7 Ways to Make Sure Your Writing Goals Are SMART Writing Goals
When it comes to goal setting, writers are generally ambitious, especially at the beginning of a new year, but yet they skip an important step in defining their writing goals. This step is incredibly important for seeing our goals to the finish line because without a clear, defined plan for each goal, it’s going to be hard to achieve it in a timely manner, if at all. That’s why making sure your writing goals are SMART writing goals is so important.
SMART goals are ones that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and trackable. There are other synonyms associated with the acronym as well, but we’ll use these for this article.
So, here are some ways writers can create SMART writing goals…
1. Choose the right goals.
If you’re trying to accomplish something you really don’t care about, enthusiasm for the goal is going to run out. When deciding on your goals, be honest with yourself. Is it something you really want to do? Is it something you feel passionate about? And do you see yourself following through?
2. Be realistic.
Shooting for the stars is great because it gets us thinking in terms of possibilities rather than hurdles. However, be sure to set reasonable deadlines. If it generally takes you a year to write the first draft of a novel, it’s probably not a good idea to set the goal of publishing it in the same time frame as writing it. So, if you want to finish the first draft by the end of the year, publishing it by the end of the same year likely won’t happen because you’ll need to allow time for revisions and then more time for finding an agent.
3. Spell it out.
Know exactly what your goal is. Do you want to write a novel in 30 days or in 365 days? What is your target word count? Are you shooting for the first draft or the final version?
If your goal is to produce the final version in 365 days, you’ll want to break down the goal into smaller goals, such as write the first draft, edit the manuscript, send the manuscript to beta readers, and polish the manuscript for publication. You’ll treat these smaller goals as milestones for your big goal.
4. Clarify time frames.
Know what your deadlines are. And if you have set milestones for each goal, know the deadlines for the milestones.
5. Understand limitations.
If you find that you are averaging a lower word count than what you’re proposing, you’ll need to regroup. You’ll need to either scale back on the word count goal or find a way to plow through it. Many writers hold full-time or part-time jobs in addition to writing so their goals may be different from those of full-time writers. On the flip side, just because a writer has more time to write doesn’t necessarily mean she’s more productive. It’s all relative. How we spend and view the time we have will greatly determine what we accomplish.
6. Create a tracker.
Writing goals become much like New Years' resolutions if we don't have a good way to track them. And writing goals aren't SMART writing goals if when we get closer to the deadline we realize we haven't been putting in enough effort to stay on track. Creating a tracker helps us to stay focused on the goal and gives us a big-picture view of our progress. If we know that we're staying on top of milestones, meeting our daily or weekly word counts, and are taking care of idea generation as the need arises, we'll set ourselves up for success. A tracker can be as simple as a spreadsheet that tracks dates, word count goals, and deadlines.
7. Shoot for the stars.
So, I just said earlier that we need to be realistic, but this is different. Shooting for the stars gets us to dream again and it helps us to choose the right goals. It gets us working beyond our comfort zone so we can achieve our big, big goals that truly matter to us.
If we have goals that simply are not for us, there’s a good chance they won’t pan out. Not saying that’s always the case, but what’s the point of accomplishing a goal we don’t care about? What’s the purpose behind it?
When we’re doing the things we’re called to do, when we’re breaking out of our comfort zone to submit our manuscripts to beta readers and agents, or getting up in front of a crowd and sharing a story that has the power to impact the world, that’s when we’re living with purpose, or on purpose. We get over ourselves and start saying, "You know what? I could fail miserably, but I’m going to give it my best shot because this is something I feel so strongly about." That’s what we need to do.
Setting SMART writing goals will help you stay on track of your writing life by giving you the confidence you need to achieve them.