5 Tips for Setting Achievable Writing Goals #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Welcome to another Author Toolbox Blog Hop post!

At the start of September I participated in the 14 Days to a Solid Writing Habit course from Writers’ HQ, and boy was it an eye opener.

I learned a lot, but the lesson that stood out the most was how unrealistic my goals are: I must write so many words, and draw, and read, and research, and exercise, and where’s the time to stop and just be in that list? Being on the go all the time is stressful, and my high expectations hit my writing hard, so this month I thought I’d cover how to set realistic writing goals!

5 tips setting achievable writing goals

1) Prioritise Writing.

Write a list of your daily commitments, including hobbies and things you do to pass the time. Cross off everything that’s not as important as writing. It could be watching TV at the end of the day, checking social media, whatever.

My big three were gaming, Netflix, and google news: I’ve disabled news on my phone and reduced my gaming and Netflix time. Re-direct your attention away from scrolling social media and write instead, don’t over-commit to things that are lower priority than writing, and focus on what’s important. Too tired to write at the end of the day? See point number 2!

Claw back every second you can to devote to writing. The extra time will make achieving your goals much easier! If writing isn’t a priority for you right now that’s okay: Take a break. Recharge. Don’t push yourself to burnout. (Just don’t forget to go back to writing someday!).

2) Re-define ‘Writing.’

What is writing anyway? Sitting down and churning out words, right?

Wrong.

Writing isn’t just about getting words on the page. It’s about planning, daydreaming, thinking about your stories, reading your notes or scenes, researching, profiling characters, and trying to dig yourself out of the plot hole you fell into in chapter 7.

When you set your goals allow time for more than words: My 3000 words in 3 hours goal was reasonable considering how much I can write if I know where I’m going with my plot, but if I don’t, 9/10 I fail my goal. I failed so often I gave up completely for a while.

wonderland-2895070_640
I used to daydream for hours before I wrote: When did I lose touch with that? I guess words are quantifiable, and I wanted something to show for my time if anyone asked!

The Writers’ HQ course changed my perspective and reminded me that writing is a process. It involves so much more than words, and I no longer stress myself out if I take a few minutes, or longer, to stare into space and daydream about my plot. Don’t just force yourself to write words without direction: Remember that background tasks count as writing too! 

3) Always Overestimate.

Don’t underestimate how long writing takes. If you set word count goals consider the above aspects of writing and allow time for them too. Do 15 minute word sprints. Figure out how many words you write in an hour, at your best when you know what you’re writing, then quarter it.

Yup. Quarter it. My new goal for 3 hours is 750 words. I feel relaxed when I’m writing now, instead of overwhelmed: My goal is manageable, and I look forward to writing because the extra time to slow down and think about my plot means I’m (finally!) making progress. It may take me longer to write a book, but I’m confident I’ll end up with a complete draft this time. For someone who continually stalls halfway through drafts that’s an exciting thought!

Some days I may write more than 750 words, or even reach my old goal, but it’ll be a pleasant surprise instead of what I expected of myself anyway. Only commit to what you can realistically achieve, consider your other commitments, set sensible goals, and always overestimate.

4) Allow for Downtime.

Downtime is essential for writers. Sarah at Writers’ HQ summed it up best: You think of the best ideas when you’re doing something else. This is totally true, so I’m going to spend more time out and about: I’ll walk along the beach, have coffee with friends, play D&D games, and enter Yu-Gi-Oh Tournaments because I’m a huge geek.

merlin the magical gaming cat
Merlin’s a geek too, because we’re bad influences!

Also, instead of expecting myself to stay at my desk for a solid three hours, I’ll consider how I used to work in my day job. I’d break up my day by sorting the stock room, printing and collating reports, making tea, chatting to colleagues, and switching up my tasks to keep it interesting.

I didn’t beat myself up if I wasn’t glued to my desk: So why should I when writing at home? Instead of punishing myself with extra minutes of work for the time it takes to make a cup of tea, chat to my partner, or cuddle the cat, I’ll let it slide. I’ll be kinder to myself about these small breaks: Chances are stopping to chat could help break my writer’s block anyway!

5) Write Regularly.

Regularly doesn’t have to mean daily. That advice sucks, and it doesn’t work for everyone. Some of us have lives and families, and we’d rather be living than writing daily. Do what works best for you: I’ve not read Stephen King’s On Writing (don’t tell my tutors, it’s on our reading list), and I don’t care what works for famous authors. I’d rather focus on what works for me.

Write out your weekly schedule. See where you can fit writing in, remembering point number 1. Commit to regular writing sessions each week, at the same time, and use your time wisely. Daydream about plot problems on the commute. Carry a notebook everywhere, to scribble ideas in when you’re stuck waiting around, and don’t overstretch yourself!

That’s it from me. Set reasonable goals, daydream, prioritise writing, and you’ll be fine.

scales divider copy

Thanks for Reading!

Writers’ HQ have a bunch of free articles on their website: I feel like I learned more in 14 days on their free course than I did in an entire year of my Masters degree, and I’m feeling more positive about my projects than I have in months. I’ve signed up to the next free course in October, the Short Fiction Mini Masterclass, which I hope will be equally as good 🙂

Have you come across Writers’ HQ? Do you set unrealistic goals, only to be disappointed when you don’t meet them? What do you count as ‘writing’?

Chat in the comments!

This post is part of the Author Toolbox Blog Hop, hosted by Raimey Gallant. To read more posts from the hop, click here, or on the image below:

ATB

My past posts: Writing for Ourselves.
Work experience in Publishing at Penguin Books.
Lessons in Storytelling from TV and Film.

Next week I’m either taking a break or writing a spontaneous off topic post, in the spirit of putting less pressure on myself!

Advertisements

40 comments

  1. Great post! I love your tips 🙂

    I need to prioritize writing more. For the first week of September, I was doing great. editing near daily. Then, after I returned from holiday, I kind of lost focus. Part of it was because I was going through some stress. But yeah, I focused more on drawing. I need to prioritize writing though. Sometimes, however, when I prioritize one, I end up doing less of the other. Like some days I will write a lot and draw little to nothing and other days I draw a lot, but write nothing. How do you usually balance drawing and writing?

    Yes!! I agree that writing should be redefined. We can’t always be writing. it doesn’t work that way. I agree that daydreaming and thinking of ideas counts! 🙂 Because we can’t write without those ideas. 🙂 And it’s more fun when we make time to imagine and dream 🙂

    Overestimating is great. Def less stress as you said. I used to push myself too hard. For instance, I set this giant goal of publishing this year, but I was pushing myself too hard and was not ready. So, now, I’m taking it slow and taking time to grow. 🙂 I love tip #3.

    Tip 4 is excellent too. I need to do that. I often push myself so hard to get so much done. I definitely have not allowed enough time for downtime. I need to do that more. Esp for weekends. And not get upset at myself for not getting much done some days.

    Yeah, I can’t write daily either. But I love tip 5 too. My goal is to now write at least 3 days a week. Wasn’t successful last week. But this week is a new opportunity! I’m excited. :).

    Thanks for sharing. I love your posts! :).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks 🙂 It was a fun post to write.

      Maybe the daily editing was too much? I find I do better when I commit to 4 writing sessions a week as it’s a habit I can keep up long term and it allows for breaks 🙂

      Balance is the tricky part. I was trying to write, edit, draw, read and research for university, and it was too much to try and juggle them all. I decided not to draw for a while, as at the moment writing and uni are more important. I’m less stressed as I’m focusing on less things, if that makes sense? As for balancing writing and uni, I drew up a schedule with time slots, and allocated writing, reading, and research to them. Having a plan makes it easier to fit everything in 🙂

      Exactly, I’m a massive daydreamer and my head’s often in the clouds 🙂 I’ve spent the past week plotting my story (for the 4th time). I haven’t written any words yet, but it counts as writing 😀

      When I first started writing I was the same. I thought I’d write and publish a book in a year, but I had a lot of learning to do. I think after university I’ll be ready though 🙂

      Tip 4 is something I’m still working on myself too: I’m trying to take one day a week ‘off’ where I do whatever I want, but it’s hard because I keep thinking I should be working on my goals. It’s not easy to take breaks/downtime when you’re used to pushing yourself! Good luck with writing three days this week 🙂

      Like

      • YW! Excellent post, Louise!

        Yeah, daily editing was too much. I had to force myself to do it. Did you do one writing session a day? Or did you do multiple sessions a day? I know you did 4 per week, but wasn’t sure if you did one a day or a couple a day 🙂

        That makes sense. I should probably make a plan. Do you make weekly plans?

        Haha that’s awesome. I daydream a lot too. Do you daydream in class? lol. And yes it counts! You will do great 🙂

        Awesome! You got this. I’m not sure when I’ll be ready. I’ve been writing off and on. I might be ready next year. We’ll see. 🙂 We should take our time though, no? :)…

        Thank you! I plan to go back to writing/editing 3 days a week this week too. We both need to keep to our breaks and not worry about taking them :).

        Hope you are doing well. How are you, my friend? :).

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks 🙂 I usually write for three hours in the morning in one long session!

          I do, I have a notebook where I list my weekly tasks and on what day I’m doing them. It really helps 🙂

          I was a terrible daydreamer in class, especially in my history degree. Lots of inspiration to be had in the past!

          Totally, we’ll take our time and get there eventually 🙂 You’ve got this, and good luck with editing!

          I spent most of the weekend typing up old notes from my notebooks but it’s helping with planning my story 😀

          Like

  2. My favorite point was #5 as that is something that has helped me tremendously. When I plan out my week and identify pockets of time to write, it helps me avoid feeling guilty the rest of the week because I know I’ve dedicated to focused writing time. I do, however, need to be better at prioritizing. While I do prioritize writing above almost every other activity, I find that I have simply too many hobbies. Even if I’m operating at 10% for each, my week fills up with all of the things I’m trying to pursue!

    This was a great post! Really got me thinking. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. An excellent post – one I feel all writers at all stages should read. Setting attainable, realistic goals is such an important element. Point #2 was especially bang on for me. There’s so much more to writing than putting down as many words down on paper as possible. Most of it ends up being garbage anyway. It’s important to know that writing involves everything from plotting to day dreaming – even if your word count doesn’t show it. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks 🙂
      Totally right: When I focus on writing as many words as possible most of it does end up as garbage! Even with a plan Nanowrimo doesn’t seem to work for me ^^” Daydreaming and writing slower is working much better!

      Like

  4. I am so bad about the making time to write. I’d fallen off for a few years so I set myself ‘hours’ and stuck to it until the book was done. After that I started to get lazy and while I still wrote and completed projects, I didn’t have the same dedicated/focused time. I need to get back to that and figure out a way to make myself stick with it. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  5. These are some really nice ideas, Louise. Thank you. I really like the idea of expanding one’s definition of writing. Research, brainstorming, all are part of the process, and we should feel good when we do them! I think the way of looking at things you lay out in this post seems very sane, reasonable, and kind to the self. Since you’ve been following these ideas, how has it been for you? Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks 🙂 It’s working well so far. Since I no longer feel bad for daydreaming and planning I’ve made much more progress. I’m also a lot less stressed, because I’ve dropped a few of the things I was trying to fit in that I really didn’t have time for. It’s easier focusing on less!

      Like

Share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s