Goal-Setting Advice for the 2019 Winter Writing Festival!

The Festival starts THIS THURSDAY!!!! 

I hope you’re as excited as I am, and ready for some BIG PRODUCTIVITY through what could otherwise be the dreariest part of winter. 

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. You decide what you need to do to earn one point, and pledge to earn 50 points between January 10 and the last day of February.

You’re 100% in control of the terms, and you can give yourself a menu of possible ways to earn those points.

One person may decide they get a point daily as long as they spend half an hour that day Butt-In-Chair-Hands-on Keyboard–or maybe it’s an hour, or five hours, or just fifteen minutes. Another person may award themselves a point for revising 15 pages OR for attending one writing sprint OR for sending off that $*&#%!! draft synopsis to their critique partner. Yet another person may set a weekly goal, and give themselves seven points at the end of any week in which they’ve produced at least 3500 new words. IT’S ENTIRELY UP TO YOU!!!

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 writer-boosting power.

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 marshal-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 two 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 words a day.  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? Half an hour? 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!

2. Play to your strengths!

The Winter Writing Festival isn’t one-size-fits-all. And that’s what’s so great about it!! Plotters, pantsers, plotsers, revisers, stream-of-consciousness writers, dabblers, those racing towards a deadline, those just trying to get their mojo back…there’s a place for everybody’s M.O.!! Track teams work together, but they have a huge variety of individual events to choose from.

Don’t worry about what the person next to you is doing. Figure out what YOU’RE best at, and design YOUR goals accordingly. Never apologize, never explain.

Just play hard, and make good progress.


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 interval training, i.e., running for a while, then walking for a while, 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 few 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 quitting entirely out of frustration or guilt…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 that we’re doing it as a group.

Announce your goals loud and clear on the Ruby blog on Thursday, January 10. Check in regularly every Thursday and let us know how you’re doing. You can even check in daily on the Winter Writing Festival homepage if that helps keep you on track. Accountability = big motivation! (Also, we always have prize giveaways you’re eligible for if you’ve met your goal for the week!)

Use the writing sprints! Every year, participants rave about the writing sprints (held in the chat room over at, saying they have almost magical 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. Or offer to host a time slot yourself! (It’s a great idea to make “participate in a writing sprint” one of the ways you can earn a Festival point!) 

The more the merrier, so spread the word!! Everyone is welcome to participate!

Get your writing muscles warmed up, friends!

The 2019 Winter Writing Festival is gonna be GREAT!!

6 responses to “Goal-Setting Advice for the 2019 Winter Writing Festival!”

  1. […] great advice for a successful Winter Writing Festival at the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood’s Blog here.  Or better still, bookmark the Ruby Slippered-Sisterhood Winter Writing Festival […]

  2. Lille says:

    Last year was my first experience with the RSSWWF…what a difference! I got so much done. I am looking forward to participating again this year.

  3. Dana Britt says:

    Yaay! Last year was my first year participating in WWF and it was a blast–successful and fun! I got a ton of good writing done, set some new habits, and made lasting friendships 🙂
    Let’s Do It!!

    (Mods, if y’all need session hosts, I’m more than happy to help out–I’ve been in the chat room most days all year, working away!)

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      That’s fabulous, Dana!!

      We’ve got lots of sprints scheduled, but anytime you’re in the Chat Room without a Ruby host, it would be fabulous if you’d act as host and show folks the ropes!

      Have a fabulous Festival!!!

  4. Can’t wait to get started! Woot!


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