Thursday, 6 October 2011

Setting Writing Goals

I'm a sucker for management speak, I am.  So when I first heard about making targets SMART I loved it.  SMART stands for:

Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-framed.  

So, instead of saying, I want to write a novel, you say: I want to write 2000 words a day of my novel so I have a first draft by Christmas.  

(BTW If you started this particular SMART target today, you'd actually end up with 140,000 words in your Christmas stocking. Now, that is an encouraging/scary thought.)

However, it's important to remember that some goals are not under your control.  I will never be a super-model, how ever hard I might want to be, because I'm simply too short and the wrong build, and no amount of wishing or hard work will make me taller or a slimmer-build.  

So when you set your goals, as well as making them SMART, make them under your control:

- Getting a publishing deal or agent isn't under your control, but sending out 6 submission packages every month is.  
- Writing 2000 words while your toddler is having a day time nap is, sadly, not under your control, but organising a baby sitter is.  
- Getting 1000 followers on your blog isn't under your control, writing good blog posts and commenting on other people's blogs is.  

Having goals that are out of your control is depressing.  Make sure achieving your goals is essentially up to you.


Diane Fordham said...

Hi Sarah - enjoyed your post. It made a lot of sense to me. I am often guilty of setting myself unrealistic expectations (goals) which leave me disappointed. Your post has opened my eyes...thank you.

Jim Murdoch said...

All of this is common sense. I’ve never been a great fan of goals in general. As far as I’m concerned if you do your best then what you achieve is what you were capable of achieving. That said you can direct your effort in specific directions. I like my goals to be set in broad terms. I aim to write and post a book review and an article every ten days but the idea of having to read a book and write a review in five days would have me in a total panic so I have a stockpile of over twenty reviews and articles so that I never feel under pressure to get an article out before it is ready. Most articles take me three days to write and so I have a two-day safety window anyway but the simple fact is that I make sure that I’m never pushing the envelope; that way quality is maintained. And then what happens when you get a 1030-page book to read (which took me a whole month by the way)? You dip into your stockpile. I’m down from 24 in hand to a mere 22 but I’ll catch up over Xmas when I’ll be posting less. I don’t like working under pressure and I don’t have to because I box clever.

Jen Black said...

Sarah, I enjoy your blog and see lots of good advice here. Can you remind me which word you use for polishing up a finish ms? I feel sure I've read your thoughts on the topic in the past, but can't seem to pick the right heading from the list on the side bar!

Sarah Duncan said...

Diane - unrealistic goals are the pits, because they tend to make you feel a failure if you don't achieve them, when the problem was with the goal in the first place.

Jim - I so agree about having the pressure taken off when you have work in hand making it easier to work on new pieces.

Jen - oh the shame of it, took me AGES to find where I'd put them. There's lots of stuff under Re-writing. I know. Editing would have been so much more sensible.

Jen Black said...

Thanks a million Sarah!That's where I'll be today!