5 Tips for Planning Your Writing Goals
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5 Tips for Planning Your Writing Goals

The start of a new year is rife with possibilities. There’s something about the calendar showing January first that opens our minds up to a new beginning. It’s seen as a fresh chance to achieve our goals with a brand-new slate. The truth of the matter, though, is that any day can be a restart. You can revisit your writing goals daily, monthly, or quarterly.

However, it is motivating to think about what you want to accomplish in the next 365 days. Do you want to blog more? Write a short story? Finish your novel? The sky is the limit. But don’t get overwhelmed.

If planning out the entire writing year seems daunting, break it down into quarterly goals. Start by planning what you want to accomplish for the first three months. This keeps your goals more immediate. If you want to write a page a day for the next 90 days, you know that by March 31st you need to have at least 90 pages. Once you know what the outcome of your goal is, you can plan how to make it happen.

One of the first things they teach you in business about setting goals is to use the SMART method. Your goals should be:

 5 Tips for Planning Your Writing Goals

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timely.

Let’s apply the SMART method to writing goals.

Specific Writing Goals

Here’s what a specific writing goal looks like:

  • Write a 50,000-word novel.
  • Write an hour a day.
  • Publish ten blog posts.
  • Edit a hundred pages.
  • Take a writing course.

You get the idea!

Measurable Writing Goals

How will you know when you’ve completed your goal? For novel writing, you could use Microsoft Word’s word count feature to see how many words you write each session. To measure how long your write per session, set a timer. For any other goal, keep track of what you’re accomplishing in a journal.

One of the things I do is break up my word count into chunks. I take a small sticky note and put a writing goal on it. For example, if I want to write 1,000 words in a session, I find it motivating to put the number “100” on ten small Post-it notes. Each time I write a hundred words, I toss the note in the trash. It lets me see how much more I have left to write while giving me a feeling of accomplishment. I know other writers who color in a square on a grid for every 100 words they write.

Attainable Writing Goals

Do you have everything you need to make this goal? Do you have the time to put towards a steady writing schedule? Do you have the equipment? Do you have a place to write? Is this goal something that you can accomplish in your current situation?

One thing to keep in mind is to be careful not to over-commit. A lot of people start off strong and then get discouraged and stop moving toward their goals because they get overwhelmed. For example, it might seem like a good idea to put a goal of 1,000 words a day into your yearly plan. But if you’re not used to that volume, chances are you’ll hit that goal for the first few days because you’re motivated to meet your new goal. But it’s not uncommon for people to get discouraged or distracted and then ultimately give up on the goal.

Make sure your goal is one you can attain—not one you feel like you should attain.

Relevant Writing Goals

In addition to knowing that you can do this goal, make sure this goal is what you want to do.

If you don’t feel you’re ready to write the novel yet, make your goal to do research on the book. Or have your goal be to plot the novel out or write the first three chapters.

You are the boss of your writing goals.

Timely Writing Goals

How long do you think it will take you to complete your goal? In the case of writing a novel, how long would it take you to write 50,000 words? Be honest with yourself. Give yourself some wiggle room. But decide if you will do this in three months, six months, or a year. Or think about planning ahead to take part in NaNoWriMo and write a novel during the month of November.

One of my favorite ways to track my word count is to go to www.pacemaker.press and create a new plan. You can set up your plan to write a 50,000-word novel in three months and it will keep track of what your daily word count should be. If you go over or under that amount, it will adjust the numbers for you, so you always know what your daily target is.

Your Writing Goals are about YOU

Following the SMART guidelines for goal setting is very helpful, but here are three other things to keep in mind when you’re planning your writing goals:

  1. Your goals should be personal. Don’t be influenced by other writers’ milestones or output. Your process is unique to you. Do what’s right for you at this stage in your career.
  2. Keep to a maximum of three goals to avoid being overwhelmed.
  3. You may find it helpful to spend some time reflecting on what went right and what went wrong the last time you set writing goals. Did you achieve them? Why or why not? Use what you learn in helping you to plan for this year’s success.

Good luck with your writing goals and have a happy and productive new year!

The Institute for Writers courses are designed perfectly for SMART goals with specific, achievable  assignments where you can incorporate writing that matters to YOU! We’ll even give you deadlines to keep you on track. Get started today: Courses for Writers

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