Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Writer's Wednesday: Beyond the Word Count – finding Balance in your New Year Resolutions

Riva and Presents Extra Author Natalie Anderson explores goal setting.

I just couldn’t have the first Writer’s Wednesday post of the year and not mention the RESOLUTION word, now could I? Did you make any resolutions for 2012? It’s not too late you know, you don’t have to wait a whole year before setting some goals and plans in place!

I’m sure you all know about setting goals and the SMART way to do it (specific, measureable, achievable realistic, timely) – just Google for more info and you’ll find a wealth of how-tos – but today I wanted to write about what kinds of goals to set.

As always, I made some resolutions. Usually I set a few goals for the upcoming year and write them into my diary – kind of plotting out what I’d like to have achieved in each month etc. But I think we writers can get too fixated on those things like word-count or weight-loss – well, I know I can! For 2012 I wanted to make some goals that would enrich my life as a writer more, and help achieve that very difficult thing known as ‘balance’ while still contributing to my long-term overarching goal of writing for a living and loving it!

picture by Pixomar,
2011 was a hard year for me, we had over 7000 earthquakes and they’re still going (we had 48 last Monday alone) – so our housing situation has been disrupted, my children needed more support – as did I! And I found I struggled to write and much of what I did write didn’t have my usual tone – it was all a bit gloomy! I just got worn down and really needed to rest and refill. So that’s something I’ve planned for in my New Year’s goal setting exercise. I also didn’t want to burden myself with a ton of un-meetable goals, so I’ve kept the aims on the light side – more is a bonus, but I’m not going to set myself up to fail, especially not when life is literally still rocking!

Here are the topics I’ve been setting goals for:

I do believe in the ‘write every day’ school of thought. I know it can be really hard, especially if you’re working a day job or running ragged round the house after your kids, but even 500 a day keeps you on the way. Writing daily keeps your head in the story – you think on it in quiet moments during the day. And 500 should be achievable in an hour’s quiet time. You’re allowed at least an hour to devote to something so important! Of course if you have more hours to write – then use them! But if you struggle to find the time, here are some ways to find it: turn off the telly, get up an hour early, use a portable wordprocessor when you’re on the train to work, require a ‘half hour silent reading’ time for the kids – they read, you write. Rewards for all at the end!

Don’t put too high a word count pressure on yourself, keep it achievable, enjoy meeting it, enjoy beating it even more!
My goal is a simple 1k a day. But in term time, that’ll be more!

You can’t be a writer without being a reader. Reading is something I’ve missed so much this year. I love to lose myself in a book for hours at a time but life pressure just wasn’t going to let that happen. I’ve been reading a lot of my daughter’s middle/grade early YA books for fun because they’re often a quick read and there is some phenomenal literature out there for kids. Also, I get to talk to her about the stories. I think it’s wonderful to read outside your own genre as well as in it. Reading for pleasure is just a must.

My goal is to read at least 1 new book a week.


Yes reading does help refill the well, but I want to hunt out other sensorial experiences as well. I want to go to a gallery, a concert, travel somewhere, visit a garden… something like that. That’s a bit tough in Christchurch at the moment as our main Art Gallery is still being used as the Civil Defence/Council headquarters, and so many others are shut. But in the face of disaster, creativity abounds. We have these amazing ‘gap filler’ projects where artists put in installations in the ‘gaps’ where buildings once stood. There are gorgeous gardens on the outskirts of town and in the nearby countryside to visit, and there are towns not too far away with galleries and pottery shops. The theatre has just reopened, concerts are happening… it’s just a matter of being organised and keeping an eye on what’s going on. My goal is to ‘do’ something ‘culturally enriching’ at least twice a month.


Ugh. Whether you’re paid to write or not (yet), you need to keep up to date with your tax records. Says me, the woman who was up til beyond midnight the other night entering in all her expenses for her overdue return. Many of us loathe having to do it, but its so much worse to leave it all ‘til the last minute. (trust me). We’re businesswomen, right? My goal is to keep on top of my paperwork – I now have a designated ‘filing’ day once a week to maintain spreadsheets and put away the papers.


It’s just a part of life for writers now. The trick is to decide what you’re going to do, how much time you’re going to put into it and when that time is going to be. A website is a must, more is up to you. But I do suggest you designate a certain amount of time a day (or week) and ringfence it. It is so easy to spend too long on social networking sites instead of writing! Make a plan and stick to it!!! The day after my records day is now my promo day for writing blogs etc.


I’ve written 20 books and still make stupid mistakes! I want to revise aspects of craft – re-read seminal texts, go to conferences, do a couple of online courses, get together with other writers and talk craft.


Linking in with revising, I’m planning a weekend retreat with a fellow writer. We’re going to an alpine village where there are thermal springs and we’re going to submerge our bodies in warm, restorative water, talk books and writing and maybe even drink wine! I’ve been longing to do this for years and in 2012 it’s finally going to happen J


Oh yes, we can’t ignore the weight thing. Deadlines, stress, Christmas indulgence… I’ve got a sugar addiction that I need to kick! And a few kilos could take a hike from my frame too… Plus there’s the sedentary aspect of this job – hunching over my laptop in my beanbag probably isn’t doing brilliant things to my spine and arms. Some daily exercise and eating well are my aims. I refuse to use the D-word, I go on auto-rebellion at the mention of it! But feeling fit and healthy helps in so many ways to finding balance.


I’m so planning for these this year! I’m setting aside some non-deadline time to spend with my family. Too many times I’ve had revisions or edits come in around the school holidays, while some of that is beyond my control, much I can try to manage better.

Of course I’ll revisit these goals through the year but I think most are achievable and *should* help me regain a better balance. I adore writing, I know I am so lucky to be able to write and have my stories published and I want to keep doing that as long as I possibly can.

So, do you think I’ve missed any important ones – in what other areas in life do you plan for come New Year and how to you help to achieve balance in your writing life?!

Natalie Anderson’s current release – an Antarctic-set novella titled MELT – is available now through Amazon:

 while her next M&B Riva FIRST TIME LUCKY is on the shelves in the UK this month.

For more info, head to her website: and be sure to sign up to her newsletter as she has a signed book offer for subscribers only running at the moment!


  1. Well, now I'm inspired to write down some goals for the year! I read somewhere once that a goal written down is much more likely to be achieved. I believe this is absolutely true. So now I 'm off to make a list and post them on my wall. Thanks for inspiring me, Natalie! And I'll be sending all my earth-stabilizing vibes your way :)

  2. Some great goals there Natalie. And I do hope 2012 is less disruptive for you. x

  3. Hi Aimee - hope you have fun with your goals!! And thanks for the vibes :)

  4. Hi Rachael - thanks so much! We're all hoping 2012 will be a fab year :)

  5. Great post Natalie.

    Your writer's weekend away sounds lush - enjoy!

    Happy New Year - all the best for 2012

  6. Thanks Joanne! It will be fab I'm sure! And Happy New Year to you too!!!