It's a brand new year, and the sun is high, and all the birds are singing that you're gonna die (wait, sorry, wrong reference). 2013 is upon us and so we're all gearing up for a more productive version of us this year, especially when it comes to writing. "This year," you tell yourself, "is the year I'll finally get out of my pajamas and write that damn book. The book that will change humankind for the better. The book that will oh look a squirrel!" Using the SMART method when setting your writing goals, you're better equipped to stay on track and know when you succeed. This method will make your goals Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.
Saying "I'm going to write a novel" is admirable, but it's a bit vague. Narrow is down a bit. How long do you plan on making the novel? In which genre are you writing? Something like "I'm going to research, write and edit an 80,000 word epic fantasy novel and have it suitable for submission"
"I will complete researching my novel by April 1st. I will complete the first draft of the MS by October 1st (averaging roughly 500 words per day) and have edited the novel by January 1st 2014".
This is an important one. Can you actually achieve what you set out? Writing a novel in a year from scratch might sound good in your head, but with working lives, family commitments and everything else that gets thrown at you, are you able to knuckle down and do what you set out? If not, change your goal. It's better to succeed at a small goal than to fail at a big one.
The answer to this one will almost always be "yes". If you're writing a novel, chances are it'll be very relevant to you because you're the one writing it. Saying that, take some time to ask yourself why you're writing. If you want to write a book purely because you want to be a famous author with all the sex, drugs and rock 'n roll that goes with it, and you have no story or itch to back it up, then your goal isn't relevant to you.
Most novels never see the light of day because they fall into the ether, never to be completed or seen again. Making your goals Time-bound gives you set deadlines by which you need to complete your goal. In this case, the entire novel will be completed and ready for submission by January 1st, 2014. The planning, writing and editing stages also have their own deadlines, and if you can break it down into smaller deadlines again, all the better.
So by making your goals SMART, you've now gone from,
"I'm going to write a novel!" (reaction: "yeah, sure you will. I'll believe that when I see it.")
"By January 1st 2014 I will plan, write and edit an 80,000 word epic fantasy novel that will be suitable to submission to agents. Planning will be completed by April 1st, the first draft of the manuscript will be completed by October 1st (averaging 500 words per day) and final edits will be completed by January 1st 2014" (reaction: "wow, that sounds great! I can't wait to read it!"
Whilst this w
ill all help to add structure to your writing goals, don't let it constrain you too much. If you let your rigid goals stifle your creativity, then it's not going to work out for you. Make sure you still have some freedom to write the story you want to tell, but use these SMART goals to help you on the road to publication.
What are your writing goals this year?
Insecure Writer's Support Group page, and you can also follow it on Twitter at #IWSG. I'm co-hosting this month's IWSG, so I'll be visiting some more of you today!