Writing Goals

I’ve seen and read various writers admit to various goals they have for their writing careers, but most of them seem to be of the win-Booker or become-New-York-Times-bestselling-author type, which I don’t think you can realistically aim for. Sure you can hope, but what can you do to make those dreams come true? Other than write the best books you can, which don’t guarantee a bloody thing.

My goals are a tad more possible. For example, I aim to publish a book in every one of these categories:

Crime (what some call mysteries)
Thriller (the John Grisham, Tom Clancy etc etc genre1)
Comedy (do you call ’em comedies if they’re books?)
Mainstream (you know, Literature: professor has affair with much younger student in the midst of mid-life crisis)

I chose the categories cause those are all the ones I’ve actually read and think I have a bit of a shot at writing and publishing. Though Thriller and Mainstream will prolly be my biggest stretch. I just don’t seem to get many ideas for books without magic or werewolves or bloodshed or fairies. It was my goal to write in all of these categories long before I ever sold a book. In fact I’ve written romantic, science fictonal, horrific and funny short stories. Very few of them published, though. (Short stories are not my thing.)

As you can see, I’ve got a wee bit of a ways to go. I’ve written an historical but until it’s published it doesn’t count. Why am I not counting the unpublished ones? Cause I’m talking about my career and unpublished manuscripts no matter how fine are not a visible part of my writing career.

Some would say that for those writing for the grown ups publishing in so many different categories is career suicide. “Build your audience! Don’t abandon them or expect them to follow you!” But I don’t write for adults so I can publish in every one of those categories and still have my books shelved in the same place in a bookshop. Ah, the many wonders of writing YA!

The other beautiful thing about my goal is that I can knock over several birds with one stone. For example, I reckon the great Australian monkey-knife fighting feminist cricket mangosteen fairy novel is a romance as well as a comic science fiction novel. Bam! Three categories crossed off for the one novel. Excellent, eh?

It’d also be fun if I managed all of these:

First person
Second person
Third person limited

I’ve crossed off first and third limited as I used ’em both in the Magic or Madness trilogy. I guess technically I didn’t write a whole novel in either, but I’m the one who decides what counts . . .

Also these:


The idea of writing a series is a little bit scary. I’d like to write one where every book is self-contained but the characters and world are shared. I suspect that the great Australian monkey-knife fighting feminist cricket mangosteen fairy novel might be the first of a series. But what if I run out of ideas after two or three books but more are wanted? Many more? Worse—what if I’d actually sold more . . .

I’ve written (but not published) two standalones so the prospect scares me not at all.

Some might have noticed that “short story collection” is not on my list. That’s because I’m more likely to win the Booker than I am to get a short story collection published. I need my goals to be realistic!

Writing across all those different genres, experimenting with person and form will not only be good for me—it’s learning and improving, innit?—it’ll also keep me from being bored out of my skull.

What are your writing or publishing goals?

  1. I’m using “genre” and “category” interchangably cause now that I’m no longer an academic—I can. []


  1. Lee Battersby on #

    I very much like the fact that your goals are internal, rather than external: they’re about what you can do, rather than about what you want the rest of the world to acknowledge.

    I’m probably not that well-realised as a person 🙂

    Right now, my goals are simple: sell the first novel, get myself a US-based agent, complete my second novel, start and complete my third. In other words, swap treadmills.

    I’ve written the 1st novel, and I’m partway through the second. I’m finding it hard hard hard to attract an agent. But that’s me asking the world for acknowledgement, so….

  2. Dan Goodman on #

    “Some would say that for those writing for the grown ups publishing in so many different categories is career suicide.”

    Oh, right — that’s why Dean Koontz’s career fizzled, while people who settled down to steady work on a “Soviet Union invades US” series are raking in the royalties.

  3. Justine on #

    Lee: At least you can control the writing of those novels. Took me forever to get an agent . . .

    Dan: Do not question publishing truths!

  4. Rebecca on #

    my writing goals: pass my writing classes (A’s would be nice, but yanno, whatev) and get something, somewhere, that i’m proud of, published. preferably in the not-too-distant future. and more immediately, finish something, as in for real finish, as in “i wouldn’t be embarrassed to send this to an agent” published. i’ve completed drafts before but have nothing that wouldn’t mortify me yet.

  5. Rebecca on #

    i have a question: do you outline? or do you just have a general concept of what you’re going to write? I know you do that spreadsheet thing, but do you start out that way, or not until after the first draft? or something else entirely?

  6. Diana on #

    I call mine comedies, but only because chick lit appears to have fallen from favor. 😉

    My goal is simple: make my living as a writer for the next 60-odd years.

    Then retire.

  7. Mike on #


    Give second person a miss. Have ‘you’ ever read anything good in that voice?

  8. marrije on #

    My current public goal is to finish writing one (1) book in a way that makes me happy enough. Say a second draft that makes sense overall, has convincing people and not too many gaping plot holes. Preferably this year, since I’m getting dangerously close to my 40th birthday and thither lie midlife crises.

    My secret personal goal is for one of my books to be published one day, and that a writer I really respect (like, say, oh, michael chabon) comes up to me to say, dude, that was good. I want to belong with the cool people, yes.

  9. Justine on #

    Rebecca: I’ll write you a whole post on outlines. (I was sort of kidding about the spreadsheet. And mocking Scott’s detailed one. Mine only really tracks wordcounts and it’s not really useful until the first draft is done..)

    Diana: Oh, sure, that’s my goal too. Except for the retiring bit.

    Mike: If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller has lots of second person. Also Black Idol. I’m sure there are others can’t think of them offhand, but.

    Marrije: If you type it on a blog it’s not a secret anymore . . . But I promise not to tell anyone.

    Hah! I’m waiting for Chabon to come and say that to me, too. One day . . .

  10. may on #

    i’d like to write until muse retires.

    then i can get my life back.

  11. Robin L on #

    I don’t see why you can’t incorporate magic or werewolves or bloodshed or fairies into a thriller. Heck, maybe even a mainstream, but certainly a thriller. Normally i don’t read thrillers, but if it had a fairy or a werewolf? I’d be all over that…

    I, too, have always wanted to publish in many different categories; chick lit, historical, fantasy, mystery, urban fantasy, and romance. Due to the very wise words of someone (cough-cough::JL::cough-cough) I am finding I can do all of those in YA.

    Huh. As I typed that list, I realized the only one I haven’t done so far is the romance, but I’m working on that right now in nano. Cool!

    lemme see. I’ve done 1st and 3rd POV (great breakdown of the pov’s the other day, btw) and have no desire to do second.

    I’ve done stand alones and a trilogy and just sold the 2nd book in what’s shaping up to be a series.

    I used to have publishing goals, but I don’t any more. THey’re too hard to control and take away the fun of writing for me. So now I have writing goals, which are basically to write two books a year that excite and challenge me, and just hope they do the same for others. With luck, one of those others will be my editor. {g}

  12. Lauren on #

    Just one goal. Write a science fiction musical.

  13. Penni on #

    I’d like to write a Margaret Atwood, A.S. Byatt style story within a story type novel, with lots of interesting language and characters, but a nice sturdy plot and some rich subplots too.
    I’d also like to write full, world-building fantasy because a) I think it would be fun and b) magic in the real world is so much more of a headache than I ever expected it would be.
    I’d also like to write a ballet book.
    And in an alternative universe where I had lots of time to dream and I was another me with another voice I’d like to write a really fabulous, beautiful picture book. I am so in awe of really good picture book writers, like Bob Graham. Not a beat, not a word wrong.

  14. Rebecca on #

    “I’ll write you a whole post on outlines”

    score! i’m always wondering about outlines. 😀

Comments are closed.