Good Afternoon #Writers! ~ To set goals or not to set goals…

January 2019

Ok, I admit I have recycled this post properly now. It’s the end of January and so often we have a good old slump in the goals we have or have not set 😉 set ourselves for the year. I think it is a good thing to look back and see how far you have come and give yourself a pat on the shoulder. But let’s see what I had to say in 2017 and what Moira Allen had to say in 2015…

December 2017

It is December and many of us are reviewing the outgoing year and planning the new.

I am still pondering the question if I should set goals or not. In the last two years I have tried out to not really set goals, however, that doesn’t seem to work either. So much of what I want to do I still don’t do.

I am back to the goal setting thing but all old approaches do not work. So what will I change? For now, I am writing down what I want to do but without any time frame. At the same time, I work with Todoist and put tasks on my todo list but have a look at how often I managed to do them in the past. Some I want to do daily so I put them on daily some I can only manage weekly or even monthly. I try to be honest with me but at the same time try to push myself to be a little bit more organised.

2017 certainly was not the year of finishing unfinished projects but it was the year of showing me what I want to do with the rest of my life as well as becoming comfortable with where I am.

I think my biggest problem was, that I got discouraged with the amount I wanted to manage. At work, I had developed an attitude of “I do one at a time and don’t worry” and I think that is what I try out for 2018 in other parts of my life too.

I suspect its a bit of planning and a bit of following my intuition at the same time and maybe that is how I can get where I want to be. We’ll see!

December 2015

How is your writing going? Are you right on track or lacking behind? Do you have exciting new projects on your mind or are you struggling along with your old ones?

The End of 2015 is near

Only 3 days left of 2015 and like many others, I am reviewing the year and planning ahead. Well, I am not sure I can call it planning.

In 2015, I tried out setting goals for a 5 year period: I set long-term goals (5 years and for every single of those 5 years) and short-term goals (every month of 2015 and every week).

I wrote them down neatly in December 2014 in a little notebook and by the second week in January 2015 I scrapped the whole lot. Well, I lost the book and somehow got lost in all my goals too.

For 2016, I have decided to try out a new approach but you will learn about that next Monday. The first Monday of 2016.

Invitation to read about Setting Effective Writing Goals

For today, I have chosen to help those who would like to try out the “goal” approach. For this reason, I invite you to read an article written by Moira Allen, owner of, who suggests a way of setting effective Goals.

You can find the original post here: Setting Effective Writing Goals

Setting Effective Writing Goals 

by Moira Allen

One of the greatest challenges we face as writers is the lack of “structure” in our job. There’s no one to tell us what to do, when to do it, how to do it — or even whether we’ve done it well. (While acceptances are certainly a sign of success, rejections are not necessarily a sign of failure.)
One way to overcome that challenge is to learn how to set goals. Goals, by the way, are not the same as dreams. While you may yearn to become a six-figure novelist who regularly guests on Oprah, that’s not a goal. It’s a dream — and the only way you’ll achieve that dream is by setting measurable goals that will take you toward that dream, one step at a time.

Defining Goals

To be effective, goals should meet three criteria: They should be measurablemeaningful, and attainable.
Measurable. Many writers start with “qualititative” goals: We want to be a “good” writer, or a “better” writer, or a “successful” writer, or a writer who produces “worthwhile” material. But how do you define good, or successful, or worthwhile? Because these terms are so difficult to measure, such goals continually seem to slip from our grasp (or to be beyond our grasp).
Goals are useless if you can’t determine whether they’ve been met. (After all, it’s always possible to become a “better” writer.) Thus, quantifiable goals — goals that can be measured by some form of output or results — are often more effective. For example, you might set a goal of writing a particular number of pages per day, or sending out a certain number of queries per week. If you dream of becoming “rich” (or at least “self-supporting”), define a specific income goal — and the time in which you hope to reach it.


The gulf between where we are and where we’d like to be often seems to great to span. Goals can help by breaking the journey into short, attainable steps. If your dream is to become a best-selling novelist, but you’ve never set pen to paper, consider setting an immediately attainable goal such as attending a writing course, or taking a class online, or simply studying a book on novel-writing. A second goal might be to write your first story, write the outline of your novel, or actually write your first chapter. A third might be to seek feedback, perhaps by joining a critique group or by sending your story to an editor. Each goal marks a step toward your long-term dream, and each is attainable in its own right.

To set attainable goals, you must be honest with yourself about what you are able to achieve at this stage in your writing career. If you have never earned a penny from writing, for example, it would be unrealistic to set the goal of becoming “self-supporting” in a year. Similarly, if you’ve never written anything longer than the annual holiday newsletter, it would probably be unrealistic to expect yourself to complete a 600-page novel in six months.
Attainability also means recognizing what is physically possible in the world of writing. I once spoke with someone who was frustrated at having “failed” to become self-supporting by writing science fiction short stories — despite the fact that markets for such work average around 5 cents per word. At that rate, to earn even $25,000 per year (exclusive of taxes), one would have to write and sell 500,000 words per year (i.e., one hundred 5000-word stories, or an average of two per week).


In writing, it’s easy to be sidetracked by goals that appear worthwhile, but that don’t lead in the direction you want to go. This can often be the result of competing goals. For example, you may dream of becoming a novelist, but face the very real need to put food on the table. Consequently, it’s easy to postpone that novel (which won’t earn you a dime until it’s finished) for more immediately lucrative projects. In a situation like this, remember that competing goals don’t have to be an either/or proposition: You could resolve this problem by devoting 25% of your writing time to your novel, and the other 75% to income-producing articles.
Another source of sidetracking is the pursuit of someone else’s goals or recommendations for “success.” Writing magazines are full of sure-fire secrets and formulas, but often fail to mention that these strategies don’t work for everyone. For example, if you’ve set the goal of “getting up every morning to write before work,” that may work fine — unless you happen to be a natural night person, in which case you’ll either hate those hours of writing, or hate yourself for being unable to achieve the goal you’ve set. Similarly, if you’ve been told that a good writer always keeps a journal, but yours bores you to tears, you may come to the mistaken conclusion that you aren’t a “real” writer — or simply waste a lot of time in a pursuit that has no real meaning for you. At the same time, be careful about passing up opportunities just because they don’t seem immediately fulfilling. Taking a writing class, for example, may not seem exciting, but it could help you toward your long-term goals.

Short-Term Goals, Long-Term Goals, and Measures of Success

A wise writing strategy includes a mix of short-term goals (“Today I’ll locate five craft markets”) and long-term goals (“Someday I’ll write that novel”).
A good way to determine your long-term goals is to ask yourself where you want to be in six months, one year, five years, or ten years. By answering those questions, you define your vision and chart your course — and you’ll also be better able to determine whether a particular writing project is likely to contribute to your long-term goal or distract from it.
Long-term goals often build upon one another. For example, your goal for your first year of freelance writing might be to build as many clips as possible. Once you’ve established a varied portfolio, however, you might devote your second year to using those clips to help you target more prestigious, better-paying markets. You might find yourself moving from a “generalist” to a “specialist” — establishing yourself as an expert in a certain field. Conversely, you might find yourself choosing to broaden your writing horizons and potential markets by moving from tightly focused subjects to more diverse topics.
While long-term goals help you determine where you’re going, short-term goals help you decide how to get there. If your one-year goal is to “sell at least ten magazine articles,” your short-term goals might include conducting market research, writing queries, or submitting a certain number of articles per month.
Short-term goals are usually measured by “output.” Output goals are those in which you have complete control over the results: E.g., you will mail ten queries per week, or write three articles or stories per month. Typical output goals include:

  • Number of hours spent writing per day (or week)
  • Number of pages produced per day (or week)
  • Number of queries submitted per week or month
  • Number of projects (articles, stories, or chapters) written per month or year

Note that these output goals have short timeframes. A short-term goal doesn’t become a long-term goal simply by expanding the quota (“Submit 520 queries in a year”). Instead, long-term goals are best measured, not by output, but by results. The key difference is that while you can control your output, you cannot always control the results. Even though you meet your weekly quota of ten queries, you can’t control the editorial decisions and market factors that determine whether those queries will be accepted. (Few writers achieve a 100% success rate in any area of output.)
To determine whether you are “on schedule,” ahead of schedule, or falling behind in terms of meeting your “results” goals, therefore, it’s important to review your progress regularly. Have you been able to meet your output goals, have you exceeded them, or did you set them unrealistically high? If you’ve met those goals, are you any closer to your long-term “result” goal — or does it seem as distant as ever?
Such assessments can help you determine whether you need to change your long-term goals, or the short-term strategies you’re using to meet them. If, for example, your one-year goal was to “get something, anything, published,” and you’ve accomplished that goal in the first month, it’s time to set a new long-term goal. If, on the other hand, you’ve sent out ten queries per week for the last six months and have still not received a single positive response, it may be time to reevaluate your short-term goals: Perhaps you need to target different markets, reexamine the ideas you’re pitching, or learn how to write a more effective query. In other words, if your first six months of “output” haven’t brought you measurably closer to your long-term goal, don’t waste another six doing exactly the same thing!
And that, perhaps, is the most delightful thing about goals: You can change them. They are not graven in stone. They are not chains, meant to lock you into some sort of writer’s bondage. Quite often, they change themselves before you realize what has happened: A goal that had meaning a year ago may not seem so important now, while another goal you might not have dared aspire to before suddenly seems attainable. Your interests may change, your dreams may change, your skills most certainly will change — and as these change, your goals can (and should) change as well. The key is to remember that goals are not your destiny. They are simply highly effective tools that you can use to reach that destiny.

Find Out More…


Bite-Size Resolutions – Moira Allen
Goals and Resolutions: Mid-Year Course Adjustments – Moira Allen
Goals Are Worthless If… – Brian Jud
Planning Your Writing Career – Dawn Copeman

Copyright © 2001 Moira Allen


Moira Allen is the editor of, and has written nearly 400 articles, serving as a columnist and regular contributor for such publications as The Writer, Entrepreneur, Writer’s Digest, and Byline. An award-winning writer, Allen is the author of eight books, including Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer, The Writer’s Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals, and Writing to Win: The Colossal Guide to Writing Contests. In addition to, Allen hosts, a growing archive of articles from Victorian periodicals, and The Pet Loss Support Page, a resource for grieving pet owners. She lives in Maryland with her husband and the obligatory writer’s cat. She can be contacted at editors “at”


Copyright © 2015 by Moira Allen. All rights reserved.
All materials on this site are the property of their authors and may not be reprinted
without the author’s written permission, unless otherwise indicated.
For more information please contact Moira Allen, Editor


The last paragraph applies to not to I have printed it as it is part of the author’s permit to print the article

Maybe I should have listened to her in my goal setting approach in 2015 but that’s yesterday’s snow as they say in Germany. As I said above, in 2016 I try out a slightly different approach but need to refine it a little and will tell you next Monday.

And your goals?

Have you been good at setting and achieving goals in 2015 or did like with me everything go topsy-turvy?
I would like to repeat this question for 2019. How did your goal setting go and what is your approach to it?

2 thoughts on “Good Afternoon #Writers! ~ To set goals or not to set goals…

  1. I think the part about remembering that goals aren't cast in stone, that they are steps along the path to a destination, is a helpful distinction. There have been times when I've held onto a goal far too long, under the guise of not being a quitter. But goals do need to be evaluated from time to time. A good reminder.


  2. Now that is so true. I think my problem is/was that I am not flexible enough. I start to believe that you need to follow your inner guidance. It will tell you what to do at the right time. Thanks for stopping by!


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