How to SMART-en Up Your Writing Goals This Year


In our first installment of our end-of-year, three-part mini-series, we discussed goals. More specifically, a list of “umbrella” writing goals you can, if you want to, work toward achieving in 2016.

Coming up with a list of writing goals is only the beginning, though. Now ask yourself: can you really achieve them – and how can you tell?

There are five components to a SMART goal. It must be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Results-focused
  • Time-bound

If you look back at yesterday’s material, you’ll see that our three goals – to finish something, submit something and start something new – are not very SMART goals. They’re more like MAR goals, if even that, which don’t count.

They’re a good place to start. Let’s pick one of them – to finish something, to start off – and SMART-en it up a little.

Making it more specific

If your goal is to finish something, the specificity is completely dependent on where you stand in your own writing. Have you been working on the same book for three years, determined to finish it already so you can put it behind you? Have you just recently started something new? Are you still trying to finish your NaNoWriMo novel from last month?

Let’s say you’ve written 50,000 words of your book already, and are really struggling to get through the last 30,000 or so. That’s your specificity: I want to finish writing my NaNoWriMo novel. Don’t worry about what comes after that. For this one goal, focus on that specific endpoint.

The goal is already pretty measurable and results-focused – finishing a book is on your own judgment, but once you’re done, you know you’re done. The result is a finished first draft of a novel, regardless of how rough that draft may be.

Can you achieve the goal, though?

Or, rather, can you handle it? You might have a lot going on this year – school, work, family, vacation. If you have 30,000 words left, be honest with yourself. Is this something I can do if I spread it out throughout the next 12 months? This brings us right into probably the most important part of a SMART goal, in terms of writing: the when.

Time is everything

Sure, on the surface this one might seem easy: I want to finish my book before December 31, 2016. Okay, great. Good start. But that’s not enough. You need to ask yourself here: how am I going to get there, and when am I going to have each step completed? Your overall goal might be to write 30,000 words this year, but if you’re not careful, you could end up with 30,000 words to write on December 29, and we all know how that goes (or doesn’t).

Give yourself time. Break it up into smaller pieces. Make it a goal to write 2,500 words in January. 2,500 words in February, all the way through December. Break it up into weeks, into days, if you have to. But always give yourself the what – what am I going to do today? – and the when – what time am I going to have it finished by?

Writing is already stressful enough! Don’t give yourself a headache by unintentionally procrastinating. Take that specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused goal and give it a time stamp. And if you’re not confident you can hold yourself accountable, find someone who will.

But that, of course, is for another (tomorrow’s) post.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.