Be S.M.A.R.T with Your Writing

Saturday, April 07, 2018
What I love about this community is how we all inspire each other. I read the interviews with our contest winners, and I pick up ideas on how to juggle writing with a full-time job. I check out a post from one of our bloggers, and I get an idea for a submission market I’d never thought of before.

My husband works in Corporate America in marketing, and he’s always been a big fan of those “how to succeed in business” books where he can pick up bits of advice and information in short bursts. I sometimes chuckle when I see him lounging by the pool or beach on vacation with the latest Stephen Covey in his hand, but I shouldn’t. There’s good information to be found in them if you are in the right mindset. I’m not sure if Covey is the person who actually coined the “S.M.A.R.T” acronym in regards to goal setting, but he has discussed it some of his books.

I think I mentioned it in a previous blog post, but I joined Weight Watchers online in early January to help get rid of 15 extra pounds I put on in the past few years and break some bad eating habits. While I’ve always been an active person, I was not eating in a way that supported my weight loss goals. (Hello chocolate and carbs!) What I like about the program is that you can set small, attainable goals and tangibly track every single thing that goes in your mouth. I’m happy to say that after three solid months of tracking and working toward my original goal, I have met it.

Here’s how we can use that same mindset to achieve our writing goals.

Specific. Set a specific goal. Having a goal like “I’m going to finish a novel this year!” is too vague. Believe me, I know from personal experience and multiple failures. Right now, I’m working on revising a novel, and setting mini goals each week helps me move forward (although slowly, sometimes) and focus on different areas. Each week I try to revise two chapters or experiment with telling the story from a different character’s perspective.

Measurable. A few weeks ago I wrote about Camp NaNoWriMo, which is National Novel Writing Month expanded into a spring and summer month (April and July) for those of us who get too overwhelmed in November to tackle 50,000+ words. With the camp, you can set measurable goals like producing a certain number of words, blog posts, articles, and the campers in your “cabin” can help cheer you on.

Achievable. I often compare writing to that old Aesop fable “The Tortoise and the Hare.” Slow and steady wins the race, at least in my opinion! Achievements can be big or small. Published a blog post? Check! Finished a kick-ass opening chapter to your novel? Check! Received a check for a magazine article? Check! Set a goal that you can achieve short-term, boost your self-confidence and keep moving forward.

Realistic. When I started Weight Watchers, it wouldn’t have done me any good to set a goal of losing 15 pounds in one week or even two. If I had, I would have failed miserably and lost my motivation. I took it week by week, sometimes losing two pounds and then gaining a pound back the next week. Sticking with a realistic program helped me achieve success. Setting a goal to write and publish a novel within six months probably isn’t a realistic goal. But writing and publishing one in year or two? Bingo.

Timely. There are seasons of our lives where certain writing goals don’t work as well. When I was a mom of a toddler and infant, there was no way I could have tackled completing a novel with all the anxiety and sleep deprivation I was going through. It was easier then for me to focus on developing article queries and essays, and now that my kids are 12 and 14, I have much more to concentrate on fiction in between driving them to all their activities!

What are some S.M.A.R.T writing goals you can work on attaining, if you haven’t already? I’d love to hear how you make this method work for you!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who recently won first place in the thriller category of the 2017 Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Awards.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--I've recently set some small weekly goals such as:

* checking the first 25 pages of my manuscript for tense screw-ups

* revising my manuscript synopsis (a short one--500-800 words)

* inserting a particular "thread" into the story

* revising so that some of the "loose end" minor characters are tied up in the end

Renee--You summed up how important SMART goals are--as humans, as chocoholics, as carb-lovers, as moms, as writers. Thanks for the reminder that even though we sometimes get stalled or sometimes take a few steps back, we still need to keep our goals in mind.

(And an extra 15? I wish that was all the extra lard I was lugging around. ;)

Joanne said...

Renee, thanks for this post. I've been working on revising a memoir, and I think I've found a hundred different and various but vague ways to attempt it that don't work. I like your idea of breaking it down into smaller segments. It has inspired me to make a list of small goals and work through them one by one.

Cathy C. Hall said...

I don't think I'd seen this S.M.A.R.T. deal but I like it, Renee!

Right now, I'm working on a revision of my newest MG novel and I've just realized that I'm not working as specific as I need to...I need to set goals by chapters (rather than a general "Manuscript revision" now that I've revised the first chapter (I hope!) for the last time.

Also, I need to quit re-reading my first chapter. :-)

Kay said...

I love the Nanowrimo format to help push me to set deadlines with support and community to encourage along the way. Most goals tend to not work for me too well though- some days I'll really be able to push myself with hourly goals, some weeks I have to switch to page count or word count instead- but still even just rotating through different types of goals is a great way to see improvement and self motivate.

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