The Importance of Setting Goals as Writers

Sometimes I feel like my writing career is moving somewhat slower than it should. Do you ever feel that way?

I’ve been reading Jeff VanderMeer’s Booklife, and in it he talks about the importance of setting goals as a writer.

Establishing goals is one of the most important tasks you can ever undertake for your writing career.

Booklife VandermeerHe goes on to set out a rule for the goals created; they must be specific, measurable and attached to a timeline. Each goal should clearly state what you want to accomplish, and by when.

Jeff VanderMeer is a prolific writer and editor (Check out his author page on amazon) so judging from his output I’d say he’s on to something with this goal-setting.

Another writer who’s work ethic I thoroughly admire (and not-so-secretly envy) is Barry Napier. He consistently puts out book after book after book even while holding down another job. I suspect he has no trouble focusing. I want that consistency. So I’m setting goals.

I’ve considered my goals quite a bit, what it is exactly that I want to achieve as a writer and I´m going with the way VanderMeer sets up his examples in Booklife; specific goals, measurable and attached to a timeline.

Goals for 2015:

1. Complete a first draft of my YA novel, Dreamstones, by Sept 1st.

2. Complete revisions of Dreamstones by Nov 1st

This gives me four months to complete a book which will be close to 70,000 words, and two months for revisions and edits.

A Plan

VanderMeer also suggests another way of looking at goals as a writer; by splitting them into a 5-year plan, a 1-year plan, and setting up monthly and daily tasks to achieve those goals. Mine look like this:

5-Year Plan

Publish Dreamstones & a sequel to Dreamstones.
Finish Sand & Glass (a post-apocalyptic YA novel) and see it published
Publish 10 stories in publications that grant Hugo-award eligibility.

1-Year plan

Complete Dreamstones.
Secure an agent for Dreamstones.
Submit 1 new story to a publication with more prestige or circulation than any of my previous credits.

To achieve these plans, I need to complete the following monthly and daily tasks:

Monthly tasks:

Update outline for Dreamstones to reflect the previous month’s writing
Create/update list of possible agents for the book.
Write 20,000 words on Dreamstones

Daily task:

Write 1000 words*

*Ernest Hemingway wrote five hundred words a day, come hell or high water, or so the story goes. By aiming for 1000 daily I may actually be setting myself up for disappointment (I have two kids and a dayjob) so perhaps the goal should be either to write 500 words daily or simply to aim for an hour of distraction-free writing, regardless of word count.

Now. In order for this to work properly I need two things. One of them is to make the goals public and permanent. So I’m creating a page on this site dedicated to my goals. The other is for someone else to participate; that is, post their own goals as a writer, either in the comments or as a post on your own blog and then let me know in the comments or on Twitter.
Together, we can achieve greatness.

So tell me, what are your goals?

1 thought on “The Importance of Setting Goals as Writers”

  1. I’ve discovered the importance of daily and more long-term goals this year. I’ve fallen out of the habit of setting them these past few weeks, and I’ve been in a bit of a funk. I’m thinking my lack of direction might have more than a little to do with it!

    It’s fantastic that you’re setting these for yourself; it’s going to be all the more satisfying when you *do* achieve them. :)


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