Sandra Gerth - author of the Writers' Guide Series

How to Set Writing Goals That Are SMART

How to Set Writing Goals That Are SMART

It’s THAT time of the year again—the time where we set writing goals for the year ahead.

Setting goals is an important part of a writer’s life. Without goals that keep us moving forward, it’s too easy to procrastinate and put off starting that book or finally finishing it.

With the right goals, you’ll keep moving forward and achieve your dreams, not just in your writing life, but in all other areas of your life too.

So what does having the right goals mean?


Set SMART goals for your writing!

Most of all, make sure your writing goals are SMART goals.

SMART is an acronym that stands for goals that are:


Your writing goals should be concrete and unambiguous. Instead of a general statement such as “I want to write a book,” set a specific goal such as “finish the first draft of my romance novel by July 31.”



Your writing goals should have criteria that allow you to measure your progress toward your goals and whether you have reached them. If you set a goal such as “become a better writer,” it’s hard to judge whether you succeeded. Instead, phrase your goal in a way that can be measured, e.g., “reading ten books about writing in 2021.”



Your writing goals should be attainable with the time and skills you have. If you set your goals too high, you’ll only give up in frustration. So instead of choosing a lofty goal such as “write 10,000 words every day,” pick a goal that is doable considering your writing speed, work schedule, and other commitments, e.g., “write 1,000 words on five days a week.”



Your writing goals should be something that is important to you personally. Don’t write a book in a genre you hate just because it’s what’s selling right now. Readers will realize if your heart wasn’t in it, and by the time you finish your novel, that publishing trend might be over anyway.



Your writing goals should have a deadline. Without deadlines, it’s too easy to keep putting it off. Deadlines create a sense of urgency that will get you moving toward your goals. So instead of setting an open-ended goal such as “publish a book someday,” choose a time-bound goal such as “submit my manuscript to five publishers by November 15.”


Example for a SMART writing goal

One of my writing goals for 2021 is to write and publish two romance novels by December 31, 2021.

This goal is specific, measurable, and time-bound. It’s also attainable for me since I write full-time, and it’s relevant since it contributes to my overall goal of being able to make a living as a writer.


Break down your annual writing goals

Once I have a SMART goal for the year, I break it down into quarterly goals, then break down the quarterly goals into monthly goals. Keep dividing the goals until you have a list of small tasks that you can accomplish in one session of an hour or two.

For example, to make my writing goal for 2021, I know I’ll have to send the first manuscript off to my publisher at the end of March, so my goal for the first quarter is to write and revise novel number 1. My goal for January is to write 60,000 words by January 31, which translates to a daily goal of 2,000 words.


If you’d like a little more help with setting and achieving your writing goals, check out my writers’ guide Goal Setting for Writers: How to set and achieve your writing goals, finally write a book, and become a successful author.

Goal setting for writers

What are your writing goals for 2021? Leave a comment and let me know!

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8 thoughts on “How to Set Writing Goals That Are SMART”

  1. I’ve had this book for a little while but got distracted so many times. This year, I have specific writing goals. This year, I will read this book, make notes and do the things I need to so that I can reach my goals.
    Thank you for being the push I needed and the wise voice that reassures me it is possible.

    • It’s definitely possible, and I think it’s a good year for meeting your writing goals.

      Wishing you much success and a happy and healthy 2021!

  2. Happy New Year Sandra,
    I’ve had your book for a while now and have started to read it a couple of times, but work always got in the way. I earn my living ghosting books and articles for clients in the electrical and electronics industries and meeting those deadlines takes precedence over everything else. I’ve been doing that since the summer of 1977. I’ve never had a problem with setting goals and meeting them, but even an old dog can learn new tricks, so I bought your book.

    Sixty-eight years ago when I discovered electronics and built my first vacuum-tube radio at the age of nine, I discovered and fell in love with acronyms. I guess that I have said all this to say that I really love your SMART goals acronym. I’ve been doing all those steps for years in my goal setting without actually realizing what I was doing.

    Have a prosperous year Sandra!

    • How wonderful that you’ve been able to make a career as a ghost writer! I’m happy that you find my blog post and book helpful. Have a successful, happy, and healthy 2021!

  3. Wow, why didn’t I think to do this? I use SMART goals at work every year (mainly because we are required to do it) but to apply them to my writing is a really great idea. Thanks!

  4. I haven’t heard about SMART goals since elementary school! No clue why this concept hasn’t been more on the forefront of my mind. I’ve already done most of my year planning, but I’ll have to go back and put my goals through a SMART audit. I could certainly do a better job of reverse engineering my big goals into actionable tasks. Thanks, Sandra!


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