Why Setting Goals For Your Writing is the Key to Achieving Them Flawlessly

Writing a manuscript is a long and difficult process. Depending on your scope and your approach, it could take you months, years, or even decades to arrive at a final product. If writing is something you do casually and you aren't in any sort of hurry, it may be of little concern to you how long it takes you to reach the finish line. But if there are things you want to achieve with your writing, chances are you have a vested interest in doing so sooner rather than later.

Perhaps you'd like to become an author of sorts, and need to be able to churn things out with some regularity. You could be someone who half-writes (and inevitably drops) manuscripts and just want to see something, anything, through to the end. Maybe there's only one story you'd like to tell, and you don't mind if it takes you a lifetime to do it.

Whatever our motivation for writing, and whatever the timeframe, whether or not it gets done is almost entirely up to us—and the time we have to do it is finite! Knowing that, however, isn't always enough to help us act accordingly.

So, what do we do about it?

Well, noble recipients of Writer's Connect newsletter 88, we try something different!

Dart board - Why Setting Goals For Your Writing is the Key to Achieving Them Flawlessly
"Why is six afraid of seven?" "Now, I assume it's because seven is a prime number, and prime numbers can be intimidating."

This post brought to you by guest blogger Tyrone Couch.

The Value of Goals

There are really only two reasons we choose not to do something: because we don't want to, or because we're too exhausted from doing all the other things we've had to do.

Personally, whenever I feel reluctant to write, it's usually a healthy dose of the former (laced with a little of the latter). I find a lot of joy and satisfaction in writing, but sometimes—often, even—I'd rather not do it. It's hard, the gratification is far from instant, and it can be difficult to justify doing that instead of everything else that demands my attention.

For better or worse however, these things are true for most of us, most of the time. So if we're going to get it done in spite of all that, we've gotta find ways of making it more palatable!

If the nearest goal you have in your head is a finished manuscript, it'll be an awful long time before you feel like you've achieved anything. Of course, it's as much about the journey as the destination ... but when the journey is difficult, having a tangible sense of progress and accomplishment along the way is an important part of staying motivated. By introducing goals that can be achieved sooner and more regularly, you can trick your brain into thinking it's getting a better deal than it really is.

The psychology at play here is simple: the more often that something makes you feel good, the more often you'll be inclined to do it. By introducing goals and milestones to your writing, you create more opportunities for your practice to feel good, and give yourself a less daunting yardstick to measure your progress with in the process.

But what exactly does that look like?

No Two People

Trouble is, not everyone's happy place looks the same. There is no 'one size fits all' solution for goal setting—in some cases, one person's source of encouragement is exactly the thing that drives another to despair. With that in mind, the following goal-setting strategies may not be your cup of tea, but should get you in the right headspace for figuring out what works for you.

Harbinger of the End

This one is for those who work better under a little bit of pressure, and whose word is their bond. By saying to yourself, "I will finish this manuscript by this date," you boldly declare your intention to the universe, creating a sense of obligation to follow through with it. If this works for you, you may also benefit from sharing your declaration with others, thereby raising the stakes and increasing accountability. Let no-one tell you you don't mean what you say!

Checkpoint Charlie

There are endless ways to approach this one: whether it's committing to x words per day, pages a week, hours a fortnight, or any other combination of progress and time, if you're all about the little wins, this might be the approach for you. By breaking the manuscript down into bite-sized pieces, you make the totality of it far easier to digest, and the process of finishing it much more palatable. With this method, it's possible to calculate almost exactly how long it'll take you to finish your manuscript if you stick to the plan—but this knowledge may hurt you more than it'll help, so consider whether you want to take it that far!

The Carrot-Chaser

For some of us, try as we might, the friends we make along the way just aren't enough of an incentive. So? What does one do when the joys of the journey don't cut it? Why, reward themselves in other ways! Perhaps, like me, you love a good pub meal, but can rarely justify spending over fifty dollars on a single plate of food. Why not assign a good eye fillet (or similarly tempting reward) to a certain milestone of completion? Heck, draw up a chart of rewards for every step of the way if you'd like!

These are just a few examples of ways you can use goal setting to trick your brain into working for you rather than against you. When coming up with your own method, ask yourself: what motivates me? What makes me discouraged, and how might I reframe it so that it drives me instead (or at least doesn't hold me back)? Perception is a powerful thing, and it's amazing how much of a difference looking at things differently can make.

Keep in Mind ...

When setting any kind of goal, it's crucial that you make it realistic, achievable, and proportionate to the rest of the work. Try to find a balance between simple and challenging: if it's too small, it won't feel like an achievement; and if it's too big, you might not be able to pull it off, which will leave you feeling discouraged.

Feeling overwhelmed? Unsure where to draw the line, or how to make your goals work for you? Sign up for one of our book coaching & writing programs for personalised assistance today!

For more tips in your inbox every fortnight, be sure to subscribe to Writer's Connect (at the bottom of the page).

Word of the Day

mellifluous (adj.)

A sound that is mellifluous is pleasant, smooth, and musical to the ear. The word is derived from the Latin mellifluus, which literally means 'to flow like honey'!

Her mellifluous voice carried through the halls, enchanting all who heard it.

Quotidian Quote

"You can fix anything but a blank page."
~ Nora Roberts

Get Competitive!

A selection of current writing competitions YOU can enter!

Letter Review Prize for Short Fiction

Format: Short fiction
Theme: Open
Word Count: max. 5,000
Entry Fee: $20
Prize: $1,000
Closes: 31/08/2023

Click here for more details

Letter Review Prize for Short Fiction - Why Setting Goals For Your Writing is the Key to Achieving Them Flawlessly

Anthology Flash Fiction Competition

Format: Flash fiction
Theme: open
Word Count: max. 250
Entry Fee: €8
Prize: €300 plus publication
Closes: 31/08/2023

Click here for more details

Anthology Flash Fiction Competition

The Kindle Storyteller Award

Format: Multiple categories
Theme: Open
Word Count: Varies
Entry Fee: Nil.
Prize: £20,000
Closes: 31/08/2023

Click here for more details

The Kindle Storyteller Award

Aesthetica Creative Writing Award

Format: Poetry / short story
Theme: Open
Word Count: max. 40 lines / 20,000 words
Entry Fee: £12 - £18
Prize: £2,500 plus publication
Closes: 31/08/2023

Click here for more details

Aesthetica Creative Writing Award


Look over the fine print to make sure that your submission qualifies and you're happy with the terms of engagement.

The Australian Society of Authors has a highly informative post on their website called 'What to look for in a writing competition's T&Cs' .
To locate the article, click on 'Home', then 'News'.

Photo credit Engin Akyurt, Pexels

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