Setting 2018 Writing Goals

Now that we’re a week into 2018, you’ve probably set new goals and you’re already striving after them. And that’s awesome! But I made a huge mistake while setting goals last year, and I thought I’d discuss it, so you don’t make the same mistake I did when you tackle your writing life this year.

So what happened? Last year, I set three goals (and failed them all), which you can read about here, but I thought I would focus on the goal of connecting with a literary agent. While I definitely spoke to a number of talented folks, I never quite found “the one.” I felt like a failure. But did I fail? I mean, I connected with amazing people! I finished manuscripts. I learned. I revised. I resubmitted. I never gave up. And doors are still open for me, even today. So, I shouldn’t have felt like a failure. I should’ve felt proud, because, even though I didn’t walk away with the shiny new contract, I walked away with more knowledge, connections, and opportunities.

Extra tip: Keep a planner to stay on track, but don’t plan too far ahead. That way, you can adjust if need be.

Where I went wrong: Setting the goal of “I will get a literary agent” was unrealistic. Why? Because it depended on another person, and that person is largely out of my control. Yes, I can always write more and better—and yes, I could always spend more time making connections—but just because you have a great book or idea or following or etc. does not mean you’ll find the right person to represent you and your work. Do I have room to grow? Always. But so do many repped authors. Signing that contract is a largely personal decision from both sides. This goal depends on two people, not just me, so while having the goal to connect with an agent is fine, my goal shouldn’t have been “get a literary agent by the end of the year.” It should’ve been “I will submit my work to # of agents who enjoy my genre” or “I will spend X hours a week researching the industry, so that I am more prepared to query next time around.”

Basically, I learned to set realistic and fair goals. What do I mean by that? Goals should revolve around work you can accomplish, not how others react to your work.

Common, unrealistic publishing goals: How large your advance is, how many copies of your books are distributed, how well something sells (because, seriously, even experts can’t predict why books resonate), and publishing contracts in general.

Solution? Set goals to learn, write more, and submit, submit, submit. Examples: I will read fifty books this year, I will write 10,000 words every week, I will try to connect with new beta readers by this spring, I will submit my manuscript by July, etc. But remember, publishing isn’t a race. While goals should keep you moving, they aren’t meant to be hard deadlines. If you find out you can’t write 10,000 words a week, that’s fine. Do what you can. Never let your goals hurt you. For example, “I will get a publishing contract by December” might negatively impact you, because you’re going to submit when you’re not ready just to meet a deadline you alone set. If you make a goal to meet something by January, don’t beat yourself up if you end up needing to extend it to February. Just make sure you’re ready. You can always edit your goals…and set completely new ones.

In fact, when I really think about it, I set goals all year around.

Whether its spring or fall, rain or shine, I’m constantly considering what I want to do next and/or how to accomplish it.

Actually, I’ve met two goals this year already.

  1. The Timely Death trilogy will be an audiobook with duel narration!
  2. I resubmitted a revised manuscript.

All goals take a lot of time and energy, and I’m really proud I’ve accomplished these two goals. Where those paths will take me, I have no clue, but I am ready to set more goals and move forward in a realistic and positive way.

What are some of your goals for 2018?


27 thoughts on “Setting 2018 Writing Goals

  1. That’s definitely good advice 🙂 thanks for sharing!
    I only set one writing goal for the year – finish editing my book. (Obviously there are always second editions and so on, but I just mean so I’m happy enough to share it with others)
    My other goals are based around my daughter – read to her more and limit my phone use around her…

  2. Happy New Year! Love the point on how goals depending on other people are rather difficult. I try hard not to do that with my weekly goal lists, but I’m not always successful. Sometiy projects require another person. My 2018 goals are mostly starting the new series and not quitting. Published the finale for my fantasy one just before Christmas, so I’m working hard on my second. It’s kind of coming along smoothly. Good luck with 2018!

    1. That is definitely true! Great point.
      I don’t think it is bad to have goals that involve others. (I obviously still have the goal of getting a literary agent.) But I’m trying to stop putting a timeframe on goals involving others. (Or to be nicer to myself when it doesn’t work out like I planned in a given amount of time.) I’m excited to hear about your goals! Thank you for sharing.
      Happy New Year, Charles!

      1. I’ve learned to give myself leeway with the big goals because things always happen. This is one reason I make smaller goals that are easy to achieve. Helps keep the morale up. I’m talking things like laundry, making a new recipe, and getting my car in for an oil change. For some reason, I keep having to manipulate myself to continue going. Not sure if that’s healthy or not.

        So far, the big goal of 2018 is looking good. Had to find a new cover artist and that was achieved. Looking forward to seeing what she comes up with since I have no idea what to do about this series.

      2. That is another great point. There should be a variety of goals to help with motivation (and overall feeling good). I’m so glad you found your new cover artist! What an exciting time. 😀

      3. Still a little nerve-wracking. I was working on my last series for 19 years and now it’s all published. It creates a sense that I’m back to being a newbie with no idea what I’m doing.

      4. True. I’m sticking with my fantasy world, which helps with the comfort zone. It’s a different era and I’m focusing on the vampires, but some familiarity does take the edge off.

  3. Thanks- good points. I agree that your goals should be under your control, as much as that is really possible, but it’s positive and helpful to have a big vision. Happy New Year and all the best to you!

  4. Like you said, our goals need to only be things that we, personally, control. Mine are to finish a novel I’ve started, write 3 short stories, and carry through on a self-publishing project. With determination, I can do all of those.

  5. Here’s my take on new year resolutions, Shannon. And yes, being kind to yourself if you don’t hit them all is an important part of it. Keep up the good work (I know you will 🙂 )

  6. Great blog, Shannon.
    I used to always set goals for myself and feel like a failure when I didn’t achieve them. This year, I have set more realistic goals that I know I can do, but just need more discipline to achieve.
    Your blog has given me more to think about and added to my “to-do” list.
    Thanks and continued success!

  7. You can have a great writing year Shannon.

    Some of my goals for 2018

    1. Work out at the gym 4 days of the week or higher.
    That could decrease my blood pressure.

    2. Fully regrow my hair thick and full
    My hair is a treasure, and I want to look at a mirror without seeing any hair missing.
    I won’t have peace for myself until my hair has fully regrown.

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