Smart writers do it this way

Not so long ago, I was chatting away with fellow writer Terrie Leigh-Relf about our writing (there were probably other topics in there too) and the inevitable relfection on the year that’s passed.
We’ve planned to each go away (i.e. offline) and come back with our writing goals for 2012. I know, the very mention of the ‘g’ word tends to make people and writers especially – go into sleep mode. But don’t go just yet…

Goals, back in corporate land, were things you could control. And to make life easier*, especially when said goals helped determine your pay or bonus at the end of the year, they needed to be SMART goals.

Sing it with me, people:
Specific define what it is.
Measurable how you can tell when you’ve completed it?
Achievable is it within your control make this happen?
Realistic do you personally have the control and the resources to do this?
Time-bound when will it be done by?

Here are some goals that aren’t SMART, even if they do appear to be desirable:
– Get my novel placed with an agent next year.
– Get my novel placed with a publisher next year (it’s okay, I’m flexible – it doesn’t have to be the same novel).

And here are some SMART goals:
– Write 2000 words per day. (Or, like Rachel Aaron, exceed that five-fold.)
– Spend three hours on my synopsis.
– Do a full edit of my manuscript by the end of March 2012.
– Identify three agents and three publishers to submit to.
– Prioritise my submissions.
– Contact the agent / publisher at the top of my list.
– Submit material from my novel.

Now, I will be the first to admit that SMART goals don’t sound nearly as sexy or heroic. But they are…achievable. You’re not reliant on anyone else to make it happen. You hold all the cards. Which means it’s no one else’s reponsibility but yours, if nothing happens (2012 end of the world scenarios notwithstanding).

My mantra of the moment is that we write, we edit, we decide who to submit to and then we submit. We need to do them all well because once our submissions leave us, it’s out of our hands.

What are your SMART creative goals for 2012?

* May contain traces of irony.


  1. I think those are smart goals, Derek! I, too, have a few like this, and will post them (ongoing) to my new site (appleseedhosting/tlr). Meanwhile, here are a few of my short-term goals (i.e., deadlines by January–or sooner!).

    1. Final edits on The Ancient One (novel with Henry Sanders);
    2. Finish compiling recipes for family cookbook;
    3. Write story for anthology invitation;
    4. AWWYP new contest stories;
    5. Final edits on Origami Stars, short story collection);
    6. Figure out what's wrong with my new novel-in-process and adjust (ironically, it may be two novels I've schmooshed together); and
    7. Because I love odd numbers. . .search for new publishers for Love and Other Forms of Chaos (poetry collection) and The Missing Piece of Sky (flash fiction collection).

    Whew. . .

  2. Deb says:

    Sounds great, Derek and I'm sure you will get your goals (SMART ones or otherwise). You know what they say; our goals are mearly a thought away:)

  3. Deb says:

    PS: if you go to you can compile your own computerised lists of things you want to do:)

  4. Derek says:

    Hiya Deb, the goals may be a mere thought away, but the completion of them may be a very long journey indeed!

    Are you all set for your workshop? :o)

    My writing goals for next year:
    – Enter the Good Housekeeping novel competition.
    – Complete a full edit of Scars & Stripes.
    – Review Covenant and submit it (someone has asked to see it).
    – Write a short story a month.

  5. Deb says:

    Hiya Derek,
    Good goals and I'm sure you'll have no problem ticking each one off during 2012. I've just got a new commission in for one of the biggest selling women's magazines, so one of my goals for next year is to write more for them. I also want to finish the sequel to my novel and write another non-fic book, whilst trying to persuade my publisher that it really is a good idea! However, Christmas is a calling, which is every procrastinators dream (see latest post to Shadow of the Hunter)because I don't feel obliged to sit at my desk for eight hours a day trying to come up with saleable ideas:)
    I think I'm ready for the workshop, although I only have a handful of people interested at the moment, so I will have to advertise again in the new year, when people are thinking about their goals:)

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