Have you set your writing goals for the new year? If you’re like me, January is a time for taking stock of the prior year and setting up goals (not resolutions) for my life in the year ahead. I always feel inspired in January because I see it as an opportunity to set myself up for success. I set quarterly and a few year-long goals that keep me focused on the things I want to be focused on. My goals are my compass.

Below are my steps for goal-setting for the new year. Use them to help you get focused your writing life and what you want to accomplish.

"The more you reflect the more you learn" Quote
First things first, take a moment to reflect on the previous year

I believe it’s so important to end each year with a bit of reflection. This means taking some time to take stock of your writing life.

  • What worked well for you last year?
  • What challenges did you conquer?
  • Were there things you were unable to achieve? Why?

Reflection = Insight. It’s not about getting stuck on what went wrong, but rather thinking about how to learn from everything that happened to help make the new year even better.

Year-Long Goals?

One thing I like to do is focus on when I’m setting goals at the beginning of the year is quarterly goals. Instead of looking at the entire year, which can feel overwhelming, breaking your goals into bite-sized pieces is far more effective. You may have a year-end goal. If you do, great! Still, look at the steps you need to take to achieve that goal and revisit those steps quarterly to see if you’re on track.

A clock showing a quarter and 'goals'No, QUARTERLY GOALS!

Now, imagine your year as a road trip across the country. Quarterly goals then are the checkpoints where you can take mini-breaks, stretch your legs, look back at what you just accomplished, and plan the next part of your route. In writing, these checkpoints allow you to look back at the prior three months, reflect, evaluate, and use this information to inform your goals for the next three months.

My Three Steps to Creating Quarterly Goals
Dream Big, Start Small:

First, begin at the end. In education, this is called ‘backward mapping’. I used it all the time when planning my lessons. I knew what students needed to learn by the end of the year (the end goal). I used that as my guidepost, then mapped backward to figure out the steps needed to get them there.

Y’all, you can use this same concept with your writing goals. What do you want to accomplish by the end of the year? Is it finishing the manuscript you’re working on? Starting and finishing a new one? Submitting to agents?

Whatever it is, identify it then step back and break it down.. What are the steps you need to take to make that goal a reality?

SMART goals for writers illustration with a man working on a laptopSMART Goals 

Next, use SMART goals. SMART goals are another tool I used in the classroom. They help the vague become tangible. They are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Let’s take a closer look at them:

  • Specific:

Define your goal with clarity. Instead of “Write a book,” go for “Complete the first draft of my novel”.

  • Measurable:

    How will you know when you’ve achieved your goal? Use metrics like word count, completion percentages, or specific milestones as your gauge.

  • Achievable:

    Set goals that challenge you but are within reach. It’s about pushing boundaries, not trying to bust your way through the wall at Platform 9 3/4 when you’re not actually a wizard.

  • Relevant:

    Ensure your goals align with that big, audacious vision you defined early on. If your goal is to become a published author, taking a coding class might not be the most direct route. Taking a comprehensive course on writing a novel might be (link).

  • Time-bound:

    Assign deadlines to your goals. This adds a sense of urgency and keeps you accountable. It also gives you something to celebrate, and the accomplishment can motivate you to keep going.


Finally, at the end of each quarter, celebrate your wins and set up the next quarter’s goals.  


Quarter by Quarter Phases

Q1: Phase 1 (January – March)

First is Q1. This is the beginning. Break down your big goal into smaller tasks and focus on building momentum.

Set a weekly target word count for the first few chapters

  • Set a daily word count goal
  • Front-load your research
  • Map out your chapters or complete your synopsis
  • Do your prep work
  • Complete character studies

Whatever your goal is, think about the first things you need to do to get there.

Q2: Phase 2 (April – June)

Next is Q2. This is a chance  to check in with yourself. How did your Q1 goals go? Celebrate your wins!

Once you’ve done that, move on to your next steps. Hopefully, you’re in a rhythm. Fine-tune those daily or weekly word count goal if necessary. Adjust based on your real life and keep going.

Q3: Phase 3 (July – September)

Next is Q3, the halfway point, take a full stop and evaluate the first six months of the year. In education, this is MYR, or Mid Year Review. Educators evaluate their students to see if they’re on track with where they should be to reach those learning objectives that were set at the beginning.

Do the same thing with your writing. Are you on track? Are you where you wanted to be? Now is an opportunity to give yourself grace and pivot if you need to. YOU set your expectations…and you can adjust them if you need to. Again, set yourself up for success.

Success with Goal-Setting graphic showing fireworksQ4: Phase 4 (October – December)

Finally, you’re at Q4. This is the final stretch of road before you reach your destination. Give it a big push. Pick up the pace, if you need to. By the end of the quarter, you will hopefully have reached that big goal you set for yourself…and you should celebrate!

Celebrate and Learn:

Y’all, every goal achieved, big or small, deserves a celebration. Seriously. We are all about the celebration! Treat yourself to that fancy coffee, take a day off, or simply bask in the glory of your accomplishments. And remember, setbacks are not roadblocks; they are only detours that take us on unexpectedly interesting paths. Learn from them, pivot if necessary, and keep moving forward.

Wrapping Up:

I hope you embrace the power of setting quarterly goals in the new year!

Are you ready for the next step in your writing process? Hire me as your developmental editor and partner. Together, we will take your writing to the next level!
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