Setting Writing Goals

Setting Writing Goals
The lengths some people go to for a quiet place to write!

Have you noticed how the subject of setting writing goals brings out so many different reactions? You have the people who love the idea and are completely energized at the thought of a blank slate. A fresh new year to make good on all of those promises we’ve made to ourselves. I’m definitely in that group.

Other folks drag their feet and decide they really do need change, but motivation is lacking, particularly since they’ve not seen a lot of progress. They revive the same tired goals every year and drop out about the time Walmart moves the Slimfast display from the center aisle.

When you mention making goals to some people, they give you a dirty look and say they don’t believe in them or bring out their long list of excuses why they won’t be participating. I did that one year and, oddly, ended up accomplishing some things anyway. Go figure.

Maybe you can identify. But for all of us, the bottom line is to make the most of the next twelve months if we want to see our goals happen. Here’s my process for setting writing goals.

Take Inventory

In the last post I talked about taking a look at the past year and asking a series of questions, but, actually, it can be boiled down to two: What worked last year? What didn’t? Taking a moment to either jot some thoughts down or simply thinking on those questions can bring clarity to the task ahead, which is asking another simple question. What do I want to accomplish by the end of this year?

Do a Brain Dump

First I write down everything that occurs to me. I don’t limit myself. This year I’ve got harder to accomplish items on this list, such as “write a screenplay” and “finish revising my novel” to  much easier objectives like “read 12 books off my bookshelf” and “publish my short stories.”

You might write down “go on a writing retreat” or “write five hundred words every day”–whatever comes to mind. To make it fun, you can try setting a timer and seeing what you come up with after ten minutes or longer. Some people work well under the pressure of a timed exercise, and the timer acts as a mini deadline. Or maybe you’re more the type to sit down with a cup of coffee and leisurely mull over the topic, jotting down ideas as they come to you. Definitely me.

The point is to give yourself permission to dream big. And throw in some writing goals that are fun–such as doing the Poem-A-Day Challenge or whatever you consider to be a writing goal that brings you joy in the doing.


Let’s face it. We’re probably not going to get everything accomplished off that list. And that’s perfectly fine. The point is to capture the ideas down on paper. I actually have two lists–my goals for the year and my “I would like” list. My goals consist of what I really want to spend the next several months working on and what’s most important for me to accomplish. But the neat thing is that I transfer all of those other ideas onto my “I would like” list for revisiting. What I have found is that of those items a few of them end up happening anyway, often without any effort on my part. Never underestimate the power of writing down heart desires and dreams. Those who do are 42 percent more likely to accomplish their goals.

One more thing about setting goals–make them specific. Saying “finish my novel” is vague whereas “finish my novel by writing every day during my lunch hour at work and Saturday mornings before the kids get up” brings clarity and action to the goal.

Break it Down

Setting writing goals.
Your daily to-do list should include steps toward achieving your goal.

Finally, break the goal into smaller pieces. For the novel goal above, scheduling in the weekly writing sessions might be step one. Organizing your notes could be step two. Writing an outline, step three. Or say you’ve decided to take a writing class. Step one might be researching classes, step two signing up and purchasing materials, and so on. Make the steps as easy as you can. It feels good to check these mini goals off the list. In time all of these steps add up to accomplished goals.

Review Your List Often

It’s remarkable how many people make goals and then never look at them again the rest of the year! That would be like printing off directions for a car trip and then leaving them at home on purpose. If these goals were important enough to thoughtfully write them out, then they’re important enough to review often. If you fall behind on where you’d like to be, don’t beat yourself up! Keep moving forward.

Setting writing goals need not be complicated. With some pondering and planning, you can be well on your way to making your writing dreams happen in 2018!

What are your writing goals? Share them with us in the comments.

Related posts:

Evaluating 2017

5 Ways to Reclaim Your Writing Time

When Your New Year Didn’t Go as Planned

My New Year Reset

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