A Twist on Goal Setting

Welcome to a new year. It hardly seems possible, but it’s January again. It seems like it was January just last week.

Last year at this time, Danielle and I were discussing the idea that became Indie Plot Twist. As I recall, we’d been talking about it for several weeks leading up to the February launch, but it was our big goal for 2014.

Now, it’s nearly a year old.

Goal setting is—or should be—part of every writer’s year-end activities. There’s no such thing as “too early” when it comes to goal-setting. It’s never really too late, either, though the longer you delay setting goals, the longer you delay accomplishments.

I’ve been spending time at the end of each year setting goals for at least fifteen years. Quite likely longer. For much of that time, goals revolved around painting and were pretty straight forward. Finish fourteen paintings a year (one a month and two extra), go to this or that trade show (usually two a year), etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Setting writing goals has always been more difficult. I knew when a painting was finished. How does one know when a novel is finished? Is a novel ever really finished?

The last couple of years, goal setting has been a chore. Setting goals for 2014 was a depressing chore! I kid you not. I was so not looking forward to working on goals for 2015 that I started in October. It seemed like a good idea to do a little at a time and take my time.

That did help, but not as much as finding a new way to determine goals.

A New Twist

Randy Ingermanson’s December e-Zine included an article on goal setting (appropriate, right?).

But rather than go through all the usual questions, Randy put forward four questions.

  1. What is the most fantastic thing you want to do this year?
  2. What is the outcome for accomplishing this goal?
  3. How much time and money will it take to accomplish this goal?
  4. Do you have the time and money to accomplish this goal?

Simple right? Why couldn’t I have thought of that?

The foundation for these four questions is that the goal has to be something you control. You can control how many agents you query in a year, so that’s a good goal. You can’t control how many agents accept you as a client, so that isn’t a good goal. The goal you choose should be fully within your control.

What I Did

I read that article in mid-December. I liked it so much, I copied the questions into a fresh document and began pondering the possibilities.

What was the most fantastic accomplishment I could think of that was within my control? That was easy: Writing a novel and getting it ready to publish. What a stunning idea!

I then worked through the answers for the other three questions. I calcuated the amount of time I thought it would take to draft, revise, edit, and polish a novel (about 200 hours). I divided that into the number of work days this year (roughly 260…52 weeks multiplied by 5 days) and came up with a goal of one hour per day of story work.

Did I have that kind of time? Every day? For a year?

The answer was yes, so I added that to my list of daily goals.

Will it work? I don’t know. But I now have a target at which to aim and I do know that it’s a lot easier to hit a target that exists than it is to hit an imaginary target.


The cool thing about this method of setting goals is that if I have more than enough time and money for the first fantastic goal, I go through the process again until I run out of time or money or both.

Does that mean I trashed all the more standard goals such as word count? Not at all. But I set word count goals from a more informed perspective. I knew about how many words I’d have to write to accomplish that fantastic goal. Divide that word count by the number of work days in the year and—wa-la!—I have a daily word count AND a Big Picture goal to work toward.

So what’s the most fantastic thing you can think of to accomplish this year?

Click here to read Randy’s article.

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