You may have an image of what an author does in your mind: He or she sits down at a computer, powers it on, and gets to work. The author does not leave his or her computer for days, shutting out all distractions and totally neglecting all social obligations.
In the end, the author has created a fantastic book that people fall in love with instantly.
Well, there are some authors out there who may fit this bill, but it doesn’t fit reality for the average author like you and me.
With each book that I write, I spend time before I begin with a set of writing goals to help me stay on task, and I’m here to help you discover how to set and stick to your own writing goals.
Here’s the thing–you may not have the luxury to go into reclusion and adopt an exhaustive practice, where you can finish a book in one sitting. You have work, family, and other commitments that may prevent you from shutting yourself in a room with a computer or typewriter for days on end.
This biggest hurdle you may have is believing you do not have time to get your writing done!
In my experience as a writing coach, this is the most common belief. Thinking and believing you don’t have time to write can be your worst enemy when it comes to achieving your dream.
Please don’t listen to your mind chatter. Instead please know you can….
Change this mind chatter by creating writing goals
Balance writing with other commitments with doable goals.
Be an author, so long as you set and follow your writing goals.
Let’s get started with ten of my surefire ways that go into developing writing goals…
#1 – Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Writing goals help you determine what you can realistically accomplish in a day. As you build your goals you will immediately make headway on your book, and finish it before you realize it!
Having clear and specific writing goals will set you up for success to get a little bit done each day.
Keep in mind…a writing goal is just a goal you set for each day. You determine a realistic time frame that fits your schedule. Then you figure out what you want to accomplish in that time frame.
You might want to write a certain number of words, or you might want to finish a chapter, or you might want to spend an hour brainstorming and formulating your book.
#2 – Writing Goals Vary From Person to Person
When you set your writing goals, you must think of what you want to accomplish. Your goals are personal and unique.
When thinking about your goals take into consideration the following:
Do you want to work on a certain part of your book each day?
How many words do you want to write each day?
What time of day are you going to write?
How can you publish within a certain time frame?
Think of what you want to accomplish. Then set basic writing goals that will help you get your ultimate task accomplished by your deadline.
For instance, if your book is due in two months, set aside a logical amount of words you can create each day over the next two months that will have your book finished by the deadline.
Be sure to set realistic goals. You can’t expect yourself to write your book in a day. Your creativity and quality will suffer if you rush it, and you’ll hate your project! You will be much happier if you work at a pace that is comfortable for you.
Also, be sure to cut yourself some slack. Not everyone wants to write every day. If you have other commitments, make time for them. But always set aside a bit of time for writing out of your week, preferably every other day.
A good writing goal is measurable. “I will finish ten pages by Friday” is an example of a measurable goal. You set a timeline and an amount, and then you see if you accomplish it.
Setting deadlines by which you finish certain blocks of writing or writing tasks helps you see if you are making good progress. When you see how much progress you have made, you will feel more accomplished and more encouraged to keep plugging on!
#3 – Break Big Goals into Bite-Sized Chunks
You want to write a book. OK, that’s a great goal, but it’s a huge goal. You are less likely to complete that goal because it is just too large and vague.
Rather, you should break that big goal into smaller goals. Your brain gets less overwhelmed. “I want to write a chapter a week” is a way that you can break this huge goal of writing a book down into smaller pieces.
Over time, all of your little accomplishments pile up into one huge one. Before you know it, your book is finished and ready for the editor!
#4 – Set Your Writing Goals Down on Paper
As you set writing goals, be sure to write them down.
I recommend using a daily planner. Set aside a block of time when you have nothing else going on. Then determine how much you will write.
Also, schedule times to perform writing goal reviews. This is where you check your progress.
It can be helpful to write down little pep talk notes, too. A writing motivational quote or a nice mantra to recite when you feel like giving up can help you stay on track.
Add these motivational quips next to your written goals.
#5 – Self-Review: Don’t Be Your Own Worst Critic
There is no doubt that we writers can be hard on ourselves! But to keep goals, you must review your progress. Self-review is not a time to beat yourself up for not meeting a specific writing goal.
Instead, use your self-review time to reflect on all that you have accomplished. Reward yourself for a job well-done. Think, “I did it! I actually wrote something!” Follow it up with a little celebration that you will enjoy.
If you are constantly falling short on your writing goals, that is a sign that your goals are unrealistic. The only way to keep a writing goal is to set a realistic one. So if you keep setting a writing goal to write a thousand words a day, and you usually only write three hundred, that is OK.
Just change your writing goal to be three hundred a day!
If you are exceeding your writing goals, on the other hand, perhaps you should step up the challenge. Increase your daily word count, for example.
Have a review date. I like to review my progress every Friday. Your review date should be a day when you have little else going on and you have managed to make some progress. Make it consistent, such as a certain day of the week or month.
#6 – Trust Your Intuition
A good writing goal is to write intuitively for a while, at least at the start of your scheduled writing session.
Intuitive writing is where you just let your ideas flow. You start with a blank page and write whatever comes to mind. The results will surprise you!
Don’t block your stream of consciousness by writing about a specific topic, or by worrying about grammar. Just write!
After an intuitive writing session, you can start editing. Trim the fat of excess words. Correct spelling and grammar mistakes. See how you can logically organize your work into an outline.
#7 – Cut Out Distractions
When you sit down to meet a writing goal, don’t let distractions get in the way. This is a good time to turn your phone off and shut off the TV. Emails can wait.
Distractions derail your thoughts. They can also suck you into a vortex of paying attention to things other than your writing goals.
The time you set aside to write should be used solely for writing. Just focus on your writing goals and your creativity. Don’t let distractions take your mind away from the task at hand.
A routine is important when you want to get something done without distractions. Having one is the only way I am able to accomplish my goals and I can’t stress this enough.
#8 Psych Yourself Up
You just had a long day. The last thing you want to do is write. Being a couch potato in front of your favorite show seems far more alluring, right?
We have all been there. But you will ultimately feel guilty if you sacrifice writing time to vapidly watch TV.
To get motivated for a writing session, think about your writing goals and how badly you want to accomplish them. Think about how great you will feel when you finish your book or article.
Also, think about how badly you will feel if you don’t meet your writing goals. That sense of disappointment can be crushing. Avoid it altogether by just working on your writing goals!
You should give yourself a pep talk every day before your block of writing time. Tell yourself, “I can do this!”
A support network of some sort is also very helpful. Friends, family, and other writers can all cheer you on when you don’t want to write.
Finally, use a writing prompt to get inspiration if your mind feels dry. I find daily writing prompts or story writing challenges featuring prompts can really get me going.
After I write a bit on a prompt, I’m officially in writing mode and ready to tackle a writing goal.
#9 – Fill Your Life with Writing
One way I stay focused on my writing and gain motivation to complete my writing goals is by filling my life with writing.
I may not write every minute of every day. I spend time with my pets, talk to friends, take trips, and other hobbies I enjoy. I have a life outside of writing that keeps me from getting burned out.
But, I do make sure writing infuses my life.
I read a lot. Books inspire you and teach you how to be a better writer. Read within your book genre and watch your inspiration flourish. Read any enlightening new blogs and new books that catch your interest, too.
I also focus on writing a lot. When I’m not writing, I’m talking to people about writing. I am sharing my writing with my coach or in writing groups. I post in forums. Sometimes, I join contests or challenges and follow writing prompts.
My social media is full of writers and writing groups. That way, I’m always thinking about it at some level, always connecting with other writers for inspiration and advice, and always sharing my writing to gain insights into how I can improve.
#10 – Celebrate Each Victory
When you tick a writing goal off of your list or planner, you should not move on to thinking about the next goal. That’s how you get overwhelmed.
Instead, think about how great you are. Think about your success so far. Congratulate yourself.
Take a break and celebrate somehow. You have every right to reward yourself and strut your stuff!
Celebrations are not wastes of time. They are crucial to writing. If you celebrate each goal, then your brain will be more likely to want to complete more goals. Then you create an internal well of motivation to complete all of your writing goals.
Word of Wisdom to Live By
I leave you with this: Anyone can be an author, and you are more than capable of accomplishing your heart’s desire to write a book.
The whole key to writing is setting writing goals that you can easily accomplish and measure. Review yourself and congratulate yourself on progress made.
Writing goals build on top of each other. So, as you complete one goal, you slide closer to the overall goal: Finishing a piece.
With time, you start to build momentum. Writing goals turn into routine. You get bit by bit done, and before you know it you have finished!
Just set aside some time for your writing goals. Then throw yourself into them. Motivate yourself however you must, but don’t skip out on writing. The sense of accomplishment you earn in the end makes it all worth it!
What are your top five writing goals to get you to the finish line of writing your book?
Wendy Van de Poll, MS, CEOL is an International bestselling author with thirteen books and counting. She is a pioneer in the field of pet loss grief and the human-animal bond and her site www.centerforpetlossgrief.com is a place for grieving pet lovers to find solace. As a thirteen time bestselling author she writes in the genres of pet loss grief, children’s picture books, writing how-to’s, cozy mysteries and paranormal romances. Wendy works with people all over the world to develop a dynamic writing journey of their dreams. She lives in the woods with her dog Addie and awesome husband who is a bestselling poet. Wendy has run with the wolves in Minnesota, coyotes in Massachusetts, and foxes in her backyard. You can learn more about Wendy by visiting her on www.WendyVandePoll.com.