Written by A Guest Author August 18th, 2022

How to Create Realistic Writing Goals

By Aliya Bree Hall

When starting a manuscript, most writers are already thinking ahead to the finish line — being published. Although publishing is an excellent overarching goal to strive for, it shouldn’t be the only goal that you have as a writer. At the start of your novel, publishing feels like such a distant accomplishment that it makes the writing journey seem almost impossible.

This is why it’s important to reframe your goal setting as a writer to help you create multiple  goals that are measurable, realistic, and further your writing progress. Having goals for each step of the journey helps with fulfillment and keeping you on track so you can eventually hit that dream goal of publishing.

These are some tips to help you set shorter-term goals and reach them.

Think beyond simply “being published”

The problem with having a goal that hinges on “being published” is that once you go on submission, the publishing process is out of your hands.  With the exodus of agents and junior editors from the industry as well, the querying trenches are particularly challenging. If your goal is simply to be published, that can take place at any undeterminable time in the future and dangles your goal continuously out of reach.

“Being published” is also a vague goal that isn’t grounded in any substantial measurement, which makes it hard for you to feel like you’re taking the necessary steps towards meeting the goal. So, moving towards something more actionable puts the control back in your hands.

Break goals into achievable pieces

By breaking a large goal into smaller, more attainable goals, you have more opportunities to hit those objectives and set yourself up for success.

Setting goals for each step of the writing journey will continually push you to the next major milestone without getting lost in the vastness of your goal. For example, focusing on finishing your first draft or first round of self-edits are still hefty goals, but give you a sense of completion that you can reward yourself with.

If that goal is still too large for you, break it down further! Is the idea of finishing your first draft too daunting? Try to set a goal for when you’d like to finish Act 1 instead. If you’re in the editing process, set a goal of reworking a chapter a week. Smaller goals keep you from getting overwhelmed by the scope of your project, and are satisfying to cross off your to-do list.

Set SMART Goals

Even in smaller pieces, the more tangible the goal is, the higher likelihood you have of actually reaching it. The SMART goals framework helps you structure your goals so you have a firm grasp on what you’re trying to accomplish and when.

The SMART acronym breaks down to: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. The benefit of this goal framework is that it makes your goals more accessible and helps you determine what you actually want. Here’s an example of a SMART goal for a first:

I want to have my non-perfect 80k word first draft of my YA pirate fantasy completed by the end of 2022 in order to start the first round of self-edits in March 2023.

The SMART framework also lends itself to specificity and a group of smaller goals that build off one another instead of one large overarching goal.

Work with your strengths

Another challenge writers face with goal setting is crafting goals that are achievable for the type of writer they are. Setting goals that play into your strengths will keep you from feeling discouraged because you didn’t meet the ambitious goal you set for yourself.

For example, setting word count goals might work well for you if you’re a fast writer or an over-writer, but for some writers it may be painful to track your word count. If that’s the case, trying to set a goal based on time may work better for you.  Maybe you want to spend an hour writing every day or three hours every week. These are more tangible goals that you can start working towards that will make it easier for you to reach.

Bio: Aliya Bree Hall is a freelance journalist and writer based in Portland, Ore. She is currently editing her first novel, an adult F|F science fantasy. When she’s not writing, she’s hosting Sapphic Stories Bookclub (and Other Queer Tales) or cohosting the podcast Shit We Wrote.





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