Okay! I said I’d post my own goals for the coming months and here they are! Remember, these goals serve the overall “vision” statement I made in my previous post. If you haven’t read that post, you should. It explores novelist and writing teacher James Scott Bell’s The Art of War for Writers and focuses on Bell’s thoughts on the importance of goal setting for writers.

Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell

For more about Bell, check out his author page and his blog, The Kill Zone, where he blogs about craft along with 11 other thriller writers. It’s killer! (See what I did there?)

2015 Goals:

  1. I will complete for submission one non-fiction picture book and one fiction picture book before August 31.
  2. I will complete one new screenplay while revising a new draft of a current project by August 31.
  3. I will develop my writing craft, with an emphasis on screenwriting, by committing to the process of “Deliberate Practice.”

So, if you’ll remember, goals are only the first step. The next thing we have to do is plan. What are the steps that will help me make these goals a reality? Here they are as I see them:

  1. In order to complete one non-fiction picture book and one fiction picture book this year. I will:
    1. Complete research for my new non-fiction picture book by April 31.
    2. Complete a first draft of this new non-fiction book by May 31.
    3. Revise for submission to my agent a current draft of my new fiction picture book by April 31.
  2. In order to complete one new screenplay this year, while revising a new draft of a current screenplay project, I will.
    1. Collect notes on my current project and complete revisions by June 31.
    2. Map out a new project and complete a first draft by July 31.
  3. In order to develop my writing craft, with an emphasis on screenwriting, I will commit to the process of “deliberate practice” by:
    1. Identifying weak spots.
    2. Designing a program of self-study to address them.

I had a breakthrough moment last month when I discovered the idea of “deliberate practice.” It helped answer questions I’d been having about how to improve as a writer. I think I’m good, but I know I have a long way to go and I wasn’t sure what the best “plan” would be. I knew simply writing was better than not writing, but I was wondering if I could be more strategic. For example, when there is a new technique I want to learn on guitar, I break it down into component parts and practice. Could this be done with my writing?

So I stumbled upon this idea last week on a website (which I link to below) but as it turns out, I had actually read about it in Bell’s book but forgotten! In The Art of War for Writers, Bell emphasizes the importance of self-study when he writes, “You need to engage in something Geoff Colvin, in his book Talent is Overrated, calls “deliberate practice.”

This idea of “deliberate practice” comes from the field of expertise studies, which basically looks at how people get great at what they do. To find the answer, researchers have studied high-achievers across the disciplinary spectrum in such fields as music, chess, art, writing, sports, etc. They’ve found something fascinating.

In study after study, researchers find no evidence to support the idea that “talent” is a prerequisite for success. Talent, as Colvin suggests, is overrated. On the other hand, just working hard isn’t going to make you great either.

What researchers like Colvin have found is that what distinguishes high-achievers is NOT how hard they work, but HOW they work. High-achievers in all fields partake in what Colvin calls “deliberate practice.”

Bell suggests you build your own Writing Improvement Program by identifying exemplars you admire and using them as guides; seeking out and assimilating comments on your work; and by creating a self-study plan to overcome your weak areas as a writer.

But if you’re like me, you want to know more. So this is what we’re going to talk about next! If you’re curious, check out this great post by Victoria Strauss and Barbara Baig at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America website.

Until next post, start making your dream a reality by casting your vision and setting some goals!

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