Huzzah! It's the beginning of a new year. You know what that means? Writing the date wrong for the next six weeks.
BUT it also means you can set a shiny new set of goals for your creative writing. We're all about goals at the Australian Writers' Centre. Setting small goals is like laying out a series of stepping stones towards achieving your dreams. If you've been staring at a blank page wondering just what goals you should set for this year, we've got you covered.
Enter a short story competition
If you're a champion procrastinator, then one of your goals absolutely should be to enter a short story competition.
There are three reasons entering a short story competition is a brilliant idea:
- There's a deadline
- There are guidelines
- There's a prize.
There's nothing like a deadline to motivate you to finish that story you've been working on for months. Commit to the deadline and finish and submit your story no matter what.
It also helps that short story competitions have guidelines. Instead of wondering how long your story should be, you simply follow the rules. You have to keep it within the word limit. If you have a 2500 word story and need to whittle it down to 2000 words, that's relatively straightforward and you may find you have a tighter better story at the end of it. It's a bit harder with a 5000 word story – but again, you may find the exercise benefits your story! It will certainly test your creative brain and push you to kill your darlings.
And of course, there's the potential for fame, glory and cash. Making a longlist, shortlist, or even winning a prize is an exceptional feeling.
If this sounds like a goal for you, check out the short story opportunities we have on our blog, our Short Story Essentials course to supercharge your skills – and OF COURSE, make sure you sign up for our own monthly short story competition, the famous Furious Fiction. It's completely free to enter and you can win $500!
Set a word count goal
Setting a word count goal is super simple and wonderfully achievable. It's a flexible goal that you can adjust so that it works for you. Make it realistic, but also push yourself.
There are different types of word count goals. You could set an intention to write every day, or hit a certain number of words each week. Set your goal and stick to it. Some examples of word count goals are:
- Write 10,000 words of my novel in January.
- Write 100 words a day in February.
- Write 2000 words a week.
Each of these goals is time limited. That makes it easy to see if you achieved your goal or not. Weekly or monthly goals are often better than a daily goal because it's very easy to miss a day – and then you feel like you've failed completely.
Always keep in mind – you're not aiming for perfection. If you miss a day, or you're short a few hundred words in a week, that's okay. You're still doing it! A goal is something to aim for. You may not always hit your target, but if you genuinely try, then you will still make progress.
Finish your current project
Do you have a writing project that you're currently working on – or rather, that you're not working on? Finish it.
Yep, this one right here. You know the one. Not the next shiny new one that you're dying to start. No, this one here. This one that you're procrastinating not working on by reading this list.
The number one thing you need to do to advance your writing is to actually finish something. You can write 200 amazing beginnings, but if you never write an ending, you'll never know how. You can't edit an unfinished manuscript, you can't workshop an unfinished story, you can't submit a novel that you didn't finish.
So whatever it is that you are halfway through, or three quarters of the way through, or seven eighths of the way through – get to 100%. It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be done. And then you can move on to the next stage. Until you complete that first step of actually finishing it, it will always be weighing you down.
Read books about writing
This is a very achievable goal you can set yourself which is also enjoyable. Read some books about writing!
Not sure where to start? Check out our post of books on writing recommended by successful writers. A clear favourite is Stephen King's On Writing, which is available from most libraries or your local bookstore. It's a no nonsense book which is part memoir, part writing guide. Stephen follows the ‘get your bum in the chair and start writing' school of thought, which is what we wholeheartedly believe at the AWC too.
Another excellent writing book, if we do say so ourselves, is our So You Want to be a Writer book. Hosts of the So you want to be a writer podcast, Valerie Khoo and Allison Tait, have brought together tips from top writers and authors and interwoven them with their own experience in a book that's bursting with inspiration and practical advice.
Set yourself a goal to read three books about writing – and then don't forget to put the advice into practice!
Make a recurring date with your writing
Something we hear a lot from people is that they want to write but can't find the time. The fact is that if you really want to write, you'll make the time. It will mean giving up a favourite TV show or cutting back on your crochet. Maybe you'll need to make one night a week a takeaway dinner instead of cooking. All you need is a dedicated bit of time that you set aside for your writing.
A good goal to set is to create a recurring date in your calendar for your writing. Treat it like any other appointment; turn up early and prepared. And if you need to push it back or move it to another day, email yourself explaining why. “Sorry, Writing, do you mind if we push today's appointment back by 15 minutes? I need to pick up the girls from soccer.” If you treat your writing time with respect, just as you would any other important meeting, you'll be more likely to stick to it.
Writing superstar Allison Tait wrote her first middle grade novel while working as a freelance writer and raising a family, as well as doing ten thousand other things like publishing regularly on her blog, building her social platform, running an online book club, and more. If you really truly believe that you don't have time to write, then you need some pointers from Allison. Her Make Time to Write course will have you eating your words – and writing many more – in no time.
Here's to a successful and positive 2021!