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Must-have must-do writing goals

22 February, 2010


Hildegard reading and writing

Hildegard reading and writing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


People use different search terms and land at one of my blogposts. One intrigued me: List writing goals a writer should have.

The word should  made me consider these  questions: What  are some  essential goals for writers wanting to be read? The  must-have must-do goals?

I’ve listed four.   What would you include on your list?

1. Make writing part of your life

To get to where you want in terms of writing, you need a reasonable and regular amount of writing time. But it is easy to let days and weeks slip by without writing

I regularly sit down to write. But what I find harder is the follow through,  reserving that time for exploring through writing. By that, I mean not using this time to talk on the phone, research, catch up on emails, check out writing competitions, read what other writers are doing.

In the writing time you do carve out for yourself, it’s important to use some of it for giving your imagination free rein. Some people call this exploration time  ‘priming the pump’ or ‘going to the well’. I like the latter for the mental picture of dropping a bucket into the well of my subconscious and dragging it up to the surface to see what I’ve caught. You may end up crafting a story from this creative exploration. Even if you do not, exploratory exercises can show you, again and again, the pleasure gained from working with ideas.

2. Read the kind of material you write

People often tell me that their goal is to write and publish in a particular area, such as children’s lit, crime fiction, romance, historical nonfiction.  Being sociable, I tend to ask who their  favourite authors are in their chosen area. Occasionally,  my question is embarrassing because the person cannot conjure up a single name.

Reading widely in your chosen field helps your writing. It shows you different ways to tell a story and makes you aware of what is conventional.  If  your goal is to get published, it helps  to know who and what is trending, as well as who and what has been successful in the past. Knowing your chosen your field means you can talk knowledgeably about it and identify where your story or novel fits.

But just because some topic becomes big doesn’t mean you have to follow it. Stephenie Meyer’s  mega-success with her Twilight series did not mean other writers should have scrapped their ideas and penned a derivative vampire love story. Trying to second-guess what will be popular is a losing game because it is almost  impossible to pick the next big thing in literature. Until recently, the epistolary novel—a story made up of letters back and forth between characters—was seen as a defunct form. After all, its heyday was in the mid-1700s, with the novels Clarissa and Pamela. Then along came two modern epistolary novels, Bridget Jones’s Diary and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and both had huge sales.


3. Challenge yourself

If you want to go beyond writing for your own personal enjoyment,  it pays to learn more about writing and work to expand your reading audience.


Learn more   Participating in a few well-chosen writing-based activities can inspire, educate, and improve your skills and knowledge. There’s much (sometimes too much) choice—books and magazines, websites,  face-to-face classes, online workshops. Some people opt to work with a supportive writing buddy or hire a coach or mentor. Some  join a peer writing group.

Gathering diverse and contradictory information from various sources can be confusing. And some offerings in writing education are not helpful for what you need at present. Some are expensive,  a huge investment.

Before committing to a learning opportunity about writing, clarify what you want to get and achieve. Assess if the opportunity provides this. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get details, especially before handing over money.

If the activity is ongoing—a  writing-based website you read regularly, a writing group you’ve joined—set a date for evaluating your experience. If it  has not been sufficiently rewarding,  jettison it.


Expand your audience  The old saying is true—you have to be in it to win it. If you dream of an audience beyond your immediate circle, actively seek more readers. How?

Enter writing competitions. Send your material out to relevant publications. Such activities have the advantage of sharpening your writing because you end up assessing how others may  react. E.g., Does my story make the kind of impact I want? Will readers like this character? Is that what I want or. . ?

4. Use goals to focus

It is easy to get caught in the hurly-burly of daily life and find that not only is your writing time slipping away, but your writing aims recede into the distance.

It helps to set specific writing goals, preferably with deadlines. Then identify steps to reach these goals in the timeframe you have set. You now have a focus on how to spend your time and energy.

An important part of working with goals is to reinforce them. Some writers set  a list of their writing goals where they see it often so it stays in the forefront of their minds. Some prefer to meet regularly with a writing buddy or group,  where there is the expectation of showing  progress. Too many excuses about why you didn’t progress tells you something.

Having definite writing goals also helps you back off  from whatever is not relevant to meeting your target.  It becomes easier to say ‘no’ to all those IBU—interesting but unimportant—activities that clutter your life and eats up time and energy.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jim Allen permalink
    30 April, 2014 10:30 am

    I think that the most important goal for me is to write every day. I call it my morning paper bc I think the very best time to write is as soon after awakening as possible. This is the time that I am closest to my id or subconscious from which all creativity flows. This is my warm up time, my morning exercise, free association which often leads into an idea for a new piece or something that I want to do with another piece that I am working on.


    • 30 April, 2014 10:41 am

      Hi Jim, I agree with the morning routine–although I’m naturally a morning person. My brain feels particularly receptive, unlike the end of the day, when I often feel overwhelmed by all the minutiae that the day has brought. Thanks for reminding me to make the best use of MORNINGS!


  2. 22 February, 2010 6:19 pm

    I think for me unplug the internet would be a good first move in the morning. Or get an ancient laptop that can only handle text documents.

    I think the first thing is true- make it a habit. I’m really bad at forcing habit and routine on myself, unless it’s bad habits, it seems, they seem to come naturally!


    • 22 February, 2010 6:33 pm

      Yes, so true, how the internet eats up time. Some people have the strength to unplug every morning–or so they tell me.
      And yes, funny how the bad habits are so enticing that we have no trouble keeping them up. And writing, because it is difficult at times, is more like trying to stay on a strict diet. Finding the balance is important: we need some ‘play’ to keep our thoughts fresh, but when does this start becoming escapism? Thanks for writing.


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