How to set writing goals

6 Easy Steps to Set Your Writing Goals (Proven Strategies)

Writing a book can seem like a daunting task. Especially if you’ve never written one before. But no one said it has to be a big deal, right? Once you have set your writing goals, it becomes much easier to complete your manuscript.

10 years ago, I had that initial rush that came with the thought of writing a book in my name, but it fizzled out faster than I imagined. I dumped the idea until 4 years ago when I finally started with another manuscript and had my first book published in my name. 

The experience was surreal.

Many aspiring authors struggle like I did because they lack the clarity that comes with setting writing goals. 

What if you can complete that book earlier than anyone expected? 

In this post, you will discover why setting writing goals is crucial for you as a writer or an author. And I will show you 5 easy steps to help you set your writing goals.

Let’s get right into it.

Why is Goal Setting Important for Success?

Setting a goal simply means giving yourself a set time to achieve a certain result. It is important to set goals because you are more likely to achieve desired results with them. This is why organisations also set goals. 

As a budding author, your set goals will help you in these ways:

  1. It keeps you focused. 

Goals are dreams with deadlines. Our minds tend to adhere to discipline when deadlines are ahead of us. So your goal keeps your mind on the task to be completed.

  1. Distinct timeframe.

Giving yourself a deadline gives you a clear timeframe to work with, and this helps you to become more organised and proactive.

  1. It gives you drive (momentum) 

The longer a writing project drags on, the more likely you are to get distracted or lose enthusiasm. That’s why we set goals to keep us moving forward. Once the deadline is set, you begin to mentally calculate how best to achieve the result within the allotted time frame.    

 Now you know why setting writing goals is important. Let’s get practical.

How to Set Writing Goals

First of all, if you want your desired results, your goals must be S.M.A.R.T:

Set SMART writing goals

S- Specific

M- Measurable

A- Attainable

R- Realistic/Relevant

T- Time-bound

Now let’s see what S.M.A.R.T. writing goals look like.

1.       Determine your big WHY

Find your purpose of writing

So you want to write a book. Have you asked yourself why? It’s easy to get excited about writing a book, but without a strong reason for writing, you might not get beyond the first page of your manuscript.

Your ‘WHY’ will be the fuel left to keep you pushing from chapter to chapter when all the initial excitement is gone as it left with my first manuscript when I abandoned it.

People write books for different reasons, some of which are:

  • To share a burning message 
  • To establish authority in a niche
  • To make money
  • To connect with certain people
  • To help solve a problem, etc.

Whatever your reason is for deciding to write a book, write it down in your journal to keep you reminded. Your reason has to be really important (RELEVANT) to you, or you will likely not feel compelled to finish the book.

2.       Determine the kind of book you want to write and its size

This is you being SPECIFIC about what you want. 

Now that you are convinced to write a book, think about how you intend to pass your message across. Are you writing a fiction book or non-fiction? The nature of the book (genre) and its category determines how long it takes to complete. Low-content books like planners and colouring books might take about a couple of hours to finish, while high-content books like fiction and non-fiction books can take weeks, months or even a year to complete. 

A novel can have up to 65,000 words, whereas a biography can have up to 150,000 words. You cannot predict exactly how many words you will write, but with adequate research, you can determine the range in which your book falls. 

You can get an idea of what your readers expect in terms of book size by searching for books in your category on websites like Amazon.

Now you have a picture of what you want to achieve in mind. There are a few things to consider in the next step.

3.       Consider your regular schedules

With a mental picture of what you want to achieve, give yourself a time frame to complete your book. This will help you beat procrastination. 

However, when setting your time frame for writing, ensure you set a REALISTIC one. Work, family, leisure, Church, etc. are factors you must key in your time schedule if you want it to work.

Ask yourself questions like

“How soon do I want this book ready?”

“Can I discipline myself to set aside 5 hours a week for my writing project with my current workload?”

With these questions in mind, it’s time to set the time! 😉

4.       Set a time frame 

Your goal must be TIME-BOUND if it’s a SMART one. Decide when you want your manuscript ready and when you want it published. 

You can specify a reason for any time frame you choose. It makes you take it seriously. For example, if you want schools to add your book to their curriculum at the next school session, you may have to get it ready by May-June.

Or if you think your book will sell better in the Christmas season, you may consider releasing it around October-November.

Also, put editing and pre-launching activities into consideration when setting your writing time. If you plan for your book to be published in May, then you should be planning to complete your manuscript about 2-3 months earlier to give adequate time for the publishing process.

Some editors take 2-3 weeks to complete the edit. Depending on the size of the book and your editor, editing time may take even longer. The publishing process (ISBN, book cover design and printing) can take another 3-4 weeks if you print physical copies.

Factor those in when setting your time, and make sure the task is ACHIEVABLE within the time frame you give yourself.

5.       Set a word count goal

Having determined the size of your book and the time frame to complete it, you can now set a word count goal for yourself. This helps you to MEASURE your progress.

Your word count should fit in the time you set aside to complete the book. 

Ask questions like

“How many times can I write in a week?”

“How many words do I need to write per week to reach my word count target within the set time frame?”

For Example,

You are about to write a novel with a target of 65,000 words. You plan to get your manuscript ready in 3 months. 

The first question to ask yourself is 

“Are you willing to commit to writing every day?” 

If the answer is ‘No’, then choose how often you would write. 

Are you using weekdays, weekends, or perhaps 4 times a week?


In 3 months, we have 12 weeks. 

If you plan to write 4 times a week, it means you are expected to finish your book in 48 (4 x12) writing sessions.

How many words would go into these 48 sessions to make you reach 65,000 words in 3 months?

That is 65,000 divided by 48 = about 1,355 words per session.

This means for each writing session (each time you sit to write), you are expected to write up to 1,355 words.

1 page takes about 330 words, so you are committing to writing about 4 pages each of the 4 days you have chosen to write in a week.

If you stick to this plan, you’ll end up writing 16 pages in a week. In one month, you will write 64 pages. And in 3 months, you would have finished and dusted off about 192 pages. 

Don’t stop there. 

6.       Set your alarm

Alarm clock

Which day precisely are you writing? Mondays? Wednesdays?

What time of the day works best for you? 5 am? Break time at work? Evenings?

Set your alarm and get to work.

With these goals in place, you are well on your way to successfully writing your book.

Other factors to consider for your writing success

  • Create a workspace


Prepare a conducive environment to work. You can use your library, a coffee shop, or just a corner of your room with your table, chair, writing materials, or computer.

  • Prepare ahead

If your writing session is scheduled for 5 am the next day, for instance, ensure to clear your desk and go to bed in good time. This makes you wake up energized and ready to write the next day.

  • Avoid distraction

Make sure your writing sessions are set to take place at a time and in an environment where you won’t get distracted. 

Kids, loud music and kinds of stuff like that may distract you. 

Also, you may want to turn on flight mode or focus mode on your mobile phone to put calls and social media distractions at bay.

  • Resist the urge to revise

When the pen is bleeding, don’t interrupt the flow. Writers sometimes get the urge to pause writing and revise their work. This works counterintuitively. It slows you down and you may lose your flow of ideas.

So, don’t do it. Keep writing to the end of the book before you revise. 

  • Get a notepad

Writers get their inspiration anywhere, at any time, and from anything. That’s why you should always have a notepad handy. It mustn’t be a physical note. It could be your device. Just be sure to always have a place to jot down your idea when it pops up.

  • Track your progress

Have a periodic self-assessment to see how well you are pursuing your goal. At the end of every week or month, check how much progress you have made. 

Is it working? Did you hit the milestone for the week?

If yes, reward yourself. If not, perhaps you need to adjust your goal plan. It also helps to have someone who checks on your progress (a friend, mentor, coach, etc).  

Final Thoughts on How to Set Your Writing Goals

Becoming an author is a journey that requires determination and consistency. A clear set of goals makes your journey easier.

These tips will help you set your writing goals and keep you on track. Soon, you’d be set to meet an editor.

Did I miss anything?

I’d like to hear from you.

Which of these tips stood out for you?

Which of them will you implement immediately?

Do you need to be more specific about your goals? Or will you chunk your writing goals into a specific weekly word count target to help you track your progress? 

Do you have other ideas on how to set writing goals?

Let me know in the comments.

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To your writing success.

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