By Sian Toop

As much as we all love writing, it doesn’t always come easy. But setting achievable writing goals can really help you to focus and stop you from staring at a blank page, at a loss of where to begin. By setting small writing goals, we break down the overwhelming ‘end product’ – the novel, the non-fiction book or the short story collection that you know you’ve got in you, but just never seem to get round to finishing.

Writing is a marathon, not a sprint; setting small, incremental goals is key to making it to the finish line.

Here are some tips for setting achievable writing goals as the new year starts.

1.    Keep yourself accountable.

Your writing needs to be a priority. If it’s always at the bottom of your to-do list, it’s likely that it’ll get forgotten about or you’ll sit down at the end of the day and think, “never mind, I’ll definitely start tomorrow”.

Unless you are a very sketchy employee, it’s unlikely that you skip work on a regular basis. You know the time you start, and you ensure you arrive on time, ready to work.

It needs to be the same for your writing. Look at your schedule and decide where you can carve out time to sit down uninterrupted and write. This may be early morning and involve setting your alarm an hour early to write before your family wake up, or it may be late at night when the rest of the house has gone to sleep. It could be in your lunch break or maybe one morning each weekend. Think about when works best for you to write and keep yourself accountable to sit down at that time and get it done.

2.    Your goals need to be realistic.

Writing a novel is a realistic goal. But the work that goes into it can soon make it feel unrealistic, overwhelming, and unachievable. You can find yourself sitting there for hours, staring out the window and wondering how all those authors ever made it to the end of the first manuscript, never mind got round to publishing it.  

But the key to finishing is, they broke it down into smaller, realistic steps. There’s no point in setting yourself a goal of writing 5000 words a day if you only have half an hour free. It’ll feel impossible and you’ll find yourself giving up before you’ve even got started.

3.    Measure your goals.

When you have set your writing goals for 2023, think of a way you can measure them. That way, you can mark when you’ve achieved them, and you’ll get a rush of satisfaction. You could set goals with a value (a certain number of words written per day or a chapter per month) or a deadline goal (by March, I want to have written four chapters). This can also help you re-evaluate your goals. If you see that you aren’t regularly achieving a goal you set, you can reassess and alter it to make sure that it becomes attainable.

4.    Motivation is key.

Think about what motivates you to write. You can link this on a basic level to the tip above on measuring your goals, for example buying yourself something nice when you have written four chapters. But think about what originally made you want to write and try to keep that in mind every time it’s difficult to sit down and find the time. It’s also a great idea to talk to other writers; not only could you talk to them about how they stay motivated and accountable, but I guarantee they also struggle to find the motivation to write. You may find it helpful to join a local writing group where prompts are given each week or if there isn’t one in your area, there are many online groups you could join.

5.    Stay flexible.

Life is busy. Sometimes things happen that we haven’t accounted for, and our carefully laid plans get pushed aside. Try not to beat yourself up (or give up) if you go a couple of days/weeks without writing. It happens to us all and sometimes it’s ok to just not have the time. But if this does happen and you find yourself getting out of the habit you can use the tips in this article to get back on track.

So now we have looked at how to set effective, achievable goals, here are a few listed below to get you started:

  • Words per day.

Set yourself the goal of writing a certain number of words per day – this could range from 100 to 1000 depending on the time you have. You may even find that once you’ve hit your goal you are in the flow of writing and end up putting down more on the page than planned.

  • Chapter per week/month.

For fiction/non-fiction writers, breaking down your finished book into chapter goals is a great way to stay motivated.

  • Submit or self-publish a story per month.

For short story writers, setting yourself the goal of submitting one short story a month to a literary journal or magazine is a great way to stay motivated and nothing compares to that email from an editor saying that they’ll include it in their next issue. If you’re a self publisher then nothing beats new releases!

So, as we move into the New Year, think about what achievable goals you could set as a writer to help you write that finished book.