Why Authors Must Set Goals

When I first started as an author, I had a naive view of the industry. I expected the long hours in front of the computer, slaving away at the keyboard, and I was ready. I had my comfy chair in the living room set, my trusty laptop ready to go, and plenty of snacks (often cookies, sometimes chips. Okay, perhaps even a Snickers bar or three) to give me sustenance when I needed it.

I was a man with a


Or so I thought.

a man with no plan

What was that plan again?

It turns out I really had no plan at all. Oh, sure I had tons of stories to tell and endless characters just ready to be set loose in those worlds, but that wasn’t a plan. That was my product.

Yep, that's me. The Homer Simpson of the author world

Yep, that’s me. The Homer Simpson of the author world


I had no direction for my career.

That’s when I had to ask myself the big question:

Just what was my writing goal?

That might seem like a silly question for an author to ask him/herself, but it isn’t really. How can we know if we’ve accomplished something if we’ve never set a goal to be met?

I think many writers tend to look in the here-and-now and not in the future. I know that’s what I did. I had my head buried in my computer and in the stories I wanted to tell that I wasn’t cultivating my career in the way that I should have. After all, I was an author not a business person. Writing was my craft. I didn’t need to focus on anything else.

But I was


Just like any other profession, I had to take stock of where I was and where I wanted to be. After all, the only way to get where you want to go is by charting a path.

So, just what was my writing goal? Well, I want to be a full-time author. No big surprise. Writing is what I enjoy doing the most.

What I had just done for myself though was give myself a goal, an end product to be reached. Now that I had that goal in mind, I could now plot a course to get there. I couldn’t just magically arrive at a self-sustaining writing career. There’s no genie in a magic lamp for that!

Sorry Barbara Eden, I've got to do this one myself

Sorry Barbara Eden, I’ve got to do this one myself

I had to lay the ground work to get there. That involved more than just writing books, lessons I learned by talking to other authors and attending the Dreamspinner Conference in Chicago, where I attended a very enlightening session led by fellow (and prolific) author Andrew Grey.

Apparently, writing books was only a fraction of what I had to do. If I wanted to play in the big leagues, I had to bring my big league game.

Setting Goals and Meeting Them

But didn’t I already do that when I said I wanted to be a full-time author? Yes, but that was my end goal. What I had to do now was figure out how I was going to get there.

Just what is that puzzle piece?

Just what is that puzzle piece?

In order to be a self-sustaining author, I realized I needed to write more books than I was currently publishing. I had to take stock of my full time job and family commitments and come up with a plan for the year that would help get me there.

So I have planned to write 240,000 words before the next Dreamspinner conference in 2014. That translates into roughly four books. Whether that’s a lot or not doesn’t matter. The goal fits in my life, which is important, but more importantly it moves me forward on my ultimate goal to being a self-supporting author. Additionally, the goal gives me motivation to meet it and perhaps even surpass it.

If I can write four books, great! But what if I end up writing 300,000 and produce five books. Then, I’ve exceeded my goal and gotten myself even closer to my end goal.

Now that's a win!

Now that’s a win!

So, now I strive to write 1,000 words a day, and I force myself to keep track of my progress. When I exceed my daily goal, I reward myself with a cookie, or chips, or a Snickers bar. If I don’t meet it, I drown my sorrows with a cookie, or chips, or a Snickers bar. But the important thing beyond the rewards or punishments is that I’m holding myself accountable.

That is a great place to start.

8 thoughts on “Why Authors Must Set Goals

  1. Thanks Jacob for a great article. I wish someone would videotape those conference lectures for those of us who can’t attend. I’d even be happy to pay for them. More than happy. But in the meantime I have to rely on those who did attend to give a little inside info now and then to those of us who couldn’t be there. Like yourself. Thanks. I appreciate it.

    • You’re welcome, John. I hope people find it helpful. I know it was an eye-opener for me. And setting goals has really helped. I’m very much a goal-oriented guy, and these goals have really jumpstarted my writing. Let me know how it works out for you. 😀

  2. I like the goals you have set for yourself. Keep on writing so we can keep on reading!!! but you might want to lay off the cookies and Snickers 😉

    • I’m writing, JoAnn. So far, I’ve been able to write 4k a day this week. That’s been awesome. As for the cookies and the Snickers, I JUST LOVE THEM!!! Nom, nom!

  3. That’s a terrific post, Jacob and makes a lot of sense. If I’ve nothing particular to aim for it’s very easy to just drift and put the writing aside, but I’ve noticed I get masses done with deadlines – even artificial ones like Nanowrimo. Perhaps I need to make a commitment too? Taking two years to write one novel is a bit too long.

    • It’s helped me a great deal, Elin. I wouldn’t have made the progress I have without it. Just remember to make the goals fit into your life. Don’t overextend yourself. If you think you could easily write 1k a day for five days. Try that and see how it works. You’ll be surprised. I know I was.

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