Whether you’re participating in the official NaNoWriMo or not, November is National Novel Writing Month, and for many people, that means setting a writing goal and sticking with it. Of course, by mid-November, more than a few people have fallen off the bandwagon, or maybe even missed the boat all together.
Or course, there’s no such thing as being “too late” when it comes to writing, so even if your November hasn’t gone as planned up to this point, there’s no reason you can’t regroup and start fresh!
So, using the SMART system, let’s go over 5 excellent steps that you can take to get your next writing project on track.
Be specific about your writing goals.
Grab a blank piece of paper or a new word doc, and start brainstorming:
- What writing goals do you want to accomplish?
- Who else will be involved in your project (if anyone).
- Where (if this matters) will you be completing your writing tasks.
- How do you plan to accomplish these goals?
Personally, I like to go all-out on this step by listing everything I want to accomplish no matter how unrealistic it may seem. Then, I pare it down and weed out the follies later. Ultimately, the goal here is to just get all of your goals out of your head and into reality.
Next, ask yourself: How can I measure the progress of my goal?
Although we all love a little NaNoWriMo action, word count isn’t the best system for everyone or for every project. For example, maybe your writing goal isn’t to write a new novel, but to begin querying for something you’ve already completed. If this is your goal, you might want to set guidelines based on how many agents you’re willing to submit to, or how many submissions you plan to complete each day.
Whatever system you come up with, make sure that it makes sense with your project and that you can reliably use it to keep track of your progress.
Once you know what your goals are and how you plan to measure them, ask yourself if they are attainable. If you want to publish a novel, but you haven’t ever written a book before, consider making it your goal to complete a novel instead. After all, you won’t be able to send queries if you don’t have a completed manuscript.
Or, if you’ve completed a novel but haven’t done any revision work, consider setting up a timeline during which you plan to reach out to Beta readers and receive feedback. Ultimately, you can set multiple smaller goals over the course of time in order to achieve your end goal. Think of it like goal inception.
The fourth step in setting up a SMART goal is to consider whether or not your goals are relevant. Depending on what your goals are centered around, this step may feel a little meta, especially for writers, but ultimately, the question is: For what reason do you want to accomplish this goal?
Writing a book is time-consuming, and at times, it’s downright hard. Your reason for wanting to do it doesn’t have to be complicated — after all, many authors admit that not writing is simply not an option — but you do need to have a reason. Why? Because when the going gets tough, this reason will be there to remind you why you ever wanted to accomplish this goal in the first place.
5. Time Frame
Finally, once you have all of your priorities organized, set a reasonable time frame for yourself. What’s your deadline for completing this goal?
Personally, when working on a new project, I find that it’s helpful to do a “trial week.” During this week, I work toward my goal and notate how much I’m realistically able to accomplish. Then, I create the full timetable for my goals.
For my most recent project, a revision of my upcoming novel Pieces of Pink, I outlined the story as if it were a TV show that I was watching, just to make sure that I didn’t have any dead scenes or chapters. Once I had my full outline, I began rewriting my draft from scratch without even looking at the original text. And after seeing my first week of progress, I was able to set my ultimate goal for completing my revision.
Of course, the journey doesn’t end there. Now, that my revision goal is nearly complete, I have a whole new set of goals, including: receiving a second round of notes from my Beta readers, editing, proofing, and preparing for publication on March 8th, 2020!
In the end, however long your writing journey may feel, setting manageable goals for yourself can help make the ride a little less bumpy. So goal and get ’em! (Sorry guys, that pun sounded way better in my head.) And good luck with your writing.