A cell phone sits on a wooden table with a pink sticky note, a pen, and a floral planner around it.

It’s that time of year—everywhere you look you see people making goals and resolutions. It can be overwhelming. It can be inspiring. It can be a whole lot of a whole lot.

As a writer, you’ve probably got some ideas rolling around in your brain for what you want to accomplish in your writing journey this year. I know I do.

So how do you settle on what goals to make and how the heck do you actually meet those goals?

In this two-part post, I will walk you through two things:

  1. How to identify your writing goals
  2. How to better your chances of meeting those goals (stay tuned for this post next month 😊)

Let’s get started.

How to IDENTIFY Your Writing Goals

How do you figure out what your writing goals should be?

The first step to identifying your writing goals is to brainstorm.

  • Grab a pen and a journal and starting writing out any and every potential writing goal you might have.
  • Or open up a new note on your cell phone, tap the voice-to-text button and blurt it out.

This is the part where you dream big. Lay all the ideas on the floor. What are your dreams?

Do you want to finish a draft? Outline a new book or series? Revise a terrible first draft into a shiny second draft? Do you want to send your manuscript to beta readers or hire an editor? Do you want to start pitching agents? Do you want to self-publish? Do you want to attend a writing conference?

Next, organize your ideas into bundles.

Sort through the ideas you tossed out and see which goals

  • are similar
  • conflict with each other
  • build upon each other
  • you feel most strongly about
  • have strict timelines
  • have shorter timelines and which have longer timelines
  • you can control and which goals you have to rely on others to complete

Do you see any patterns emerging? Circle the goals that you feel most strongly about. Cross out the goals that either conflict with those or that you can’t control (e.g. that rely on someone else to complete).

Next, think logically about what you can actually achieve.

Be realistic when thinking about goals. For example, if your goal is to self-publish a novel but you haven’t actually completed even a first draft yet and don’t have any editing or layout or cover design scheduled, then it’s unlikely that goal will be achievable in the next year. Instead, a goal to complete a manuscript and schedule those services might be a more achievable goal.

To help you assess which goals to set, it can be helpful to understand how much time you have to work towards them. Think about how many hours a week can you dedicate to writing and how many hours (or weeks or months) the goals you have in mind will likely take. (Always estimate lower for writing time—life happens!—and higher for goal time. 😉 )

Sometimes smaller goals can be better — you can always increase your goal. Sometimes a big goal gives you the extra motivation you need to take things seriously. But lowering a goal when you realize you can’t meet it can be a big hit to your self-esteem and motivation.

Once you have a solid overview of your time and your overall goal ideas, it’s time to choose.

Select one to three goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

See what I did there? If you haven’t heard of SMART goals, it’s definitely a concept that’s worth checking out. Look at those words though and see how the can help you make goals that you truly can meet. “Write a book” is general. “Complete the first draft of Working Title Novel by June 30” is specific, measurable, and time-bound.

Writing goals tend to be in a handful of buckets:

  • daily or weekly word count or page count goals (e.g., write 500 words a day or 20 pages a week)
  • completion goals (e.g., complete this draft or rewrite/revise this manuscript)
  • publishing related (e.g., query 30 agents or hire a developmental editor for novel X)
  • craft or education related (e.g., attend 2 writing workshops)

Whichever bucket your goals fit into, look for ways to make them specific, measurable, and time-bound. This will help tremendously in your quest to complete them.

My 2023 writing goals are all about my current WIP

I have a few goals this year in relation to my own writing.

  1. Complete new in-depth character sketches for Daisy and Curtis (the couple in my current romance WIP) by March 30.
  2. Re-outline their book by April 30.
  3. Write a new draft of their book by October 30.

I’m giving myself lots of time to do these tasks. I *hope* that I can complete them more quickly, but I know that between caring for a toddler all day and managing my client work in my working hours, my writing time is limited.

Now it’s your turn. What are your writing goals?

Once you’ve made your writing goals, figure out how to MEET your writing goals.

Photo by Lacie Slezak on Unsplash