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:

I. SET REALISTIC GOALS

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

II. SET MEASURABLE GOALS

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.

III. TRACK PROGRESS

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.

IV. ACCOUNTABILITY

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.

V. MOTIVATION

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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    How many drafts for my fiction writing?

    It’s probably one of the most common email queries we receive, and it’s really like asking anyone how long a piece of string is. Some writers say three, four, eight and even ten! In all honesty, there is no magic number.

    As you develop your process, the best thing is to consider your chosen genre, writing experience, and why you want to write. For example, a sci-fi/fantasy writer will go through more drafts than one writing a memoir as they would use more of their imagination.

    Regardless of the genre, new writers tend to get stuck when writing. They rewrite ad nauseam and ultimately never finish the story and give up, which is sad. Imagine all the plots and stories sitting on millions of shelves and hard drives.

    Which brings us to the first part, what is your motivation for writing: to launch a career or pass the time? Regardless of your intent, there’s no wrong reason to write fiction. However, different intentions require different drafting processes… one may not need the assistance of an editor, while another may require a manuscript assessment.

    As a result, we came up with a foolproof three draft step to writing fiction – each step may require one to go through two separate drafts.

    DRAFT ONE

    The most exciting part. It gets you giddy, and you can’t stop telling everyone around you that you’re writing. There are no rules, just write… spill away and don’t look back. No changes are allowed. Let your plot and characters take shape… word salad? That’s ok.

    The point here is to get whatever is in your head onto paper (or the blank word processor screen). Let it all unfold. Whatever you do, do not step away from the manuscript – except maybe for coffee. No research allowed; just make a note for later. It’s not going to be perfect or ready to publish, but all you need to do here is write.

    This part can take a day (if you’re that fast) to a year, depending on how much time you set aside to write, how long your piece of fiction is and how quickly you write. Remember always to check the word count required for your chosen work of fiction… is it a short story? A poem? A novella? A novel? Whichever one, it’s always best to set attainable writing goals to ensure that you succeed.

    DRAFT TWO

    This is the part where your piece takes shape, but before you get here, ensure you’ve given yourself a good break from the first draft – no, really. Stretch, step away from the desk, have a good meal, reconnect with those around you, pick up a new hobby, go to the gym, go on holiday… you get the idea. It’s like letting baked goods cool down after taking them out the over. It’s essential. You and your piece need to rest.

    The first draft will obviously need a lot of work, do not despair. It’s absolutely normal, and here’s how to approach this step:

    • Summarise each part/act/scene in one sentence – this helps spot any plot holes and highlight parts that don’t drive the plot. The golden rule of fiction is that everything happens for a reason; what a character says or does needs to drive the story.
    • Print a hard copy and read – it’s an excellent way to spot grammar and spelling errors, tense mix-ups, repetition etc. You do not have to fix every issue. Just ensure it’s easier to read.
    • Read as a reader – focus on each character and their development. Are they boring? Dynamic? Stereotypical?

    DRAFT THREE

    The scariest stage… you’re handing your work over to somebody else to scrutinise. It may be a friend, family member (just not your mum) or even a professional editor… anyone who can give constructive feedback.

    You may need to write another draft based on your feedback after this step.

    While there is no strict rule on how many drafts to write for fiction; however, the above three draft process is a great place to start.

    Remember that you may need to write two or three drafts in-between each step. The whole process takes time, but you will notice the results in the quality of your manuscript if you put in the effort.

    Happy writing!

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

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