How to “Fail Better” at Your Writing Goals

[NEW] Updated Post Here: The Ultimate Goals for Writers in 2020

This is my most important yearly goal: 

“Fail as much as possible.”

I want to fail at more writing projects. I want to get more rejections letters. I want to finish books, and have them completely bomb.

In order to do that… I’ll have to write more. Lots more. I’m talking mountains of paper and 1,000,000+ words that nobody will ever read.

Why Should You Have Writing Goals?

A few years ago… I wasn’t writing at all.

Dreaming of writing, yes. Telling people I was going to be a writer, yeah.

But actually writing? Rarely, if ever…

…until I started writing for fun, on a site called Reddit. There were a few “writing prompt” subreddits I wrote on pretty regularly.

(You can even find my name in the Hall of Fame).


Eventually, I was writing 2000+ words per day… on Average.

The nature of these writing subreddits forced me to implement short, sharp deadlines for my work. If I wrote too slow, someone else would steal the coveted “first spot” – and nobody would see my story… no matter how hard I worked on it.

This was my reason to sit down and just get to it. Because if I didn’t… someone else would. I would miss my chance.

Everyday you don’t write, you miss your chance.

To get good at almost anything, you must be consistent with your practice.

Goals are the best way to become a consistent writer. Therefore, goals are the best way to improve your writing.

If you achieve your writing goals – or, at the very least, attempt them – it is impossible to not improve.

Even if you fail at your writing goals, you will improve. And, you’ll probably learn something.

Lastly, goals are the only way to know how far you’ve come… and how far you need to go.


For example, last year I made a goal to write for 2+ hours for 200 days out of the year. I surpassed that goal by 80 days.

Which means… that goal was way too low.

You can tell in the image above that after October… my writing dried up.

Goals will drive you forward. They motivate you.

Rabindranath Tagore

“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”

– Rabindranath Tagore

How to Set Your Own Writing Goals

1. Make your goals SMART

Acronyms grate on me… most of the time. But in this case, I allow it because it’s so damn helpful.

Your writing goals should be…

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Actionable (this is the most useless part of the acronym)
  • Realistic
  • Timely

So my 2+ hours in 200 days should fit all of that criteria.


2. Write down your goals.

WRITE THEM DOWN. Right now! Go write them down somewhere that you can look at them regularly.

A cheap whiteboard. I don’t care – get a thumbtack and a piece of paper and write it down.

This will motivate you every time you sit down and think about wasting time.

Your “past self” has insanely high hopes for your future self. Use that. Allow your past self to “guilt trip” future you.

Keep your real dreams front and center, so when that shiny, red, new notification pops up – you have the strength to ignore it and stick to something that matters.

3. Set a Goal You Can Fail

I’ve seen people say “My writing goal is to write 1 sentence per day.”

Decent. But you can do better.

How much will you actually learn from 1 sentence per day?

Why not 10 sentences? Why not 100? Be “too hard” on yourself now, and do everything you can to help future self do it anyway.


I’m not religious, but I love this quote:

“Don’t pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.”


How to Actually “Win” Your 2020 Writing Goals

Here’s five sure-fire ways to make sure you achieve your goals this year. Or, at least, fail better at your goals this year.

1. Make a writing plan.

One of my goals this year – well, my main goal this year is to write for 1000 hours.

That’s 60,000 minutes. I’m choking just looking at that number.

But I know I can do it… because I’ve planned it all out.

I’m going to write for 180 minutes every day.

That’s about 334 days of writing for 3 hours each day.

Because I have a plan, the chances that I will actually accomplish this goal will go way up.

I don’t have to plan every day. I already know what I have to do.

2. Find someone to write with you.

If you’ve never achieved your writing goals before, this is the way to go.

For me, it was a combination of Reddit and online “writing races.”

For you, it might be writing meetups or real-life friends.

Find an easy, enjoyable way to make your writing goals social and rewarding, and the very act of writing will become something you crave.


3. Create a new place to start writing.

Every morning my dad wakes up, he does two things:

  1. Find the newspaper
  2. Sit down at the breakfast table

Nothing will ever distract him from that newspaper while he is at the table. It’s become his habit.

For me, it was writing instead of a newspaper. And a local coffee shop instead of the breakfast table.

I went, most days before work, some days after work, and bought the cheapest item on the menu (which happened to be coffee, praise be to the bean gods)…

… and then I wrote for 2 hours. Easy.

If you don’t already have a spot solely dedicated to writing and nothing else, I suggest you make one. Find a way to make one. Even if it means going to your library with nothing but a juice-box and a typewriter. Make it a habit.

Because some days the words will refuse to come out. And when that happens, you can always go to this spot… and they will simply flow.

4. Figure out your writing barriers.

This tip comes from

What’s stopping you from writing?

Write about it. Spend twenty minutes figuring out the problem – once and for all.

Count that as “writing time,” because figuring it out can unlock hundreds of extra hours of writing for you in the future.

5. Start writing as soon as you can, every day.

I’m a night writer.

Partially because I think it sounds cool, and partially because I don’t have time in the mornings. I’ll figure it out one day… but until them, I’m a night writer.

Yet – as soon as I see a stretch of “free time” on the horizon, I stake it out as writing time.

When you decide to write as early as possible, you remove a ton of stress from your life. Which, oddly enough, makes it easier to write.

Many famous authors write in the mornings. So there must be something to it, right?


My Writer Goals (to Become a Professional Writer)

One of the most important things I learned last year…

…and you can probably see this in my calendar…

…is that momentum matters.

“The more you write, the easier it is to write more.”

That’s why I’m setting the bar so high for myself this year. I want to write more. And I want it to be easy.

So, I’m going hard on myself this year.

Here are a few of my writing goals for 2018:

  1. Write 1000 hour
  2. Post to this blog at least once per week (52 posts in 52 weeks)
  3. Send publication attempts of my short story to at least 15 publications
  4. Finish two full drafts of two novels (I’m already working on the 2nd draft of one novel)

That last one is my most ambitious. But, also, the one I’m most excited for. I spent a ton of time last year working on a short story… only to realize that I am far more passionate about novels.

So, I figured… why not turn that passion into a goal?


What Are Your Writing Goals?

You can do it.

And even if you don’t, you can try. Writing is one of the most rewarding passions out there… and if you keep working at it, it could be something more.

I hope I inspired you to be a bit braver this year.

I want to ask you now… what are your writing goals? What are you going to do to achieve them?

Post a comment down below!

Related: 9 Best Science Fiction Books of 2017

26 thoughts on “How to “Fail Better” at Your Writing Goals”

  1. Great post. Great blog as well.
    My 2018 Writing Goals:
    1) Finish space opera (now revising the 6th outline).
    2) Submit two shot stories for publication.

    1. Thanks Arthur!

      On your writing goals:

      1. When you say 6th outline… have you written a complete draft at this point? How in depth are your outlines? I’m always curious about others’ outlining processes.

      2. You can do it =)

      1. I have a 13,000 word “treatment” which is the last four chapters. My outlines are very in depth. Currently 12,000 words at 40 pages (in Word). I like seeing the “big picture” of the story and finding (planning) ways to keep it moving. Every time I’ve sat down to “write a book,” the story never goes very far.

        How about yourself? Do you outline? What’s your process?

        1. Wow. You are incredible. I am nowhere near as extensive… or patient.

          I do write outlines – but they are mostly bullet lists that go for 2-3 pages maximum.

          I try to figure out the main emotional beats, the central plot points, and the beginning and the climax.

          Everything else, I let it come as it will. This is my process RIGHT NOW. I’m certain I’ll hone it a bit more as I keep writing novels.

          I will say this though: I have a tendency to outline every scene. Mostly, because I want to figure out what core emotion(s) the scene needs to have.

          It kinda looks like this:

          What is my character’s Central Goal/Motivation?
          What conflict will they face here?
          What disaster might happen?

          1. Very cool process. Let’s keep in touch. I read your About Page and seems like we write the same genres.

  2. As a fairly new author, mine are: continue to improve, keep on experimenting, learn from the experience of others, keep up with the serial I’m writing while also managing to submit pieces for the anthologies and other special calls for short stories from the site I write for.

    Thanks for this. Things to think about. Hope you achieve your goals.

    1. Thank you. Continue to improve is probably the healthiest – and hardest – goal.

      I’m trying to come up with specific ways to improve… Mostly, that involves reading more, and writing more, and blogging.

      Every book I read, I try to steal at least one good writing technique that I can use in my own writing.

      Thanks for the comment! Hope you achieve yours =)

      1. Pushing yourself to improve on your own is hard. I’m lucky to have a beta-reader / editor who does some of the pushing, though I don’t always agree with them. 😉 I need to do more reading.

  3. Great post! My writing goals for 2018 include becoming a better writer by writing more and learning from the best. I plan to do this by: securing a job whose role is focused on writing, story development, content creation, or editing (or in an industry surrounded by people who do this), by publishing content to my writer’s blog on the craft of storytelling and the art of writing, and producing essays, short stories, and the first draft of the first book in a series (and sending them off to publication of course). These final writing goals will need production schedules, which I am in the early stages of creating, and helpful articles like this one have helped me immensely in designing one of my own – thanks again!

    1. Good luck and you’re welcome!

      Some of my favorite writers secured jobs that allowed them to spend time writing while “working.”

      So, instead of a content creation job, they worked as the night shift hotel clerk, or something like that, where you would get hours and hours to yourself. Might be something to consider?

      1. Thanks for your encouragement! Not really looking for a plan B, but if it ever came to that definitely something to consider.

  4. This post is so motivating and brimming with good advice! My goal is to write whenever I feel inspired instead of just putting it off or thinking I don’t have the time. So now I jot my thoughts down quickly whenever I have them! It has already made me feel more accomplished. ?

  5. Many thanks for the like on my post, and — most especially — many thanks for writing this inspiring piece, which just so happens to be the perfectly-timed kick-in-the-pants I needed…

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