Goal Setting for Writers

Goal Setting for Writers

By Natalie Bright

Why Set Goals?

For writers, I think visuals are important. Keeping daily logs on the words you crank out is certainly a necessary target. Other than putting pen to paper, there is so much more to this writing business. And if you want success, you have to take an active part in the entire process. (In a future blog, I’ll talk about ways to measure your progress.)

Be establishing long term goals, you are able to consider the big picture of what you hope to achieve. Will you be working on that same novel five, even ten, years from now?

Goal Setting Worksheet

Our critique group uses a worksheet. Make your goals simple and specific, things that you can actually visualize yourself achieving. Making the New York Times Bestselling list is probably not realistic if you’re a beginning writer.

3 in 24:

Identify 3 times in a 24-hour period to Write.

For example:

1. Wake-up one hour early and write.

2. Skip lunch with coworkers and write only new words on WIP Monday-Thursday.

3. Stay up late at least one hour on Friday, Sat., and Sun. to work on edits or blogs.

Study your list. Can you visualize yourself actually accomplishing these tasks? Can you see yourself with pen in hand or typing at the keyboard at the times and places you’ve chosen? Setting achievable goals equals success.

Realistic Attainable Goals:

Make a list of at least four goals you hope to accomplish within the next year.

Achievable goals would be defined as something you can definitely complete, to measure your progress and give you a sense of accomplishment that your writing career is moving forward. This could be things like writing and polishing an entry for a contest, or completing a submission for an anthology. Be specific; what contest? Don’t know of any? Find one and list it on your goals sheet.

How about a notation to subscribe to a market listing for magazines?  Your goal will be to actively study submission opportunities and submit X number of freelance articles during 2013.

What about your goals in social media and promotion? These are difficult to measure because the connections you make this year may not reap benefits for months, even years from now. I’ve had invitations to speak come from a contacts I made years before at a chance meeting.

You can define specific activities, for example, actively participating on twitter during the next year, setting up a Facebook fan page, or uploading your inspiration to a Pinterest page. Authors are utilizing Pinterest in unique ways and it’s loads of fun.

Dreaming Big

Add to your worksheet one “dream big” goal. List something you hope to achieve that seems totally impossible. Go ahead and put the “NYT Bestselling list” here if that’s what you want more than anything.

I’m excited to announce that my dream big goal from way back in 2010 was realized this past year in 2012: I signed with a literary agent. Don’t be shy or doubt your abilities. Dream away.

Best wishes on reaching your writing goals in 2013, and thanks for following WordsmithSix Blog.



Order From Chaos


Order From Chaos

By Nandy Ekle

The kids fight to see who will be in bed first, but after getting there and pulling the covers over their heads, they lay awake listening for every little sound. Is Santa here yet, they ask each other in whispered voices so they won’t get in trouble on this night when they need to be extra, extra good. Eventually each child nods off, snores and dreams of a special toy they had fervently asked for.

Christmas morning the sun peeks in through the windows and every kid wakes up with a deep breath and the feeling that something has happened during the night. They jump from bed and run into the room where the tree stands sparkling. Their parents follow them with tired knowing looks on their faces. The presents are passed out and the chaos begins. Ribbons and paper fly through the air as the children rip it from the boxes to find the surprises hidden underneath.

As a young mother I would watch my own brood tear through the paper in less than fifteen minutes and shake my head. I had been a meticulous gift wrapper and the destruction often left me wondering why I took so much care. Then I would look at the mess of tags and ribbons and gibblets of paper all over the floor I kept vacuumed and clean and wondered why I bothered.

But when all the frantic unwrapping and opening and string cutting and shouting was over, the clean up came and life became normal again. And the happy looks my kids wore on their faces reminded me what it was all about.

So where am I going with this happy memory? Well, it occurred to me that the pantser style of writing, which is the way I write most of the time, is a lot like Christmas morning. I get an idea in my head that buzzes around enough to keep me from sleeping the way I should. As I lay awake at night thinking about the new characters and what they want and why they can’t have it without an adventure, every thought from kids’ lunch money to laundry can have a bearing on my story. When I finally get to sit at the computer to tune in to the voices telling me a story, I tear through the words as if they were simply thin tissue paper covering a secret surprise inside a box and the only way to get to the center of the adventure is to violently rip every shred of taped paper and fling it away.

Once the story is revealed, I can look around the room. It appears as though an explosion took place, only instead of bright colored paper, it’s words. Then comes the job of putting everything in order—tossing out the trash, rearranging scenes and characters, making sure all the little pieces are still there without a lot of extra stuff that doesn’t fit anything. When it’s all done, I see the look on my readers’ faces and remember what it’s all about.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Not So Christmas Poem

Outtakes 74

 Not So Christmas Poem

By Cait Collins

Twas the week before Christmas

And the church ladies came

Christmas cheer to prepare

For the elderly and shut-ins

We all hold dear.

I pulled into the parking lot,

My car loaded down

With lotions, tissues, books and bags.

I opened the door, my sisters I greeted

When the air was rent by a shrill sounding whistle.

Ross, you see,

Gave his wife the church key

But the alarm code was missing

And thus we listened to the offending whistle.

When what to our panicked eyes did appear

But a green sedan and a kindly elf.

“Brother Glen, Brother Glen,

Can you help us out?

Our 80 year old minister threw open the car door

And sprinted inside to shut off the loud cry.

The telephone rang, most likely the alarm company,

Calling to check on the code he cleared.

Amarillo’s Finest did not appear

So we flipped on the lights

Opened our packs and unloaded the stash.

The ladies went straight to their work,

Loaded the bags, and cleaned up the trash.

And with a sigh of relief we headed out.

Glen met us as we came down the hall.

Smiles and hugs he had for us all.

His arms around me and shaking his head,

He held me closer and lovingly said,

“Of you Brown girls I’ll never be shed.

At least I’ll not have to go post your bail.

You’re free to go home and not go to jail.”

We laughed and waved and went on our way,

Our Christmas errands to finish that day.

Please forgive this poor verse.

However versions one, two, and three

Were really much worse.

I’m not a poet,

Of that I don’t lie.

The point of this Outtake is

At least I tried.

My apologies to Clement Clarke Moore for taking liberties with Twas the Night Before Christmas… I hope you and yours have enjoyed a great holiday. I wish you a very happy 2013.

Writer Appreciation

Reasons To Write

By Rory C. Keel

This week I will share with you reason number 4 of why I write.

 Reason #4 – Writing helps me appreciate other writers.                                              

Having put my hand to the mighty penand wielded the awesome power of a fine writing instrument –well ok, I used a computer—I have come to appreciate other writers. While I have not read the writings of every author whose name is attached to a poem or printed on a glossy cover of a book, I can honestly say that I appreciate their work.

No matter the genre, the fact that they took the time to write down their thoughts and ideas is truly amazing.

Consider a few things it takes to succeed in writing:

The idea – Having an idea that draws someone into the writing, then takes that person through a meaningful journey and places him at the end, and having them enjoy the experience is a monumental task. Many of us wish we had an Idea.

Commitment of time – Alas, writing is not like a pyramid scheme, which claims to allow a person to make millions of dollars with only five minutes invested each week. No, writing takes time. Constantly learning the craft of writing, doing research on materials, then actually sitting and writing takes dedicated time.

Persistence – Many who start writing become discouraged through the process of continual critiques received and the re-writing which must be done during the process. Keep writing, use these things as learning tools and don’t give up, consider it as fine-tuning.

Yes, I appreciate other writers, both the famous and unknown, because they wrote.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Longfellow and Christmas Bells

Longfellow and Christmas Bells

by Natalie Bright


A ‘spark’ for writers is the moment an idea is ignited in our mind. The actual words may appear that very moment as notes on a restaurant napkin, or it may be months from now. I have spark notes written on and in everything. Sticky notes, an essential tool for writers, completely cover the wall next to my desk. One statement my son made became the basis for an article published in a magazine over a year later. You just never know what those spark might become.

Where Are the Sparks?

Ideas are everywhere (check out Postcards from the Muse segments by Nandy Ekle right here on WordsmithSix Blog).

Writers find sparks in overheard conversations or by reading others written words. Pictures or art can conjure up a story idea. More often than not sparks come from a writers life experiences. Good or bad, joyous or devastating; emotions evolve into wonderful prose.

As I writer, I’m always fascinated with the history behind the spark and the environment that influences that writer’s words.

Longfellow’s Sorrow

In the case of Christmas Bells, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the words to his poem on December 25, 1864.  The music and words are lifting and it’s always been one of my favorites, bringing to mind joyous holidays past spent with my favorite grandmother.

The words actually came from a very distraught Longfellow.

Precious Fanny Longfellow

Just three years earlier, his wife Fanny had wanted to preserve her daughter’s hair clippings in wax.  In a tragic turn of events, hot candle wax dripped onto Fanny’s dress, igniting it in flames. She ran into her husband’s study, where Henry tried to extinguish the blaze with a rug. He experienced severe burns to his face, arms, and hands. How they both must have suffered through that long night, only to have Fanny Longfellow die the next morning. Henry was much too ill to attend her funeral.

A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.” reads Longfellows’ journal entry for December 25, 1862.

Tragedy struck the family again in 1863 when his oldest son Charles, who was only 19 at the time, suffered a severe wound as a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac. Charles had left without his father’s blessing, joining the Union cause in March of that same year.

Continuing On

The Christmas season of 1864 must have been a dreadful time for Longfellow, as he carried on to care for their remaining small children, Ernest, Alice, Edith and Allegra. The Civil War was raging, skirmishes had continued throughout the country as they were still months away from Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox, and Abraham Lincoln had just been re-elected.

From the depths of his soul he wrote “Christmas Bells”, what some believe to be a pacifist poem roused by his grief upon hearing about his son. It was first published in 1865 in a juvenile magazine.

In 1872, five stanzas were rearranged by John Baptiste Calkin and put to the tune “Waltham”. Two stanzas referencing the war were omitted, and the poem became the beloved carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”

  1. I heard the bells on Christmas day
    Their old familiar carols play;
    And wild and sweet their tones repeat,
    “There’s peace on earth, good will to men.”
  2. And thought how, as the day had come,
    The belfries of all Christendom
    Had rolled along th’ unbroken song
    Of peace on earth, good will to men.
  3. Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
    “God is not dead, nor does He sleep,
    For Christ is here; His Spirit near
    Brings peace on earth, good will to men.”
  4. When men repent and turn from sin
    The Prince of Peace then enters in,
    And grace imparts within their hearts
    His peace on earth, good will to men.
  5. O souls amid earth’s busy strife,
    The Word of God is light and life;
    Oh, hear His voice, make Him your choice,
    Hail peace on earth, good will to men.
  6. Then happy, singing on your way,
    Your world will change from night to day;
    Your heart will feel the message real,
    Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Waxing Poetic


Waxing Poetic

By Nandy Ekle

The world is full of things that are similar and things that are very different and we like to compare things to get a better understanding of them. So we use similes and metaphors.

Similes are when we say that something is like something else:  Leaves fell like ideas all around me, but the wind blew them away before I could gather them together. This is a tool to use in description, but also works well for narrating and dialogue. It’s probably the easiest to  understand in symbolic language.

Metaphor is when we use one object to describe another as if it is the other object: When the thermometer broke the silvery liquid inside dribbled to the floor. As this liquid reached the floor, it didn’t make a puddle but beads. I tried to pick one up, but it became liquid and rolled away before I could pick it up.

Two images that mean the same thing, both poetic ways of saying the same thing.

What simile and metaphor can you use in your story telling?

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.




By Sharon Stevens


Tonight I watch as tumbleweed after tumbleweed blows across my path. Hundreds, no thousands seemed to tear themselves away from their earthly home desperately seeking a place to grab onto. Sadly they only found themselves buried against barbed wire fences with countless others of their species. The wind continues to howl and moan around me, pounding and pelting me with grit and dirt every which way I turn.

My first thought was that the world was coming to an end, but I knew this wasn’t supposed to happen until Friday. What a relief to realize that until then I am apparently safe. My second thought is that with so much darkness and desperation I would have never been able to live during the “dirty thirties” of Ken Burn’s Dust Bowl days. And I very much doubt that I could have survived as a pioneer woman living in a dugout out on the desolate plains hundreds of miles away from any neighbor.

All other thoughts turned to the tumbleweeds themselves. Several years ago I read a Louis L’Amour story about a lonely widow out on the plains that would tie notes to tumbleweeds just to try to connect to another human being. She never knew if anyone would ever see her notes. It was enough that she could put her thoughts down into something tangible, and send them on their way. “Conagher” found one of these with the writing attached, and looked for more clues to try to find the writer.

So many people predict that books are on their last legs, believing that technology will take their place.  And we are faced with the belief of the Mayans predicting that the world will be destroyed on December 21, 2012. Just like the horrific tragedy in Connecticut there will always be those who seek to drain our dreams and extinguish our passion, destroying our way of life, along with everything we believe in. Personally I prefer to hold in my heart a future that includes all that is wonderful and passionate. My thoughts are that even if we…humankind…blast to eternity in a ball of fire our ashes will remain behind to be reconstituted at a later date. There is no doubt in my mind that the message will still be there, readable and clear for future generations to follow. Like the sweet cockroach in “Wall E” I think that tumbleweeds, as books will survive any holocaust.

As writers we have to write as though our thoughts and desires will continue to survive. If we believed that our stories would never reach outside the ideas we hold in our hearts, or if we fail to find our “spark” as in Natalie Bright’s blog post, then we should never begin in the first place.

So just in case the Mayan’s are correct I want to get my Wordsmith six blog out of this plastic computer box as soon as possible. Hopefully I can get it printed onto a medium even if it is something as simple as copy paper. I hope and pray from the very bottom of my heart and soul all my words can come alive again. I so want to be reassured that it will be there for others to share for the future. At that time, how wonderful would it be if whoever controls the universe, whether it is the Good Lord or any other Higher Power, that He will see fit to rebuild a world with Hanukah as well as Christmas, and tumbleweeds as well as books.

As God and John Wayne are my witness, I know the message will be perfectly clear.


Outtakes 73


By Cait Collins

I’ve finished the Christmas shopping, fought the crowds at the grocery store, trimmed the tree, hung my stocking, and centered the wreath over the fireplace. My living room looks like a tornado struck it as rolls of wrapping paper, tissue, gift bags, tags, ribbons, and bows litter the floor. I have to finish wrapping all the gifts I’ve purchased for nieces and nephews, family and friends. The cards are addressed and mailed. What have I forgotten? I grab my list and check it again. Everything is done until I starting cooking for my sisters’ birthday dinner. Still, I fell as if something is undone.

I look over at the tree and wonder if it has enough decorations. Should I get out the left-overs and add them to tree? Did I buy enough for the kids? Did I spend enough time writing my letters to the aunts and uncles I seldom see? Have I taken enough time to eat right, exercise, and rest? Have I allowed enough time to enjoy the season or have I allowed the parties, dinners, and all the bad reports from the news media to sap my Christmas spirit.

Reality, the tree looks fine. My nephew, Josh, jointed me for pizza and tree trimming. We talked and laughed while we worked. Our kids always get more than they need. My annual letters to the family are long enough to assure them we are all doing fine. No, I have not eaten right. This time of the year I tend to eat on the run. No on the exercise, but I’ve taken a week off, and I’m really taking a break. The parties and dinners have been enjoyable, and I’ve turned off the news. My nephews and I spent three hours taking in THE HOBBIT. Now I have my feet up and am watching A Charlie Brown Christmas. What more could I want? It is enough.

As I get ready to begin submitting my current work, I ask myself if the novel is good enough. Is there enough description? Are the scenes thoroughly developed? Is there enough back story? Are the characters believable? Even when license is taken with reality, are the events written well enough to make the reader accept it? As I read each chapter, I look for places to improve the manuscript. I work to tame my internal editor to prevent overworking Kate’s story. Even when the final edits are done and the submissions are sent, there will be doubts. It’s the nature of a writer to want to snatch the work back and rewrite one scene or another. It will never be enough. In the end, I must trust my instincts and lay it to rest. I’m almost ready to let go. I’m almost ready to say it is enough.

Writing Improves Your Skills

Reasons to Write

By Rory C. Keel

Why do I write? Is it because throngs of fans demand it, anticipating every word of my next masterpiece? Is it because I honestly expect to make millions of dollars on a bestseller, or desire to be famous? No.

This week I will share with you reason number 3, of why I write.

 Reason #3 – Writing improves your skills.

“Practice makes perfect!” I knew there had to be a reason the teacher made me write my spelling words three times each in grade school. There were a few other lessons I learned while writing words multiple times on the chalkboard, but I will spare you from my youthful indiscretions. Yes, the more a person writes the more they learn and the better they become at the craft. Even those who have a level of natural ability will continue to show improvement with every word.

Use of Tools

There are a few basic tools that you will need to help you get started.

  1. A Thesaurus and a Dictionary will help to insure the proper meaning and usage of words, improving your vocabulary.
  2. The Chicago Manual of Style, or Strunk and White Elements of Style, will aid in punctuation and sentence structure. Over time you will notice a marked improvement in your writing.
  3. Use Encyclopedias found online or at your local library, to research your project. It will naturally results in an increased knowledge of that subject and improve your reading comprehension.
  4. A computer with a word processor program, and certainly, pen and paper are still terrific to use for jotting things down.
  5. Find a comfortable writing place.
  6. Then start with an Idea and write it down.

How do I know these points are true? I’ve come along way since the first grade, A-B-C-D-E-F-G . . .

The Gift of Story

The Gift of Story

by Natalie Bright

Conversations from the Past

“I can’t believe she bought everyone a present,” my mother said, as Dad eased our car out of my grandparent’s driveway.

My father shook his head in agreement. “She’ll be paying for gifts through next summer.”

So began the conversation my parents had every year following our family’s Christmas. My grandmother bought presents for everybody. The gift list included her four kids and their spouses, plus nine grandchildren. She bought and baked goodies for her mail carrier, her beautician, the pastor and his family, and most of the neighbors on her rural country road.

Giving to Others

My parents never understood why my grandmother worked so hard and spent so much money at Christmas. I think she wanted to make special holiday memories for all of us, and more importantly, I think it made her  happy.

How Do You Give?

A lighted tree, decorations hung everywhere, and seeing my children’s faces when they open their gifts makes me happy. It is indeed a thankful time of joy and giving, which got me to thinking how people give in so many different ways.

You might cook a fantastic meal for loved ones, knit or sew, or donate money to a worthy cause. If you don’t have  extra funds, you probably donate your time. Most of you simply show up: at work and at home again, because someone is depending on you to be there. It’s all giving in one way or another and hopefully, you’re happy in doing it.

As for Writers, We Write.

Writers give by writing. It may sound trite compared to some of the things I’ve mentioned above, but it’s not insignificant to us. In reality, as words fill the blank page, we don’t expect anything in return, although with fingers-crossed we sincerely hope that you’ll buy the book, love the story, post a great review and become a devoted fan. That would make us very happy.

With words we bestow our innermost sadness, hurts, happiness, and fears to you, our dear readers, throughout the year. It’s hard work and we rip our guts out for you. The written word is a powerful gift. Words can change your world view, touch your heart in ways you never imagined, make you laugh out loud, or make you cry.

Sometimes, the gift of a story will remain with you your whole life.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everybody!