How to Set Author Goals (You’ll Actually Achieve) in 2023

The only way to become a better author is to set writing goals that are both realistic and meaningful. Without the right goals, you will write in circles, endlessly starting stories and never finishing anything.

Don’t let your potential fade. Take command. Grab control of your destiny as an author.

The right goals allow you to: 

  • Crystallize the vision of your future
  • Build healthy writing habits that yield great books
  • Discover your limits and help you grow past them

Get a pen (or open a new doc). This guide will help you set writing goals and gain control over your destiny as an author. You’ll see a few real-world examples and strategies for actually winning your writing goals in 2023.

Step 1: Find the Grand Vision of “You”

What kind of writing life do you want? 

Who do you want to become? 

This is your chance to dream about your destiny. We want to find the powerful meaning for your life as an author, the reason that fuels your writing.

This vision cannot be vague: you must have clarity of your goals. Do not say, “I want to become a bestselling author” or “I want to change the world with my stories.” That is far too vague. How will you know if you’re successful? How will you know what your next steps are? 

Be specific. For example:  

“I want to write the kind of romance books that make thousands of readers weep joyful tears. I want to build an audience that will buy enough books to comfortably support myself and my family by writing full time.”

The more specific you can get with your grand vision, the better. This clarity will help you outline the exact steps you need to take, and give you a much more realistic view of what it means to be an author. 

When I started writing, I told myself that I wanted to write stories to change the world. Too vague. Change which part of it? Toward which direction? 

Now, I’ve clarified my vision: 

“I write science fiction and fantasy stories to inspire people of all ages to embrace their shortcomings and failures, and to recognize that nothing is over as long as we act on our hope. I write stories to show people how much potential even the smallest person can have, and how to cultivate strengths into world-changing powers. And I want to make a living writing these stories full-time, so I can spend as much of my waking life as possible (while still getting to live as a human being) to craft these stories and polish them into their best forms.”

This dream is forever a work in progress, but it’s supercharged by my beliefs and desires, which, in return, supercharges my writing with tangible purpose.

What is Your Grand Author Vision?

Who do you want to become? What is your greater purpose for writing?

Write it down. If you can include numbers, all the better. Be specific about why your grand vision matters to you. This should be the beacon that shines through, bright and clear, even on the darkest days.

Step 2: Create Your Daily or Weekly Goals

You are ridiculously talented. You have an immense depth of creativity and an ingenuity unique to you. 

It’s amazing what you—specifically, you—can get done in a year … as long as you have a burning mission. To succeed at your goal, you cannot rely on motivation alone, for motivation is a flame that burns out faster than a roman candle drenched in gasoline.

How do you predict, with 100% accuracy, what you will accomplish 52 weeks from now? You can’t. But you can get pretty close, especially if your goals are: 

  1. Realistic
  2. Measurable
  3. And help you build consistency

We’ll start with setting a consistent goal first. The other two elements will follow. Let me show you how:

How to Set Daily/Weekly Writing Goals

If you want to write a novel, or two, or five this year… you must become a consistent writer. You must write toward a specific goal on a consistent basis. Doing this trains your mind, your muse, your inspiration—or whatever you want to call it—to show up at your command.

Don’t let your emotions dictate when you write. All great writers are consistent writers, even if they don’t write every day. They get ready to write at the same time, in the same way, each time. It becomes a habit, a routine, and instead of sapping their creativity, this routine gives them power over it.

You must have a consistent plan to write, even if some days that plan gets cornered in a seedy bar and riddled with bullets and thrown into the bay wearing a fresh pair of concrete boots. Bad days happen. Your goal is not to be perfect—it’s to take responsibility. This is your writing destiny, after all. Nobody else can go there for you. 

It doesn’t matter if you plan to write every day, or if you plan to write one chapter a week, or whatever. You must set a consistent, recurring goal to empower your writing habit.

As of 2023, my writing schedule looks something like this:

  • 5 days a week for ~4000 words
  • 1 day a week at ~2000 words
  • Always stop writing by 6pm, even if I failed to hit my words

Plan based on your own abilities. Not what you think you should be able to do. Not what you did one time, 6 months ago. Not what other authors are doing (trust me, that way lies madness). Be realistic and be humble. How much can you write per week, for 52 weeks in a row? 

If you don’t know, start small, and delight in your recurring success. Grow your goal slowly over time. Years ago, I started by writing micro stories, some that were as short as 250 words. Now, I write thousands. It took years to get to this point.

What is Your Daily (or Weekly) Writing Goal?

Write it down. Then, answer these questions: 

  • How will you measure it?
  • Have you accomplished this goal before? 
  • How confident are you that you will be able to repeat your success, even on difficult weeks?

Specify how much or how long you plan to write on your writing days. I prefer to use word count goals, but you can use hours or chapters written as your goals. Whatever works best for you.

Step 3: Build Your Monthly Writing Milestones

This is the step most new writers skip, but I think it makes a huge impact. Monthly milestones are the ultimate calibration tool. Without a scheduled check-in, you might wake up one June morning and realize you haven’t made an inch of progress on your goals. 

These benchmarks can be a simple word count goal, but I prefer to tie mine to milestones. This forces me to prioritize making real progress versus just writing as many words as possible.

Basically, I ask myself, “How far will I get by the end of each month?” 

For example:

  • Jan: Finish 10 chapters
  • Feb: Finish 10 more chapters
  • March: Finish 1st draft

… and so on …

At first, it will feel like you’re simply guessing, but as you cross off a few milestones, you’ll have a better understand of how much progress you’re able to make in a month. You can always change your milestones, even halfway through the year. The writing police are not going to break down your door and confiscate your author license.

Want to see my monthly writing benchmarks for 2023? 

Jan: Finish second and third draft of Pacifist, Book 1

Feb: 60% with first draft for the final book in my Human Gods series

Mar: Finish first and maybe second draft of Human Gods, Book 4

Apr: Finish final draft of Human Gods, Book 2

May: Publish HG, Book 2. Start final draft of HG, Book 3

Jun: Finish HG, Book 3

Jul: Publish HG, Book 3. Start final draft of HG, Book 4

Aug: Finish HG, Book 4

Sep: Publish HG, Book 4

After this quarter, the milestones become a little less clear, given that I don’t know yet how successful Pacifist will be, and I’m not sure if I’ll put more effort into it as a series, or work on another idea.

Now updated: see my 2023 author goals here.

What are Your Monthly Writing Milestones?

Write at least one for each month in 2023. Don’t be afraid to guess. Failure is a wonderful thing when you look at it the right way. You will learn more from failure than you ever will from success.

How to Actually Achieve Your Writing Goals

By now, you should have 3 specific goals clearly outlined:

  1. Your grand vision
  2. Your 12 monthly milestones
  3. And a daily (or weekly) writing goal

But a goal without action is only an idea… And ideas are cheap. A goal is worth nothing without action. As James Clear put it in his book, Atomic Habits

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

A few years ago, I set a goal to write 21 hours a week. At the time, I was writing maybe a few hundred words a week (over 4-5 hours). I didn’t realize how unrealistic this goal was. I started off strong, but by August, I was so far behind I gave up. One bad day turned into a bad week into another … until I woke up and realized I hadn’t written anything in a month.

Unrealistic goals will kill your drive. Over ambition will crush your spirit, especially if you keep telling yourself, “I should be able to do this!”

With a lot of brutal honesty and help from family, I realized i had to start fresh, from zero. It was an uncomfortable, even humiliating process—and I would do it again in a heartbeat. When I started anew with reasonable, easy goals for myself, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. I could breathe again. And every week I hit that easy goal, I felt so damn proud of my writing again. Paradoxically, the easier goal helped me write more, because I felt like I was good at it. 

Now? I’m writing tens of thousands of words per week—all because I took a huge step backward, and increased my goals a fraction at a time. 

If you feel the pressure building… If it feels like an insurmountable, oceanic wall of death is bearing down on you … Stop. Breathe. Let failure wash over you. It’s not so bad. Then, start over, and start smaller. Your sanity will thank you. And once you win a few days or weeks in a row, increase your goals a little bit. 

Be patient. Show up on a consistent basis. And you will grow into the author you always dreamed of becoming.

Good luck, dear writer. You are going to write great things.

P. S. Hoffman

4 thoughts on “How to Set Author Goals (You’ll Actually Achieve) in 2023”

  1. Thank you, thank you, and thank you! This email article has inspired me to keep on writing. Being a wife and mother of three makes it challenging to always make my daily word count and I was feeling like maybe I need to wait until they are all grown up before doing this. Weekly writing goals sounds realistic and the one year mission, as well as the three year goal is awesome! Happy New Year!!

    1. The weekly writing goals were taken from a mentor (who happens to be a Mother), so I absolutely believe weekly goals will work wonders for you. I’m so glad this advice helped you. Thank you for the kind words, and Happy New Year.

      Do you have a 3-year vision in mind yet?

  2. This is awesome. It really helped me . Actually ,I’m writing a story which I do post on Facebook ,but I think it got boring for me ,and I had another beautiful idea. I started writing the other one . Now it’s more complicated for me ,which makes me blame myself for it. But I try as much as possible to write everyday ,substituting each of the story.

    I really love the way you educate us even with you as an example. It brings out that conscience that ,this is what happened to so so person when he/she trys it so you are likely to try it. I have a very huge passion for writing and I’m 14 years. Can I be a published writer or I’m I too young to be one?? Do I need to learn more ? Please I also need tips on writing Sci-fi stories because I really do love them .

    1. The youngest author ever traditionally published was 4 years old. The most recent one was 9 years old. There’s no reason a 14 year-old can’t get published, though you will have to work incredibly hard or get incredibly lucky.

      At the VERY least, you can learn to start building healthy writing habits and in a few short years, you’ll have an amazing body of work. Good luck, Fissy!

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