Crush Your New Year’s Writing Goals

Every year, I make a list of New Year’s Goals. Yes, Goals. I don’t call them resolutions, because that just seems too concrete and causes too much pressure, setting me up for failure from the very start. Still, even then, some of my goals pan out . . . aaand some of them don’t. But I’ve started to notice a pattern throughout these successes and failures, and I thought I’d share some tips with you that I will be trying this year in the hopes of producing a higher success rate, especially when it comes to writing goals.


1) Focus on small habits, not the ultimate result.

I think the biggest favor you can do for yourself is to NOT make your resolution the same as your end-game, like “write a novel,” for instance. A goal like that is too daunting, too big. It’s also too vague. There are so many steps involved in writing a novel, and so many life “things” that can get in the way. Instead, a better goal would be to “write every day.” Don’t set a word count. Don’t say you’re going to write 1000 words every day. That’s also setting yourself up for failure. There will be days where you are definitely NOT going to make your word count goal, and you need to make room for that.

In fact, even better, don’t even set your goal to write every day. Make it something more tangible. Just say you’ll work on your novel every day. That can include anything: research, pre-writing, outlining, revising. . . .  And that’s GOOD, because all of those steps are going to get you closer to achieving that end goal that I told you to ignore: to write a full-blown novel. In order to reach that end goal, you need a game plan, so it’s that game plan you need to focus on the most. If your main goal focuses on the process of achieving that end result, you will be much more likely to reach it.


2) Failure isn’t an excuse for giving up

No matter what you do, there are probably going to be days, weeks, even months, where you are unable to work on your goals. Everyone goes through periods when they find it difficult to write. You might call that failure. “My goal was to write every day, but I haven’t written for weeks, therefore I’ve failed, therefore I might as well quit.” No! No no no no no. Don’t quit. Just start a-new. Start where you left off. It’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up about it. If you quit, then you’ve failed. But if you can accept that you’ve had a set-back and then pick yourself up and get back to work, you’ll know you have what it takes to succeed.


3) Flexibility is Key

Remember that a year is a long time. Things change. You change. The goals that you set in January may no longer apply in July. And that’s okay! I like to reassess my goals every few months to see what’s working, what’s not, and to think about what I need to do differently. It’s not failing or giving up if you decide that you need to take a different path. The point of a New Year’s goal is to improve yourself. Or to change yourself. Or to finally get the thing done that you’ve been wanting to get done. And in order to do any of those things without going crazy, you need to embrace flexibility. Go with the flow. If you don’t take a rigid stance, you’ll be more likely to succeed. At least, that’s my experience. Maybe it’s just because I tend to rebel against rules and rigidity. You may be different. But either way, you need to be willing to reassess and change if need be.


I hope these tips have helped. I will fully admit that I haven’t had a great track record for meeting the goals I’ve set each year, but a lot of that is because I haven’t followed my own advice. This year, I plan to. And I hope it helps you as well as me. Happy New Year, and good luck!


When she’s not writing, revising, or banging her head on the keyboard (it’s all the same, right?), Megan Paasch can be found playing her ukulele (badly), knitting (rarely anymore, unfortunately), or herding two amazing, but rowdy little boys (pretty much constantly) with her husband. A native to the Pacific Northwest, Megan earned her B.A. in History from the University of Washington. (Go Huskies!) Her favorite history subjects were, and still are, Women in History, the Tudors, and the Celts. You can read more about her here.

How to Write When You Just Don’t Wanna

Can we all just agree that the last two weeks have been the worst? I mean it. No matter what side of the political debate you fall on, the aftermath of this election has taken a toll on all of us.

I’m not here to get political, but I do want to address this toll and the effect it has had on our writing. Many—MANY—of my friends and colleagues have expressed how hard it has been for them to write lately. Many haven’t been able to write at all. I’ve seen several posts over social media bemoaning the looming end of NaNoWriMo and how behind everyone is because the election stress threw such a wrench in their ability to focus.

I’m one of them. At 22,000 words, I’m over 10k behind where I should be right now. I have massive amounts of writing to do if I’m going to hit 50k by the end of the month. I could just give up. I mean, it’s just an arbitrary contest. It’s not like my career is hinging on whether I can write 50k in 30 days. And everything else going on in the world right now feels much more important to me than finishing my draft.

Besides, I’ve failed NaNo before. Several times before. It’s not a big deal. But here’s the thing: at the beginning of this month, I made a promise to myself that I was going to REALLY DO THIS this time. I was going to finish this novel this month, come Hell or high water. Well . . . some might argue that Hell and high water are here, and now I’m struggling to keep my promise. I do still want to reach my goal, but when it comes to actually sitting down to write? I . . . don’t wanna.

I. Just. Don’t. Wanna. I mean, I do, logically. But I don’t have the mental energy for it. I’d rather take a nap, thank you very much, and hopefully not wake up until the year 2020 has come around.

Despite this, however, I’ve been managing to push myself through this writing slump, and so I thought I’d share some tips for how to get words down, even when you just don’t wanna.


1) Allow yourself a few day’s break

This seems counter-intuitive. “Wait, so in order to get yourself to write, you . . . didn’t write?” Yup, I didn’t write. I gave my brain and emotions some time to try and work themselves out, with the promise that after a certain amount of time, even if I still didn’t feel like I was in a place where I could write, I would try to write anyway. That day came, and I turned off all social media, and told myself I couldn’t get back on until I’d written 4k. And amazingly, I wrote 4k. I’m still not sure how, but I did. And you probably can too if you really set your mind to it. But first allow yourself that break.

2) Break it down into small chunks of time

Not words. Time. You’ll probably surprise yourself by how much you’ll get written in that small amount of time. One thing I’ve done on days when I’m especially having trouble focusing, is I’ve set my alarm to go off once every hour. When it goes off, I drop whatever I’m doing (or not doing, as the case has been lately) and write for five minutes. If I hit flow, I’ll keep going. Sometimes that’s all it takes. It’s like a little shove on the back of the sled to get you to the start of the slope. Once you’re there, your sled will tip, and gravity will carry you the rest of the way down.

3) Multitask

I’ve become quite the fan of writing via dictation, and the bulk of my NaNo draft has actually been written via this method while I’m doing other boring tasks, such as folding laundry, picking up clutter, and waiting in the carpool lane to pick up the kids from school. Somehow, for me, I’ve been finding it easier to break through the I-don’t-wannas this way. It’s not for everyone, but if you haven’t tried it yet, I recommend you do.

4) Find a second creative outlet

Set aside some time every day to work on something else creative and/or relaxing that has nothing to do with your draft. Adult coloring books are great for this. Also crafts, such as knitting, crochet, or other needlework—basically anything that relaxes you but also stimulates the creative side of your brain. Sometimes when I do this, I’ll find my mind wandering off to work on my story without me, solving plot problems, coming up with new characters, all while in a nice, relaxed, state of mind rather than while stressing out over a blank page.

5) Don’t panic

If none of this works for you, and you just can’t do it, don’t beat yourself up about it. Stress is a nasty beast that sometimes takes longer to defeat than we would like. Allow yourself the extra time you need. Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, go to bed at a decent hour, and take lots of bubble baths. Your ability to write has not left you forever. It will come back when it’s ready.

I do hope these strategies help you as much as they’ve been helping me. I will point out that they don’t work one-hundred percent of the time. Some days I just have to throw in the towel and admit that writing isn’t going to happen. But even if it works only a third of the time, that’s better than not at all. Also, if you have any tips of your own, please do share them in the comments. I’d love to give them a try.


When she’s not writing, revising, or banging her head on the keyboard (it’s all the same, right?), Megan Paasch can be found playing her ukulele (badly), knitting (rarely anymore, unfortunately), or herding two amazing, but rowdy little boys (pretty much constantly) with her husband. A native to the Pacific Northwest, Megan earned her B.A. in History from the University of Washington. (Go Huskies!) Her favorite history subjects were, and still are, Women in History, the Tudors, and the Celts. You can read more about her here.

A Writer’s Promise To Myself

“I’ll be better tomorrow. I promise.”

Do you ever catch yourself saying this to yourself? Most often when we promise to be better, it’s because we feel like we let someone down in terms of behavior or other expectations.

Last month, I let myself down by not meeting my writing goals. Oh, I could justify this with excuses. I could pin my decline in productivity on an extra busy work schedule, on my kids’ extra busy after-school schedules, on the fact that hours seem to slip by with all of the other daily obligations that are a necessary part of life. I could blame it on emergencies, illnesses, and other interruptions that filled up what could have been good writing moments. I could blame it on my own choices in taking on new projects. But excuses won’t help me meet my writing goals. Only by owning up to my failure to put words on the page, and only by being willing to change that will I actually get those words onto the page. Excuses are diversions and distractions. I wanted to have a draft out to my CP’s by the end of September, and it didn’t happen.

I’ll be better tomorrow. I promise.

My “tomorrow” arrived in the middle of this month, when I told myself in a very firm voice that I needed to get out of my no-writing funk. NaNoWriMo is rapidly approaching, and I am determined to banish all of the excuses and again get down to business. I was meeting my word count goals before September, and I can get back into it again. It’s what I do. Excuses, begone! I am a writer! Yet when I opened my file each day, I stared at it and felt something heavy hold me back. The automatic connection that I used to have with my characters felt faraway and tenuous. I am a different person than I was six weeks ago and maybe I couldn’t tell their story exactly in the way that I’d originally planned. I was afraid that I could no longer do their story justice. Instead of writing, I focused on doubts and fears. But after taking today and the day before and many days before that to contemplate this, I know what I need to do. I’m committed to finishing this story, and so these are the writer’s promises to myself that will help me stay on track and be better:


I promise to myself

  1. …that I’m experienced enough to acknowledge that life happens. Yes, life is busy, chaotic, and sometimes pulls me under, but I glean inspiration from my life. Experiencing emotions that range from frustration, stress, and anger to relief, joy, and love are the lessons I use to craft the emotional journey of my characters. Being mindful about my surroundings, textures, colors, and smells as the seasons change are the lessons that I use to build my story’s world. My crazy and beautiful life does not currently afford me the opportunity to write in solitude for hours at a time, but I need to experience all life has to offer in order for me to be a good writer.
  2. …that I’m strong enough to recognize and exert control over the things that are in my power. I do not need to respond to messages or emails right away just because my notifications are on (or better yet, I can turn them off). I do not need to get up and eat just because I happen to be writing at the kitchen table (even if there are lemon Oreos in the cupboard. They are merely delicious distractions). I can set rules in my home about when I require uninterrupted time to write (and I accept that this won’t be for hours and hours at a stretch). I promise to be mindful of the steps that I need for self-care, whether I am in full writing mode or not (and I shall be better about saying “no” if I need to). My top priorities lie with my family, my job, and my friends and support units, but as my writing is also a top priority, I can control certain things to help me get that writing done.
  3. …that I’m dedicated enough to finish this story. Writing is no cakewalk, and the process of drafting is particularly tough for me (but so is everything else about writing and publishing). I cannot fast-draft to save my life (Well, maybe I could if I was placed in an actual do-or-die scenario like in the Saw movies, but let’s not go there). I’m working on my sixth book now, and it feels no easier than when I wrote my first. However, I also know myself a lot better as a writer than when I first started out in this business (and I’m still learning, always learning), and no matter how hard it is to get to “the end,” I believe in myself and my characters enough to get it done. 

Lastly, I promise to myself that I’m realistic enough to know that there is always (99.99% of the time?) another tomorrow. You know, in case today doesn’t completely work out.



Helen Boswell loved to get lost in the pages of a story from the time she could sound out the words. She credits her dad, an avid fiction reader, with encouraging her to read ALL OF THE BOOKS on his shelves from the time she was a teenager. An author of both paranormal and contemporary romance, she loves to read and write characters that come to life with their beauty, flaws, and all. She is the author of the Mythology trilogy (MYTHOLOGY, THE WICKED, THE ETERNAL), and contemporary romances LOSING ENOUGH and SCARS RUN DEEP (coming soon). You can find out more about her writing life at

Should and Shouldn’t for Writers

When I was growing up, my dad had this cool little poem he used to say to us all the time, and I’m not even sure where he got it:

There are things you should do that you do want to do,
And things you should to that you don’t want to do. 
There are also things you shouldn’t do that you do want to do,
As well as things you shouldn’t do that you don’t want to do.

The thing to do is not to do the things you shouldn’t do,
But rather,
Do the things you should do, 
Whether you want to do them or not.

Now obviously that applies pretty straightforwardly to life, but I’m going to take it a bit more specifically today and talk about it in relation to writing. Because here’s the thing: I finished Draft Zero this week, and I haven’t touched it since, and for me, knowing my processes, that’s a thing I shouldn’t do. So, as a writer, what are some of the things you should do?

1. Just Keep Writing

Sometimes writing can be tough, and other times it’s easy. The trick to being a full-time writer is writing even when you don’t want to write. Some writers are binge-writers, and others do better with consistency. Like anything, you have to know what works best for you. But there will come a time, especially when you have contracts and deadlines, when you just don’t want to write. But you must, because the show must go on–the writing must get done. Our new contributor, Ilima Todd, just wrote this FANTASTIC post on that exact topic, so I won’t go into that too much. Just know that this is one of those things you don’t ever expect to happen to you, but it comes to us all.

2. Find Your Best Critique Partners

When I first started writing, I had no idea what a good Critique Partner was or how to get one. Well I’m going to pass on to you you some of the best advice I ever got on how to find them. (This comes from the mind and blog of LeighAnn Kopans.)

a. Watch pitch/query contests and twitter for writers you get along with talking about their books.
b. If their book sounds like something you’d love to read, OFFER TO READ IT.
c. If you’re at a similar stage in your careers, this will usually result in a return offer.
d. If you both benefit from each others’ critiques, you continue exchanging, and you are officially CPs.

Let me sum up: do not go onto social media and say “PLEASE READ MY BOOK,” because you’re basically begging strangers to help you remodel the bathroom you just tried and failed to build. But if you first offer to read for others, they will usually offer to read for you. And having critique partners who know your writing and love your work is probably the best thing any author could ever ask for.

3. Be Honest With Your IRL People

The other day, we visited my husband’s grandmother for her birthday. She also had some friends over, so she introduced me as a writer. The friend began to ask questions. The best one was, “how long does it take to write a book?” I tried to answer concisely, and she was legitimately shocked when I told her that from initial idea to first draft could be anywhere from a few weeks to a year, and another two to five years on top of that until publication (again, depending on the author and publisher).

Your significant other or extended family will never know what you’re going through unless you tell them. They may not be able to help you fix plot problems or grammar, but they can be a listening ear, they can help you remember to sleep, or eat, or shower. They love you, and they can help you do this if you let them.

4. Seriously. Just Write.

Whether it’s five words a day or five hundred, or zero one day and more the next, you are a writer if you want to write. There are literally no other requirements. You don’t have to want an agent or to be published, you don’t have to write every day, or every week. You don’t even have to want to write a novel.

But over time, you’ll learn more about yourself and what you want from this art you’re doing. And when you learn that, you’ll set goals for yourself. With goals comes progress, and with progress you’ll plan the way to accomplish your dreams. Then, and only then, will you know exactly the things you should and shouldn’t do.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a draft to revise.


Darci Cole is an author of YA and MG scifi/fantasy, usually with a romantic twist. She spends her spare time making magic wands, reading good books, eating good food, and raising two sons alongside her incredible husband.

Follow Darci almost anywhere!

How To Say No

One of your favorite writers puts out a call for beta readers. You’re in the middle of revisions, but apply anyway because one time chance!
The next day, you come down with the flu, making it difficult to spend any time looking at a computer screen for either revisions or reading.

One of your writer friends offers you an ARC to read in exchange for review in two weeks. “Of course!” you say.
Anxiety strikes, making you not want to do anything.

Your best CP needs a quick read-through. “No problem!”
Your partner gets in a car accident that afternoon.


“Self, no. We need to finish our own stuff first.”

“Hey, I know I said I’d read this, but stuff came up and I really need to focus on other things for a while. I’m sorry.”

“We had a family emergency, man, I can’t get to it in time. You might want to find someone else.”


It seems like I re-learn this lesson every few months. I just want to help everyone. Partly because it makes me feel good to be that help, and partly because I know–in the writing community–that help given will always come back to help me. Writers are awesome like that.

All of the above examples (except the car accident, that was another bout of sickness) have happened to me in the last three weeks. I jump at the chance to help wherever I can, which is great when life doesn’t pour troubles down on me like Nickelodeon Slime.

I have a hard time saying the things in that second section above.

As you can tell, this becomes a problem. I’m currently in the middle of a bunch of reading I promised to do (because I totally wanted to and still do!) and with me being sick (physically and mentally) and dealing with sick children, plus family and church and school and work, it’s been a struggle to get through it all without everything blowing up in my face.

Has this happened to you? Am I making sense?

Luckily, I have amazing friends who have been completely understanding and have given me the extra time I need to finish it all. I’d be willing to bet you do too, even if you think you don’t. Still, part of me wants to put it all away and never volunteer ever again. I mean, I haven’t written anything in almost three weeks, and I’m feeling it.

It actually feels really great to just sit down and pound out this blog post. It’s on a deadline, and it MUST be done, and so I’m putting the other stuff aside to do it, but really. Hearing the keys click and feeling the rhythm of the words flowing, it feels so amazing.

We all know that feeling.

I’ve been telling myself I’d write after I finished everything I promised to do, but I’m starting to realize I can’t do that. One of my critique partners is always telling me to put myself first, and I have a really hard time doing that. But I need to.

Make me do it, guys. And you can do it too.

Good luck, friends. Write well. I’ll most likely see you in the morning.


No Excuses Productivity

I’m gearing up for a new school year, and with it, thinking about ways to help students learn as well as ways to help them do. Many of them are inexperienced in writing, reluctantly accomplishing the tasks assigned in school. But as they enter the upper grades in school, I want them to really understand their writing process, to give it time to develop, to learn about it instead of vomiting words on a page with minutes to spare.

The problem with teenage writers that I think relates to most of us is the simple fact that sometimes, everything in the world sounds more fun, exciting, present, necessary, *pick whatever adjective you like to use* than writing, and we can often justify our way out of producing words. Sure, there are people who complain about writer’s block, but I never use “music block” as a reason not to practice, or “athlete’s block” as a reason to skip the gym, and “teaching block” is not really a thing, so I tend to not buy into that idea.

Today, I’m suggesting three techniques to maintain productivity.

1. Recognize there are many ways to be productive. 

I think many of us think if we aren’t drafting, we aren’t being productive. That’s like saying if there aren’t roses present, I’m not falling in love, but I fall in love with my husband EVERY SINGLE DAY, and except my small but determined rose bush outside my house, flowers aren’t there.

Productivity includes research, brainstorming, outlining, character development, establishing setting, developing magic systems, drawing out internal and external character arcs, cross-referencing with similar books, and so forth. Yes, some of these can become excuses, but spending a day between drafting to solidify any element that was previously lacking in understanding will add depth and truth to your text. Don’t be afraid to spend the time researching in the name of word count.

2. Quit using distractions as an excuse. 

Every single computer can be disconnected from the internet. Phones can be muted, put in another room, turned to “Do Not Disturb”, and twitter, facebook, pinterest, instagram, snapchat and the like will still be there when you get back. Especially when you are in the query/submission trenches, there is a temptation to check and recheck all the things to see if you can level up yet. But that creates chaos, anxiety, stress – things which I’m pretty sure all of us have enough of without intentionally inviting more into our lives. We even shared some hints for getting the most out of your writing time earlier this year.

And don’t let “Parent Guilt” sneak into the picture, because that is something that can eat you alive too. It is okay for adults to have passions. It’s okay for them to chase dreams. It’s okay for them to take an hour or two away from the children, from storytelling, from homemade whatever you feel you need to do to be a good parent and chase a passion.

Guess what? By taking that time to work, chase a passion and find satisfaction in something along with raising children, you will become a better parent. This little bit of info somehow seems to be a secret, but it shouldn’t be.

When it’s time to write – write. Maggie Stiefvater says so too. 

3. Create an opportunity for habit. 

I just finished reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Wow. Whoa. Huh. Think, for a minute, about how much your consciously pay attention to your *get ready for the day* process. Do you intentionally apply so much toothpaste to your toothbrush, making sure that each tooth gets a thorough and proper cleaning? Nope, me neither. It is a skill that has been practiced so much that it has become a habit.

Writing needs to become a habit – at least the part where you inform your brain it’s time to get writing. Just like when you pick up your toothbrush and your brain takes over what needs to happen next, we can train ourselves toward productivity. Our brain needs a cue – something that says, “When I do X, it’s time to write.” Period. And it’s okay to give yourself a reward when you do what you’d planned to (but after you get done…).

The bottom line is no one made you venture into the writing arena. This is something we each thought about before we started, something we wanted to add to our lives. Complaining isn’t fair to the listeners, and it isn’t fair to our craft. Yes, there are aspects that may increase frustration, but if we remember we sought this out, we can be a little gentler to our craft, a little more firm on our time management and dedication, and the writing will reward us with companionship.

Tasha Seegmiller is a mom to three kids and high school English teacher in Southern Utah. She writes contemporary women’s fiction with a dash of magic. Her loves include Diet Coke, owls, chocolate and cinnamon bears. She is the managing editor for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association quarterly newsletter.

Ways to Get the Book Written

Sometimes writing is easy and the words just flow out onto the page. And sometimes . . . it’s not. Sometimes you have to push through when it seems like you’ve been working on the same paragraph for days and it’s just not getting better. It’s hard, it’s brutal, and you sometimes drop your laptop in the garbage and (temporarily) give up.

If you’re like me, you can’t ever leave your laptop in the garbage for long and you haul it out and keep trying. Over the years, I’ve found a few things that help me to keep trying and to keep pushing through the hard times. I don’t always do all of these and sometimes I have to fiddle with them to see what works for me the way my life is at the moment.

1.  Write every day.

This advice probably isn’t new to anyone, but getting into a daily habit of putting words on the page—even if it’s only a paragraph!—make it so much easier to stay in the habit of writing even when you might not be as enamored with your manuscript as you’d like.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t always allow for writing every day. When my kids were little, I found that if I missed a day (usually Monday because, well, Monday), I’d get discouraged and start missing other days. I had to be more flexible. So instead of trying to write every day and reaching a certain word count, I:

2. Set a weekly work count.

Most of the time, a weekly word count works much better for me than a daily word count. I don’t feel guilty when I miss a day because I know I can make it up later. Brandon Sanderson once said that he’d rather have a big chunk of time every other day to write than small chunks on a daily basis. Some writers do really well with small blocks of time, but others don’t. I tend to be someone who needs longer stretches of time. I take a while to adjust from real life to my story world, but once I’m there, I want to stay for longer than a couple minutes. But that’s just me. Every writer is different and needs to find the best way for them to write.

3. Be accountable to someone else.

Earlier this year I finished the first draft of a story I’d been trying to write for a long time. I’m usually a pretty fast drafter, but this one felt like slogging through waist-deep mud to get through it. My sister (probably tired of listening to me whine about it), told me to start emailing her every day what my word count was for that day. If I didn’t email her, she’d write to ask me about it.

And it worked. Having someone to report to helped so much, and it worked both ways (she also emailed me to let me know how her manuscript was going).

4. Find someone to encourage you.

One of the best ways to get through a rough writing patch is to have someone cheering for you, someone who loves your story, reads it as you go, and wants to see where it’s going, whether that’s a critique partner, a spouse, a friend, or whomever.

Unfortunately, as awesome as this is when it happens, it can sometimes have the opposite effect. Sometimes your critique group just won’t click with your story. Sometimes your friend really wants you to add a zombie-hunting, vampire-staking alien robot to your Regency romance and, well, it just doesn’t fit with the vision you have for your story.

It’s hard to keep going when someone you trust doesn’t like what you’ve written, but rewriting to try to fit someone else’s vision never works. Trust me on that.

5. Turn off the internet.

Seriously. Just try it.

6. Focus on what you love about your story.

We live in a pretty critical world and it’s so easy to focus on what’s wrong. It’s much harder to focus on what you like. (Just think how easy it is to list five things you don’t like about your appearance. Now list five things you love. How did you do?) As hard as it is, make a list of what you love about your story, the things that fascinate you, the reasons you started writing it in the first place, and then refer back to it often.

Now, go get your laptop back out of the garbage and get back to writing. Best of luck to you!


Jenilyn Collings loves to read and write things that are humorous or romantic (preferably both). She has worked as a dental researcher, a florist, a martial arts instructor, and a tracker at an alternative high school (she’ll leave it to your imagination what that entailed), but she’s now focused on writing and child wrangling. A long time resident of the Mountain West, she recently moved to New England with her family where she is gaining an appreciation for umbrellas, fall colors, and turning lanes while driving.