Making Attainable Goals

As writers, we make many goals for ourselves:

  • Finish a new manuscript this year.
  • Sign with an agent by my birthday in September.
  • Write 50,000 words in November.
  • Send out 10 queries this week.
  • Show my editor the proposal for my next work.
  • Hit the New York Times Bestsellers list.
  • Win a Printz or a Newbury.
  • Make a new friend at the upcoming writers’ conference.
  • Get J.K. Rowling to blurb my book.


Those are all goals. But some of them are attainable goals, goals that are within your control to achieve, and others are pipe dream goals, goals that are not easily within your control. Lately I have seen many newly agented authors and upcoming debuts tweet about desperately wanting to hit the NYT bestseller list, which is a wonderful aspiration. But just remember to set goals within reach, too, because there’s no faster way to get discouraged than to focus only on external achievements whose parameters depend on luck, timing, the market, etc.

Let’s take that list above again and distinguish between the two types:


  • Finish a new manuscript this year. Attainable goal
  • Sign with an agent by my birthday in September. Pipe dream goal
  • Write 50,000 words in November. Attainable goal
  • Send out 10 queries this week. Attainable goal
  • Show my editor the proposal for my next work. Attainable goal
  • Hit the New York Times Bestsellers list. Pipe dream goal
  • Win a Printz or a Newbury. Pipe dream goal
  • Make a new friend at the upcoming writers’ conference. Attainable goal
  • Get J.K. Rowling to blurb my book. Pipe dream goal


It is important to have both kinds of goals: pipe dream goals give you something high to reach for, while attainable goals help you feel accomplished and encouraged because they are within easier reach.

If you haven’t already, take a piece of paper and draw a line right down the middle. On the left, write your pipe dream goals, and on the right, scribble down your attainable goals for 2018. Enjoy crossing out the list on the right and let the list on the left motivate you every time you see it!

What are some of my goals?


  • Pipe Dream Goals
    • Be THE keynote speaker at a conference
    • Sell to more foreign territories one day
    • To see a film/TV adaptation of one of my books
    • To go on an international tour
  • Attainable Goals
    • Draft the third book in my contract before summer
    • Draft another fun project before summer
    • Make the writing workshop I’m teaching fun and informative
    • Promote as many diverse 2018 authors and books as I can


Now it’s your turn! (If you’re comfortable sharing, that is.)


What are some of your pipe dream goals? What are some of your attainable goals?

11 Responses to Making Attainable Goals

  1. Marc Vun Kannon Mar 21 2018 at 7:44 am #

    All of those you listed would be pipe dream goals to me.

  2. Charlene Mar 21 2018 at 9:09 am #

    All of this makes so much sense and is so helpful!!! Here are mine…

    Pipe dream goals:

    – To be chosen as a mentee in Pitch Wars 2018
    – To sign with an agent by the end of the year

    Attainable goals:

    – To have my manuscript written and revised by July 2018
    – To write my query letter
    – To write a 1-2 synopsis for my book

    • Jules Mar 21 2018 at 12:24 pm #

      These are fabulous goals, Charlene! Sending you all the good vibes!

  3. Bethany Mar 21 2018 at 1:57 pm #

    My attainable goal is to have my manuscript finished and revised enough to enter Pitch Wars this July. I’m a slow writer with a day job, so even that feels like a pipe dream goal sometimes. But I know I just have to keep plugging away on words when I can.

    • Jules Mar 21 2018 at 2:57 pm #

      I totally hear you about the day job, Bethany! Hoping you can carve out some writing time!

  4. P. Jo Anne Burgh Mar 21 2018 at 2:41 pm #

    Attainable goals:

    1. Complete the final (please, God!) draft of my novel and write a synopsis in time to submit them to a particular competition with a deadline of 5/1/18.

    2. Actually submit the novel and synopsis.

    3. Research agents and begin querying by 6/1/18.

    4. Juggle agent research with work on other writing (short stories, next novel, blog).

    My pipe dream goals:

    1. Win said competition (which may make getting an agent easier).

    2. Sign with an agent by November 1. (Even my pipe dreams have some practicality, i.e., try to get the agent before he/she is busy with holidays and year-end obligations.)

    3. Sell at least one short story by year-end.

    • Jules Mar 21 2018 at 2:58 pm #

      These are excellent goals! Sending you all the best wishes for that contest!

  5. Rochelle Mar 23 2018 at 5:58 pm #

    I feel called out. My 30th birthday is in September. 🙂

    That said, I actually have a list of pipe dream goals near the front of my bullet journal. They include publishing with the Big Five, getting short-listed for an award, getting asked to write a blurb, and going on a publisher-paid tour.

    My attainable goals:
    1. Go through the structure of my NaNo book to make sure it’s working and figure out exactly what I’m missing (before April)
    2. Finish the draft of my NaNo book for Camp NaNo during April
    3. Finish querying the book I’m querying now by mid-summer
    4. Have my NaNo book in CP hands by the end of the year at the latest
    5. Make money from writing (this moved from pipe dream to attainable when I got a blog post accepted for publication on a website that pays its writers. I should get at least five whole dollars sometime next week for that work!!)

  6. Lisa Ciarfella Mar 26 2018 at 10:45 pm #

    Ok here we go:
    1. Finish my novel in the works by my birthday in October.
    2. Write ten more crime fiction short stories and send out for submission by my birthday.
    3. Submit stories to various sites and contests, at least 2/mth.
    4. Keep blogging, 2x/week. Even if just short posts.

    1. Sign wih an Agent by years end
    2. Publish my novel by years end.

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