Setting Achievable Writing Goals

The process of writing a book can be frustrating, to say the least. There’s the initial stage when you just write and tell everyone you know you’re working on a book, “the next great South African novel” or something. Next comes planning and mulling over how many drafts or even which direction to take the story. It’s often said that discipline is the most important part of writing a novel, and setting writing goals is right up there with discipline. By setting attainable and realistic writing goals, writers can stay motivated to outline, draft, edit, and revise their work daily, monthly, and annually.

Goals can help you identify what you want and make a plan to achieve it. The book you’ve always dreamed of writing could never be finished without goals to keep you focused and on track. To write a novel, you need more than just a plan; you also need to outline the steps you’ll take.  

By setting smart goals, such as daily page and word counts, you will incrementally progress toward completing your novel. This will make big projects easier to handle. As a guide to helping you along your writing journey, we’ve outlined five steps below:


Goals that are unrealistic will be unachievable and overwhelming. If you are passionate about finishing your novel, don’t push yourself too hard and set unrealistic goals. It might not be reasonable to set a goal of writing your novel within one month, for instance. It is not a good idea to set a word-count goal of writing 10 000 words a day if you are also working a full-time job. The sooner you set reasonable goals, the easier it will be for you in the long run.

You can achieve your writing goals one day at a time by setting daily goals. Instead of burning yourself out early with ambitious expectations, create daily habits that will help you achieve your goals. Here are some goals that many writers will set for themselves:

  • Write 1 500 words every day
  • Making use of writing journal
  • Using writing tools or templates


In the absence of clear goals, you will be unable to track your progress. However, if your goals are more specific, you’ll know when you’ve accomplished them. You can check off your accomplishments as you go if you create goals you can track. In addition to helping you develop daily writing habits, this will help you develop smaller goals that will pay off in the long run.

In the absence of clear goals, you will be unable to track your progress. However, if your goals are more specific, you’ll know when you’ve accomplished them. You can check off your accomplishments as you go if you create goals you can track. In addition to helping you develop daily writing habits, this will help you develop smaller goals that will pay off in the long run.

Tracking writing goals is easier when they are defined by numbers or deadlines. A good example is setting a goal of writing at least a certain number of words every day, and then checking in at the end of each month to see how it went. Alternatively, you could plan to have a certain number of pages by a certain date.

Set a deadline for the completion of your project. You might want to finish by the end of the year, or you might want to finish in a specific number of months. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time each day to work on a small piece, and you might be able to finish your manuscript by the end of the year.


No matter what kind of writing project you do – be it a fiction novel, a set of short stories, or a non-fiction book – you will write thousands of words and perhaps hundreds of pages. Keep track of your progress. The closer you get to completing your first draft and crossing the finish line, the more likely you are to succeed.

You can easily track your goals by using a calendar. Mark off your goals as you go on each day. Keeping a journal can also help you keep track of your progress. Sometimes, you find that your goals are too ambitious, or not ambitious enough. In some cases, you may find that you don’t have the time to write every day as you thought. In order to meet your needs, you can modify or write new goals along the way.


Making your goals a priority is necessary if you want to achieve them. Unless you do, you’ll find every excuse not to achieve them, and you’ll lose sight of your long-term goals. Finally, you will have the opportunity to learn time-management skills and become an author.

Your schedule should be evaluated to determine where and when you will write each day. To achieve your daily goal, you should be fully focused and time-bound during this planned writing period.


Every author has a different reason for writing. When you’re feeling like you can’t write anymore, tapping into your passion will motivate you. You don’t want to halt your writing career because of writer’s block.

As you work toward your long-term goals, consider incorporating a reward system to motivate yourself. A good example would be to tell yourself that if you write every day for a month, you will buy yourself something nice. Depending on how many words you write, you can also give yourself a day off.

Whenever you feel down or need inspiration to write, listen to a writing podcast, read blogs written by people who are working on their own projects, or watch videos of authors at writing conferences. Seeing how other writers have achieved their writing goals can inspire you to do the same. From good writers, you can learn a lot about setting effective writing goals and becoming a better writer. In addition, you can find local groups of writers who can serve as a support network throughout the writing process.

Check out our shop for some writing tools to get you started on the next great South African story!

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    If 2020 were a book…

    …it would definitely be Charles Dicken’s 1859 novel A Tale of Two Cities, particularly the opening line (re very long sentence) as it creates awareness and explores the societal conditions that lead to collapse, havoc and people fighting against forces bigger than themselves. He writes:

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

    Charles DickensA Tale of Two Cities (1859)

    In no attempt to recap the past year’s events, it was evidently a turbulent time that forced us to adapt to the sudden changes leaving us with no chance to step back and take it all in. Dickens was aware that we all tend to claim that our current epoch is riddled with duality, the most difficult, the most uncertain, the most unprecedented. However, his novel points out that the Victorians nor we are the first to think that way.

    The phrase “the period was so far like the present period” maintains this mindset very well in that every new generation thinks their struggles are uniquely tricky. 2020 is a good example. It is an unprecedented time, and we even acknowledge the fact that there have long been pandemics and political turmoil and there will still be after us, however, to read about them is very different as to living through them, it is unsettling and overwhelming leading us to proclaim “it was the worst of times”.

    Let us know in the comments below which book you’d choose!

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    There’s no greater feeling than finally putting down a really thick book and thinking “Yep, I read all that!”

    Bearing in mind that the average word count for a novel is 250 – 300 words, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite long books:

    ACID ALEX – AL LOVEJOY (400 pages)

    Stuck at his first 9-5 and seeking a more exciting experience before his next music festival holiday, Try picked this raw and deeply moving autobiography set in 1970’s South Africa and two weeks later we found him in a corner weeping. A must-read.


    Back when Coin was working in a bookshop, getting through her French studies and reading up on existentialism. She discovered Proust and set out to read his chef d’oevure, which focuses on the nature of art and memory and how a work of art can attempt to recapture the past and save it from destruction, at least in our minds. Needless to say, she loved it and we’ll never hear the end of it.


    Try enjoys reading authors chronologically. So, just as he was done with The Virgin Suicides, we gifted him Eugenides’s second offering, a sublime novel about a Greek-American family, identity and mutated genes.


    Thanks to Sofia Coppola’s “Lost In Translation’, Ava would not have known who Evelyn Waugh was and when she finally discovered his works, she was gifted a copy of his diaries – which he kept from age seven until his death. This honest, sharp and menacing view of life is a must-read for devout fans looking for insight into the process behind his greatest works.


    Teeny-bopper Coin stumbled Doris Lessing in the community library when she’d read almost all the books in the teen section. She was looking for another famous diary (Anne Frank) but she was distracted by a whole shelf dedicated to Ms Lessing. She admired her courage to publish a novel under a pseudonym at the height f her career but the relationship between Jane and Maudie, especially Maudie’s life. kept her reading way past bedtime.

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    ABOUT: Nic

    Nic is a retired photographer who leads a relatilively private life. Nic has has worked mainly in Asia and returned to South Africa in 2010 to live his truth.

    The excerpt submitted is from his unpublished book,  Becoming Nic, which documents the many changes in his life and is loosely based on the journals he kept from when his parents died in a fatal accident until his coming out as transgender.

    Nic is undergoing a gender re-assignment surgery and will be publishing the full novel with COINAGE on digital download and limited number of signed copies.

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    ABOUT: Yacoob Manjoo

    Yacoob Manjoo is a writer, blogger, husband, and father of two. Writing is his passion, and sharing beneficial knowledge and insights has been a pillar of his life for more than a decade. An anthology of his poetry and prose is due for publication in late 2019. He writes at

    Two of his poems are featured in The Coinage Book Two. “Summer Daze” was written on the last day of the year, after his first-born has completed her first year of pre-school. The poem is a reflection on his own childhood summer holidays, along with the anxieties of the coming school year – all of which was evoked when considering that my child was now in the same cycle we all went through – enjoying a well-earned rest, yet part of the system that would take her from childhood to adulthood, training her for life.

    Contrary, “Rooftops” is an escapist poem where the poet reflects on rooftops as places to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life; a quiet space to reflect and get some perspective – reminding oneself of the bigger picture, and allowing one’s eyes – both the physical and spiritual – to envision what lies beyond the invisible walls of one’s regular existence.

    Order a copy of The Coinage Book Two here.

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    ABOUT: TWD Mohapi

    TWD Mohapi has written many books of varying genres including poetry, short stories, folklore and novels. Although he started writing poetry in English, he has only ever been published in his mother-tongue, Sesotho, resulting in an illustrious literary career spanning 30 years. His many accolades include the Thomas Mokopu Mofolo Award for the poetry anthology, Bophelo ba Ka (1992) and the M-NET Literary award (African languages category – Sesotho) for the novel Lehlaba la Lephako (2002). In 2002, he received a Certificate of Honour for his contribution in promoting and developing Sesotho Literature in the Free State province.

    He has travelled widely and led a South African literary delegation on an expedition to China visiting the Chinese Writers Association. In 1996 he founded the Sesotho Writer’s Association (MoabaSesotho) and served as its chariman until 2006. When he is not writing, he edits and translates literary manuscripts for various publishing houses.


    Read more about him here.

    Order The Coinage Book Two here 

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    ABOUT: Ronelle Hart

    Ronélle Hart was born in 1961 in Pretoria but was raised and attended school in Nigel. She completed her BA in English and Psychology in 1983,  and later her MA in Psychology at the University of Johannesburg. Ronelle has been working as a psychologist in private practice in Johannesburg for the last 23 years. She has always loved writing and how words and stories tell about who we are, and how they shape our every awareness, deepening our engagement with life. She writes about personal memory, food, relationships, and the experience of therapy. She mainly blogs about psychological issues and has had some of her poetry published in local and international literary magazines. Several of her food memoir pieces have appeared in popular food magazines in SA. She has two adult sons, one baby granddaughter and is married to a jazz saxophonist. She is a contributing author to the Life Righting Collective’s “This Is How It Is” anthology, which came out in print form in 2018.

    Her memoir, Magnolia Season, tells of the death of her mother of late-diagnosed, terminal cancer 17 years ago, and the almost simultaneous dissolution of her marriage, reflecting on time and place and season.

    To read this touching story and more, order a copy of The Coinage Book Two here.

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    ABOUT: Thibedi Mokgokong

    Thibedi Mokgokong is a poet who discovered writing through the strain of living in a house where “a child is seen but not heard.” Poetry was a way to express complex and suppressed emotions in a verbose but quiet manner. The weight in his poetry comes from words and expressions long kept but never spoke.

    Thibedi found himself picking a degree to study post-matric haphazardly, merely going by what was then called an M-score. He was accepted into the University of Johannesburg to study a BA degree in Psychology in 2006 and went in to work in insurance.
    His poem, “Lobola”, was published in The Coinage Book One.
    Two of Thibedi’s works are featured in The Coinage Book Two. In his poem, “Made of Clay”, he explores a person’s ability to adapt to a changing society regardless of the conditions they face. While the short story, “Lighthouse” is rebellion against a corrupt government by non-political individuals and ramifications thereof.  It also highlights the dire indirect effects that the rebellion has on the relatives of such individuals, namely the children and spouse.
    Most of Thibedi’s flash fiction and poetry is available to peruse here.
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