Are Writing Goals Important?


By Nancy Cochran

I believe writing goals are important.  This is my opinion, and I came into goal setting a little backwards from the traditional goal setting theory.  But since I started keeping writing goals, my level of achievement has gone up and I have done more writing.  That is not to say that I haven’t had times where I don’t make my goals.  Sometimes life interferes in such ways we can’t recover and we have to roll with the punches.

Already I hear voices shouting “Goals, no, no, no, I can’t do this.”   Yes, you can. 

Like anything else, goal setting is made in baby steps.  You start small and gradually build up.  I can’t say that enough.  I started off with a big goal and not a small one.

Goals need to be specific.

You’re goal maybe: To Write a book. (This was my first goal and it is way too big).

For a writer who is just beginning to write, this may seem like an overwhelming goal.  This is why you want to start of small.  While it didn’t seem like an overwhelming goal at the time I set it, I soon realized that it was.  I started making small goals based on questions I asked myself.

Question # 1:  What kind of books do I like to read?

Answer:  Romance

Question # 2: What kind of romance?

Answer: Series romance & paranormal

Question # 3: Do I want to write paranormal?

Answer:  Yes, but not right now

New goal:  Write a series romance book

By asking myself this series of questions I was able to make the goal specific.  It was still a big goal, but for me it didn’t seem overwhelming.

At this point, I already had an idea and I just started writing the book.  When I was finished with the 55,000 word book (in 6 months), I realized that there was a lot more I needed to learn.

Goals can change.

Goals are not written in stone, they change and evolve.  When I finished writing that first book, I was thrilled that I actually completed it.  That was an accomplishment.  Then I discovered RWA and realized there was a lot more I didn’t understand about writing.

Point of view, what’s that?  Scene & Sequel?  Plot points?  Motivation?  Conflict?   The list goes on and on.  At that point, I felt a little discouraged, but then I sat down and started to figure out what I could do to educate myself.

New goal: Educate myself on the craft of writing

My next step was to establish priorities.

What was more important: point of view? Plot points? Conflict?

I sat down and began looking over the long list and decided that I needed more focus on Point of view, GMC (goals, motivation and conflict).

So, I broke down my goal of Educate myself on the craft of writing even further.  Now this was before there were the multitudes of on-line classes there are now.

I started off asking RWA members what craft books they recommended on these subjects.  I went to the library and borrowed the books (if they had them) or bought them.  I read these craft books, one at a time.

At the same time I kept reading my target market (series romance) to see how other authors crafted their stories and occasionally writing.

By breaking my goal down, it helped me concentrate my time and effort.  And I was able to apply what I was reading and learning about.

Educating myself on craft took time, it didn’t happen overnight, and even to this day I am still learning about craft.

After a couple of years, I realized while I learning craft, my writing time seemed to slow to a crawl.  To improve your writing, you must write.  I’d made a critical error in my goal setting; I wasn’t applying what I was learning. 

At that point I decided that I needed to re-evaluate my goals and why I was writing.  (Remember I said at the beginning I came into goal setting a bit backwards.)

I realized I needed to figure out why I wanted to accomplish the goal of a writing a series romance book?

I’d never thought about the “why”.  I just knew I wanted to write.  The “why” motivates us to accomplish the goal.  I realized since I didn’t know why I wanted to write a book, I’d gone off track on learning craft, rather than writing. 

At this point, I asked myself why I was writing.  I realized I had stories inside me that needed to be told and I’d been doing this since I was a teenager.  These stories were always romance, and usually fairly short.  You’re why will be different from mine.

Once I found the why, I went back and looked at my goal to write a series romance novel.  I knew now, that I was writing a book between 50,000-60,000 words.  I knew about Point of View, GMC, and Plotting.  But I also knew I needed to write.

I started to make a monthly goal.  It was to write a chapter a month.  In a year I would have 12 chapters and a book.  Then I broke this down ever further, to how many pages a week would I have to write to make a chapter in one month.

By doing this I provided myself with a roadmap to take me from where I was to where I wanted to be.

Now, I set yearly goals, monthly, weekly and daily goals in association to my writing.  I keep these goals with me and visible.  I review my daily goal(s) each morning before I start the day; weekly at the beginning of the week; monthly at the beginning of the month.

What about yearly?  I set those at the beginning of the year, and then put them away until the end of the year where I’ll look at them again.  I don’t adjust my yearly goals after I write them at the beginning of the year.  I leave them alone. 

So I challenge each of you to start making writing goals.

Past articles

The Writer's Support Group
I Just Want to Write the Book

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