Wednesday, October 1, 2014

How to set writing goals

October first and we are firmly established in fall. For some folks, fall is the time to set goals. Writers are no exception. Summer travels are behind us, the kids are back in school and it’s time to get back into a routine.

ROMANCE AUTHOR Lorraine Paton found and shared a goal statement: During October, I will _______)Fill in the blank.) She added an impressive list of writing projects and challenged members of our writing group (Alberta Romance Writers’ Association) to fill in the blank.

WRITERS WRITE shared a link with tips on preparing for the annual NaNoRiMo write-a-thon held each year in November. Thousands of writers accept the challenge and type like crazy to produce 50,000 words in 30 days.(Follow the link to their site to see the article.)

Goals are tricky things. 


Done right, they support and encourage. Overstated, or ill thought-out, they sabotage efforts.

SMART goals 

as designed by motivational speakers and management consultants.

S = Specific


In this step, answer those W’s all writers know and use the answers to design your goal statement.
  • Who: Who is involved?
  • What: What do I want to accomplish?
  • Where: Identify a location.
  • When: Establish a time frame.
  • Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.

EXAMPLE: A general goal would be, “Write a book.” But a specific goal would say, “Choose a story idea, work 30 minutes a day and write a 50,000 word book in November.”

M = Measurable 


Here you can break down your final goal into daily, measurable steps to help track your progress. You can see on the clock if you write for your thirty minutes. The word count goal can be broken down. 50,000 changes to a daily allotment of 1667 words. A measurable goal will usually answer questions such as:

  • How much?
  • How many?
  • How will I know when it is accomplished?


 A = Attainable 


Writing 50,000 words in one month may well be attainable. Many have done it. But does it work with your schedule? Are you a slow writer? A fast writer? How many words can you write in 30 minutes? Only you can decide. Attainable goals are ones you are willing and able to work toward.

R= Realistic


e.g. I am publishing 3 books in 2015

In the world of self-publishing, this is attainable, but is it realistic for you? Check your life and see if you will have the necessary time to make it happen.

If you want to go with a traditional publisher, and have not even queried them yet, this goal is most likely unrealistic and you are setting yourself up for failure.



There are various explanations for this section. It can refer to the time frame you’ve set (a month, a year etc.). Or it might refer to asking if this is the right time in your life for you to set this goal. If, in the same time frame, you are getting married, changing jobs and moving to a new house, this may not be the right time for a serious writing schedule .

A positive, active statement of your goal is also recommended.
e.g. On or before November 30, 2014 I am writing 50,000 words.

The bottom line:

  • Think things through.
  • Shape your goals to fit your life.
  • Challenge yourself, but don’t set yourself up for failure.
  • Be specific and write it down.
  • Break it down to “bite sized” daily, measurable steps.


I am writing three hours per day and on or before November 30, 2014 I am finishing my current WIP. 

Breakdown:  First draft completion requires writing 1,000 words per day for a finishing date of October 31. Minimum revision requirement is 10 pages per day.





  1. Wonderful post in helping us 'heads in the clouds' writers come back to earth and be realistic. I agree we set ourselves up for disappointment and failure if we don't meet goals. That depression can really hurt writing. I like your suggestion to analyse your life and what is going on first. Sometimes it's unexpected, but in the end for sure that is important to know. You can't write 1000's of words if you only have a half hour a day. My goal is to get Sophisticated Cowboy written in (very) rough and to plan a strategy for publishing under a pen-name. Everything will be set up before that happens.

    1. A goal check up and a new plan are always helpful to nudge us back on course. Happy it helped.

  2. Excellent post on goal setting! Thanks Mahrie :)

    1. Goal setting isn't new - but I find a reminder now and then certainly cleans up my act.

  3. I'm glad you found the exercise helpful to think about! :)

    On my list, I included several tasks that I've been meaning to do for some time. But some of them are little baby things just keep getting lost amid other more pressing goals and deadlines. I felt the need to write them down publicly in the hope that it'd help me be a little more accountable and accomplish what I want to. I have a lot of goals for the next few months, and having a list also helps me stay on track.

    Good luck with your October and November goals!!

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Lorraine. I agree--publicly stating the goals pushes one to "get to it." Perhaps that is why NoNoRiMo works for so many. Once it is out there, you have to save face and keep at it if at all possible. Happy achieving...I know you get things done.

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