Raise your hand if you’ve ever made a goal for yourself and failed to accomplish it. I can’t see you, but I’m going to assume you’ve all put your hand up.

Don’t worry, my hand is up, too. If I had a dime for every New Years Resolution I’ve failed to accomplish, I’d be a very wealthy man.

Failing to meet a goal isn’t something to be ashamed of, we’ve all done it, but after a long time of coming up short, these failures can become rather discouraging.

For many aspiring authors, writing and publishing a book are some of those goals they’ve never quite been able to attain. (how many unfinished manuscripts do you currently have sitting on your hard drive, or in the trash?)

I was once one of those authors. As frustrating as it is, finishing your manuscript and getting it published is possible. Hopefully, by the end of this post, you’ll have the tools you need to succeed.

Why people fail to reach their goal

Think back on all the goals you’ve failed to reach. Why do you think you failed?

If you’re like me, you’ve probably blamed your shortcomings on life events such as not having enough time, long work hours, or family needs. On top of life’s little speed bumps, maybe you also lack motivation, feel like you’re not good enough (you are!), or have gotten into a rhythm of saying “I’ll do it tomorrow.”

Sound familiar? That’s okay. It’s important to understand why we’ve failed so we can prepare for these issues when we begin to work toward our goal.

What is your goal?

For the sake of this post, my goal is going to be to write and publish a book, but this method is applicable to any goal. When thinking about your goal, here are a few things to consider:

How specific is your goal?

One of the biggest mistakes people make when setting a goal is they make it too vague. How many of you have ever made a New Years resolution to lose weight? Many of us have. By the end of the year, how much weight did you lose? One pound? Five? I bet it wasn’t what you were expecting – but you did technically achieve your goal.

This is an example of why it’s important to make your goal as specific as possible. Instead of making the goal of losing weight, make it to lose ten pounds. You’ve now set the bar and can effectively keep track of your progress.

Let’s talk about writing books. Writing a book is a good goal, it has a tangible endpoint to which we can measure. But can we make it more specific? Yes! Choosing a genre, for example, can help you specify a goal. Earlier, we talked about obstacles. What kind of obstacles do you think you might run into when choosing a genre? Later, we’re going to talk more about these challenges.

Is your goal attainable?

When I was a kid, I had a friend who wanted to grow up to be a firetruck. This is a pretty lofty goal and, quite frankly, sounds really exciting. Unfortunately, we haven’t quite mastered the technology to transform living humans into inanimate objects. Is this goal attainable? Sadly, no.

Is writing a novel attainable? Absolutely! Understanding how attainable a goal is goes beyond you’re physical ability to perform the task, but it’s a good place to start. We’ll talk more about this in the next section.

How to set a goal and actually do it

We’ve finally made it to the moment you’ve been waiting for.

If you’ve made it this far, you should know by now I believe you have what it takes to write your book. The method I lay out below is what I’ve used to (finally) write my own novels after years of tossing manuscripts and giving up on myself.

If you’re looking for some kind on easy-button, unfortunately, this isn’t it. You will need to work for your goal, but this should make the task less daunting.

Follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to sharing your story with the world.

1. Write your goal down

Seriously, do it. Like, right now.

2. Set a realistic date to finish

When do you want to have your book published? You might think it doesn’t matter, but establishing a goal date is one of the most important things you can do.

As the title states, it’s important you keep your date realistic. If you haven’t even begun to write your outline, the odds of you releasing your book by the end of the week is not realistic – but maybe six months or a year is. Remember, this is your story, your life, and your goal; only you know what a realistic time frame is.

Some things to consider: Are you going to self-publish or use a publishing house? Are you looking for reviews before it goes on sale? Are you going to have editors and beta readers proof your manuscript (the correct answer to this is yes, by the way!)? Publishing a book involves a lot more than just putting words on a page, so try to think of all the services you want to use when choosing a date.

3. Create a timetable

Okay, you know what your goal is, you’ve chosen the desired publication date, and you’ve identified which services you’d like to use prior to the release of your book. Now it’s time to create a timeline.

Our goal is to write and publish a book. Let’s assume today is January 1st and our desired release date is December 1st. We’re going to self-publish and we want to use some book review resources. Now, we start working our way backward.

“today’s” date January 1st
Desired release date December 1st
Get reviews Reviews will be the last thing we do. Many of these services require the finished manuscript prior to release. The longest I’ve seen is 90 days. We’ll also use this time to prepare our marketing material. Our new date for completion is September 1st.
Editing Editors can vary on length of service, but let’s go ahead and assume it’ll take her one month to read and edit. You’ll probably go through at least two rounds of editing. Our new date for completion is July 1st
Writing After everything else is done, we’re left with six months to write our first draft manuscript.

Is six months enough time to write your manuscript? It seems like a lot of time, right? Let’s not forget about all those pesky life events which get it the way …

Identify obstacles

Identifying obstacles in your life which will prevent you from completing your manuscript is important and should be done before you even start typing.

We all have things in our lives which take us away from accomplishing our goals. Work, cleaning the house, taking the kids to soccer practice … these are all obstacles you need to work around.

You should have a piece of paper with your goal written on it. Underneath your goal, start listing all the obstacles preventing you from reaching your goal and when they’ll interfere with your writing.

For example, working 9 – 5. You’ll start to see six months isn’t really very long. Is your goal still attainable? That’s for you to decide. If it’s not, that’s okay, shift everything on your timetable to the right. You won’t make your December 1st deadline, but you’ll still have your milestones established.

Find reasonable solutions

You might be thinking it’s all well and good we’ve written these things down, but my obstacles are still, well, obstructing …

On the same sheet of paper, take the time to brainstorm some ways to overcome these challenges. Keep in mind, some things can’t be avoided and that’s okay!

For example, if you listed “work” as an obstacle, a reasonable solution would be to work on your goal before or after work. Quitting your job is probably not a reasonable solution, no matter how tempting it is.

Another example, this one rings true to me: childcare. I have a young child at home; believe it or not, I’m obligated to take good care of him and can’t scurry away to my home office and write when he’s awake. What does this mean? I write down on my paper that I’ll mitigate this obstacle by working after he’s in bed.

Now that you’ve gone down your list, you’re going to see the amount of time you have to work on your book is dwindling. Do you need to adjust your release date again? It’s okay if you do! By the end of this exercise, you should be able to identify specific deadlines to meet the various requirements you’ve set and time during the day when you’re available to achieve your goal

Stay flexible

One final note: life happens. Don’t get frustrated if you miss a deadline. It’s not the end of the world! Keep working with your head up high and before you know it, you’ll no longer be an aspiring writer, but a publishing author!

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This article was written by Tim Koster.