From Dreams to Goals to Reality

by Sarah Sundin, @sarahsundin

By nature, writers are dreamers. But turning dreams to reality requires more than resolve. To meet deadlines and maintain a professional reputation, we need to reflect, set goals, and track our progress.

Let’s look at some ways we can make 2018 a great writing year.

Reflect and Evaluate

Before setting goals for 2018, think through what you did in 2017. If you already track your goals, this is easy to do. What did you hope to accomplish? Did you do so? If not, why not? Did personal crises knock you off course? Were your goals too lofty? Or could you have used your time better?

Make Yearly Dreams

The grand picture is the place for dreaming. What do you hope to do in 2018?

  • Writing: Do you want to finally finish that first novel? Complete three novels and a novella?
  • Publicity: Would you like to upgrade your website, increase your involvement on social media, or start an email newsletter?
  • Queries & Proposals: Is it time to write a proposal for a new project? Query agents? Pitch to editors at a conference?
  • Learning: What conferences would you like to attend? What areas do you want to develop? Perhaps you’d like to learn more about crafting intriguing characters, or writing sparkling dialogue, or how to best use Pinterest, or how to write a gripping query letter.

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  • Organization: Ugh. But maybe this is the year to finally tackle that pile o’ papers on your desk, to organize your research materials, or to file your documents so you can find them quickly.

Break It Down

As we all know, resolving to lose twenty pounds in the next year doesn’t do a thing unless we set smaller, specific goals—reduce portion size, cook more from scratch, visit the gym three times a week, etc. It’s the same for writing goals.

A goal chart can be very useful. I make a simple table in Word or Excel and enter all my goals and assignments over the next few years, broken down by month. This visual reminder helps me schedule a reasonable amount of work while staying on track.

The table has columns for types of projects—novel writing (including outlining and editing), publisher assignments (edits, title questionnaires, catalog copy), articles and interviews, and publicity (newsletter, website updates, speaking events, etc.). You can add or subtract columns to meet your personal needs.

Assign smaller projects to a month. Whenever I receive a new assignment, I enter it in my goal chart to make sure it gets done before the deadline. I also schedule recurring tasks, like website updates and newsletters, so they don’t fall through the cracks.

For big projects, like novels, break them down into smaller monthly goals, such as a number of chapters or a word count goal. Schedule time for research, pre-writing (for us outliners), and editing.

Don’t forget to leave room for “life”—like vacations and conferences. And leave wiggle room so you don’t get completely derailed by unexpected events—either sad or happy.

Track It

Hang your goal chart where you can see it. Check off projects as you complete them—I like using different colored highlighters because they’re pretty and make me happy. Not only is it satisfying to check things off, but it helps you see if you’re keeping up or falling behind.

At the beginning of each month, update the chart, scooting incomplete tasks to later months. This helps you spot problems before they become critical. And at the beginning of each week or each day, decide which items you’ll work on to stay on track.

With a bit of reflection and planning, you can make 2018 a brilliant year!

The Sea Before Us

In 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a “Wren” in the Women’s Royal Naval Service, who pieces together reconnaissance photographs with thousands of holiday snapshots of France—including those of her family’s summer home—in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt turns into naval bombardment plans for D-day.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn into something more. But both of them have too much to lose to give in to love . . .

Sarah Sundin is the author of ten historical novels, including The Sea Before Us. Her novels When Tides Turn and Through Waters Deep were named to Booklist’s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years,” and Through Waters Deep was a finalist for the 2016 Carol Award and won the INSPY Award.A mother of three, Sarah lives in California, works on-call as a hospital pharmacist, and teaches Sunday school. She also enjoys speaking for church, community, and writers’ groups.Please visit her at