Goal-Setting Advice for the 2016 Winter Writing Festival

The Festival starts next Monday! The Festival starts next Monday!! (Monday, January 11, to be exact.)

I’m so darned excited, I could spit. Not very ladylike, but true.

To help you get ready, I’m re-posting a blog from previous years about how to get ready and set workable goals:

One of my favorite parts of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s Winter Writing Festival is the fact that you can set your own goals. But of course that means you need to think carefully about what your goals should be to make best use of the Festival’s awesome productivity-boosting power.

Some thoughts on setting effective Festival goals:

If you look at me now, you might not believe this, but back in junior high and high school, I ran track competitively. (I used to be a skinny little muscle-ball. Seriously. I have pictures somewhere….probably buried under a pile of candy-bar wrappers. Sigh.)

Anyhow, as I think about my goals for the Writing Festival, I think about my track days. The wisdom I learned back then applies now.

1. Know which race you’re running.

Apparently, I have some weird combination of “short-twitch” and “long-twitch” muscles, so when I ran track, my coaches assigned me a wide range of races–everything from the manic kangaroo-style dash of 100-meter hurdles to the marshall-your-energy-for-the-very-long-run mind-game of cross-country.

If you went into a hurdles race with a cross-country mind-set, the other racers would cross the finish line before you made your first leap.

If you went into a cross-country race with a hurdles mind-set, you’d leave the others in the dust…for the first five minutes, and then they’d all have to jump over your prone and twitching body once you’d burned out your muscle’s short-term glycogen stores.

The RSSWWF isn’t a sprint, but it’s not a marathon either. At 50 days, it requires a bit more stamina than the month-long NaNoWriMo, but it’s still a fairly short-term and intensive commitment.

The toughest race I used to run was the 800: half a mile.  It was not-quite-a-sprint, not-quite-a-distance-race. You really had to think carefully about just how fast you could go out of the blocks, and you had to sustain that speed for two full rounds of the track.

My advice for the Festival: push yourself, but don’t kill yourself. If NaNo’s 1667 words a day is do-able but kinda exhausting for you, maybe pull back to 1200, or 1000, or even 500.  If you prefer setting an amount of time to write per day, pick a time that will pinch a little, but not make your other commitments impossible to meet. Your family / boss / pets / dirty laundry can be pushed down the priority ladder for NaNo’s 30 days, but 50 days is harder.  Would an hour a day be reasonable? Can you cut out some internet playtime or a TV show to make that possible? Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something you can hang with for seven full weeks.

If you pace yourself right, you might find that your Festival goals can be sustained long after February is gone!


3. Build in some breathers!

Lots of studies have shown that the best way to build aerobic endurance is not by running constantly–it’s by running for awhile, then walking for awhile, then running again. (My track coaches built our lungs with a crueler version of this: “wind sprints,” in which you ran 50 yards at top speed, paused for about ten seconds, then ran back just as fast and kept repeating the process until your coaches felt merciful enough to let you stop. It worked, but it hurt like hell. I like the alternate running / walking thing MUCH better.)

Lots of Festival participants are including goals like “Take Saturdays off to be with family,” or “Take Tuesday and Thursday evenings off.” This isn’t cheating–it’s sound training advice! Some of you may want to write seven days a week regardless, but don’t kill yourself. A little rejuvenation can help you power up and get more done on your “on” days.

And remember, we listened carefully to those of you who told us a couple years ago that daily goals don’t work for you, but weekly goals do. So if your life is too chaotic to chunk your work in neat 24 hour cycles, go right ahead and binge and purge as fits you best, and give yourself seven points at the end of each week when you’ve met your weekly goal.

And here’s an idea that may seem radical, but may actually keep you in the game: build in an EASY option for getting a point on days when Real Life gets in your way. Literally, say, “50 new words on a tough day,” or “10 minutes at the keyboard when the day job / kids / house explode on me.” Only choose that option for getting your point when you’re really desperate, but GIVE yourself the point. It will keep you from giving up in frustration…and keep you much more productive in the long run.

4. Depend on your teammates.

Sisterhood is powerful! The best thing about the Festival is we’re doing it as a group.

Announce your goals loud and clear on the Ruby blog on Monday, January 11. Check in regularly on Mondays and let us know how you’re doing. Accountability = big motivation! (Also, we always give away prizes to those who’ve met their goal for the week!)

Use the writing sprints! Many participants last year found the writing sprints (held in the chat room over at to be almost magical in their power to make the words flow. We’ll have regular sprints scheduled at all sorts of times, so keep an eye out for the schedule on the Writing Festival homepage!

Sprint not scheduled at a time that works for you? During the Festival, feel free to drop by the chat room anytime to see if you can find a partner for a spontaneous “pick up” sprint, or ask a friend to join you there.  (You might want to make “participate in a writing sprint” one of the ways you can earn a Festival point!)

This year, Hope Ramsay will also be hosting an early-morning chat-room session once a week for those who want to drop in for a little plot brainstorming!!!

Also, check out the “Brag Blog” on the site. It’s a way you can get a little inspiration and check in on a daily basis! Of course, the more the merrier, so spread the word!! Everyone is welcome to participate!

 Get your writing muscles warmed up, friends! This is gonna be great!!



28 responses to “Goal-Setting Advice for the 2016 Winter Writing Festival”

  1. Melonie says:

    Monday Jan 11th is the night I officially pass the gavel to the next Chicago-North president, and with the conclusion of my duties I am really looking forward to full steam ahead on the writing front. I like the weekly goal idea – I’m in!

  2. What a wonderful post about goals and Winterfest 2016, Elisa!

    I’m thrilled the RSS is hosting this again. I find this time of year super-productive for my writing life. I wrote my goals last week and I’m looking forward to January 11th.

    Thanks so much,

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Delighted you’ll be with us again, Paula!! I’m looking forward to another Festival full of good progress, too!

      For lots of us, the holidays are so demanding, and this is a great time of year to buckle down and focus on our stories.

  3. I botched NaNo by working on a revision rather than writing new words, so I’m clearing my decks to make the WRF my priority, and to WRITE NEW WORDS!

    Thanks for the kickstart!

  4. Eight weeks and I have eight chapters to write yet on this book — perfect! Haven’t participated recently, but I’m definitely in this year.

  5. I’m so excited! Been thinking about my goals for several weeks, and things have been shifting in my writing life, so this festival comes at the perfect time for me to reassess and recommit.

    (Love this post, BTW!!)

  6. Tina Beckett says:

    Yay! This is perfect timing! I’m getting ready to start a new book. Can’t wait!

  7. Laurie Kellogg says:

    I can’t wait, too, Elisa! I was hoping to get back to writing on Monday, but everyone in our family has been sick with a stomach bug since New Year’s Day–including me. So you can imagine what my house looks like. Today is the first day I’m feeling almost human, and I’ll have to focus on getting things straightened up before I can concentrate on writing.

    I’ll be unable to write for TWO straight weeks during the festival, so I can only set a goal for the festival as a whole, which is to finish the first draft of WIP I’ve been writing off-and-on between other projects for the last two years.

    I’m really psyched about getting back into it!

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Sorry about the stomach crud…that’s always a pitfall at this time of year. Here’s to good health and strong immune systems to all Festival-goers!!

      And, yes, setting overall Festival goals if even weekly goals don’t work for you is totally kosher, too. PROGRESS, PROGRESS, PROGRESS is all we’re focusing on.

  8. Vivi Andrews says:

    I’m so excited!!!! My first few weeks will be revisions (blech) but then I will get to the bliss of first drafts. Ahhh. Huzzah for the festival!

  9. I so wanted to participate this year, but for some reason I can’t get into the site. 🙁

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Oops! The site is under a bit of (re)construction today…It’ll be up and running again soon.

      Opening day isn’t until Monday, Jan 11.

      • Scarlett West says:

        Thanks for this comment because I would like to participate but was also having difficulty checking out the page! 🙂

      • Good to know!! I’m just starting a new book so this will be good to keep me on track. I need to have it done by the end of February. 🙂

  10. I can’t wait for Monday. I only have one goal, but it’s a biggie and I KNOW the WWF will get me there 🙂

  11. I’m so excited!!! Good luck, all!

  12. Thanks to Hannah Wells for alerting me to this challenge. This is the first year I’ve heard of this but it sounds good.

    I will look around this site. I would love to set a goal(s) and complete some of the serials I need for my (ultimate) book.

    My #1 writing problem is doing it consistently, and #2 is not changing it when I edit. Every time I look at it I end up re-writing the whole thing.

  13. Hi again,

    I just read your ABOUT page and I guess I will not join you because I am not a romance writer. (However, I may try my hand at it.)

    I am going to continue writing and get into a regular routine though.

    Best of luck to you all!

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Charlotte, writers in all genres are very welcome to join us for the Festival! We often have non-romance writers with us…and progress is progress regardless of what you write.

  14. Scarlett West says:

    Hello again,

    I have a question. Is it ok to give ourselves an extra point if we pass our daily goal? Thanks.


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