What to Do When Your Writing Goals Seem a Long Way Off
This post was originally published in September 2017 and updated in October 2020.
What do you want to achieve with your writing?
You might have all sorts of goals. Perhaps:
- You want to win a short story competition.
- You want to make an extra $500/month freelancing.
- You want to make a full-time living as a fantasy novelist.
- You want to sell 100,000 copies of your latest book.
- You want to get a book onto the New York Times bestseller list.
Some goals are more “realistic” than others. Some goals might take years or even decades to achieve.
Whatever your writing goals are, you might feel that they’re a very long way off. If you’ve currently written a total of two short stories, ever, then making a full-time living writing fiction is going to take a while.
When your goals seem so far away, it’s easy to get discouraged – or even to give up entirely. And yet, if you don’t set goals for your writing, you’ll end up feeling that your time needs to go on something “more important” than writing.
To stick with writing even when you have big, tough goals that are going to take a lot of work, it’s important to:
- Set intermediate goals for your writing
- Get support from other writers
- Review your progress regularly
#1: Set Intermediate Goals for Your Writing
Let’s say your big, “I’ve made it as a writer” goal is to sell 100,000 copies of your book.
That’s a pretty huge goal. It’s also one that’s easy to break down. Intermediate goals might look like:
- Sell 100 copies
- Sell 1,000 copies
- Sell 10,000 copies
- Sell 50,000 copies
Each stage is another big step on the way to your goal, and each gives you a good target to aim for.
Some big goals don’t break down quite so easily. If you want to “make a living writing novels”, for instance, you’ll need to think about what meaningful steps you can celebrate along the way. Those might be:
- Completing the first draft of your first novel.
- Publishing your first novel.
- Reaching $100/month income from your novel.
… and so on.
Little steps really do add up. It can be much more motivating to aim for something that’s reachable within a few weeks or months, rather than to constantly look ahead at a goal that lies years in the future.
You may even feel that you’re happiest setting smallish, short-term goals and not worrying about what your next step or goal is going to be … that’s fine too. You don’t have to have big goals.
#2: Get Support from Other Writers
To stick with writing over the long-term, you need companions on your journey: fellow writers. They’ll be an invaluable source of encouragement and of practical help and support.
Some great places to find supportive writers include:
- Local writing groups. If your area doesn’t have one, set one up! All the groups I’ve been part of have been friendly and supportive, and an excellent way to share my writing and get feedback (nerve-wracking though that may be).
- Online forums and groups – There are lots of different forums, Facebook groups, and other online communities for writers out there. These can be a great place to meet other writers, to share tips, and to get support and encouragement.
- Blogs and podcasts. If you wish you could be mentored by a more experience writer … well, often, you can! There are some excellent blogs and podcasts about writing that’ll teach you a huge amount (and you’ll often find out about lessons that other writers learnt the hard way). Try The Creative Penn, Helping Writers Become Authors and The Write Life.
#3: Review Your Progress Regularly
My husband and I often talk about our different goals on Sundays, and share how we got on during that week. We don’t always have much progress to report – but doing this weekly helps us to stay focused on our goals and support one another.
You might want to record your progress in a notebook or app, share it with some trusted friends, or share it in the context of a writing group.
Sometimes, when you’re reviewing your progress, you may feel that a particular goal isn’t right for you after all. That’s fine – you can change it! When I was in my late teens and early 20s, my big goal was to make a living writing fiction. I started freelancing when I was 23 and found I loved it – more than a decade on, I freelance and write fiction.
What are your big writing goals … and what’s your next milestone along the way? How could you take your next few steps toward that milestone today?
I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children.
Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.
If you're new, welcome! These posts are good ones to start with:
Can You Call Yourself a “Writer” if You’re Not Currently Writing?
The Three Stages of Editing (and Nine Handy Do-it-Yourself Tips)
My contemporary fantasy trilogy is available from Amazon. The books follow on from one another, so read Lycopolis first.
You can buy them all from Amazon, or read them FREE in Kindle Unlimited.
Some good tips, but it’s always best to concentrate “Writing Goals” on things writers can actually control. We can’t control being on a bestseller list, for example, since readers make books bestsellers, not authors. We can control things like writing every day and finishing our projects. Thanks for the tips.
I absolutely see what you mean, Alexandria, and personally I don’t have bestseller lists anywhere in my goals … but I know some indie authors can, and do, aim at being on the specific lists, carefully tailoring their marketing activities to get them there. (Joanna Penn’s written about this here: https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2016/08/20/usa-today-bestseller-ad-stacking).
As I say, it wouldn’t be my goal … but I wanted to include it as I know it’s something that a few authors might be aiming for.
A really great post, encouraging and motivating. I’ve had the worst day here, but it’s helped cheer me up a lot. I shall have a look at my goals tomorrow and set some achievable ones.
Aw, I’m so glad this could be a bright spot in what sounds like an awful day (and I hope today’s a better day for you). It can be so tough to keep going as a writer at times. Hope your goal-setting goes smoothly — do feel free to come back and share your goals, if you’d like to. 🙂
A really great post Ali, I need to review my goals and make sure I’m moving towards them. I’m a fairly new freelance writer and I’ve just spent a couple of days reading through your Making Time For Writing ebook. It’s excellent, really helpful and encouraging. It’s given me some motivation and ideas for fitting writing in to smaller blocks of time, so thank you for the fantastic resource.
Thanks, Claire — I’m so glad you found it helpful! Very best of luck with your goals, and do let me know if there’s a particular topic you’d like to see me to cover in a future blog post.
Great post! When you write, you feel alone sometimes. Reading about weekly goals, I do not fee alone when I try to balance work, school, and blog. Thanks for the advice.
Enjoyed reading your article about setting up intermediate goals. Thanks 🙂