2022 has come to a close, and 2023 has kicked in. You may have started to think about all the things you intend to accomplish in the year ahead. If you’re a writer, some of your New Year’s resolutions probably include a few big goals related to writing, drafting, and maybe even getting published.
And as always, the start of a new year means you get the opportunity to recalibrate and set new goals with your writing. It is a clean slate, and a chance to plot new goals and align your progress with the changing of the dates on the calendar.
How Should Writing Goals Serve You?
Improving your writing is a long-drawn process. Other than relentless, arduous periods of writing practice and spending long periods reading, setting writing goals is very important to know your path moving forward and to have things to aspire towards.
Setting strong writing goals encourages you to imagine what type of writer you want to be and what skills you need to make that identity a reality. Together with helping you establish a manageable path to success, writing goals are more than objectives you hope to achieve; they are a road map to your creative and writing success.
How To Set Writing Goals That You Can Commit To
Setting goals is already a step forward in the direction that you want to head. But not all goals are created equal. A weak goal, one that is poorly defined or impossible to complete, will only leave you disappointed. It might even discourage you from writing completely. If you want to plot "good" goals, they should be specific, measurable, actionable, and realistic. Here are some ways you can go about creating "good" goals:
1. Set realistic goals
Everyone needs realistic goals, whether it's creative or otherwise. We’ve all set our minds on doing something that was nearly impossible and then felt terrible after not achieving it. If you’ve never written a full-fledged story before, it probably wouldn't be the best idea to set out to churn out a trilogy in the next 12 months or so. That might be a tad bit much pressure.
Instead of diving into gargantuan tasks, start with smaller, more manageable goals or milestones to reach. These could include things like experimenting with various writing styles to see which could be the best fit for a long-haul project, writing a short story, getting a better understanding of the book publishing process, or reading a handful of books from genres you're not the most familiar with.
Here's a list of more achievable, realistic goals that you could pick from to set your mind to and grow through as a writer:
- Write a short story in an unfamiliar genre.
- Revisit and re-write an older short story that you've written.
- Make it a point to list of novel ideas as they come to me.
- Outline one novel by the end of the year.
- Attend a writer’s retreat sometime in the year.
Make your very own list of however many goals you think you can accomplish, and place it somewhere you can see. Even if it's only one goal, when you see it hanging on your mirror, monitor, desktop, or phone screen every day, you would be more likely to have it on your mind and accomplish it.
2. Make your goals actionable
If you plan to churn out a short story in a new genre this year, it most definitely would add to your portfolio and would allow you to hone your writing skills in one way or another. This is a great goal, but it is not yet actionable. Together with laying out your goal, make sure to further define it.
With this goal:
"I want to write a short story in a new genre."
Create a few goalposts as well:
- "I’ll create a story idea by the end of February."
- "I’ll draft an outline by the end of April."
- "I’ll finish the first draft by the end of June."
- "I’ll finish editing the draft by the end of August."
- "I’ll submit the story to five publications or contests by the end of December."
These will be the actionable goalposts that you add to your planner or calendar as you plan your writing schedule. You can also break those into weekly goals to be less daunting and more manageable.
Set a reminder to spend 10 minutes thinking of story ideas in your new genre each week through the end of February, schedule 15 minutes per week to create your outline through April, or set aside 30 minutes a week to write the first draft through June; even if it’s five or 10 minutes every other day.
You’ll know, with a much clearer vision, how to break down your goals based on your writing routine, how your creativity flows, and what your schedule looks like, after having further defining them for yourself.
3. Check back in with yourself
For some people, new year’s resolutions may not seem as appealing a month, six months, or a year from January. This is why it is crucial to check back in with your writing goals each month. You can always change them if they no longer interest you.
It’s healthy to set new goals because you’re learning about yourself as you go. Maybe your skill set lies in another area from which you expected it to, or your focus shifts from one genre to another, or you land unexpected projects; all changes that are good.
Give yourself the time, patience, and grace to adjust your goals accordingly, and you’ll experience your main goal: strengthening your writing abilities.
8 Writing Goals For The New Year
1. Finish the projects you embark on.
If you have had the habit of starting new drafts and abandoning them or not pursuing them until they're completed, set a goal to challenge that this year. When you finish a piece of writing, even if it does not end up being the most pleasant experience or you end up being dissatisfied with the final product, there are lessons that you would undeniably take away from the process:
- You have a finished piece of writing without having left it hanging.
- You have a finished draft that you could revise and make better.
- You’ve learned about yourself as a writer through the writing process.
- You can now identify and work with, and on your strengths and weaknesses respectively.
With every draft or story that you manage to finish, you grow as a writer and you come out the other side better equipped for the next project. The result will be leveling up in your work, and that’s always something to celebrate.
2. Set aside time to write everyday.
Dedicating time every day to writing will help lot. By setting aside protected time throughout the day, you can put in a hundred percent of your concentration into writing, and tine out anything else for a little while.
If you're on a time crunch, you don’t have to write daily to ensure a consistent output and see improvements. Just ensure that you have regular, protected writing time when you can push yourself to sit and write no matter what. By even just planning weekly, you set aside these pockets of time where you do not have to worry about anything else and can focus on writing.
3. Experiment with a new genre.
If you're stuck in a writing rut for the new year and have yet to find direction, try some experimenting. Delve into a new genre, one that you have not played around with, just to see how you respond to it.
Just because you enjoy, or have found yourself to be good at, writing in one particular genre or style doesn’t mean the others are completely off-limits. Trying something new may provide the challenge you need to become a better writer, explore fresh ideas, or pull yourself out from the pressure of the new year or a tough bout of writer’s block. Set a goal to try a daily or weekly writing prompt from a different genre, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. The change can kickstart your brain and help you find even more things to love about being a writer.
4. Share your work with fellow writers.
Writing may usually be a solo activity, but that doesn’t mean you have or should do it all on your own.
Getting feedback and working on the critique you get is an important part of honing any craft or writing. It can help you determine whether or not your story is working, what messages and tone your writing is conveying to your readers, and whether or not you are succeeding in saying what you've set out to say.
Whether you’re hoping to get published or you're writing as a personal endeavor for yourself, getting feedback can help you become a more effective writer and make the practice more enjoyable. This year, make it a goal to find a local or online peer group of other writers who can offer support and critique to help you accomplish your goals.
5. Start a notepad to jot down ideas on the go.
As a writer, your brain would constantly be on overdrive, and it's not surprising to come up with ideas for a new project even while we're still working on our current one, or ideas spark when you're out and about doing something else. That is why you may want to keep a notebook or document to jot down any ideas that come to mind, no matter how likely you are to follow up on these ideas.
With JotterPad, a novel writing software, you can not only work on your actual drafts and write your stories, but you can also use it to jot down any ideas that come to mind at anytime, anywhere. With JotterPad, you can save your work on a cloud service — OneDrive, Google Drive or Dropbox — so that you can access these ideas easily.
Furthermore, JotterPad is a cross-platform writing software, which means that you can write and read your list of ideas on whatever device you prefer. With these functions, you can write down any sporadic thoughts or ideas that come to mind.
As a writer, you have to read as much as possible. Reading helps you learn more about your craft, inspires you with new ideas, and challenges you to become a better writer. When you’re busy working on your own writing projects, it may not seem like you have time to stop and read.
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” - Stephen King
Try to squeeze in a few pages per day anyway. Reading the good and the classics is a learning journey -- you get to see what makes a story a good one, and take away useful learning points from it. On the flipside, reading the bad can also help you to learn what not to do, which makes it equally as valuable.
Seeing how the pros craft their stories and handle the many struggles of creating compelling writing can give you the boost you need to forge ahead on your own work in progress.
7. Unplug while you write.
Social media can be a place to get inspired, but it can also be a distraction. Mindlessly scrolling through your feed and being constantly bombarded with other people’s lives and thoughts can influence or drown out your own voice in your head. If you want to make progress on your writing, find time each week to unplug from social media and be with your own thoughts.
This could mean doing guided meditations, journaling, or just sitting quietly with your pen and paper. You could even completely unplug while working on your draft. Either way, your writing and your idea arsenal can both benefit from having your undivided attention.
8. Develop a consistent writing schedule or practice.
Most successful writers have a fixed, consistent writing schedule or practice. There’s no “right way” to go about a writing practice, and it will look different for each person. But establishing a routine around writing is a good way to make progress on your goals and ensure you always have time to practice your craft. A writing practice may look like:
- A daily or weekly word count goal.
- Writing at the same time every day.
- Writing every weekend.
- Writing a paragraph or chapter of your short story or novel everyday.
- Writing for a certain number of minutes or hours.
Not every writer writes daily or for the same amount of time in each session. Figure out what works for you, then set the intention to stick to it this year and see how productive it helps you become.
9. Stop being afraid of writing "badly".
“When writing a first draft, I have to remind myself constantly that I’m only shoveling sand into a box so later I can build castles.” - Shannon Hale
The very first step to doing anything well, whether it's making music, painting stunning artwork, writing moving poetry, or going about good writing is often “bad” writing. You practicing writing can never be a "bad" thing. Everyone starts with an imperfect first draft, and that is totally normal.
It can be convincing to stop writing just because your draft isn’t turning out how you thought it would, but remember that everyone’s first attempt is a little wonky, and the magic happens later on when you start revising your work. You have to write before you can edit, so don’t let perfectionism stop you.
Together with setting specific, measurable, actionable and realistic goals, every author would have their own reasons for being a writer. Acknowledging and reflecting on why you love writing and tapping into that passion will help motivate you when you're facing a bout of writer’s block, and keep you moving forward.
This year, spend some time to re-look and reinvent your goals, and map out ones that will help you to identify and achieve what you want. Without goals, you could lose track of time or lose focus—and never finish the book you’ve always dreamed of writing.
All the best!