Goals, goals, goals

This time last year I was meditating on writing goals amid the realisation that life had thrown me another curveball. That particular curveball turned out to be, first, worse than I could have imagined, and then better than I feared. At least for now. And for that I’m grateful.

Still, my conclusion was basically, “write, damnit”.

Write while I’m drowning in work. Write while I’m facing a scary set of new students. Write while travelling up and down the country to enjoy time with and take care of loved ones. Write when I have a blessed day off. Write when I have a week filled with catch-ups with friends I don’t see often enough. Write as well as live.

I mostly did that, although it’s not terribly measurable. (I guess you can measure it by the fact that I am now in the habit of writing before I do anything else when I sit down at my desk.)

I also set a couple of more specific goals:

To achieve those things, I set myself a target of entering one writing competition or submitting one piece of work each week. In the end I didn’t get anywhere near that…but I did achieve my goals, and that’s meant an awful lot to me.

It also took much less effort than I expected to get results. By which I mean I was expecting to send out twenty, maybe thirty, fifty or a hundred submissions in order to get one success. Actually (if you count success as any kind of recognition, e.g. longlisting) I got results approximately half the time. This is mindboggling. I’ve had all this writing sitting on my hard drive, when it could have been out there in the world.

That said, the one thing I really wanted this Christmas was to have a novel out on submission to agents. I don’t have that (although I’m much closer to that stage than I was last year)… and coincidentally, I didn’t set a specific goal for this last year, so perhaps it’s no surprise that it hasn’t happened yet.

I don’t regret setting the other goals. Getting my writing recognised was something I needed desperately. It’s all very well (and helpful and much appreciated) to have writer friends praise your work, but at some point you (or at least, I) need to know that someone out there objectively thinks your work is good.

I know I would write even if there was never any hope of being published, because I have that conversation with myself approximately once a month, but still, the confidence that comes from external validation has been invaluable to me this year. It got me back to my YA novel when I was ready to shelve it, and I’m now halfway through an exciting new draft (draft 4 I think. I’m losing count). And it allowed me to be up front with people about my writing, and that meant a lot to me. For example, I felt I could finally tell my mum I wrote things! I don’t know why I never dared tell her this before, but such are the quirks of family relationships.

All the same, this year when I set my goals, I’m going to have an eye on that submission-ready novel that I intend to have by this time next year. 🙂

Did you set goals this year? How are you feeling about them now? Are you planning on tweaking your approach for the coming year? I’d love to hear your writing-related goals, if you have any!


*Btw, if you’re of a certain age and have had a weird earworm since reading the title of this post, the song you’re thinking of is probably this one. You’re welcome.

4 thoughts on “Goals, goals, goals

  1. I had mixed feelings at the end of last year. I have a couple of agencies reading whole drafts of my novel, and I did get some long listing for prizes, but in general I think it’s hard to have real ‘goals’ around writing, it’s not very tangible. Having said that, I’ve recently put together a big spreadsheet of all the literary magazines I would like to be published in, and am going to use it to send work out regularly. You should do it too! If something is good enough to be placed for a prize, it’s good enough for a literary magazine. This year I have lots of goals, but I’m also aware that it can take a really long time, and that putting a number on success is very tricky. I really know what you mean in terms of having other readers though, it’s such a valuable thing. Good luck!


    1. It is really hard to measure – I guess maybe the important thing is to measure effort rather than results, since so much is beyond our control. Congratulations over the agencies reading full manuscripts! I have a spreadsheet of competitions from last year (mainly ones I didn’t get around to entering, hah), so I’ll use that as a starting point for my short stories. Best of luck with your magazines – and the agents.


    1. Thank you, Bonnie! Having ditched one novel at the start of this year, my aim is the same with the new one. Word count is inching forward at the moment. How about you? Well done on the submissions – sounds like you’ve been much more productive on that front than I have recently!


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