How to Make Your Writing Goals SMART

Last year one of my goals was to open a Twitter account.  IMG_4050

On December 31, 2011 I posted my first tweet. I don’t think I would have done that if I had only thought or even said to myself that I should start tweeting. I knew it was something that would help my writing career; social networking builds platform, right? But without a clear, specific, measurable goal, I would have gone on thinking about something I should do, but probably wouldn’t have done it or at least not for a long time.

This week I met another goal!

I submitted my first proposal to an agency. Again, while I knew it was the next step, and headed in that direction, it took a specific, measurable goal to accomplish it. My writer friend encouraged me to submit it within a few days of us talking or wait until after the holidays. That specific deadline challenged me in the best way to take care of something on my writing list in a timely matter. Without a measurable goal, you know the story…I’d probably be sitting here working in short bursts of “shoulds”. Instead, I have a proposal sitting in an agent’s office. (Thank you Sherry!)

But how do I make my goals S.M.A.R.T?

Most of us self-motivators have heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals, introduced by Paul J. Meyer in Attitude is Everything.  These goals are: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.  Let’s see how we can convert some “shoulds” into SMART goals.

Instead try: By the end of this year, I will open a Twitter account and post my first tweet.

This is a specific, measurable and time-bound goal because I listed a particular action to be accomplished within a set time period.  At first, a Twitter account didn’t seem attainable because I’m not very accomplished with technology, but as it didn’t require a degree or special class, I could attain it by simply checking into it. The goal became more relevant as I blogged and wrote more to build a platform.

  • I should learn my craft.

Instead try: I will attend at least one writing conference this year and practice writing by turning out 1,000 words per day. Or I will subscribe to Writer’s Digest and read each issue to learn my craft; and I will practice by writing 500 words per day.

You can see that naming an action like attending a course or subscribing to and reading a magazine and actually writing a specified number of words each day is specific, measurable, relevant and time-bound. Attainable may depend on your finances or time so adjust as your resources allow. If you need to work an extra three hours per month to save money for a conference, that can be an additional goal.

  • I should work on my novel.

Instead try: On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I will spend two hours writing my novel. Or, I will edit my novel from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. every morning until its finished.

  • I should look for an agent.

Instead try: By (fill in date), I will choose five agents from the list on Michael Hyatt’s website.

  • I should submit a proposal to said agent.

Instead try: By Friday of this week I will submit my proposal to the first agent of five on my list. After three weeks, if I have not heard anything, I will submit to the next agent. (Make sure these agents accept simultaneous submissions.)


I think you get the idea. Make it specific, doable and with a deadline.

Happy writing!

What ways have you made goal setting work for you? Has this post been helpful? I’d love to hear from you!

5 thoughts on “How to Make Your Writing Goals SMART

  1. Hi Laura,
    We must be on the same wave length. This is exactly how I lay out my goals.
    And I’m proud of you for sending our your first proposal. This past week I’ve sent out three query letters to agents for my baby’s first year record book, and oh so many more to go. My plan is to submit five a week.
    Merry Christmas! 😀


    1. It’s great to know someone else is thinking like I am too. Wow! I’m impressed Query Queen 🙂 I realized how anti-climatic writing tasks seemed after the sending of the query/proposal. I didn’t expect that. Like Christmas or a wedding–so much goes into in and then the day after you feel a little deflated. I need to regroup and keep going now! How do you keep the momentum?
      I hope you have a wonderful Christmas too:)


      1. You wouldn’t be normal if you didn’t have an anti-climax, but I think writing a proposal is much harder than writing a query. On the days I’m tired, I shuffle paper, doddle, and catch up on reading, and then I don’t worry about it because I know once my battery is recharged I’m good to go. Now working on the fifth letter. And Sunday’s I take the day off.


  2. Congratulations on sending in your first proposal! Whispering a little prayer that things will turn out as they should.

    This is the way I need to be lining out my goals. I actually have purchased and read a couple books on the how-to’s of setting and attaining goals. Time to buckle down and make things happen. The last thing I want is a life of ‘should haves’!


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