Fiction Writing Goals: Goals For You, And For Your Characters

Change is hard; we all resist it. It’s vital to be aware of this fact of human nature when it comes to setting fiction writing goals. A writer in our writing group recently wondered whether she was “meant to be a writer” because she had to force herself to set goals. When she did set goals, she complained that she rarely achieved them.

Goal setting is important because whether you achieve a goal or not, goals move you forward.

Your fiction writing goals: map your journey to inspire your writing

A goal gives you a destination, and a way to get there. Goals stop you floundering.

Simple goals you can set for your fiction writing include:

  • A short-term goal — a goal for this week, or this month;
  • A couple of medium-term goals, for the next six months, or year;
  • Long-term goals, for where you hope to be in five or more years.

Start by setting a long-term goal. Where you do want your fiction writing to be in five years?

Even if you’ve previously set goals, deciding what you want to accomplish with your fiction writing is a real challenge. Allow yourself to dream. Whenever an inner voice suggests that a BIG magical goal is impossible for you to achieve, set it anyway. You never know what you can achieve until you get started.

Tips to help you to get the most out of your fiction writing goals

Let’s look at some tips you can use to make goal setting, and achieving, more useful and productive:

  • Change your goals when you need to — no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. You don’t know how much time and effort a novel will take until you start writing.
  • Add stretch goals to goals which inspire you. For example, if you’re powering through your current novel, you might create a stretch goal to outline the next novel in the series by the time you finish your first draft.
  • Always focus on NOW, and today. Rewrite your primary goal in your journal every morning; this process helps you to maintain your focus.
  • Review your goals regularly: at least once a week.
  • Keep silent about your goals. Even well-meaning people can toss icy water on your goals. No one knows you as well as you know yourself, and even you don’t know what you’re capable of achieving.
  • Celebrate your achievements. Let’s say you wrote a novel. You’re depressed because it’s not selling as well as you’d hoped. Consider that writing the novel, and self-publishing it, is a HUGE achievement… Acknowledge that. Celebrating any achievement, no matter how small, is important.

Your fictional characters: they need goals too

Just as you need goals, so do your fictional characters.

Failing to motivate your characters means that you don’t have a plot.

From Debra Dixon’s excellent book, GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict:

Commercial fiction readers expect your characters to have goals, to be motivated, and to face conflict. They expect you to answer four simple questions.

Who = character

What = goal

Why = motivation

Why not = conflict

Try applying What, Why, Why Not, to the characters in your current WIP (work in progress.) Giving your characters strong goals makes them likable. Scarlett O’Hara and Becky Sharp are two fictional characters no one can love. They’re horrid, each in her own way.

Readers have responded to Thackeray’s Becky for almost two centuries for a simple reason — Becky has goals. So does Scarlett. She’s a goal setter and getter. She’s even setting a goal to never be hungry again at the end of Gone With The Wind.

Setting goals for yourself, and for your characters in your fiction writing, is vital. You’ll achieve more, and your characters will be more appealing to readers.


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