Check listToday will be a different sort of JumpStart Monday. If you haven’t already, I challenge you to come up with some clear writing goals for the coming year, using some of my tips below.

If you’re like me, you start the new year bright-eyed and optimistic that this is the year you will write faster, smarter, better, more, etc. And as the year wears on, you find you aren’t doing any of those things.

Every year I help round up the writing goals for my critique group, the Wild Writers, and every year I either set too many or goals that are too involved to complete in a year.

Coincidentally, some of my tips are similar to the SMART methodology that Julie Anne Peters writes about on our Wild Writers blog today. I’ll leave the more detailed description to her – here I’ll just provide some tips I’ve developed that I hope will help me (and you) do a better job of setting and achieving goals.

  1. Set goals that are within your control (achievable). In other words, instead of “get a publishing contract” or “get an agent,” neither of which you have absolute control over, set a goal you do have control over, like finishing your manuscript or sending out x number of queries to agents.
  2. Break your goal down into smaller goals. If your goal is to finish your novel, set mini-goals for accomplishing that such as the number of words, pages, scenes, chapters you will write each day/week. If it’s to market an existing book, list the things you have to do to make it happen.
  3. Give yourself deadlines. In addition to setting a goal you can control, give it an end date and then put it on your calendar. This includes deadlines for mini-goals.
  4. Put your list where you can see it every day. The last two years I’ve forgotten to put my list on the wall by my computer. This meant I went along per usual and eventually forgot about my goals until it was time to come up with them for 2013. This year I’ve decided to set reminders that will give me an electronic nudge that pushes me toward my goal.
  5. Be realistic about what you can accomplish. Can you really write a full novel, two short stories, revise another novel, set up your website, and create a marketing plan in a year? Take a good look at what other responsibilities you may have–family, work, community–and make sure you can reach your goals. Better to have only one or two goals that you can actually complete than several that you don’t even get to. For 2012, I set five goals and only met one of them – marketing for Rock On, which was released in March. It was the most straightforward of the goals so it was the easiest to accomplish; but I was disappointed not to have met any of my writing goals. Just now, during the writing of this post, I went back to my 2013 goals and removed one of them–if I happen to do more, great! But let’s see if I can get the three done that are now on the list.
  6. Reward yourself for your accomplishments. I like sharing my goals with my group and then being able to report when I’ve reached a milestone because their enthusiasm and encouragement boosts me and makes me believe I can keep going. But a reward can be anything that marks your accomplishments and makes you feel good about your progress–anything from buying yourself a new book to new writing supplies, taking a class or even just your favorite treat. Whatever you do to celebrate yourself…do it!

Also check out this great piece by Brandi Reissenweber from The Writer magazine (January 2012): How Do I Keep My Resolution to Write More This Year?

Tomorrow I’ll list my goals – you’ll get a peek at them ahead of my critique group unless some of them wander by my blog.