~Annie Cronin Romano
If you’re planning on jumping aboard the writing carrot cart, the first thing you’ve got to do is set a writing goal. This may sound straightforward, but it’s not quite as simple as you might think. Setting goals is, in itself, a kind of art. “I am going to write a novel” is not going to cut it. Why? Believe it or not, it’s too broad. Of course, you need this overall objective, but you’ll want to break it down. To be viable, writing goals, like all goals, need have certain elements. In business and education, these are called SMART goals. Really! I’m not making this up. Let’s take a look at these, shall we?
SMART is an acronym which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely (or Time-based). These are the characteristics you want your writing goal to have.
First, your goal needs to be specific. What are you going to be working on? A poem? Generating ideas for picture books? A chapter of your novel? Researching agents? Decide what project your goal relates to and specifically state it. “I’m going to work on a picture book draft.” Good start.
Making your goal measurable will help you gauge your progress. How much are you going to accomplish? You need your writing goal to state how you are going to measure your progress. Are you going to write three poems? Come up with five picture book ideas? Complete one chapter of your novel? “I’m going to complete a 600-word picture book draft.” Even better.
Is your writing goal attainable? That means you’ve got to be realistic. Ah, we writers are totally based in reality, aren’t we? When my book hits the NY Times Bestseller List… Be honest! We’ve all thought it! And there’s nothing wrong with that. Yet it’s crucial that your writing goal is based in reality, or you’ll set yourself up for failure. Life will get in the way and prevent you from meeting goals from time to time. That’s okay. But if you only have two hours free this week, then setting a goal to write ten chapters of your book is probably not feasible. Make sure you have--or are willing to make—the time. You want to push yourself…just not over a cliff! “I’ll draft, revise, edit and my entire novel, research editors, and have my manuscript submitted by the end of this month.” Whoa! Really? Good luck with that. “I’m going to complete a 500-word picture book draft by the end of the month.” Now you’re getting somewhere, Sparky!
Be relevant. “This week, I am going to teach myself how to make the perfect chocolate soufflé.” Good for you. I always wanted to try making one of those myself. But what does that have to do with writing? Unless you’re writing a cookbook or a culinary memoir, that goal isn’t relevant. Make sure to keep your goals in line with your writing project. “This month I am going to read four middle grade novels with 1st person narrators to get myself in the mind frame of 1st person point of view for my book.” There you go! Relevant!
Timing is everything, isn’t it? And having a timely, or time-based, goal is key. Saying you’re going to write a novel is terrific, but if you don’t give yourself a time frame, you could still be saying that ten years from now. Set a deadline and stick to it. “I will draft the first three chapters of my novel by May 15.” Ha! You got it!
Consider all these SMART goal elements when setting goals for your writing. Of course, you’ll have a big-picture goal (I’m going to write a young adult novel), but breaking that goal into specific, doable pieces and sticking to your deadlines will help you make progress and meet your ultimate writing goal.
Now go set those SMART-y pants goals and earn those carrots! Chocolate, that bottle of wine, a round of golf, a trip to the book store, a beach day, chocolate…did I suggest chocolate already? Hmm…