It's a long road!
It’s a long road!

I have been writing for almost three years now but still consider myself to be a ‘newbie’ – I have no book deal, no back-catalogue of novels, no editor, no publisher, no cover artist.

***So why should you continue reading this post?***

Because despite all this, I am a writer, and I have a point of view that I hope at least some of you will be able to relate to.

There are lots of great blogs on the Internet about the craft of writing, some of which I will be linking you to in future posts, but what I want to do here on this blog, is to journey along with you, as someone who is working towards that lofty goal of a completed first novel.

As a new writer, I found (and still do sometimes) that some of the excellent writing blogs were actually working to de-motivate me: I couldn’t match up with other author’s achievements; they didn’t feel RELEVANT to me and my situation.

As I started out, I found setting SMART goals to be helpful. I used them as a tool to keep me motivated: achieving goals (however small) is very uplifting!

S (specific) – The who, what, where, when and why.

A general goal might be ‘publish a short story.’ A specific goal might include:

How many days a week will you write?

How many words per day?

Where will you be submitting your work.

M (Measureable)

How will you know if you have completed your goal? There are a number of ways you could choose to measure your success against your goals:

Your short stories are getting finished.

You start receiving feedback from friends.

Are you hitting your daily / weekly word quota?

Either the rejection emails start rolling in, or you work is accepted into an online webzine!

A (Achievable)

If your goal is meaningful to you, you will develop new skills and abilities that help you on your way to achieving your goal. Goals that seem far away, will eventually get closer, not because the goal shrinks, but because you grow.

How will you learn the skills to progress?

R (Realistic)

Have you set yourself a goal that will be hard to accomplish? Whilst there is nothing wrong with having lofty goals, I would suggest breaking them down into more achievable ones. Wanting to be as prolific and successful as Stephen King is great, but are you setting yourself up to fail?

Your goal must be something that you are willing and able to work towards.

Curiously, setting a higher target might be easier to attain than a lower one, as the motivational forces at work may be higher.

T (Time limited)

Set yourself a time limit. Even if you do not have a publisher breathing down your neck, having no time constraint instils within you no sense of urgency.

Look at your daily word count targets. A 5000 word short story will take 10 days at 500 words a day. But have you considered all the other factors in your life – kids, jobs, illness? Maybe 250 words a day is more realistic, giving you 20 days to complete that story.


I am keen to hear from authors in a similar position to me: how did you go about starting out? Experienced authors: what light can you shed on this process for the rest of us? Leave me a comment to let me know.

Next time, I will be looking at some of the options available to new writers as they start out.

18 thoughts on “Being SMART

  1. Hi, Steve! I’m a newbie too. I’ve recently decided to try my hand at fiction (my background is in academic writing). I’ll be following your blog for tips and support. Cheers!


  2. We need to stick together, Rachel! Does safety in numbers apply here? Not sure of the point at which you switch from newbie to veteran, but i guess as long as we keep striving, eh? Let me know how the fiction writing goes. I’ll keep an eye out!


  3. I’ve been writing for about two years now but still haven’t got a publishing contract. Sigh. It’s a tough business, but I keep on going hoping that it will happen for me eventually. Good luck with your journey too.


    1. I suppose it depends on why you are writing. I haven’t got a novel written yet, but that’s ok – i enjoy the writing! Your blog looks great: I love the layout and the way things are organised not to mention the great content.
      If your blog is anything to go by, i am sure something positive will happen for you soon. Have you considered self-publishing? You must have a good number of loyal followers to help that process.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Steve. Thanks for commenting. Such encouraging, kind words. Like you I love writing too. I intend to start putting up more of my writing on my blog, mainly flash fiction/short stories. I’m doing a photography/writing challenge soon. I am considering self-publishing my first manuscript, and hope to get some help from my followers, some of which are self-published authors. If and when I decide to go down that path.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with Steve, Marje, and hope you’ll go with that idea of self-publishing. Even traditionally-published authors have to market their own work. Unfortunately, it’s not all plain sailing once you get picked up by a publisher, and with self-pub, you have more creative control – albeit a lot of ‘blood, sweat & tears’ to get your book up to scratch for market (OK, maybe not so much blood, but you get the point).

    I think Steve’s advice – to set ‘SMART’ goals is very down-to-earth, and just what you need to hear – especially when you’re setting off down the indie publishing road. It’s all well and good that there are some powerhouse writers out there you can look up to, but sometimes when you look back at your own life, you can end up telling yourself some quite negative things: “I’m not good enough because I’m not like them”, “I’m not achieving enough, so I’m going to fail” – the list goes on. So be inspired by successful authors, by all means, but don’t let their light put you under pressure.

    To any ‘newbie’ author, I would also say there’s a lot of well-meant advice out there, but often it’s conflicting – because what works for one person might not work for another. Writers who are fairly new to the game can feel bamboozled and confused by all the advice out there, but I think that learning to be kinder to yourself and your process is the most important thing you can do for yourself. So set realistic goals and don’t feel you have to achieve that long-as-your-arm list of to do’s you probably have, all in one night.

    Work at your own pace and give yourself time to find who YOU are as a writer! Things will come together eventually.


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