I would say it doesn’t work with every personality though.
One of the best goals I ever set arose from deeply disappointing royalties. I thought, ‘I was predicted a stride to a bigger publisher years ago, but I settled for a cosy set up in a small publisher. It’s earning me less every year instead of more. I need an agent.’ In a behag moment, I set myself the goal of getting an agent from renowned agency Blake Friedmann. Before I could waver, I wrote an email. It began, I know you’re not taking anyone on but I’m going to ask you anyway. I wrote a further three paragraphs about why I thought I was being underexploited and why I could achieve more, and I pressed send. That email awoke interest. It began a correspondence that led to a meeting with my current agent Juliet Pickering … that led to an offer of representation … that led to my present publisher Avon HarperCollins and my becoming a bestselling author and contracts with other publishers in other parts of the world. I reached for the stars, and I caught one, and my career took off in the way I’d dreamt of.
I hope that this post has given you food for thought. Whether you term it a resolution or a goal, it doesn’t have to be an unattainable dream. Writing a book? Finding a publisher? Finding a more lucrative publishing contract than the one you have? Finding an agent? Changing your agent? Entering the entrepreneurial world of publishing independently?
A goal can turn into a dream come true.