This year, I had three writing goals.
1. I wanted to sign one of my books during a Barnes & Noble event.
2. I wanted to attend a book convention as an author (booth and all!)
3. I wanted—and this one I thought I’d never reach—to receive a full request from a literary agent.
I’m proud to say I reached all of these goals and more. In fact, I’m going to break my experiences down and explain, but trust me, there’s a reason for this article beyond just me and my goals, so stick with me for a bit.
First, Goal 1. Barnes & Noble! I hosted not one, not two, not three, but FOUR Barnes & Noble signings, including a Valentine’s Day Romance Author Event in Wichita, Kansas and BFest in Kansas City, Missouri and Overland Park, Kansas. There was nothing like signing in a Barnes & Noble my late mother took me to as a kid, where she used to tell me I could write a book one day. It was priceless.
How was this accomplished? To be honest, no one in my hometown ever returned my phone calls. Not once. I was terrified of calling Barnes & Noble after quite a few disinterested phone calls and e-mails and in-person meetings. Then, CTP author Tamara Grantham invited me to her local B&N during the VDay Event in Wichita, Kansas. This is a five-hour drive for me…and I work a night shift. But you know what? I jumped at the opportunity to attend. And that one event opened up all the other stores to me. Now, I have a great relationship with one right down the street from my new house. (And I write in there all the time.)
In regards to Goal 2, I attended not one, but TWO conventions as an author. The first one being Penned Con in St. Louis, where I shared a booth with the wonderful Natasha Hanova. The second convention was Wizard World Comic Con in Tulsa, Oklahoma…where I also had the AMAZING opportunity to be a panelist on Villains vs. Villains. On top of that, I have plans in the works to attend more next year. This was an opportunity I never planned nor saw coming, but I’m eternally grateful for it. I had a blast! (And now I’m the owner of a Pusheen plushie and a Sailor Moon blanket…and a cat T-shirt…and fudge…) I also attended a writer’s conference—The MWG annual conference—and I went to YALLFest in South Carolina as a reader.
How was this accomplished? Anyone who has ever attended a conference knows it takes planning. In fact, most conferences ask you to buy your booth a year in advance, which I did with Penned Con in St. Louis back in 2015 when I attended as a reader to see if I liked it or not. The person sharing my booth changed three times, but it all worked out in the end, and I had a blast! Out of the blue, I was invited to Wizard World Comic Con through Genese Davis, who knew…Tamara Grantham. (Tamara is the best, can’t you tell?) I never expected to be a speaker, and here I was, driving five hours to speak about what makes characters evil. Spoiler alert. Worth it. But more than half of these events weren’t planned, so keep your mind open!
So now, we come down to the agents. The reason I said I never thought a full would happen is because I haven’t traditionally queried since 2007…and a lot has changed since then. I set out to challenge myself by joining competitions and making connections. Much to my surprise (and shock), I received my first full almost right away—in the first week of February—and I’ve had the utmost joy of working with a few agents ever since on numerous fulls and even a few revise and resubmits.
How was this accomplished? I joined every online competition/opportunity I could to reach out to the writing community. Honestly, even if you’re not looking for an agent, these competitions are the bomb. (Does anyone say that anymore? No? Oh, well.) I love them, and I plan on joining more of them if I can in the future. That being said, most of my fulls (and even my revise and resubmits) came from the slush pile. Yes. The slush pile. Writing those query letters, getting feedback from writing friends, and sending off every e-mail one by one until someone gave me more feedback or took a bite actually works. I wish I could say more…but alas, this situation is pending. 😉 Don’t fear the slush.
On a side note, I also managed to complete two manuscripts and publish two YA novels with Clean Teen Publishing! …And I work a full-time day job. (Not going to lie, I’m totally exhausted. But it’s been a great year!)
Why am I sharing this with you?
Because creating and meeting goals as a writer is HARD…and often unpredictable. When I wrote down my three goals for 2016 on a little green Sticky Note that I kept on the back of my desk (it looks pretty torn up and ugly now), I never thought I would reach most of them (and more) within the first two months. I could attribute it all to luck (which of course comes into play), and I could definitely cite connections (thank you again, Tamara and Natasha and Genese and and and!), but I have to be kind to myself, too.
I jumped at every opportunity I could, even if that meant I would be up for 48 hours straight and driving for 5…and spend some extra money that, logically, I shouldn’t have. (But definitely don’t regret.) Right now, I work three jobs, including being an author, and I’m more exhausted than not. But I know following my dream is worth it. Somewhere in my gut I am always filled with excitement and hope and energy…and every now and then, all of this work leads me somewhere unpredictable and wonderful.
So what’s my tip?
Beyond basic goal setting advice, I am going to stick my neck out there and say something crazy.
For every “realistic” goal you set, set a crazy “unrealistic” one, too.
Why? Because maybe “unrealistic” isn’t so unrealistic once you get started, but setting it will force you to get started. Setting goals causes you to miracle jump over that hurdle you thought you couldn’t even climb on your best days. For me, I honestly believed most of the goals I set for 2016 were unreachable…or at least would take a very, very long time. Why? Because I had tried to accomplish them before and failed. 2016, for me, was the year of reaching failed goals. 2016, for me, became the year “unrealistic” became a reality.
2017 can be yours.