One secret of success as a writer?
Set a writing goal. Then, working backwards from that goal, list smaller steps to take to achieve that goal.
And simply work the steps.
Isaac Asimov (1920-1992), one of the world’s most prolific writers, demonstrated this approach in his writing habits. Before writing, Asimov chose the key problem in the story and how the story would end. He worked back from there.
Asimov wrote or edited more than 500 books over the course of his lifetime.
You can look at this part of the writing process as “planning” or “pre-writing.”
And you needn’t get hung up with creating a perfect plan. Just make a few decisions out the gate. And then get going.
First, write down a goal – a clear one.
I like to set SMART goals. The acronym helps me write goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.
Here are some examples of SMART writing goals.
If you write down a clear goal – one that’s specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound – then you’ll know when you’ve achieved it.
Once you set a writing goal then identify a series of short-term goals needed to accomplish it. Break down the goal into smaller steps.
Then work through these short-term tasks one by one, a little at a time.
For example, let’s say you’ve set a goal to write a new article and submit it to a publisher in the next month. List the steps you need to take to write the article:
Now, group your tasks.
Week 1: Concepting
Brainstorm your ideas; choose one idea; research your idea
Week 2: Organizing and Outlining
Organize the information you’ve gathered; create an article format and outline, write out your article’s key point
Week 3: Writing
Write the lead; write the body; write the conclusion
Week 4: Editing
Edit the article. Again. And once more. And submit.
By breaking down a long-term goal into short-term steps, you can give yourself a series of “assignments” to complete each day or each week. This takes away the feeling of overwhelm (“I don’t know where to start”) and gives you a sense of accomplishment (“I’m making progress in writing my article”).
This approach allows you to wake up each day knowing what step to take to continue to reach your writing goal. The steps serve as milestones that spur you on. Plus, smaller tasks are achievable for those of us who must carve out time to write.
A writing goal gives you a framework to produce a finished work.
Which means secret of success in writing is no secret at all. Instead, it’s all about making a plan (setting a writing goal, divided into a smaller set of tasks) and then working your plan (complete one task at a time).
A goal is simply a tool.
The habit you build – persisting in the smaller steps to complete that goal – is what yields writing success.
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