Monday 6 February 2017

How to Achieve Your Goals (When You Haven’t Even Started Yet)

with Marilyn Forsyth

Image courtesy of
Did I set my writing goals for the new year? Yep. :)

Did I start working towards them on January 1st? Nope. :(

So what was stopping me?

It was the actual 'getting started' bit. 

Wth? I mean, I’m a writer. The Farmer's Perfect Match was published last year and my next book, Falling in Love Again, is coming out in April, so what the heck was going on?


It’s hard! Being a writer is hard work!

Image courtesy of

There’s self-doubt. Life getting in the way. Brain drain. That kitchen drawer you've been meaning to get around to cleaning out. 
There’s, like…at least a million things to stop you from achieving those goals you set yourself. 

But here’s the good part: you can do something about it.

In no particular order, here are some things that got me back on track. Maybe they'll help you, too.

1. I re-read some completed stories and story ideas from my bottom drawer and realised I had some great stuff there. Maybe I wasn’t as useless as I thought.

2. I started writing a diary in the words of my new MC – just a few sentences about her daily life and innermost thoughts, to get to know her better (the book’s a historical time-slip, a total change of genre for me)

Own photo

3. I began using the ‘Don’t Beak the Chain’ method. I have to write every day — I don’t want to break that chain!

4. Before finishing writing for the day, I’ve been making a list of specific things to work on the next day. (Love to tick things off a list!)

5. I’ve broken my big goals into small, achievable outcomes. Nothing’s guaranteed to upset your equilibrium more than having a goal that’s just too hard to achieve.

6. This was a biggie! I skipped writing the first chapter. I had an outline and I knew where I wanted my story to go but I just didn’t know how to start it and that was causing me angst (we all know how important that first page is, don’t we!). The pressure really came off after that.

Link to listen to or buy

7. I’m writing to music. I’ve tried this sporadically in the past, but this time I have a proper playlist. I’m also using headphones and finding it a really nice way to work.

8. Before I start work on the computer, I’ve been handwriting what I want to achieve with the scene I’m working on. This is giving me a focus.

9. This might sound a bit airy-fairy but I’ve been saying out loud to myself ‘You are a writer. You can do this.’ (You know what they say – talk to yourself and you’ll always hear what you want to hear.)

10. I light my ritual citrus-scented candle, and off I go.

So there you have it: my guide to getting started for 2017. Hope it helps you. (And fingers, legs and eyes crossed that it continues for me!)

Have you had trouble getting started this year? What did you do to overcome it?

Love to Love…a thunderstorm after a sweltering day, and the smell of earth after rain.

Image courtesy of

Love to Laugh…at Game of Thrones memes.

Love to Learn…by doing on-line writing courses. The last one I took was through the Margie Lawson Academy; it was about writing Historical Fiction and it was brilliant!


  1. Really, it's just as simple as getting started, isn't it? Putting hands to keyboard, pen to paper, writing a sentence and then flowing from there. I love your idea of not breaking the chain and writing every day, Marilyn.

    1. Hi Malvina! The 'Don't Break the Chain' method really works for me (so far, anyway :)). I think it's because I'm a visual person. I've also been writing 100, 200, 300 etc. (up to 1000) and crossing each number out as I reach that word count. It's helping me to keep on track, too.

  2. That is so true about writing being hard work. I don't think any of is really understand that until we're neck deep in. Not that knowing would stop any of us writing!

    I spent a lot of January travelling so it's been really hard to get back into it but it's like Malvina says, you just have to get started. My word count was terrible for the first week, and the second but now the words are starting to come again, and my confidence in the story and writing is growing with it. This week should see me back to normal.

    The break did teach me something: I shouldn't take breaks! Not when my goal for the year is lots of words. It takes too long to get back into the rhythm and the struggle causes that old fiend self-doubt to rouse. I took too long fighting that thing in the past to let it wake again.

    Congratulations on your upcoming release, Marilyn!

    1. Hi Cathryn! I don't yet have a cover for my new book, but I'm hoping it will be as swoon-worthy as some of your recent covers. :)
      I SO agree with you about taking breaks - it's too damn hard to get back into the rhythm of writing again. I'm a little worried about the effect my upcoming trip to Vietnam will have on my ability to not break the chain. I'm thinking that I might lower my daily word count expectation for those 10 days. Fingers crossed.

  3. Great tips, Marilyn. Have tried writing with music playing. Worked wonders with words flowing. Crossing off days on a calendar would keep me focused. Love that tip. Also, ticking off every 100 words is very motivating,giving you incentive to write more and more. Motivation is a wonderful way of achieving goals. Great post.

    1. Thanks Enisa! I'm so glad you feel you can take something from my suggestions and use it. Words are flying onto the page for me at the moment and I'm really enjoying writing again.

  4. Great tips Marilyn. I like to write with music on headphones. It becomes white noise eventually and I don't get distracted by the movements in my very busy household. I agree if you are not sure about the first chapter start somewhere else, otherwise some of us would never start. I'd love to hear how you go with the journal of your MC as you progress and at which point you decide you don't need it anymore.

    1. Hi Cassandra! So glad you like the tips. Yes, the music becomes white noise for me after a while, too, but it's great to start with to set the mood for writing.
      I'm into writing my third chapter now and I feel I know my MC well enough not to have to continue with the journal. Writing the journal did help me to fill out a pretty comprehensive Character Profile though.

  5. Hi Marilyn, I love your diary writing technique. I tend to let ideas, snippets of conversation and scenes percolate in the background before starting to write. I encourage myself to recognise that this is a highly creative stage and very much part of my writing work.

    1. Hi Sharon, the journal technique was really necessary for me as I'm writing in an unfamiliar genre and I needed to steep myself in the time I'm writing about. I've been doing a LOT of research about the time period and had to find some way to absorb it all, hence the diary. Now that I'm right into the story, though, I've found I don't need to continue it.
      Like you, I do a lot of percolating before I begin to write.


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