5 Simple Steps to Setting SMART Writing Goals

by Jennifer Blanchard

Jumping for joy

Every year writers set writing goals and every year, many of those same writers give up on their goals before they achieve them. This isn’t because these writers don’t have the ability to reach their goals. It’s because they’re goals are not SMART.

The acronym S.M.A.R.T. is used in the project management industry as a way to evaluate a project’s goals. By using this same acronym when setting your writing goals, you are five simple steps away from reaching them all by the end of 2011.

Specific

In order to set goals you can reach, you need to make them as specific as possible. By being specific, you’re giving yourself something to focus on. Otherwise you won’t have anything to really work toward.

For example, if you set a goal of “writing in 2011,” you’re not being specific enough. You need to say, “Write a novel” or “Write 500 words a day.”

Measurable

In order to tell how well you did on achieving your goals, you need to have a way to measure them. This also helps give you accountability to them.

For example, if you’re working toward “writing every day,” that’s not really measurable on a “how-much-writing-you’re-actually-getting-done” level. It’s better to say: “Write 500 words a day” or “Write for 60 minutes every morning.”

Achievable

Whether or not your goals are achievable has to do with what you believe you’re actually capable of. Believing is 90 percent of achieving.

Once you believe something, it’s achievable. But if you don’t think you can do it, you can’t.

For example, if you don’t think it’s possible for you to write a novel in a year, then everything in the world will keep you from achieving that goal in a year.

Realistic

This also goes along with your goals being achievable. It’s about what’s realistic to you. It doesn’t matter what other writers want to accomplish. If you don’t believe you can make it happen, you won’t.

So choose goals that are realistic to you.

For example, if you don’t think it’s realistic for you to write 500 words every day, don’t make that one of your goals. Instead, make your goal to write 500 words a week or every other day, whatever works for you.

Timed

Setting a time limit on a goal (such as the end of 2011) is the only way you can really measure and find out how well you did with reaching it.

The problem with setting a year-long goal, however, is you won’t see results right away, which could eventually make you want to quit. Remedy this by breaking down larger projects/goals into smaller goals so you can achieve little things more frequently throughout the year.

By setting SMART writing goals, you’ll be on the road to achieving them in no time.

What writing goals are you going to achieve this year?

Today’s Challenge: Go through your list of writing goals and evaluate them on the SMART scale. How do they measure up? And if you’re ready to publicly commit to making that SMART goal happen, please share it in the comments below.

About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard is the founder of Procrastinating Writers, a blog that offers guidance for writers who struggle to get started. She is co-founder of the Better Writing Habits challenge.

  • My SMART writing targets for 2011 are:
    to devote at least 15 mins every day to my novel idea – outlining in detail first, then writing
    to set aside 3x1hr slots every week for teaching-related writing (resources etc)
    to blog twice weekly

    Thanks for these posts, they are proving most useful.

    • Anonymous

      I’m glad you’re finding the posts to be useful!! And we’re only getting started!

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  • Ok this was a tough one for me LOL But I guess this is why it’s a challenge. πŸ˜‰
    My two goals for this year is Building a community around my blog and writing a 1st draft for my 1st non fiction book (Not worried about publishing @ the moment I just want to get it written that will be huge for me!)

    Goal One: Build a genuine Community around my Blog
    1. Specific: Gain more subscribers, twitter followers, and facebook fans

    2. Measurable: I guess I can measure it by how much visitors I get to the site per day and where the traffic comes from. By keeping track of that I can use that to help me decide where to best market myself to get “Sticky traffic” πŸ˜‰

    3. Achievable: To increase my subscribers, twitter followers and facebook fans by 100. At first I thought that I was aiming to low but you mention that it has to be realistic for me and I feel that this is. Currently I have 0 subscribers, 907 twitter followers and 20 facebook fans…Goal is to have @ least 100 subscribers, 1000 twitter followers and 120 facebook fans.

    4.Realistic: Since the 1st half of my day will be devoted to writing only (whether blog or book) I will devote the 2nd half of my day to marketing Monday thru Thrusday for about 2 hours…I’m only trying a few marketing techniques at the moment so I won’t be overwhelm and so I can get a feel for what works for me best.

    5. Timed: I want to achieve this by the end of the year…December 31, 2011.

    Goal Two: Write 1st non fiction book
    1. Specific: Complete the 1st draft of my book

    2. Measurable: Working on my book Tuesdays and Thrusdays for @ least an hour.

    3. Achievable: My main goal is to get the 1st draft done. I believe that achievable for me.

    4. Realistic: I will devote @ least 2 hours a week for my book

    5. Timed: I want to achieve this by the end of the year…December 31, 2011

    • Anonymous

      Wow–sounds like you really have it figured out! I’m glad to hear it. Your goals sound perfect and I think you’ll find choosing a goal that’s realistic for you will make the most sense in the long-run. Otherwise you’ll find yourself on Dec. 31 wishing you’d chosen a more realistic (for you) goal.

      For example, last year I said my goal was to take my blog from 5,500 visits a month to 50,000. While that goal isn’t impossible, with working full-time and everything else I do, it just wasn’t realistic for me. So when Dec. 31 came and I was still hovering around the same traffic I had the previous year, I realized setting that goal was a mistake. So for this year, I’m looking to double my traffic from last year, which seems a lot more realistic for me.

      • I guess you can say I’m a new believer in baby steps LOL I too set a goal once for my blog that was extremely unrealistic for me to achieve with everything I had going on. I think sometimes I get to questioning myself if I’m setting my standards to low because everyone always say “You have to reach for the stars”…I came to realize that I am reaching for the stars but it just takes a while to actually get there LOL I’m ok with that because it’s a goal I believe I can achieve.

        By the way I love your blog so double your traffic should be no problem for you…I can only hope I reach a 1000 visits per month let alone 5000 LOL πŸ™‚

  • Hi I’m Genevieve; my writing goals for 2011. I’m struggling with the re-write & I’d like to have it complete in time for a writers conference before the end of February. I started the story a year ago and have completed 3 drafts already; I’d like my 4th draft to be the final draft before showing it to potential agents. So here are my personal goals.

    1. Specific
    To write at 5 am to 6 and to at night around 9pm the latest until I go to sleep. (on Monday’s to Fridays)
    2. Measure
    I’ll try to write for the entire hour – maybe complete 500 per day total (this is the re-write after all.)
    3. Realisitic
    Yes, this goal is realistic because I’d be on twitter or wasting time doing useless things on the internet. I’m easily distracted like that.
    4. Time
    I do need the 4th draft completed by 2/20/2011. I also have a 2nd story that I’ve started and I’d like to have all the specific details and at least half the story complete by 2/20.

    • Anonymous

      A word of warning, don’t take on too much or you’ll burn yourself out. Writing an entire draft in less than two months is hard enough without forcing yourself to also plan and write half of another story. Why not make it your goal to do a bad-ass job on the fourth draft by 2/20/11 and then make the planning and writing of the second story a goal for after the conference is over?

      Just a suggestion, but as someone who is no stranger to burn out, trust me–it’s better to take on less and get it accomplished than to take on too much and end up with very little to show for it.

  • This is smart advice for writers. (Yep, goofy pun intended!) We used S.M.A.R.T. in the companies I worked for, and I also use it for training with my horse. I think S.M.A.R.T. gets to the heart of your goals while offering a way to see what you’ve accomplished. Thanks for the post and Happy New Year!

  • Lola

    Mine is just to write for at least ten minutes a day. I’m starting with a blog but would be interested in branching out. I hope to build up to writing more than that, but I feel that ten minutes is the most realistic goal for someone with a full time job.

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  • Anonymous

    Sounds like a good plan to me! I think reducing the amount of projects you take on will make it a lot easier to commit to getting them done.

  • Anonymous

    250 words a day is definitely a good goal. Why force yourself to do more than you are sure you can handle, right? All that will do is lead to burn out. And as you said, when you get rolling, you’ll most likely find you’re able to write more than you expected.

  • My writing goal is to write at least 500 words a day on days that I’m not editting (I find it hard to switch between creative and editing modes in the same day) for the remainder of 2011. I believe this is S.M.A.R.T. The only non-specific part is the “days that I’m not editting” but since that is controlled by my editor and deadlines I can’t forsee, I think it falls into the realistic catagory.

  • Skmayh

    Great post! SMART goals really do keep you focused. We used them a lot in teaching. I have about one more day to get my writing studio completed then I will be doing my SMART goals for 2011. Today I did lots of after Christmas things and end of the year paper work. I can’t wait to read the next post!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Skmayh! And since you mentioned that you’re getting your writing studio completed right now, I just wanted to let you know that Suzannah has a tip coming up that addresses creating a writing space. Be sure to check it out!!

  • Ang656

    Get it out and down. Getting it out is the easy part . My characters thrive in their vibrant and interesting existence. They have love affairs and solve crimes, chase bad guys and win. My characters lives are riveting tales of pages begging to be turned. Unfortunately, it is all inside my head. Swimming around during idle moments of my day. All of it is out there waiting to be organized and put onto a page. My goal is to settle my thoughts onto cozy pages where they are welcome to continue their saga.

    Sub goal is to assess the most reasonable word count per day. I will start with 500 words per day. If this proves too much of a struggle I will back it down by 50 words until I have arrived at an attainable word count goal.

    • Anonymous

      I am SO with you on the thriving characters thing! I have stories and characters screaming so loudly at me every day: “WRITE! TELL MY STORY! I WANT MY FREEDOM!!” And yet the stories remain untold. But I am committing to writing at least one novel this year, so at the very least, one of my characters will get her story told. πŸ™‚

  • Cbowmanjahn

    Thank you for this post, I think I’m really going to like it. My goal for this year is to write at least one hour a day.And then, because I think in long hand best, type it up in word. I also want to type at least one hour a day of stuff I’ve already written and actually rewrite what I’ve got down.

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  • Nikki Griffin74

    My S.M.A.R.T. writing goals for 2011 are: To tailor the scope of my minds eye in order to find my writing niche by the end of February. To complete one short story per month and sumbit them. To find a mentor by February and work with him or her for the year. Joining a book club, and reading at least one book per month.

  • Angelapitt26

    Thanks for the valuable information.

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