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Writing Secret of Success: Know How to Set and Achieve a Writing Goal

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

One secret of success as a writer?

25 S.M.A.R.T. writing goals with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #FreelanceWriting #ContentMarketing #WritingTips

Set a writing goal. Then, working backwards from that goal, list smaller steps to take to achieve that goal.

And simply work the steps.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992), one of the world’s most prolific writers, demonstrated this approach in his writing habits. Before writing, Asimov chose the key problem in the story and how the story would end. He worked back from there.

Asimov wrote or edited more than 500 books over the course of his lifetime.

You can look at this part of the writing process as “planning” or “pre-writing.” 

And you needn’t get hung up with creating a perfect plan. Just make a few decisions out the gate. And then get going. 

Secret of Success #1: Write Down a SMART Goal

First, write down a goal – a clear one. 

I like to set SMART goals. The acronym helps me write goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.

  • Specific: What kind of project will you write?
  • Measurable: How much/how often/how many will you write?
  • Attainable: What will be the end product when you’re done?
  • Realistic: Is this reasonable or practical?
  • Time-bound: How long will you allot? By when will you achieve this goal?

Here are some examples of SMART writing goals.

  1. Assemble a writing portfolio by (date)
  2. Write # articles in (date)
  3. Choose a niche by (date)
  4. Start a website by (date)
  5. Add # pages to your website per (week, month)
  6. Start a blog by (date)
  7. Blog # times a week (month)
  8. Create a LinkedIn profile by (date)
  9. Create a writing social media site by (date)
  10. Post on my social media site # times a week
  11. Add # items to my writing portfolio by (date)
  12. Write a prospecting letter this week
  13. Write a prospect fulfillment package this month
  14. Assemble a list of # prospects each month
  15. Pitch to # publishers each week
  16. Write a lead magnet by (date)
  17. Start an email newsletter by (date)
  18. Grow my email list by #% this year
  19. Send to my email list # times a (month)
  20. Write # guest posts per (month, year)
  21. Publish an eBook by (date)
  22. Write a book proposal by (date)
  23. Submit my book proposal to # publishers by (month)
  24. Write # words per day
  25. Read a book every ____ (week, 2 weeks, month)

If you write down a clear goal – one that’s specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound –  then you’ll know when you’ve achieved it.

Secret of Success #2: Work Backwards

Once you set a writing goal then identify a series of short-term goals needed to accomplish it. Break down the goal into smaller steps. 

Then work through these short-term tasks one by one, a little at a time.

For example, let’s say you’ve set a goal to write a new article and submit it to a publisher in the next month.  List the steps you need to take to write the article:

  • Brainstorm your ideas
  • Choose one idea
  • Research your idea
  • Organize the information you’ve gathered
  • Create an article format and outline
  • Write out your article’s key point
  • Write the lead
  • Write the body
  • Write the conclusion
  • Edit the article
  • Edit the article again
  • Edit the article once more … and submit it

Now, group your tasks.

Week 1: Concepting
Brainstorm your ideas; choose one idea; research your idea

Week 2: Organizing and Outlining
Organize the information you’ve gathered; create an article format and outline, write out your article’s key point

Week 3: Writing
Write the lead; write the body; write the conclusion

Week 4: Editing
Edit the article. Again. And once more. And submit.

The Secret of Success Is Not Really a Secret

By breaking down a long-term goal into short-term steps, you can give yourself a series of “assignments” to complete each day or each week. This takes away the feeling of overwhelm (“I don’t know where to start”) and gives you a sense of accomplishment (“I’m making progress in writing my article”).

This approach allows you to wake up each day knowing what step to take to continue to reach your writing goal. The steps serve as milestones that spur you on. Plus, smaller tasks are achievable for those of us who must carve out time to write.

A writing goal gives you a framework to produce a finished work.

Which means secret of success in writing is no secret at all.  Instead, it’s all about making a plan (setting a writing goal, divided into a smaller set of tasks) and then working your plan (complete one task at a time).

A goal is simply a tool. 

The habit you build – persisting in the smaller steps to complete that goal – is what yields writing success.

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