I gave up making resolutions years ago, but I firmly believe in the power of goal setting, and in this case, setting your writing goals for the new year. Resolutions tend to get forgotten or dropped within weeks. Goals, however, if made correctly, can carry you through the year. What do you want to achieve in 2024?
Start by assessing where you are now. How far did you get with your writing goals this year? Were the goals you set realistic? Manageable? Or did you set yourself up for failure by overloading your schedule? Make note of what worked and what did not. Write things down, in a notebook or your planner or the app of your choosing. Just make sure you track your progress somewhere where it’s easy to go back and review over the year.
Next, think about where you’d like to go. For this stage, think big. Don’t limit yourself to what you want to achieve in a year, but envision a career path and the things you’d like to do along the way. It might stretch five years out or even ten. If you’ve done this before, revisit your previous ambitions and see if you still feel the same. Goals and dreams can alter as you move through your career. Don’t hold yourself to a plan simply because you drew it up three years ago. Let yourself be flexible.
Setting Your Writing Goals
Once you have the big picture down, consider what it will take to get from where you are currently to the next point on your career path. Focus on steps that are within your control. For instance, you night want to get an agent, but the timeline for that isn’t entirely up to you. Instead, making the goal to work toward getting an agent. Set a timeline based on the steps you will take: writing a query letter, making a submissions list, sending out queries in batches.
Even though we are looking at New Year’s goal setting, don’t tie yourself to the one-year schedule. If your goal is to write the first draft of a new project, you might take a year, but you might take more or less than that. Base your writing goals on your own work habits. Maybe you write daily, in which case a goal of 1,000 words per day might get you a draft by the start of April. 500 words per day result in a six-month draft. But if you’re a weekend writer, those same drafts might take a year or two. Don’t set your writing goals according to someone else’s idea of how you should work (unless, of course, you’re working to deadlines).
I find setting a variety of goals really helpful. One major project might stretch for the year, while smaller ones can be completed in a month or a quarter, giving me a sense of accomplishment that motivates me through the year. Not every goal should start January 1st, either. You might have additional stages that kick in come spring or summer. It could be the next stage of an earlier goal, research you plan to focus on during a vacation, or something completely new.
Breaking Down Your Goals
Consider all the steps you need to take to achieve your goals. Break the process down as far as you can go. It’s not enough to say writing 500 words every day will net a draft in six months. When do you plan to write? Where? If you miss a day, how do you plan to make up those words? Will you write on holidays?
Next, determine what will prompt you to work toward your goal. Do you need an accountability buddy? To set calendar reminders? Are you the type of person who works well if there’s a reward? Maybe you’ll treat yourself to writing at your favorite café once a week or celebrate with dinner out once you’ve finally hit send on that first batch of query letters.
Tracking Your Progress
Be sure to check in on your progress with your goals as the year goes by. Every quarter, or even monthly, if you have fast-moving goals, take a moment to review your plan. How are you doing? Do you need to change anything to make your plan work more smoothly? Have circumstances cropped up that require you to reconsider the systems you’ve set in place? Your writing goals are yours; only you can determine if they’re still what you want. Checking in gives you the chance to make sure you’re heading down the correct path.
Take the next few days to consider what you want your writing life to look like in 2024. And of course these tips for goal planning work for goals of all kinds. If you enjoy reading self-help books, I’m a fan of The 12-Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lexington, mostly for the way they discuss breaking down goals and using smaller chunks of time to maintain momentum during the year. There’s also a version geared toward writing goals: The 12-Week Year for Writers by A. Trevor Thrall, Brian P. Moran, and Michael Lexington. I haven’t had a chance to read the latter yet, but it’s on my TBR and I’m interested to see how they adapt the concept for writing projects.
Have you already started setting writing goals for 2024? Are you excited for the new year?