Set Writing Goals Like A Pro: How to Achieve Writing Success On Time Every Time

Setting Writing Goals by Dr. Scott ZarcinasYou’ve probably seen or heard the successful acronym for setting goals that’s been around for the good part of a decade – SMART Goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-dependent. You may have even used them to develop and set your own goals, but have you used them to set writing goals? Has it helped to achieve the writing success you want?

This article is not going to expand on the SMART goal setting technique (there are thousands of blog posts out there already doing that), rather it’s going to introduce a new acronym specifically to help you set writing goals in order to achieve writing success on time, every time.

Are Your Goals SMART?

In his book, On Writing, Stephen King shared his simple formula for writing: read heaps and write 2,000 words per day. In 1 week, he can write 14,000 words. In 1 month, 60,000 words. In 2 to 3 months, he’s written well over 100,000 words and finished the first draft of his manuscript.

Word count goals aren’t the only writing goals. Some writers want to set other goals, such as identifying a publisher to publish their book, joining a writers’ group, building a webpage, improving their author profile and expertise, and even enrolling in a writing course.

What’s important is not necessarily the goal itself, rather the fact that it’s established and written down. Setting writing goals, such as the simple goal of writing 2,000 words per day, is a recipe for writing success because of a number of reasons.

And these reasons are set out in the word itself: GOALS –

  1. Generate motivation
  2. Overcome obstacles
  3. Account for action
  4. Lead direction
  5. Specify time-frame

When it comes to writing, many writers from time to time feel under-motivated, face challenges that seem overwhelming, do not hold themselves accountable for their lack of writing success, don’t have a clear direction that they’re working toward, and don’t set themselves deadlines by which they should have achieved their writing goals.

How To Set Writing Goals

Setting writing goals can help writers and authors overcome these issues. Let’s now take a moment to review how setting writing GOALS can put us on the right path to achieving the writing success we want.

1: GOALS Generate Motivation

Goals generate motivation. Goals inspire action. Goals make you want to get out of bed in the morning to achieve whatever it is you’ve set your mind to.

Which is why I like the hybrid word, motivaction. It’s fine and even preferable to be motivated, but if you’re not motivated to action and do what’s required to get results then success and achievement will remain more often than not elusive and out of reach.

Success like writing is a habit, and habits are based in action. A habit requires repetitive behaviour, ongoing action, continual work. Very few writers are successful because they don’t write. Would Stephen King be as prolific as he is without his daily word count goal?

Think of goals as stepping stones to your ultimate destination: each goal achieved is one more step forward in the right direction. A successful writer sets writing goals to motivate themself to take the necessary steps to achieve what they want to achieve.

2: GOALS Overcome Obstacles

Goals overcome obstacles. Goals help you to map out the writing path you wish to take and help you to identify obstacles in that path that get in the way and prevent you reaching your destination.

Let’s use word count goals as an example. Many writers I come across as director of DoctorZed Publishing are daunted by the amount of words it takes to write a book. A good sized novel, for instance, is around 100,000 words (that’s after editing has trimmed the fat and removed at least 10% of the word count). A lot of writers start off like a whirring typewriter, but soon hit what I call ‘the writer’s wall’, similar to the ‘wall’ that marathon runners hit three-quarters of the distance into the race.

The writer’s wall is usually around the 30,000 word mark. In fact, there’s probably another wall at 60,000 – 70,000 as well, which a writer has to overcome in order to cross the finishing line. It’s called a wall because, as with the marathon runner, the writer becomes lethargic, feels flat and starts having thoughts along the lines of, ‘Why bother doing any more?’ ‘I’ve done enough.’ Or, ‘It’d be easier just to finish it here.’

The wall is similar to writers’ block, where the writer’s muse has taken leave without absence and their mind is as blank as the paper on which they should be writing. But it’s a little different in that the writer isn’t blocked for ideas – there’s plenty of good ideas to write about – it’s just that tiredness and fatigue have set in, the belief in the book has waned, that they’ve said what they wanted to say and good enough is good enough. The reason to keep writing has left them. The initial euphoria and belief in the story has faded away.

The Writer's Wall

Setting goals, such as word count goals, gets you past the wall. Whether it’s over the wall, around it, under it, or even straight through it, adhering to the goals you’ve set for your writing will give you the mental fortitude to keep writing when you think you’ve got nothing else to write, to keep going when the going is tough.

Like a marathon runner breaking through to her second wind and propelled toward the finish line, you’ll find, just when you need them the most, your writing goals lift you up and over your obstacles and on to the magical final words of your manuscript – The End.

3: GOALS Account For Action.

Goals account for action. They hold you accountable to do what you say you’ll do.

Your goals ask you the hard questions you probably don’t like to ask yourself. For instance, if your goals are stepping stones to writing success, what steps are you taking today? If your goal is 2000 words per day or per week, how many words have you completed today? If your goal is to find a publisher or agent for your manuscript, what research have you done on what your publisher or agent is looking for?

Without specific goals it’s easy to procrastinate, to allow yourself to think that it’s okay not to achieve your word count for the day, to not enroll in that writing course you always said you would, to not seek out the ideal publisher for your book.

Goals simply measure your performance against a standard that you’ve set. They measure what action you’ve taken to achieve the outcome you want. Goals don’t listen to excuses why you can’t do something. Goals give you the reasons why you can achieve what you want.

4: GOALS Lead Direction.

Goals lead direction. Goals orientate you, give you a compass, and point you in the direction you want to take. When it’s human nature to be distracted and to wander off course, goals keep you on track.

One of the hardest things to do in writing is to stay focused and committed to the end result. Our minds wander. Life gets in the way. Other opportunities present themselves. Goals, though, act as reminders to ourselves that we’ve set out to embark on a journey with a particular destination in mind and we’ve mapped out that journey through establishing stepping stones and markers along the way.

Goals keep us true to that path.

 

5: GOALS Set Time-Frames.

Goals set time-frames. Just as goals keep you on track, they also keep you on time.

In business, goals are set for 30-day, 60-days, 90-days, 1-yearly, 3-yearly and even 5-yearly. The goals are also reviewed at the end of each time period to determine how successful the business is tracking, whether or not they’re achieving what they’ve set out to achieve, and to review any challenges or obstacles that have prevented any goals being met.

Writers can learn from such a business approach to setting goals. It’s a good idea to have 30, 60, 90-day goals, even 1 and 3 yearly goals. For instance, one of my own personal goals is to write and publish a book every 18 months. It’s difficult to achieve, but because it’s a goal I’m constantly reminded of the target I’m aiming for (book written and published) and the time-frame in which it needs to be completed (18 months).

A little bit of time-pressure from impending deadlines works wonders for productivity and results, especially in writing.

So in order to turn your writing dreams into reality, ensure you set goals to help you:

  • Generate motivation to write your bestseller.
  • Overcome any obstacles that prevent you from writing.
  • Account for what action you need to do to achieve your writing targets.
  • Lead you in the direction you want to take and keep you on track.
  • Set a time-frame by which you want to complete your writing project.

Set GOALS and make it happen!

Dr. Scott Zarcinas.
Director, DoctorZed Publishing
Founder, The Business of Writing School
Chairman, The Australian Digital Publishing Group

Scott Zarcinas On Writing

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