Writing Goals: Planning for 2018

Writing goals, both making and working toward them, should be a year round process. But at the end of the year, it’s good to look ahead and sketch out a rough plan for where you’d like to go. You should also consider the bigger picture, and how your writing fits into your life.

I’m not a big fan of the term resolutions. Resolutions are things you start ignoring by the middle of February. Instead, I prefer to set goals and then come up with systems to help achieve them. The system becomes the habit, and the goal the result. But how do you make and keep your goals? What makes them different from the forgotten resolutions?


If you took time to look over your 2017 goals last week, you may already have a good idea what works and doesn’t work for you. But regardless, I have a few places for you to start.

Things to Keep in Mind:

  • Focus on goals that are within your control. You may wish to sign with an agent, but whether you do depends on whether your writing is where it needs to be, and you connecting with the right person to represent you. Instead of making “get an agent” your goal, determine what you need to do to make it happen. Maybe you want to send out ten queries by the end of January, or five queries per week. Other goals within your control might be to complete the research for a project you’ve been considering, finish a first draft, or to send a short story out on submission — and keep sending it out if you get rejected.
  • Don’t be afraid to think big. Huge goals can be manageable; you just need to break them down into smaller bites. So if your goal is to write your first novel this year and you haven’t started, don’t shy away from it. Instead consider the typical word count for a novel in your genre and divide that by the number of weeks in your writing year. Now you have a goal of how many words you’d like to write each week to get that first draft done.
  • Consider the calendar when setting your goals. Are you going to travel a lot this year? Take that into account when scheduling your  writing goals. Chances are you won’t get much writing done if you’re touring the capitals of Europe. Also think about busy times at your day job, or commitments to host for the holidays.
  • Create a Balance. If you’ve chosen a major goal for the year, that might be your entire writing focus. You’ll break it into smaller, sub-goals that will keep you occupied all year. But you can also balance your year with several smaller goals, or a mix of larger and smaller ones. Some goals might be for later in the year; you might have one you start in January and aim to complete by late March, and another that starts in April. Wrapping up a few small goals early can be great for keeping you motivated.

Creating Systems for Your Goals:

Once you have your goals in mind, you want to determine what it will take to accomplish each one. Set yourself mini-deadlines to keep things on track. For instance, if you want to get an agent, you might set that goal of sending out a number of queries per month. But before you can do that, you must write the query. You also need to come up with a list of agents you wish to submit to, and decide which ones you want to query first. Your eventual system might include a schedule for researching each batch of agents, including what they rep and their submission guidelines, and personalizing your query slightly when it seems appropriate.

If finishing a first draft of your novel is important, schedule your writing sessions each week on your calendar. Set alerts so you don’t forget. And if you’re concerned about making enough progress, try giving yourself a “catch up” writing day once a month. Maybe make yourself accountable by joining a writing group, or finding a writing buddy, if you haven’t already

Checking in with your goals should become part of your overall system. Again, mark it in your calendar, for the end of the month or once a quarter. Just take a half hour to look over your goals and see how your system has been working. Is everything progressing well? Or do you need to tweak things a bit?

Be Flexible:

At the end of the day, these are your goals. You determine what they are, and how to achieve them. If they are truly important to you, you’ll find a way to get them done. Don’t hesitate to change things up mid-year if your ambitions have shifted. And if things are going better than anticipated, you can always add new goals later in the year. Ultimately, the idea is to keep on writing. Good luck!

2 thoughts on “Writing Goals: Planning for 2018

  1. Thank you for a very practical and useful post — and with time to carefully give this thought before Jan. 1. So many of my writing goals are dependent upon things beyond my control, but you provide good ideas on setting quantifiable goals that improve the likelihood of reaching my ultimate dream – to get representation and to publish.

    Do you have any opinion on services geared to helping writers, such as Writer’s Relief, Author Accelerator, NY Book Editors, etc.?

    1. Hi Dina! I tend to be wary of sites that charge you specifically to get your manuscript ready to submit, or that do the legwork of researching/submitting to agents on your behalf. For the first, there’s no guarantees they’ll be helpful and the costs can add up. For the second, you really want to check out the agents and submit to them directly because only you know your work and what you may want to write in the future well enough to see if someone might be a good fit.

      That said, I’m always all for finding a good writing class, writing group, or writing support organization. The difference is they help you learn to write better, get a feel for the business end of publishing, and provide lots of opportunities for networking. Local libraries and bookstores often know about nearby writing groups. Classes can be found online and in person. Groups to look into include AWP (Assoc. of Writers and Writing Programs), SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators), RWA (Romance Writers of America), SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America), and so on.

      Beyond that, Publishers Marketplace is a wonderful site with both free information about what agents are looking for and recent publishing news, and a monthly subscription that allows access to the more detailed deal listings. This is the sort of thing where you can just go in when you’re ready to research agents and join for a month to do your searches, rather than make a long-term commitment.

      Finally, developing relationships with other writers who can give honest critiques of your manuscript (generally exchange for the same from you) can be a great way to get feedback. While some writers have taken to hiring developmental or copy editors prior to sending work out for submission, I personally see this as problematic. I want to see what a writer’s work looks like before a professional gets their hands on it, so I know their capabilities. I think hiring these types of pros only really works for writers planning to self-publish, where they are replacing the work normally done by a publishing house.

      I hope some of this helps!

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