The answer, of course, is yes and no.
Yes, writers need to set writing goals if they’re serious about their writing and want to succeed. No, writers don’t need to set writing goals if they don’t want to.
But writers who don’t set writing goals tend to lapse into writers’ block and succumb to distraction. Their writing is inefficient and often they don’t complete the writing project they set out to do.
As we know, when we set writing goals we generate motivation to write, we overcome obstacles to our writing, we become accountable to what we say we’ll do, we direct a course and map a pathway to where we want to go with our writing, and set ourselves a deadline by which we need to complete our project.
The next question that follows, “Do writers need to set writing goals?’ is often, “What are the best goals that a writer needs to set?”
Although each writer is different and has their own unique way of writing, I’ve found that there are three common goals that, when set, can help every writer finish their writing project in the timeframe that they want:
- Word count goals
- Book goals
- Timeline goals and deadlines
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Word Count Goals
One of the best writing techniques I’ve found is to set word count goals to complete a writing project. Let’s say a work of fiction is approximately 100,000 words and a work of non-fiction about 80,000 words.
Let’s say a work of fiction is approximately 100,000 words and a work of non-fiction about 80,000 words. Setting a goal of 2,000 words per week will finish the fiction novel in 50 weeks, or about 1 year. The non-fiction book will be finished in about 40 weeks or 9 months, about the same length of time to gestate a baby.
Of course, if you can, setting a higher word count goal for the week will mean you finish the manuscript earlier. If you can do more, great. If not, for busy writers who have a 9-5 job, breaking the word count goal to 400 words per working day is usually achievable for most writers (as I often point out to clients, you probably write an email longer than 400 words each day, so writing 400 words for your book shouldn’t be too much of a challenge).
Some writers, however, do resist setting word count goals, claiming the pressure to produce a set number of words each day suppresses their creativity. That’s fine. For these writers, I advise setting chapter goals instead. That is, aim to write 1-2 chapters per month (or whatever is a good amount for you). After 12 months, you’ll have 12-24 chapters, a good sized book for most authors.
The important thing is to set the goal and then hold yourself accountable to implement what’s necessary to do the writing.
Like chapter goals, book goals are an extrapolation from word count goals.
For instance, I personally set a goal of writing and publishing a book every 18 months. At this point in time, this is a comfortable goal that I can fully expect to meet. A 12-month goal would be too much pressure to complete on time. A 24-month goal would not be enough motivation to keep me active and writing. So a good balance for me is 18-months.
I also set myself the goals of writing 1 fiction novel, then 1 non-fiction book. My fiction novels tend to be thrillers, mystery, suspense, like Ananda and Roadman, and even adventure stories of self-discovery like Samantha Honeycomb and DeVille’s Contract. My non-fiction genres are usually self-help, motivational and inspirational genres, like Your Natural State of Being.
Another book goal I have set myself is the total number of books I want to write in my lifetime – which is 50. I’ve written 9 to date, so I have a way to go. But it’s having the goal that’s important.
Timeline Goals and Deadlines
As you can see, one of the most important facets of setting writing goals is to set the timeline by which you will complete your writing projects.
For instance, my lifetime goal of 50 books is set for 85 years of age (hopefully I’ll get there!).
My completion timeframe for each published book is 18 months. To get to 50 books will require another 41 to be written. Which, at 18 months per book, is 61.5 years. That’s not realistic, so in the near future I’ll need to readjust my working timeframe to almost half, and attempt to complete each new book within 9-10 months. This then makes the overall timeframe of 30 years, which falls well within my projected lifetime goal.
This highlights a point about goal setting: allow your goals to be flexible and adaptable to suit your current life-situation. Adjust your goals as need be to fit in with everything else you do – family, job/career, travel, life events etc.
The important thing is to set writing goals.
‘Remember, success like writing is a habit’
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