Setting Writing Goals

It’s that time of year again, the time when many people think back over the past year and make goals of things they want to change in this new year. I wanted to share a few things that I’ve learned about writing goals and how to make them work for you.

1. Set goals that are within your control.

Things like getting an agent, selling a book (or books), or becoming a New York Times Bestseller, as nice as all of those things sound, are not something that we, as writers, can control. If your goals are along these lines, they might become a major source of frustration when, ultimately, someone else’s actions will determine whether or not you reach those goals.

A better goal would be to send out a certain number of queries or to write/revise for a certain length of time every day.

2. Set goals that are reasonable and achievable.

Some days I have a great writing day where I get 5,000 words in a single day. When those happen, I tend to think, “This is great! I should do this every day!” But the reality is that it just doesn’t work in my life. Instead, I need to figure out a writing goal that works for me and isn’t so far out of reach that I can never achieve it, so I don’t even try.

Every writer’s life is different. I know some people who despair at the thought of trying to write 5,000 words in a single week and others who find 5,000 words a day to be a depressingly low number. Everyone is different and writes at a different pace. Find a goal that challenges you, but is something you can reach.

3. Don’t let a single slip-up make you give up.

We’re human. Most of us fail every now and then. Don’t quit because you weren’t as perfect as you planned to be.

Often I try to give myself room to mess up a little bit and, instead of daily goals, I’ll try for something weekly. Then, if I have a bad day, and only write five sentences, I can make up for it later.

4. Don’t let fear keep you from trying.

There are so many things to fear in writing: rejection, bad reviews, never selling another book, etc. But, at the end of the day, aren’t we doing this for the love of writing?

I once heard Rick Walton say that the best advice he could give was: “Quit, unless you can’t, and then stop complaining and get to work.”

So if you really love writing, don’t let fear stop you from actually writing.

What about you? Do you set writing goals? What advice do you have for me for this upcoming year?


Jenilyn Collings loves to read and write things that are humorous or romantic (preferably both). She has worked as a dental researcher, a florist, a martial arts instructor, and a tracker at an alternative high school (she’ll leave it to your imagination what that entailed), but she’s now focused on writing and child wrangling. A long time resident of the Mountain West, she recently moved to New England with her family where she is gaining an appreciation for umbrellas, fall colors, and turning lanes while driving.