Setting Yourself Up for Success in 2019

blank slate
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Blank page. Clean slate. Fresh start.

Even if you swear off New Year’s resolutions, there’s something about starting a new year that changes our energy, making us eager for new ventures.

If you’re a Sub It Club member, you’re polishing your pages, honing your query, building your sub list, and poised to hit send to the next batch of agents and editors. And you may be wondering, how can I set myself up for subbing success in the New Year?

Here’s what works for me. Two years ago, I became a convert to the bullet journal thanks to Michelle Cusolito and this post. I don’t buy a fancy journal, but just use whatever composition notebook or journal I have lying around (I’ve amassed quite a few over the years. Yes, I have a problem.). I normally hot glue a pretty ribbon into the back cover as a bookmark and glue in a piece of elastic to hold a pen.

What goes in this fancy bullet journal you may ask? Anything and everything. I make notes about my works in progress, draw picture book dummies, track story ideas, keep sub lists and responses, make notes on conversations with my agent, etc. But before I do that, I set up the following pages:

  • A table of contents so I can find things (which means I must number the journal pages). This is magic. Trust me.
  • A monthly “to do” list. I include everything from volunteer projects, work “to dos,” and personal tasks, like vacation planning. I keep a weekly “to do” list on my printed calendar. Yes, I’m a list person.
  • An on-going list of each and every accomplishment: a revision completed, a draft sent to a beta reader, a pitch perfected, a submission sent out. You know how Dana Carey encourages us to celebrate our small steps to success each month in the Sub It Club Facebook support group? THIS is why you keep this list. Because you forget the small victories. And they must be celebrated.
  • A list of books I’ve read. Sometimes I include specific lists of mentor texts I’m using for particular WIPs.

Each year, as I set up my journal, I participate in Julie Hedlund’s 12 Days of Christmas for Writers. Though the series has ended for the year, I thought I would share some elements of the process, which invite us to pause and reflect on the last year as we move into the new one. These reflections follow the table of contents, the accomplishments list, etc.

  • SURPRISES: What surprised me about my writing journey last year? Did I try writing in a new genre I loved? Get a surprisingly fabulous professional critique? A personalized rejection from an agent? A request for a full? 
  • SUCCESSES: There may be some overlap here, but what successes did I have during the year? Think about each and every small step from finishing a draft to polishing that perfect pitch and sending out a query. Need an example? Check out Julie’s annual post
  • CHALLENGES/DISAPPOINTMENTS (limit 5): These have to be things within your control, so “I didn’t get an agent” doesn’t count. Did you fail to send out those 10 queries that might have landed you an agent? Did you give up on a draft? Part 2: Now write down what that nasty voice in your head says in response to that disappointment. I didn’t send out my queries because I know I’m going to get rejected. I suck as a writer. Part 3: Now write what you KNOW to be true about that disappointment. I didn’t send out my queries because I found the agent research overwhelming. Or I spent all my time on the writing and taking care of my aging relative instead of writing my query.
  • LEARNINGS/RESOURCES: Now consider what you learned from those challenges and what resources can help you succeed in the future. What would help with agent research? Could you break up the task, spending 15 minutes a day researching one agent? Are there blogs you could follow that would help you with your research, like MSWL or Writers’ Digest? Could you pay a caregiver to help with your relative a few hours each week so you could dedicate scheduled time to querying? By learning from our challenges and identifying resources to help, we set ourselves up for success in the new year.
  • BLUEPRINT FOR SUCCESS/GOAL FOR THE NEW YEAR: Now how will you build on your past success and set goals for the new year? Again, these have to be goals you can control. You can’t control whether you get an offer on your book, but you can control whether you participate in a Twitter pitch contest or send out 5 queries.

There. You’re done and ready to go in 2019.

Whether you start out your new year with a bullet journal and a list of goals, write New Year’s resolutions, or just wing it, I hope you’ll track your successes in 2019 and share them each month in the Facebook group. I know we’ll have as many, if not more than we had in 2018. Query on!

11 thoughts on “Setting Yourself Up for Success in 2019

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  1. I’ve participated in 12 Days of Christmas each year. I couldn’t make it through the year without journaling 🙂 Thank you for this inspirational post Kirsten.


  2. Do you know, I usually keep some form of bullet journal, but I think you’ve hit on a critical piece I need to incorporate: the successes and surprises of my writing life. The downside of being a list person is that I will NEVER accomplish everything on my list. But I can celebrate all that I do manage to get done amid life’s busy-ness. Thanks for the tip!


  3. Yes! Thank you for this! I am now adding a list where I write down each and every accomplishment. This is so important. I had a mini break down at the end of last year with feeling overwhelmed about not getting so many things done. I had to stop, breathe, and switch my focus to looking at what I did do in 2018. And it was a lot, including caring for an aging parent, which I didn’t account for in taking time away from other things. So, thank you again.


    1. Traci, I feel the same way. Sometimes I’m really hard on myself. But then I remember, writing is a part-time gig for me. I drop off my kids from school and pick them up. And I manage all the house stuff. It really helps for me to find strategies to protect the writing time I DO have. But at the end of the day, we must be gentle with ourselves. Wishing you all the best for 2018!


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