Using the S.M.A.R.T. strategy to set your writing goals

Last week, I wrote about how long it takes to write a novel. (Short answer, it is different for everyone and for the different lengths of stories.) But something that helps many writers stay on task and get that novel written is to set goals. And not just any goal but realistic ones.

Now before I start in on writing goals, just know that this isn’t for everyone. Some people write sporadically and goals – ones they are likely won’t be able to meet – are only going to lead to frustration. And sometimes goals and the pressure to make them can stifle your creativity when the words just aren’t flowing.

But for others, setting writing goals helps keep you motivated and on track. For these goals to be helpful, they need to be clear and realistic. You can’t expect to write 10,000 words in a day when you only have an hour a day to write.

Looking online, many websites say your goal needs to be S.M.A.R.T. – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Bound.

Specific – You can’t just set a goal of writing a novel. This is too vague. You can easily become overwhelmed (and unmotivated) with this type of goal. Instead, make it a goal of writing an hour a day or a specific word or page count.

Measurable – You need to know when you have accomplished your goal and can cross it off your list. This is where the above-mentioned word or page count come into play. And since your results are measurable, you can easily adjust them. Say you set a goal of writing so many words or pages a day, but you’re not always meeting this goal, you can either work harder or adjust your goal to something more realistic.

Attainable – You need to set a realistic goal. If you set a goal of writing 20 pages a day but you work and are raising a family, chances are you won’t be able to maintain this goal. There is nothing wrong with adjusting your goal if you find yourself unable to meet your goal. There is no point in setting a goal that isn’t achievable. All that will do is discourage you even more.

To set a realistic goal, be honest with how much time you can devote to writing. Then look at the time and decide how many words or pages you can realistically get done. Don’t want a daily goal since your productivity fluctuates? Try a weekly goal. Take what you think you can do in a day and times that by how many days a week you plan to write. (Hint – it probably shouldn’t be seven days a week as a day away from writing can be a good thing.)

Relevant – Your goal needs to related to your overall goal. So, your goal to write so many pages is just a step in writing your novel and part of your overall goal of becoming a published author. Thus meeting your goal of 1,500 words a day, five days a week will ultimately help you complete your novel and move onto your next goal (editing and publishing).

Time-Bound – This simply means your goal needs to be done in a certain time period. This helps you to schedule it in your day/week.

All of these criteria can help you develop realistic goals that will help you complete your novel. To keep on task, it is helpful to review and adjust your goals on a regular basis. The point is not to feel bad if you are not meeting your goals but to make them attainable.

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