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Setting Goals for Writing

Updated on October 7, 2013

Setting Goals for Writing

No matter what you write (or want to write), setting goals for writing is a great way to focus and make sure that you finish your project. Some people set goals for the number of words they write in a day, for how many hours they spend writing, or for a number of articles they write on different websites.

Setting goals for writing is especially important for people who write full time. If writing is your main source of income, it is critical that you meet your deadlines. It can be easy to get distracted with other things when you work at home, so setting and tracking goals can keep you focused.

There are many different strategies for setting goals for writing. Everyone has a different style of working. Perhaps a daily goal would feel to restrictive, but you might like a monthly target or some other way of tracking. Keep reading for tips on how to set goals and different methods of tracking to help you stick to them.

Featured Image: Write by spaceamoeba

Reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0, cropped by BlueObsidian

Screenshot of Microsoft Word
Screenshot of Microsoft Word

Setting Daily Goals

Writing a little bit every day will help you develop as a writer and get your story moving. That's why I recommend setting goals for writing on a daily basis. There are a number of different ways you can set your daily writing goals: the number of words you want to write, the amount of time you will write, and the amount of your project that you want to finish are a few of the major ways you can set up your target.

Here on Squidoo, for example, I am trying to create one new page every day. I also have daily targets for other websites that I write for, including my own blog. Because I write full time, I try to only set as many goals as I can fit into an eight-hour work day. After all, if you set your goals higher than what you can realistically achieve, you will never meet them and wind up disappointed.

Think about how much time you have to write each day. Even if you only have 15 or 20 minutes that you think you can spare, why not set that as your goal? Writing for 15 minutes a day is a great first goal. Don't let yourself think that it is a waste of time or that you can't accomplish anything in 15 minutes. That's almost two hours a week that you will completely dedicate to writing. Start setting your goals for writing where you are in life, not where you wish you could be.

Sometimes, having a website or community is a motivating way to stick to a wordcount goal. That's where sites like 750 Words come into play. The goal there is to write 750 words a day (about three pages).

One of my favorite features of 750 Words is that the site will send you a daily email reminder to visit and work on your writing. Particularly when you are starting a new routine, having a little poke to remind you to get to work can be nice.

Writing Down the Bones

Although this book is not about setting goals or targets, Writing Down the Bones focuses on writing practice. Natalie Goldberg is a firm believer that, like any other skill, writing should be practiced every single day. The best way to improve is by continuing to write and grow. Combine these ideas with a daily writing target and you have a great plan of action for people who do better with deadlines.

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, 2nd Edition
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, 2nd Edition

This has been one of my favorite books on writing for many years. My copy is highlighted and bookmarked so I can find the most inspirational passages. It isn't a book on style or technique, but it is one of those books that always inspires me to write more and focus.

Metallic Ballpoint Tips by photosteve101
Metallic Ballpoint Tips by photosteve101

Weekly or Monthly Targets

If daily goals aren't your thing, or if you want to set a bigger picture target to go with your daily goal, think about what you want to accomplish in a week or a month. Sometimes, setting a longer-term goal is better if you tend to beat yourself up for missing goals. After all, we will all have days that we won't meet the target. An emergency will come up, your family will need your attention, or the muse just isn't cooperating. If you set your goals on a monthly basis, you can work a little extra on other days to make up for the days you didn't get your work done.

This can work out for both fiction and nonfiction writers, no matter what the length of the project you are working on. Whether you want to get to a certain wordcount at the end of the month, need to complete a certain number of articles, or want to write a particular scene of your story, setting goals for writing on a larger scale can be a great idea.

When you are setting goals, don't forget to include the tasks you need to complete on the business end of writing. If you are trying to sell your work, you might want to include a goal for the number of query letters to send each month. If you are building a blog or website, think about adding a goal for the amount of promotion you will do. How many backlinks will you build to your work? How many posts do you want to send out via Twitter? While the words are one of the most important aspects of writing, there is a business side that make or break a career.

Featured Image: Metallic Ballpoint Tips by photosteve101

Image reproduced and cropped under Creative Commons 2.0


National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is an annual event that is held in November. Writers around the world try to complete at least 50,000 words of a new novel during the month.

Do you have a novel idea that you've never managed to get down on paper? Setting goals for writing a bigger project like this one can be a great way to get focused. The idea of NaNoWriMo is to just work on writing the first draft and not edit as you go. It's a great plan for people critical of their own writing.

No Plot? No Problem!

The creator of NaNoWriMo, Chris Baty, wrote this book as a guide to help people participating in the event or who are trying to create a novel in a month on their own. This book has many great secrets and tips to help you succeed in NaNo or other fiction projects.

No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days
No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days

The book has a week-by-week overview of what you should be doing to succeed at NaNoWriMo. If you prefer setting goals for writing on a weekly basis instead of a daily basis, this might be a good plan.

Screenshot of BlueObsidian's Monthly Target Spreadsheet
Screenshot of BlueObsidian's Monthly Target Spreadsheet

Spreadsheets, Charts, and To-Do Lists

Setting goals for writing is a great first step, but being able to track and follow those goals is important if you want to stick to them. There are tons of great ways you can track your goals and progress towards your goals. A few ideas for tracking projects:

  1. Make a daily, weekly, or monthly to do list. Sometimes a simple list is all you need. If you have the same goals and targets each day, you can set up a template on the computer to use each day.
  2. Put together a weekly grid. This is one strategy I love to keep track of all my commitments, projects, chores, and more each week. Set up a grid with the days of the week along the top and categories of things to do on the left (cleaning, errands, writing, work, etc - whatever your week entails). You can fill in the boxes with specific projects and cross them off as you finish.
  3. Take advantage of websites that offer tracking. Did you sign up for 750 Words earlier? Check out their metadata section to give you an idea of how you can track other projects using your words there. Plus, it keeps track of how many words you write each day, so you can see if you are making your goals every day (even if you set your own).
  4. Put together a spreadsheet. Use Microsoft Excel or your favorite other software to set up a spreadsheet to track your writing goals. There are tons of premade templates that can be used, or you can get creative yourself.

Pesonally, I use a simple Excel spreadsheet to track my freelance writing projects (see a frame from it to the right). While this type of spreadsheet feels a little restrictive for fiction, it is perfect for nonfiction projects. Along the top of the chart are all the different writing projects I work on during the course of a month, and down the left-hand column are the days of the month. Each day, I fill in numbers for what I worked on and accomplished.

For me, setting goals for writing is about making sure I've completed enough projects by the end of the month to pay my bills. An individual day isn't as important. So at the bottom of my spreadsheet, I list monthly targets for each one and have a line that sums up everything I did. This lets me see at a glance what I've been working on and what I'm neglecting.

More Books on Writing

There are tons of great books on writing, whether you are looking for a style guide or something more personal. This selection includes some of my favorite books. There are great selections for freelancers, novelists, and anything in between.

Are you a writer? Do you set daily goals and targets for your work, or do you just write when the muse inspires you? What process works best for you?

Do You Set Writing Goals?

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    • Dusty2 LM profile image

      Dusty2 LM 

      5 years ago

      Nice lens with some good writing tips. I like to outline my writing although I do not do write for an income. Writing is more for pleasure as I have always enjoyed writing and sharing my thoughts and experiences in hopes it will help someone else in the future. Again, Thank You for stopping by my lens and for everything else as I really appreciate it. Have a Great Day! (^_-)

    • treasuresabound profile image


      5 years ago

      Good tips, really working to set more writing goals and follow up as well.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      It is always necessary to add quality content and for that setting writing goals is always good.

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 

      6 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      I am just developing writing as a source of income and as a creative outlet. I still feel like single-subject lenses and individual poems are more my speed than writing longer works of prose at this point. This was a great reference lens.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 

      6 years ago from UK

      beginning to think that I should add a little discipline to my writing outlook. At the moment I write when I am in the mood - slow wprogress is very much the outcome. thanks for the reminder.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Good points. My daily goal is why I insisted on getting a smartphone with a thumboard. Its amazing what you can do waiting in line, or stopped at a train! It was one of my secrets to completeing my novel about a Vampire that works for the Vatican.

    • belinda342 profile image


      6 years ago

      Excellent Goal-setting tips for new and seasoned writers! Thank you for sharing this. Blessed.

    • Scarlet Spider profile image

      Scarlet Spider 

      6 years ago

      This is extremely helpful, well done!

    • NausetViews profile image


      6 years ago from Boston

      Very helpful tips. I like to use lists to keep myself focused on what I need to get done each day.

    • bushaex profile image

      Stephen Bush 

      6 years ago from Ohio

      SquidAngel blessings.

    • chas65 profile image


      6 years ago

      I don't set as many goals as I should. They are really important and will help us get more accomplished.

    • malena10 profile image


      6 years ago

      Useful tips here, thanks!

    • IrisHoppenbrouw profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice lens. It's simple, yet effective, well written and filled with useful content!


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