Reader Friday: Writing Goals

What are your writing goals for 2020? Are you on track to achieve those goals?Β 

We all know writing is a marathon, not a sprint. For many, the pandemic demolished their writing goals for the year, or at least set them back.

I don’t want to push you if you’re not ready — we all cope differently and on our own timeline — but setting goals can help steer your writing dreams back onto the track. πŸ™‚

Name one writing goal you hope to achieve this year. What about in 5 years? 10 years?Β 

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About Sue Coletta

Sue Coletta is an award-winning crime writer and an active member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Feedspot and named her Murder Blog as β€œBest 100 Crime Blogs on the Net.” She also blogs at the Kill Zone (Writer's Digest "101 Best Websites for Writers") and Writers Helping Writers. Sue lives with her husband in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. Her backlist includes psychological thrillers, the Mayhem Series (books 1-3) and Grafton County Series, and true crime/narrative nonfiction. Now, she exclusively writes eco-thrillers, Mayhem Series (books 4-7 and continuing). Sue's appeared on the Emmy award-winning true crime series, Storm of Suspicion, and three episodes of A Time to Kill on Investigation Discovery. Learn more about Sue and her books at

25 thoughts on “Reader Friday: Writing Goals

  1. The pandemic kept me home for 2 months. I did a tremendous amount of yard work and DIY repairs around the house, to the point I ran out of things to do. I’d check the grass every morning, waiting for it to reach that mowable height. I had a lot of time but, somehow, I did not use that time to write. Not a damned thing. I still cannot figure that out.

    Now I’m back at work and I’m writing again. It’s the strangest thing.

    I read Mr. Bell’s many books on craft and I read many by a dozen other authors. I had Mr. Bell’s “daily word target” down – I was cranking out a thousand words (on average) every day for months. I wrote a lot of simple scenes I dreamed up during my days at work. I wrote a few shorts.

    I made the mistake of reading more books on the subject of craft and it brought my production to a halt. I learned that “Writing every day is great, but it must be done with INTENTION”… I am supposed to be working on specific techniques while I’m writing so as to master them. This really slowed me down. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what techniques I should be practicing, and how to apply them to what I was going to write… And then the knockout blow hit me – “Don’t start writing a word until you know how what you are writing is going to end!”….

    I didn’t write a word for 5 months. All the word I’d done to that point felt like wasted effort. I have a million ideas about what to write. I have very few endings ready to tag onto to those ideas.

    My pandemic holiday and complete lack of writing taught me that something is seriously screwed up. So, I’m back to pushing for that word count, ignoring the need for “intent” and the need for a planned ending. ** My writing goal for the rest of the year is to learn how to apply these things (intention & planned endings) while still hammering the keys for a big total count every day. I intend to take “baby steps”.

    • Though no 2 people react the same, it doesn’t surprise me that you weren’t able to write for those 2 months. Being thrown out of a regular routine is very difficult for many people. We just need to give ourselves some grace & find our way back to what works for us.

    • Carl, you aren’t alone. I’ve spoken to numerous writers who couldn’t write during quarantine. I hit a rough patch at the beginning, but then my love of research and true crime pulled me out of my slump. My fiction WIP is all planned out and half written (pre-pandemic). While I await contract negotiations for my true crime project, I’ll be diving back into fiction. My point is, with the world in disarray, it’s important to concentrate on one thing at a time.

  2. Like Carl, I’m back to “just writing.” I spent the first weeks of the pandemic editing my novel and my novella. When I thought I had done what I could on them, I tried to start on a new novel. But 11,000 words in I’m realizing that I haven’t got the central motivations and conflict clear in my head. So I’m back to my “Daily Delivery,” just free writing (something I believe Bell recommends, so not all advice in books needs be constipating). This free writing should keep the juices flowing and, eventually, lead to what I need to continue with the novel.

  3. Short term goal: Give the Plottr program a try & see if it can help me visually organize my thoughts on my novel in terms of plots, scenes, characters, etc.

    Longer term goal: Have 1 complete first draft manuscript by November 1.

    COVID blew all concentration & focus out of the water & I’m just starting to get that focus back, bits at a time. Pre-COVID, although I wasn’t working on novel length works, but instead just writing whatever ramblings came to me, I proved to myself that with a push, I could write 6k words a week. So it seems more than reasonable, barring any other insanity in 2020, that I ought to be able to finish the first draft of a manuscript by November. Time will tell.

  4. After the initial paralysis and depression that lasted a couple of weeks in March, I decided listening to constant news was more dangerous to one’s health than the virus.

    In April, I shifted to edit mode for my fourth book, setting a goal for June release. At first, I wasn’t sure that was doable. However, it became easier to focus my concentration on something I *could* control rather than something I *couldn’t* control.

    I beta-read several mss. for other writers, although, for some reason, I couldn’t finish published books. Still not sure why reading is so difficult right now but, looking at the general drop in book sales across the board, apparently others feel the same.

    I worked on editing, prepping my book for release, figuring out how to use iMovie (still working on that) as an alternative to cancelled personal appearances at book clubs, and editing for other writers. Oh, yeah, meeting deadlines for TKZ posts!

    As long as tasks had a tangible purpose and an achievable goal within a relatively short time frame, I was fine.

    Five and 10 years in the future??? Too hard to imagine right now. Just putting my head down and moving toward what I can do this week and next week.

    • Reading novels is tough for me too, Debbie. No idea why. But I find my mind wandering, even when I love the book. It’s frustrating. I’ve read umpteen nonfiction articles and true crime books since the pandemic started, but fiction I’m having a real problem with. Weird.

      Love your idea about using iMovie for book clubs. All my appearances got cancelled. πŸ™ Our Governor just extended our stay-at-home order till “at least the middle of June, maybe indefinitely” till there’s a vaccine.

      Yes! It helps having a deadline, doesn’t it? LOL

  5. Honestly, my life hasn’t changed that much. Still don’t like to leave my five acres in God’s Country. The thing that’s been hardest to handle is the daily onslaught of bad and badder news, so I try to just keep myself informed of the basics and get back to work.

    My goal for 2020 is to release my first novel…woot! And my second in 2021.

    Other than that, some small writing projects; and learn, learn, learn.

    5-10 years? Ain’t happenin’ in this brain. I do have other novels in gestation stages, so I’ll most likely be nourishing them for birth. πŸ™‚

  6. I had ambitious plans for 2020. I’d just retired in December, 2019, after 32 years at the public library, and looked forward to going full-time as a writer at long last. I had six novels out. I planned on finishing two series this year, and starting another–aiming for four novels this year. I’d been writing 1-2 a year since 2016 (the year I “got serious” about self-publishing, after spending many years writing and selling short fiction, and piling up trunk novels).

    Then the pandemic struck. March and much of April were tough on my writing and my writing plans. In addition to having to spend time nearly every day stalking delivery and curbside pick up options for groceries (which now have caught up with the demand), near the end of March I developed severe tooth pain in a back lower molar. Fortunately, here in Oregon, that dentists could see patients for emergency visits, and this was certainly that. After seeing my regular dentist (who is fantastic, former military dentist), then a specialist, I had the tooth extracted in early April, and spent about two weeks recovering.

    I got little writing done, but I did plow through several of Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder novels. Finally, I was able to get back to writing, with a tight pre-order deadline for my current novel. My star beta reader and my editor both rose to the occasion, reading behind me as I furiously revised the novel, then sending me their feedback and edits. The book is now out.

    Next up is book 2 in my second series, due later this summer and half-way finished. After that, the final book in that series.

    These are all urban fantasy novels that skew toward the mystery side.

    I’ve been wanting to write an actual mystery for sometime, one set at a library (no surprise), and have been taking notes on the side. Several of my beta readers are huge mystery fans and are thrilled that I’m finally going to write one. I don’t have a time frame for writing it, yet, but I’m thinking I’d like to draft it alongside my current novel. However, if there’s one thing these past few months have taught me, it’s to temper my expectations and be kind to myself. Mainly I want to enjoy writing it as much as possible πŸ™‚

    Five to ten years from now, I’d like to have twenty to forty more novels out, plus a collection of short fiction, and to continue to be learning and growing as a writer.

  7. Like a lot of writers, I couldn’t focus after the pandemic hit…plus I was starting a new book…but in the past few weeks I’ve been able to finally get words on the page. My goal for 2020 is to write the 2nd book in my Natchez Park Rangers series and get a proposal off for another, smaller word count series.

  8. Once again, I’m the weird one. The lockdown has given me the time to solve some of my long standing writing issues, basically getting into the right genre. I am 60% done with my WIP started in late January. It is called “Flowers for the Dead”. I have outlined three more suspense novels. My goal is to finish “Flowers” and by December have the second book, “The Next Door Neighbor’s Sister” finished. The second one is closer to the Hitchcock model of suspense. Finally, I’ll have a new website. I also have two books planned for 2021: “The First to Die” and “The Sunset Stripper”. This last one is a revenge plot.

  9. The pandemic has helped my writing goals, actually. Since I’m a college student, I’d made my 2020 goals at the beginning of the year with the assumption that I would only have the summer and a little bit of time in the winter to work on them anyway. And since the semester has ended and my old job isn’t hiring right now, I actually have a solid three months with literally NOTHING to do except write. I feel like I’ve been handed every writer’s dream :P.
    My goals are to finish drafting the novella I set aside back in August 2019, write a year’s supply of blog posts, and finally submit my fiction writing to a non-academic-related contest. I submitted to a contest last week, have completed almost 1/4 of my blog post goal, and two word-count-based writing challenges I’m participating in start Monday, so I’d say I’m definitely on track.

  10. Goal for 2020: Finish my supernatural love story novel The Lake Effect.

    Five years: I have a concept for a quartet that I have been fleshing out and would like to finish those.

    Ten years: To still be breathing without assistance or to be shot by a jealous husband.

  11. Hi Sue – Just opened up TKZ and thought I’d make some sort of contribution. My 2020 goal is to reach 2022’s goal. That’s to make $5K/month through indie publishing.

    I never thought it was realistic – that’s because I didn’t believe it. I had a mindset change early this year and decided to “go wide” and increase output. That change of focus resulted in more writing/promoting during the covid outbreak and the sales numbers are showing it. I also started pay-to-play ads.

    It’s really working which encourages output. What do you think of a post on TKZ about my “going wide” and paid ads experience?

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