SMART goals and writing. Update time

I thought my writing goal was pretty SMART. But, was I deliberately leaving myself some wriggle-room?

In August 2013, I signed up for Misha’s 5 year project. My goal was to finish writing a novel and to get it published. Today, I realised there is only one year and a few months left until my self-imposed deadline expires.

Now, I thought my goal was pretty SMART when I set it. (If you want to know the difference between a SMART goal and a not-SMART goal, I talk about this in the second half of this post. Scroll down.)

But, perhaps my goal wasn’t so SMART after all? Perhaps I was deliberately leaving myself some wriggle-room? Because, you see I didn’t define:

  1. Exactly which novel I would get published.
  2. Or how I would publish it.

As I see it, I have two options.

Ruth Livingstone, writer, author and bloggerThe Reluctant Scribe, my first novel, is still being considered by a handful of agents, but I received another rejection last week. After all this time I’m not hopeful of finding someone willing to take it on. I could, however, pay for professional editing and self publish the book. I think that’s a better option than leaving it languishing on my hard drive.

In the meantime, I have found another writer willing to read through the manuscript and give me some feedback.

Ruth Livingstone, writer, author and bloggerOrbital Contract, my second novel is a sci-fi adventure story for young adults, and has far more commercial potential. I’ve completed the third round of edits and the story is finished.

Of course, I’m never quite sure when you can tell if a book is actually finished, but I’m now just playing around with commas!

Now something really exciting has happened. After the Writing East Midlands conference in Nottingham last weekend, an agent has expressed an interest and is currently considering the full manuscript. I’m trying not to get my hopes up too high,

Thinking kid, The Reluctant ScribeBeing SMART about goals.

Now, the thing about goals is that they can be SMART or not-SMART. Here’s the difference.

SMART goals are:

  • Specific, which means you set out exactly what it is you hope to accomplish.
  • Measurable, so that you can tell you’re on track and know when you reach the end.
  • Achievable, because reaching the goal is under your own control and not too reliant on other people’s goodwill, and certainly not reliant on magic, or on luck.
  • Realistic or Relevant to your life, so that you feel there’s some point to pursuing your goals despite competing priorities.
  • Time limited, by setting yourself firm milestones and deadlines.

Here are some examples of SMART goals:

  • I will earn more money, by volunteering for overtime every week this month and will apply for a promotion before the end of  the year.
  • I will improve my relationship with my mother, by phoning her twice a week.
  • I will become a better writer, by entering a short story contest every month until I win.

DreamsNot-SMART goals are:

Huge and beautiful. They’re your favourite dreams. Your secret wishes.

Not-smart goals are often ambitious and enticing, but lack detail. They’re fuzzy. Why? Because you know you want your life to be better, but it’s actually quite hard to pin down exactly what you hope to achieve and when you hope to achieve it.

Not-smart goals often rely on extraordinary good luck arriving, and may be far removed from your everyday life and ordinary experience.  In fact, they could represent some wonderful and heavenly vision you have for the future.

Here are some examples of not-SMART goals:

  • I will win the lottery and become a multi-millionaire.

Great, but how likely is this to really happen? Do you know what the odds are? Can you influence them? Do you actually buy any lottery tickets?

  • I will try harder to be a nicer person.

That’s nice, but what do you mean by ‘try harder’ and what do you mean by ‘nicer’? You could substitute ‘healthier’ or ‘fitter’ in place of nicer, but you still need to decide where to start and how you measure your progress.

  • I will become the best writer in the world.

Wonderful. Great ambition. But how will you start improving as a writer, and how will you know when you’re really better than everyone else?

DreamingLet me make it clear, there is nothing wrong with not-SMART goals.

They are often the best and most hopeful thoughts of our lives, the things we dream about, the passions that get out of bed in the morning. And there is nothing wrong with having hopes, dreams and passions.

In fact, many of my fellow authors on the Five Year Project have non-SMART goals with great aspirations. They’re shooting for the stars, flying high, and that’s great.

I just prefer something a bit more concrete under my own feet.

Yes. I’ll hang onto my crazy dreams and wild ambitions. But I must make sure to give myself some sensible goals too, and I know I’m more likely to succeed if I keep them SMART.


Writing Update: Feb 2017

“We found it very compelling and well-written” but…

In August 2013, I signed up for Misha’s 5 year project. My goal was to finish writing a novel and to get it published.

Ruth Livingstone, writer, author and bloggerFirst, some positive news. I’ve been editing my second novel, a sci-fi adventure story for young adults, and enjoyed whipping the text into excellent shape. Only another 6,500 words to go… yippee.

Ruth Livingstone, writer, author and bloggerMore positive news: I’ve also been editing my short stories (a selection of the ones I wrote during my NaNoWriMo challenge #30days30shorts) and started submitting them to competitions. No news to report yet… fingers crossed. Continue reading “Writing Update: Feb 2017”

January 2017 – writing update

There is more than one way to achieve a goal.

In August 2013, I signed up for Misha’s 5 year project. My goal was to finish writing a novel and to get it published.

The novel was finished a long time ago. The sticking-point has been finding an agent.

So, last month, I came up with a sub-goal, which was to submit to 30 agents before giving up. So far my tally is 27 and that means I only have 3 left to go. Continue reading “January 2017 – writing update”

5 Year Writing Project: 2016 round-up

Round up of 2016’s writing achievements, and a quick look ahead.

In August 2013, I signed up for Misha and Beth’s 5 year project. The idea was to set yourself a writing goal and then stick with it for 5 years until you achieved your aim. In my case, my goal was to get a novel finished and published.

3 years and 4 months later and I have:

bullet-30 Achieved the first part of my goal. Yes, my novel is written. It’s called The Reluctant Scribe and is a historical novel set in the Tang Dynasty, 7th century China. I’ve had feedback from various people, including a professor of literature, and it has all been positive. Continue reading “5 Year Writing Project: 2016 round-up”

Desperately seeking a final story

Yesterday was the last day of NaNoWriMo


Apart from one day of panic, when I thought I might have sucked my brain dry of inspiration, I’ve done pretty well during this NaNo month.

30 short stories in 30 days is no mean feat.

Yesterday, it was time to come up with my final story and I turned to a wisp of an idea that’s been gentle wafting through my mind for some time.

It involved a woman searching for her tortoise. And finding love instead.

Anyway, that’s it. #30days30shorts over and done with. Now follows the most important part of any writing spree: the dreaded editing!

Illustrating the stories

Somebody asked me where I found the illustrations I used in this series of NaNo posts.

  1. I searched for Creative Commons Zero images (CC0) on sites such as Unsplash, Pixabay and Pexels,
  2. opened them in my Corel PaintShop Pro programme,
  3. modified them with line drawings on my Wacom pad,
  4. and experimented with various photo manipulation tricks.

It’s been great fun finding suitable images and converting them for each piece.

Creating the illustrations took almost as much effort as writing the stories themselves. Should have really called this project #30days30shorts30pics Anyway, here’s a gallery of them all: