Dreams, Goals, and a Gift

Dreams, Goals, and a Gift
Terry Odell

This is my last official post of 2020, but the official TKZ Winter Hiatus doesn’t start until December 21st, so don’t stop visiting.

Is it too early to think about the New Year? Are you already thinking about the tradition of making resolutions? With a new year come new beginnings. Fresh starts. We all enter a new year filled with hope and promises to make it better than the last one.

And, usually, by the end of January, all those good intentions have gone by the wayside. I gave up making resolutions long ago (although I occasionally make them for the Hubster—less chance of me breaking them that way). What I’ve learned, is that if you want to see success, you have to narrow your focus.

These resolutions don’t work:

  • I resolve to be a best-selling author.
  • I resolve to write three novels this year.
  • I resolve to make $100,000 selling my e-books.

Why don’t they work? They’re dreams.

Dreams are wonderful. Dreams are things you’d love to have, but they’re also things over which you have no control, because they depend on other people. You need goals.
Goals have to be measurable. I learned that way back in college when I was getting my teacher certification. The course was “Behavioral Objectives” and we learned to set ways to measure whether we were getting through to our students. We could set a goal that at least 90% of our students would score at least 80% or better on an exam. This was a measurable outcome. If they didn’t, we’d have to go back and figure out why. And, frankly, the usual answer would be “because I didn’t teach the material effectively”, NOT “the students were lazy slackers.”

Another thing I learned in that course was that you had to take small steps. You had to figure out what skills were required for a student to answer a question on that exam correctly, and then work on practicing those skills. (Not teaching to the test—teaching skills.)

How do you turn those dreams into goals? Break them down into things you can do in small increments, and that you can measure. Being a best-selling author isn’t measurable. (Can I call myself a best-selling author if I pay for an ad and my books hit the number 1 slot on a very small niche at Amazon for a week? Some authors do, but that’s not something I’m comfortable with.)

Those who say, “I’m going to write three books this year” are likely to fail if that’s as far as they go. What does it take to finish the book? You take that lofty goal, break it into small pieces, and then figure out what you can do to achieve each piece.

Write X words/pages a day/week until you’re done. That’s something you can track. You can see your success. You have a specific goal each day/week.

And, most importantly, you can reassess and adjust these goals over the course of the year. Are you making your word count goal by 10 AM? Maybe it’s too low. Are you staying up until 3 AM and still failing? Don’t be afraid to lower it. Of course, you’ll want to take a hard look at why you’re not meeting your word count goals. If it’s because you’re spending 8 hours a day on Facebook, you might want to cut back on your social media time!

As for making $100,000? That’s a dream that depends on others. You have no control over who buys your books. You can develop a marketing plan, a budget, hire a publicist, but the sales are out of your hands. The one thing you can do, however, is to use the best marketing tool out there. Write the next book!

Whatever you’re looking for in the new year, I wish you the best in attaining it.

(Did you forget about the word “Gift” in the title? If you’ve read this far, I’ve got one for you.)

TP MenorahTomorrow is the first night of Hanukkah, which is the winter holiday my family celebrates, although there’s likely to be a different slant on the retelling of the “miracle” this year.

Because I consider everyone at TKZ, on both sides of the site, my family, I thought I’d offer you a gift as my last TKZ offering of 2020.

Deadly Production by Terry OdellMy gift to you: Enjoy a free download of Deadly Production, Book 4 in my Mapleton Mystery series. You can find your gift at Book Funnel. You can download an epub, mobi, or PDF file. If you have trouble, the wonderful folks at BookFunnel will be happy to help. (Download deadline is December 18th.)

Have a wonderful and safe holiday season.


Heather's ChaseMy new Mystery Romance, Heather’s Chase, is available at most e-book channels. and and in print from Amazon.

Terry Odell is an award-winning author of Mystery and Romantic Suspense, although she prefers to think of them all as “Mysteries with Relationships.” Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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33 thoughts on “Dreams, Goals, and a Gift

  1. Yes, by December my brain is all abuzz planning goals for the next year. While I don’t set vague goals, I still set them too high and at the end of the year find myself looking at my goal list and saying sarcastically “Yeah, well THAT didn’t happen!” LOL!!!!! It’s always too many interests, not enough time. So we’ll see if my goal setting skills improve for 2021.

    Though I didn’t make target for my writing related goals, I still made some good progress, so I end 2020 better off then I was in 2019. And given the kind of year it’s been, I’ll take that gladly and simply start fresh next year.

    Best to all in whatever goals you set for yourself in 2021.

    • An author friend of mine had a ‘goal buddy’ and they would check in with each other every week or so. There’s nothing wrong with adjusting goals along the way.

      Glad you managed to have a better 2020 than 2019, at least in your writing.

  2. Great post, great reminder, Terry.

    I tend to set my goals too high, then get upset with myself. I blame it on my manic tendencies.

    Thanks for the book. I look forward to reading it.

    Hanukkah Sameach!

    • Thanks, Steve, and as I said to BK above, there’s no reason you can’t adjust your goals and avoid frustration.

  3. And a Happy Hanukkah and winter break to you.

    Years ago, I reached the point of self-knowledge about the value of resolutions for myself. Life tends to laugh at them, and long-term goals are really daily goals that you stick to, mostly. A day we deem the first day of the year doesn’t change it one way or the other.

    • I figure I get two cracks at New Year, not that I make resolutions on either of them. But a little self-reflection can be a good thing.

  4. Perfect timing because I was calculating this morning what my 2021 daily word quota is going to be per JSB’s advice (I just binge re-read all his craft books). My number is 1,370 words/day because I’d like to hit a half million words in 2021 which is approximately 50-100 short stories!

    I’ve decided given I’ve produced next to nothing in 2020, and I love short stories, then I’m putting myself in a sort of minor leagues in 2021 to beef up my scene and dialog and plotting skills so 2022 can be my first novel.

    Happy Hanukkah and thanks for the generous free book!

    • You’re most welcome, Philip. Looks like you’ve got a good roadmap for 2021. I’ve tried short stories. Not my forte, but maybe if things get moving, I’ll have an announcement next year about one that I managed to pull off.

  5. Excellent advice, Terry, to concentrate on the things we can control: Write the next book!

    I think we’re in the same promotion, Books You Can’t Put Down. The writing world gets smaller by the day. 🙂 Happy Hanukkah to you and yours!

  6. Sage wisdom, Terry. I’ve been guilty lately of not being specific enough in my goal-setting, and the goals end up sliding into dream territory. This is a great reminder to focus on measurable outcomes that you can control, and be specific.

    My wonderful wife helps keep my writing and publishing (and life in general) mindset grounded by asking if I can control whatever it is I’m fretting about. If I can’t, then let go of that attachment and worry. Case in point is book sales, which, as you note, we can’t control. Sure, I have a Book Bub Featured deal coming up at the end of the month, along with in-house promotions at B&N and Kobo, but I can’t *control* whether or not anyone buys the box set in question. All I can do is ‘set it and forget it.’

    What I have more control over is my own process. I’m returning to writing sprints, tracking word counts, and working on getting into flow state as I write.

    May you have a Happy Hanukkah and a wonderful New Year. All the best for 2021!

    • First, congrats on the BookBub Featured deal. Those aren’t easy to come by, and the few I’ve had have always done very well (and you have no control over whether you get selected). Your wife sounds like a very wise woman.

      Way back when, B&N had a “Nook First” promotion that I was fortunate enough to land a slot in. It was amazing, to the point that I had to return most of my Social Security (I was one year too young!) and hire an accountant. But I never used that year’s income as an expectation. Sales are out of my control other than doing what marketing may or may not work.

  7. I don’t make resolutions, either. I pick a focus word for each year. I’m closing in on the word for 2021. Not sure if it will be Learn or Email. The second is more focused, so it should probably be that.

    My focus word for 2020 was, hysterically, Relationships. 2020 was definitely not the year to focus on building close-up relationships! However, I’ve made some new online relationships with authors and mentors. One is the mentor with whom I’ve contracted to teach me how to build my email marketing plan. We start in January. I hate marketing, but she makes it look fun, so away I go… 🙂

    Oh, and I do dream…I’d really like to release my first two novels next year. We shall see…

    • Deb, I like the idea of a word for the year!
      I can relate to the travails of in-person relationships during the singular year that’s been 2020. I was looking forward to more of those when I retired last December 20th, as well as visiting my now-former colleagues. Thank goodness for video, texting etc!

    • I can see email as being a more ‘measurable’ word. Of course, you could set a goal of learning one new word every day, or one new fact, so I suppose that would be measurable as well.
      You can break down that ‘release two books’ into measurable steps, although depending on your path, you might not be able to control all of them.

  8. Great advice. My goal for the beginning of each year is to NOT be scrambling to meet my deadline. 2020 was not the year for that goal since Covid really messed with my brain, and I wasn’t one of those fortunate writers who wrote more than they’d ever written in their life. But meet it I did. Hoping this year is different and no scrambling…
    I love your Hanukkah meme! May I repost it?

    • Patricia – congrats on meeting your deadline. Scrambling after goals happens. I hear you on Covid Brain, which is a real thing.
      I found the meme on line, so help yourself. I think. If it violates any policy, I’m sure one of my TKZ colleagues will speak up. But it’s my vague understanding that things posted on social media become fair game as long as you’re not using them for financial gain.

  9. Happy Hanukkah, Terry, and thank you for the gift.

    I make a list of goals for myself every year. Even though I don’t always (um … ever) hit them all, the process of thinking through what I want to achieve helps me start moving in the right direction.

    Wasn’t it Lewis Carroll who said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

    • You’re very welcome, Kay –
      That quote sent me to the Google machine. This from Chapter 6 of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:

      “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
      “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
      “I don’t much care where—” said Alice.
      “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
      “—so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
      “Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

  10. Chag Urim Sameach, Terry! And thank you for the very generous gift of yourself.

    I loved your post, which is yet a terrific reminder that life by the yard is hard but life by the inch is a cinch.

    Have a Happy New Year!

  11. Thanks for the reality check on dreams vs goals. I’m not sure if anyone said it, but I look at goals sort of like rules – they’re meant to be broken. In all seriousness, though, I think the best writing success advice out there is “write the next book”. That’s a goal on its own. Happy Hanukkah and New Year, Terry!

  12. Happy Hanukkah, Terry, and thanks the gift of Deadly Production!

    I don’t set goals per se b/c, as the old saying goes, “Man plans, God laughs.” But I totally agree with you about focusing on what’s within my control, inch by inch, page by page, bird by bird. Surprising how much gets done with that practice.

    My most ambitious plan was inspired by you and Garry–going wide in 2021. And of course more focus that dreaded marketing.

    The TP menorah is a hoot!

    • Good luck with going wide, Debbie. It’s not an immediate splash. It takes time and patience to build up a readership, but as wiser people than I have said, “You never know where a reader will find you, and you want to be there.” Plus, they help spread the word.
      And, frankly, most publishers don’t do a whole lot of marketing for you unless you’re a Big Name.
      Have a great holiday season.

  13. I guess I’m the only one, but I don’t get how “Write X number of novels in a year” is a dream instead of a goal since, as you say, Goals are within our control and Dreams are not (with which I agree).

    I set goals every day, month and year that make me stretch. They’re obtainable, but only if I’m disciplined enough to stick to my plan. And I always break my annual goal down into monthly and daily goals. Like eating the elephant one bite at a time.

    • Exactly Harvey. Until you break “write three novels in a year” into manageable and measurable goals, it’s still a dream. It’s an abstract concept. Something that would be wonderful to achieve, but, as I said in my post, it’s breaking it down into those bites that gives you a way to make it happen.

      • Let me see if I get this right. Three books next year is a dream. X words a day, which will lead to three books is a goal, under my control, specific enough.

        • That’s how I see it, Loyd. You now have something you can measure, track, and evaluate.

  14. Loyd, it’s all math. I suggest determining how many publishable words of fiction you can write in an hour, then multiply that times how many disposable hours (time not spent at a job or other necessary pursuits) you can spend at the keyboard on a given day to get your daily word count. Then to set a goal that will make you stretch a little, add 10%.

    I wrote 8 novels this year, and that included 4 months (May to August) during which I wrote hardly a word of fiction. My own daily writing goal is 3000 words per day. Again, these are publishable words of fiction, not sloppy, stream-of-consciousness, just-get-it-on-paper words. I allow the characters to tell the story that they, not I, are living.

    And I don’t allow anyone else into my work. After I finish each session, I take a break, then read back over what I’ve written when I return. As I read, I allow myself to touch the writing, correcting any errors that pop out at me. When the novel is finished, I send it to a first reader who catches a few things I missed (wrong words, misspellings, and inconsistencies) and then I publish and distribute it.

    My work enjoys brisk sales and a worldwide audience. I recently finished my 53rd novel.

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