Writing Discussion

Dreams and SMART Goals

Dreams are important. They’re what keep me moving forwards and reaching for more. I think the bigger they are, the better. It’s important not to limit those dreams, to keep all those possibilities open.

But I am  not always in control of my dreams. What I can can control are my goals. Goals are stepping stones. To reach those dreams may likely a last little leap of faith, and a bit of luck, but setting goals allow me to make the gap as narrow as possible.

Let me turn on nutty, ambitious, Type A, Tessa for a moment.

I prefer to use SMART goals. I was introduced to the concept work, but they apply equally to other things, like eventual world domination and such… but ahem, yes, goals…

S: Specific – M: Measurable – A: Attainable – R: Realistic – T: Timely

An example of a bad goal: Sell a short story to a pro market this year.

Why’s this one bad? It’s not SMART. I can’t control if or when an editor will decide to buy any of my stories.

An example of a good goal: Submit 10 short stories by the end of 2010.

This one is better, because writing and submitting are things I can do myself. Sending out more stories increases my chances of publication. It’s also SMART:

Specific – This goal deals only with short stories.
–  I want to send 10, so if I’m up to 5, then I’ve achieved 50% of my goal so far. I like measuring progress!
Attainable –
I can write that many in a year.
Realistic –
Yes. I know how fast I can write and I already have some in my archives that I can start sending right away.
– The deadline is December 31, 2010.

So, to sort out this mess of a brain of mine, here are some of my writing related goals for the next 6 months. I’m not going to get into the detail I’ve described above, but here’s the general plan (mmm…more lists, nothing like a good bullet point to spice up a post!).

  • June – July: Write 1200 words a day 5 days a week until the first novel draft is done. The approximate first draft completion date is the second week of July.
  • July – August: Do additional research for the novel. I should now know what information is relevant, and what pieces I’m missing.
  • July – August: Finish reworking one short story that received editorial feedback. Maybe write another if I have time.
  • September: Start the editing process for the novel. Re-outline, find major plot holes, and get the first few chapters in shape for critique in October.
  • October: Attend the Surrey International Writers Conference (SIWC). Learn how to put together an agent pitch, swallow my nerves, and go for it! Also prep for critique appointment.
  • November – December: Continued revisions.
  • 2011: Start sending out writing to alpha/beta readers.


  • Author Aerobics – Keep posting exercises weekly. I’m finding they’re really helping me to stay creative, forcing me out of my comfort zone, and I can already see some improvement.
  • Read 5 days a week  even if it’s only for 20 minutes. I have a good sized stack of books to read through, plus a long list to visit the library for.

Maybe I’m slightly obsessive. I also write out daily to-do lists and take great pleasure crossing things off. On the other hand, I can’t stick to a novel outline as hard as I try. Is that strange?

Are you a planner or do you prefer to let things happen as they come?

6 Comments to “Dreams and SMART Goals”

  1. Your goals are more realistic than mine, but to be honest I prefer to set the bar just higher enough away from my grasp, because I always manage to find excuses not to work according to schedule and it doesn’t matter what the goal is… I always leave as much of it as possible, until the last possible minute. So with constant increase of work load, I will still not hit the marks, but I will at least increase my productivity. I am tricking my subconsciousness. 😀

    1. Ahh you play mind games! I have one trick as well: I schedule writing for 6 days a week instead of 5. Sometimes I do write all 6 days, but don’t allow myself to feel too terrible if I don’t. 5 is the more realistic goal.

  2. I love daily to-do lists, but I struggle with longer-term goals (even SMART ones)… I admit, I’m one of those people that doesn’t do big picture things well. At least not if I think of them as such. If I break down every big goal into little ones, then it becomes manageable. And less daunting. Usually.

    Have you seen TeuxDeux.com ? I LOVE that site.

    1. Just checked out the site! It looks pretty easy to use too. I like to use paper though. That way I always have someplace to doodle or jot down a few notes. My day planner is MESSY 🙂

  3. This is a great plan!

    I’m kind of approaching my writing “career” from a very similar angle, but I haven’t been quite so specific as you have, here. I think I maybe ought to be, though.

    But, as a general rule, this is probably the right approach to take – at least it’s the most psychically defensible. By setting goals that are directly actionable (when I had learned “SMART”, the “A:” stood for “actionable”), goals that we can actually do something about, rather than goals that are based on things we don’t directly control, it allows us to, well, do something about our goals, instead of getting depressed when we don’t accomplish them.

    Which isn’t to say that I don’t have this long-term goal of “become a best-selling fantasy author”, but that’s really more in the realms of the “dream” category, and my actual goals are more along the lines of making progress in little steps that, if the things outside of my control manage to go well, may take me a little closer to that over-arching dream.

    1. I’ve seen the A spelled out as Achievable, as well, but I think it all means the same thing, that the goal must be something you can control.

      I think we all dream of writing a best seller. Maybe it won’t happen right away, but it’s still a good dream to strive towards. I think if you dream less than that, you’re selling yourself short of what you may accomplish one day. Dream big!

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