The One About Precisely Defined Writing Goal


You know the drill. These books aren’t going to write themselves. You need a plan and a deadline. That’s where goals come in. Precisely defined goals yield precise results. Precisely refined goals are also SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound.)

Let’s break down SMART writing goals:

1) Specific writing goals:
Start by defining the end result. What type of writing do you intend to do? Book-length or shorter? Commercial or hobby? Fiction or non-fiction?

Start wide, and then narrow it down:

FICTION                           NON-FICTION
Literary                             Inspirational

Genre                                Personal Development

Short stories                    Text/Educational

Novellas                           Memoir/biography

Comics                             Essays

Graphic novels               Articles or blog posts

Add details. Define the topic, the audience, and projected length. Is your completed work part of a series or a stand-alone work?

Now formulate the front end of your goal statement. (The back end, or deadline will come after Step 5.)

For example:

  • I will write a 35,000 word, Middle Grade fantasy novel about a girl coming of age on Mars.
  • I will write a weekly 800 word blog post on dating for divorced adults to post on my counseling website.

2) Measurable writing goals:

When will you know it’s finished? How will you measure progress over time, distance, or quantity?

Start with the projects components. Steps for writing a book might include:

  • Outline
  • Research
  • First draft
  • Revisions
  • Edit/Polish
  • Submit/query

Now list the individual action steps for each component. For example, your outline follows the four act structure and includes character sketches and a complete scene list.

3) Achievable writing goals:

Look at Steps 1 and 2, and ask if you have what is needed to achieve this goal. What attitudes, abilities and skills are needed? What resources are required? How much effort is needed? What changes in current practices are needed to achieve this goal? How bad do you want it? Your writing goal should be inspiring; something you yearn to accomplish. If it feels like drudgery, you’ll have a difficult time following through.


4) Realistic writing goals:

I always thought this one should come after the next step, Timing, but then it would look like a typo: SMATR instead of SMART.

Realistic means looking at your desires with a critical eye. Are you willing and able to go for it? Can you make it a priority given other commitments? Play devil’s advocate. If your goal is to write an epic 300,000-word trilogy in one year, but you work full-time, have two children in school and are the main caregiver for an aged parent, is it realistic to think you can plan, draft, and revise over 5,700 words a week? There’s nothing wrong with stretch goals, but keep it within the realm of doable.

5) Time-bound writing goals:

Time-bound means your completion date is tied to a calendar. Time-bound goals must be reasonable and manageable. Look back at the components listed in Step 2. Pencil in the amount of time estimated to accomplish each component. For example:

Outline – 1 week

Research – 2 weeks

First draft – 3 months

With your time estimates done, write it down. Look at your calendar and assign projected finish date. Leave space to record the actual completion dates. If you miss a deadline, don’t beat yourself up, just record it. This becomes valuable data for planning future projects.

Now you can formulate the back end of the goal statement you began in Step 1. Restate your goal in an active voice:

  • I will write a 35,000 word, Middle Grade fantasy novel about a girl coming of age on Mars, starting March 15th and completing it by September 30th.

Step 1 and 5 help you create a precisely defined writing goal. Steps 2, 3 and 4 help you create a detailed action plan to achieve it.


Before you finalize your plan, I suggest adding one more item. Why. Why are you writing this? Why will be your fuel when the project feels overwhelming or you’re lost in the muddy middle of a first draft. You may choose to publicly state your goals, but the why is for your eyes only. So be candid. If you’ve got a hidden agenda, get it out, examine it and either incorporate it or jettison it. You can’t tell yourself you’re writing a how-to book to make the world a better place when you really just want a million dollars by whatever means possible.

Finalize your goal

Keep a written copy of your goals handy to track progress. Evaluate these goals regularly and adjust if needed. Account for changes to keep track for future planning. Because after you achieve this goal, you’ll be ready to formulate more.


Writing After a Lengthy Hiatus


Are you someone who used to write regularly, maybe even had work published, but – for whatever reason – stopped writing?

The why and how doesn’t matter. Contracts go south. Readership wanes. Your interests and goals as an author shift. Then there are family matters that can’t be ignored. Health issues interfere. You didn’t mean to let it go, but…

Eventually it dawns on you that you haven’t written in days, weeks, months, years. And now you – for whatever reason – want to begin again.

Except when you sit at the keyboard, or pick up your pen, the results are discouraging. Our command over focus and discipline have fled. Our butts resist the chair. We feel impatient with rough drafts. The words and ideas that once flowed, barely trickle. You worry that your creativity will never return.

Don’t believe that.

Yes, your creative muscles have likely atrophied, but they can be rejuvenated. You wouldn’t expect to run five miles after months of couch surfing, right? So be fair and expect it to feel awkward and unnatural at first. With repetition and determination, you’ll regain lost ground.

Here’s seven tips to kickstart your creative engine after it’s been offline for a while.

1) Think on paper.
Not sure where to begin? Make lists. What projects could you work on? Pick one and brainstorm a list of benefits to doing it. Feel free to imagine a new career versus reviving the old one. Think of what’s possible, knowing what you know now.

2) Start small and build.
If you are feeling resistance, then set a timer for three minutes and write. Don’t worry about quality or even the topic. This is about getting accustomed to starting again. And yes, three minutes is nothing, but it’s more than you wrote the day before, right? Remember the power of compounding action. If you increase writing time by 3 minutes a day, you’ll be writing for a 90 minute stretch in a month.

3) Break it down.
Don’t think in terms of writing the whole book or the entire screenplay. Concentrate on a single scene. Or one character’s goals. Outline the story. Set small, achievable tasks, like: write 500 words, or one page.

4) Think in new places.
Go somewhere different to write. This is especially important if you’ve been avoiding the particular room where you used to create. If weather permits, sit outside. Go to the park, or a coffee shop, or the library. Heck, drive to the mall and sit in the food court. The point is to get away from the usual distractions and discouragements.

5) Fall back in love with your creativity.
Do you need to rekindle your passion for writing? Or for a specific story? If you made early notes, review those. Recall the elements that swept you away. At one time your desire to create burned as bright as a star. Remember that feeling, then write.

6) Read books on craft.
There’s something magical about reading (or rereading) Anne Lamott’s, Bird By Bird. Or Stephen King’s, On Writing. When was the last time you read magazines on writing – Writers Digest, RT Book Reviews, or The Writer? And yes, reading great fiction is a study of the craft. I’m always inspired to write when I read something magnificent.

7) Connect with other writers.
Having a group or tribe of like-minded writers can be inspiring while providing camaraderie and accountability. Can’t find a group? Start one. Check with your librarian or consider a post on

It can feel daunting to start writing after an extended period. Consider it more proof that once a writer, always a writer. Writers may pause for a while, but they can’t quit. So prime the pump and anticipate hiccups.

Disney’s Magic

One of my personal heroes is Walt Disney. So no surprise that the movie Saving Mr. Banks is one of my favorites. And while no animated animals lost their mothers in Saving Mr. Banks, I still found myself crying near the end, when Walt traveled to Mrs. Travers’ home in London. Tom Hanks, delivering this line, undid me: “That’s what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again.” This is what I do. This is why I write. This is why I read. Yes, I knew it before seeing the movie, but now I have the perfect quote to explain it. #grateful



Author as Entrepreneur

Authors today have more options than ever before, but those freedoms require different skills and new responsibilities.

Blogger Joanna Penn, The Creative Penn, offers great insight on the topic. Below are two of her recent articles:

Creative Entrepreneur: Business Models for Authors

The Business Of Being An Author Entrepreneur

New Article in CONVERSATIONS Magazine

My latest column for “READ. THINK. SOAR: Nonfiction You Can Use” is posted on CONVERSATIONS Magazine’s website. It also appears in the August/September issue.

In “READ. THINK. SOAR,” – I preview nonfiction success and personal development titles.

This time around, I’m discussing Stephen R. Covey’s bestselling classic “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

You can read the article here:

Happy reading!

7 habits




Life is noisy.

Most days, I begin the morning with meditation. Some days, I don’t. And on the days I don’t, the noise escalates and takes over.

Yesterday I discovered that meditation works equally well in the afternoon. I knew it would, and yet I resisted. Because meditation was my morning thing.

Silly, yes. Profound, yes.

Eager to see what other resistances I can shatter today.

Words to Write By


New Article in CONVERSATIONS Magazine

My first column for “READ. THINK. SOAR: Nonfiction You Can Use” is posted on CONVERSATIONS Magazine’s website. The May/June issue features Maya Angelou on the cover.

In “READ. THINK. SOAR.”, I’ll preview nonfiction success and personal development titles.

For this debut column, I’m previewing Jack Canfield’s book, The Success Principles. You can read the article here:





Welcome to the new site!

welcome_matThat Awkward Moment When Your Blog First Goes LIVE…

You raze the old to raise the new.”
Justina Chen, North of Beautiful

Hello and welcome to! I’m Kathy Holzapfel and this is my new, one-stop shop for my various creative ventures.

Some of you know me from the novels I’ve published as Lauren Bach and Cate Noble. And some of you know me as that lady with the unusual last name: I write nonfiction and who-knows-what-next as Kathy Holzapfel.

Right now, I’m soft launching this website, trying to make certain it’s operational. So feel free to poke around and give me some feedback. I’m glad you’re here and I look forward to connecting more frequently.

Cate Noble featured at Barnes & Noble’s Mystery Book Club!

All during February, Barnes & Noble’s Mystery Book Club is featuring romantic suspense.

I’m thrilled to be the featured author on Monday, February 21st.  I’d love to have you drop by, comment, or just look around.  Here’s the link:

The rest of the week features other Kensington Books’ authors.  Check out the special thread that’s all about Kensington:

Happy reading!