Setting Realistic Writing Goals

It’s the time of year when we all sit down, high from the festivities, and think about what we want out of the next twelve months. Yes, it’s arbitrary and often it can lead to guilt when you break those resolutions and as a result make you feel like the failure you secretly suspect you might be…but, it can be useful.

Rather than make resolutions I’m suggesting we create goals. Not ‘I will write every day’ – because the one day that you don’t manage it will lead to said feelings of guilt and failure and you feel the whole promise has been broken – but perhaps something akin to ‘I will write four days out of every week’. This doesn’t preclude you from writing every day, but it does mean that if you do skip one you haven’t failed your goal. Not to mention the fact that you get 52 chances to accomplish this goal. Being realistic you might want to imagine a success rate of 75% – 39 weeks out of 52 – even if you are, in reality, aiming for 100%.

goal setting mistakes

This is how I’ve been setting my goals at work based upon the advice of some of my mentors and advisors (which also links in with my medical condition of M.E.), and last year I used the same technique to set my writing goals for 2013. The only goal I didn’t accomplish was the great big lofty one that read: ‘Prepare NaNo#1 to share with beta readers’. Which brings me to my second point – be as specific as you can with your goals, but build in some flexible milestones so you can keep on track.

Therefore, this year, in an effort to re-attempt that goal I’m going to rephrase it to: ‘Rewrite NaNo#1 a chapter at a time and elicit feedback for review’. I have managed to identify a few potential beta readers – a couple of writer friends who I know can be honest, my writing group, Scribophile and even a friend who isn’t a writer. I won’t send all chapters to all people, but it provides me with a range of feedback mechanisms that will help me improve the manuscript without leaving me editing it in a vacuum, having no idea if I’m on the right track.

Attempting the rewrite chapter by chapter also provides me with realistic chunks of text to work with on a weekly or daily basis. My only deadline is to make sure this process is complete by the end of the year, however I do hope to have it completed sooner so that I might be able to start querying. But I’m not going to put undue pressure on myself to get to the stage where I’m querying this year. Editing is a difficult process for me and the significant element of this year’s goal is that I achieve the edit in of itself. 

Whatever your writing goals (or others) may be, try and recognise the milestones that might accompany them. Once again, I am aiming to submit a number of short stories to competitions and/or markets and I plan to reward myself for each one completed. Any effort that demonstrates I’m contributing to the over-arching goal itself should be acknowledged and recorded. That way, at the end of the year I will be able to see how successful I was – be it that I’ve exceeded expectation or even knowing that I only missed the marker by one submission.

Of course, regular review of how much I have achieved in relation to my yearly goals should help ensure I stay on track. Keep your goals in plain sight. Remind yourself how ambitious you want to be and why on a frequent basis. Just checking in with your goals and how much you are contributing to them on a monthly – or even tri-monthly – basis can let you see if your focus is shifting. I might want to put most of my energy into completing the edit of my first novel, but in six months time if I’m on a roll with short story submissions and they are helping me refine my editing skills then I know that I need to shift my expectations of what I can achieve in the latter part of the year. Never feel like your goals are set in stone – just like people, they should be adaptable and capable of change. 

So, in light of all this, what are my goals for 2014? 

Writing Goals 2014

1. Rewrite NaNo#1 a chapter at a time and elicit feedback for review

2. Finish writing the first draft of NaNo#3

3. Submit six pieces of writing
(either in competitions or to markets)

4. Attend two Literature Festivals
(Note I don’t specify or determine number of events I attend)

5.  Write two blog posts per week

6. Continue subscribing to and reading Writing Magazine each month

7. Read fifteen novels

8. Attend Writing Group twice a month

I would never recommend having more than 8 things on your list, as it could seem overwhelming. Also, make sure they’re varied – don’t centre them all around writing new material because it’s likely that you’ll run dry at some point. Some of mine are very simple to accomplish – reading Writing Magazine for example. This gives me permission to take that time every month and sit down with the mag and indulge in a little enjoyment reading about my craft. Same goes for reading novels. I’ve also put in  attending my Writing Group and going to Literature Festivals – these are social aspects of writing and, I think, are vital to keeping us thinking and really root us to the core of why we write in the first place. 

I’ve already identified some potential competitions I want to submit to with deadlines at the end of January, end of February and mid-March. Note how the deadlines are spread and that I’ve already picked out some to keep me going for the first three months. This gives me smaller goals to work with, time to write and edit and some leeway between each deadline to rest and review. Don’t be over-ambitious and try to cram all your achievements into the first three months…allow yourself the time you’ve actually got: all year. 

[Also, note how I haven’t mentioned NaNoWriMo? I do plan to take part, but the goals I’ve set all take precedence for me. Therefore while NaNoWriMo is something I want to do, I’m not going to promise myself to it eleven months before I know if I can commit to it especially when writing another first draft novel won’t help me achieve publication.]

Good luck setting your own goals for 2014 and I hope the New Year has refreshed your vigour and passion for making the most of the next twelve months! 🙂




4 responses to “Setting Realistic Writing Goals

    • You seem both ambitious and determined. Good luck with your goals! Thanks for connecting via Twitter too – looking forward to seeing how we both get on this year!
      Thanks for commenting, take care, Cat x

  1. Thanks for these, have been setting my own writing goals….will now go and reset them (too ambitious…). I love your blog, not least because I was diagnosed with ME two and a half years ago, and started writing as a way of dealing with it. You are an inspiration and I re-read your posts whenever I’m having a rubbish day. So Thanks

    • Wow – thank you so much for your comment. It’s great to hear that you find inspiration in my words and I’m pleased that writing is helping you cope with your M.E.

      It can be the most challenging and difficult of illnesses, so I appreciate the time and effort it takes not just to read the blog posts, but also to comment.

      Good luck with those writing goals and I hope I continue to inspire and motivate. I hope 2014 heralds an improvement in your recovery. Keep at it.

      Take Care,
      (A very humble)
      Cat x

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