On Writing,  publishing

Got Your Goals?

New Year Firing Up…

The key is to set some goals. Not talking about some sort of silly New Year’s Resolution. I’m talking about real production goals with your writing.

You can and should also set business goals, but for this post let me just stay focused on production, the most important aspect of any writing business.

Remember: Goals are something that are in your control and that push you toward a desired objective.

How to Set a Goal?

Start with the objective. Then backtrack to set the daily and monthly goals.

Example: Say your objective is to write four novels in 2017.  Each novel around 60,000 words.

So back that up, divide it down into chunks that can be handled easily. Four novels is one novel every three months. So you need to take the 60,000 words and divide by 3 to get 20,000 words per month.

Keep chopping it up. Say you can write 5 days a week, 20 days total in a month. So every writing day you need to write 1,000 words. If you write 1,000 words in an hour, that’s one hour of work five days a week to produce four novels in a year.

That is something most people can do if they get out of their own way. (And please don’t ask me about rewriting. If you are writing sloppy and killing your book with a rewrite, not much I can help you with, sadly. Try to fix that deadly problem by the end of 2017 so you can write more in 2018. That would be a good goal for 2017.)

The Objective Problem

Most writers, me included, have trouble even trying to detail out an objective for a year. For some, the critical voice stops them from thinking something is possible. For people like me, new and shiny are problems. If I have done an objective once, why bother again?

Every writer is different and most objectives are not as easily worked out as four novels per year. If you have a clear objective that is simple like that, celebrate.

So let me use myself as an example this year that maybe some of you can take some hints from in setting your objectives and goals.

For me, my objective is to keep Smith’s Monthly going and basically on time. That means by next October, nine months from now, I need to produce eleven novels and about fifty new short stories.

And that would be to just stay even. I would rather get out ahead of the schedule, honestly.

So, following my own advice, I sat down and did the math. Eleven novels would be around 500,000 words at my normal novel length. Fifty short stories at around 5,000 words per story would be 250,000 words.

That’s about 750,000 words of fiction, not even Pulp Speed One (One million words)

So I know I can do that. And fill that objective. But it wouldn’t be much of a challenge. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt.

Objective Problem: Oh, oh… My objective wasn’t big enough to push me, and thus I would end up not giving the writing a focus and thus I would miss even that goal.

So tonight I backed down to the daily level and tried to come at the objective problem from the other direction.

I first asked myself one simple question: How much time in my schedule can I give fiction writing every day? Real time, consistent time? Even with all the things I have planned coming up, all the stuff at WMG, workshops, exercise, and travel.

At first the answer was four hours, then I backed that down to a safer three hours a day, seven days a week. I could get to my writing computer by 2 a.m. and get three hours in safely.

Most nights I could get there around 1 a.m. and get four or five, but not every night. And even some nights I can get there earlier in the evening. But not that often, sadly.

So three hours it was.

Then I looked at my writing speed and realized that I could manage in three hours or so about 4,000 words, either on a novel or a short story, without much problem.

So that would be the nightly goal. 4,000 words per night minimum. (I work better with word counts, not hours.)

So I did the math starting from there to see if it gave me an objective.

4,000 words x 365 days = 1,460,000 words. Pulp Three Speed. (1,400,000)

And that would be just fiction. And that would mean I would write about two million words in 2017 total. Pulp Speed Six, maxed out, basically.

Suddenly I had a challenge. And an objective and a goal.

The goal is to start a new streak and write at least 4,000 words a day of fiction. I will add the streak to the nightly tally starting tomorrow (1st).

Second Problem: Learning.

I have an intense desire to keep learning and getting better. And learning is critical to the business side as well as the writing side.

So I stepped back and realized that during this coming year I needed to put together some workshops that really challenged me. And do some new lectures for the same reason. Also, the Anthology workshop and the Business Master Class are massive learning experiences.

So I laid out a schedule for myself for workshops. And went back to my old way of learning during times away from the workshop stuff. I want to learn one new thing every day about writing or the business of writing. I have discovered in the past that just having that attitude opens up all sorts of learning every day.

So I have the objective there and a method to achieve it. Check.

Third Problem: Exercise

Since June I have lost about 35 pounds and I am down over a few years about 75 pounds from my heaviest weight. I have twenty more pounds to go and a solid running goal of a marathon in November and a half-marathon every month up until the marathon.

So I have a running goal objective set and a few goals along the way. But to prepare to run a marathon safely takes hours and focus I have not been giving it over the last few months.

So I looked at the 4,000 words and realized that if I set 4 miles as a minimum goal every day of distance, either walking or running, I would make the marathon without much problem and get rid of the last twenty pounds.

And then I realized that I have a very easy-to-remember daily goal. 4 by 4 by 1.

Four miles and four thousand words and one new thing.

Every day. The focus, the start of two new streaks going into 2017. And I might also detail out the detail I learned on certain days.

All of it will be great fun!

And that’s how I came up with my new focus and goals to get to my objectives by the end of 2017.

Hope that helps some in setting your goals and objectives.

2017 is going to be a really fun year.


  • Vera Soroka

    I’ve planned out the new year. I will once again try to get what I wrote published. I don’t know why I was so slow with it last year. I have to focus on getting it done and my writing time will be every morning. I’m planning on two writing sessions of 1500 words. I edit as I go after I finish three chapters and that has been working well. I will continue that. So my afternoons is open for that and when I’m not editing I will write short fiction. I also figured out the word count and how long it would take me to complete projects as I’m planning on only writing four days a week. The other day and weekend mornings will be for art.
    I’m planning on trying Patreon with my blog-Short stories & stuff. Will see how that works out. I have a reward plan worked out for it. I’m also going to open up a etsy store for my art and some of my books. I’m also going to explore Ingram Spark for POD.
    So, lots happening and it’s scary. I still have one distraction to deal with. That is part of what derailed me last year. I must come to terms with that. It will be an interesting year. I’m going to keep track of my writing like I did last year and in six months step back and see what I have accomplished. It’s going to be quite a ride.
    I wish everybody a great writing year!

  • Marsha

    Your goals sound challenging but doable for you. I look forward to watching your progress. I think that’s one of the keys to setting goals–they have to be realistic for the individual.

    I sat down yesterday and worked out goals for writing, business and personal for the coming year. I exceeded my 2016 goals so am pumped for 2017.

    Now, if you would just share the one thing you learn daily—don’t even have to detail it out unless it’s something you want to talk about—then those of us who are motivated can look into it ourselves. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. I would be most grateful. . .

    • dwsmith

      Got a hunch I will. Sort of will keep me focused as well. And the learning for me will be about writing and publishing.

  • Fred Aiken

    This post really hit home with me. I have been setting goals each year for the last two decades using the SMART system. [Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time dependent]. In early December, I decided to make my year end review early and found that I only achieved 45% of them. In that review, it struck me that the SMART system was missing two key elements. Reviewing goals once a year is insufficient to maintain a focus on them that would enable one to achieve them. And, based on that more frequent review, the goal needs to be reframed, restated, or revised for the upcoming periods to keep it on track. So, for 2017 my method will be SMARTER [Specific,, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time dependent, more frequently Evaluated, and Revised to reflect the results of the evaluation]. Thus, I have ten personal goals and twenty business goals. While you did not mention it, I also posted my goals on my website where people can see them as an attempt to hold myself accountable for their completion.

    I chose an arbitrary period of quarterly, which I thought would meet my requirement for the frequency of review and evaluation. It never occurred to me to do a monthly or weekly time period, let alone the daily period. That was illuminating to me and I applaud you for this insight.

    On my website blog, Thoughts for Tuesday, I described how the SMARTER system came into being. This Tuesday, my blog will list my goals for 2017 (the accountability aspect). The following week, my blog post will contain thoughts about goals from a variety of sources,. I would like to have your permission to add a quote from this post of yours concerning making the goal challenging and reducing it to a daily theme. Thank you.

    • dwsmith

      Wow, great stuff, Fred. Thanks! I love the SMARTER way of looking at things. I think as I tried to set mine I had the most problem with REALISTIC in that. I wanted to go to 5,000 words a day and 5 miles a day, but knew that there would be days that just wouldn’t allow that. So I had to drop back to realistic on what I could do on BAD days. It still adds up to a great goal, but I would never remember a quarter review. I’ve been trying to do monthly and that worked for a while a few years back, but it soon came to not matter to me. So daily is the only way I could do it in a streak format.

      We shall see, but for the first time in a while I’m excited again.

      Folks, some of you Fred’s SMARTER system might really work. Give it a look. Follow his blog.

      Thanks, Fred!

  • Sheila

    Thanks for the examples, Dean. I’ve found if I’m too detailed with planning I freak myself out and don’t accomplish anything. So my goals for this year are sort of vague, compared to some.

    As usual, your pulp speed post inspired me to set a goal of one million words this year. I think I can reach that, if I overcome my biggest issue: getting the words down. I need to be consistent, and I’m not. It’s a personal failing, I guess.

    Anyway, within those million words, I want to write at least four novels and as many other things as I can fit in, either to publish myself or to get into paying anthologies. I also have some nonfiction books I really want to get done (doll craft books). Every year I put them on the list, but life issues have trimmed them right back off.

    I’ve written and published more in 2016 than any previous year, and I know it can be better this year. It’s up to me to do the work.

    I’m always trying to learn new things as well. Don’t want to get stale, or fall behind the wave. And it’s fun!

    Now, if we want to talk about dreams, my dream is to sell enough of any one one book to qualify for SFWA membership. It’s something I’ve wanted since I was a kid, and I’m going to work on making it happen. (The next dream is to get a Nebula award!)

  • Linda Maye Adams

    Mine is “The Year of Craft.” I’ve been focusing on business; now I need to focus on craft. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that if I do word count goals or number of book goals, I end up failing in the wrong direction. It isn’t that I accomplish part of it and just all of it; it’s that I don’t accomplish any of it. So I’m trying an umbrella category that requires more writing to accomplish it. It looks more like fun than the other way.

  • Rob Cornell

    It would be very cool to read about the one thing you learned for the day. It would also allow me to cheat at the same goal. 😀

    Oh, and I think you left off a zero in your word calculations for the year at 4k per day.