Writing Goals

Hey, SE Readers. Joan with you today for my last post of 2021. This subject has likely been covered before (probably by me) but this is the season when I tend to look ahead at the upcoming year.

I began to set writing goals several years ago. There are many ways to do this. What works for one writer might not work for another. As with most aspects of writing, there is no one-size-fits-all. A few examples are:

  • Daily or monthly word count – “I will write 1000 words each day,” or “I will write 25000 words per month.”
  • Writing time – “I will write for one hour a day.”
  • Days of the week – “I will write Monday – Friday and take a break on the weekends.”
  • Number of works – “I will write and publish two novels and three short stories in a year.” (A lofty goal for many.)
  • Publication date – “I will publish my novel by May 15.”

You get the idea. Setting goals encourages me to write. I find that a specific word count works best for me. I also keep my daily word count in an Excel spreadsheet. I count blog posts, book reviews, novels, short stories—everything I write.

Here’s a screenshot from April 2021.

As you can see, I was in an editing phase, so my new word count wasn’t as large as if I’d been writing something new. Keeping to word count helps to motivate me. I have a year-to-date total and can also compare to previous years.

I made some slight changes to my format for 2022. Instead of morning, afternoon, and evening, I now have categories. WIP for my work in progress (short stories or novels). Blog posts include both personal and Story Empire posts. The “other” category is for any writing such as book promos, brainstorming, book reviews, and more.

When I’m not editing, I like to write a minimum of 1000 words a day. That’s 30000 words a month or 360,000 words in a year. Easily three novels. I’ll note that I’ve never written that many words in a single year, but I have exceeded 200,000.

If you set goals, here are a few things to remember.

  • Don’t fret if you don’t reach your daily goal. Life happens and often unexpected or unforeseen circumstances arise that prevent us from reaching our word count.
  • If you reach your word goal and still find you have more to write, keep going. Writing a thousand words doesn’t necesarilly mean you have to stop.
  • There are days when your mind needs to rest. For me, writing at times like that usually results in garbage. However, if I allow myself time to refresh, I usually come back stronger with new ideas or ways to fix a plot hole.
  • Don’t get discouraged if you don’t publish that novel when you first planned. After writing 50000 words during NaNoWriMo 2019, I felt sure I’d have Cold Dark Night ready for publication in May 2020. It wasn’t published until a year later. However, I don’t regret it because my delay in finishing the book made the story stronger.

Do you set writing goals? Have you been successful with them? Please share your experiences (good or bad) in the comments.

58 thoughts on “Writing Goals

  1. Interesting, I’ve never really thought about setting writing goals before. Usually it’s just publish ___ posts a month, or write ___ words/paragraphs a day.
    I’ll keep it in mind for my 2022 writing goals, thanks !

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  3. I love this post, Joan. Thank you for sharing your Excel sheet with us. I never thought of using one for accountability, and I love the idea! I use Excel to keep track of my expenses, but I never thought of using it to keep track of my writing. I am determined to finish the novel that I’ve been slowly working on for the past 2-3 years before this year is over. I’m going to use your idea to create a schedule that works for me to help me stay focused on the end goal. 🙂

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  4. I really like your spreadsheet, Joan! What a great idea for tracking word count. I don’t track my word count butI do try to write each Sunday which is how I keep myself motivated and committed to my WIP. If I’m not working on that on Sundays, then I’m writing blog posts.

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  5. You’re so organized, Joan! Good for you for figuring out how to motivate yourself and be accountable. I don’t make writing goals and can tell when I’m not writing enough because I get grumpy and prickly. 🙂 Have a wonderful new year of successful writing!

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  6. Interesting post, Joan. If I were younger and less prone to ‘off’ days, I think setting targets would be motivational and increase my output. Nowadays, I accept that I write best when I’m free from distraction and pain or in touch with family either in the garden or online. I try to make the most of those days. Many thanks for all your advice and ideas over the year. Happy Holidays! xx

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  7. Great post, Joan 🙂 I have never set a writing goal except during NaNoWri. The only goal I am definitely taking into the new year is to make my health and exercise a priority over writing or during writing. If I had a word goal I’d do it no matter what, I can’t help myself…lol. You are so right though to make sure it’s your best work even if you miss the deadline you set.

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  8. I’ve never been as organized as you are. Wow. Your chart’s impressive. I’ve always just written around whatever’s happening in my life. Now that we’re retired and the kids are grown up and (mostly) gone, I usually have a lot more time to hit the keys, and I love it. But things still get in the way, and that’s okay. (If I EVER decide to write another holiday book, though, I’m starting it a year in advance:)

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  9. I’ve never kept up with word counts or even goals, for that matter. I’m feeling much more motivated in recent times, though, so I’m stealing your chart idea, Joan. Thanks so much for sharing and giving great advice!

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    • You’re welcome, Bette. I’ve worked in an office setting for years and I like being organized. (Although I’m not always that way!) I keep spreadsheets for a lot of things writing related.

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  11. Now, that, my friend is organization! I’ve never kept a count of daily words. It might be fun to give it a try, at least for a little while, just to see. I love your grouping for 2021. That would be my preference and it would give an overall look. I hate having to be disciplined, but I know it’s one of my life lessons, so the sooner I get over the aversion, the better off I’ll be. Thank you for sharing. I wish you a wonderful year of writing in 2022!

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  12. Great post, Joan. I used to have a goal of 1000 words a day. This was on my WIP exclusively. In addition, I wrote a post each day. In my advancing years, I’m not able to keep that schedule. I now write 500 words a day on the WIP and a post six days a week. This is a more comfortable rate although it does take longer to produce a book. I have finally stopped fretting about the number of books I write so it all seems comfortable. I love your system of keeping track. I think that serves to keep you n target.

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  13. You’ve inspired me to get back to tracking my word count. I’m not as organized as you with the spreadsheet, but when I’ve tracked my words in my planner, I’ve always met my goals. I guess it’s something about seeing it right in your face. Who wants to see a big goose egg! Merry Christmas to you and your family, Joan.

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  14. Excellent post, Joan. There was a time when I was very goal-centered. Then along came 2021 with all its ups and downs. Now I simply take life’s hurdles as they come and write in the retrieved pockets of time. And hopefully, through it all, find joy – and a manuscript. 😊

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  15. I wrote FALLOUT to a daily and date target and hit it. Since then, my health and energy levels have taken a downturn, so these days I write when I can but don’t set goals. If we fail to meet goals too often it becomes a negative cycle I’d rather avoid. I believe there are times and situations when it’s more helpful to take it as it comes. Great example on the spreadsheet, Joan, which is easy to adopt for anyone who wants. Thanks for sharing 💕🙂

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    • That’s an excellent point, Harmony. Learning not to be disappointed (or worse) if we don’t meet a goal is important. Writing should be enjoyable, but we can easily turn joy into sorrow if we become too goal-focused. The upcoming year will bring changes for me (as you know). I’m already thinking ahead so that I don’t allow my new “full-time job” to become a burden.

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  16. My life, health-wise, doesn’t lend itself to setting goals. Luckily, when I am out of hospital and tapping, I don’t have a problem with roughly a thousand words a day, and I edit as I go.
    My current “target”, if I can change the angle on goal slightly, Joan, is to complete a second thriller, ideally reasonably early in 2022. I’ll let you know if I achieve it. 🙂

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    • I’m an edit as I go writer as well, Sarah. I like that you said target. That’s probably a better description. Sorry about your health issues, and I wish you all the best in meeting that target.

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