Finish Your Book: 5 Steps to Achieving Your Writing Goal

Written by Claire L. Fishback, PMP

Book Coach & Story Strategist

January 1, 2023

I’m so excited to write about what’s on everyone’s mind right now, the second day of the calendar new year.

I’m not talking about cookies or feasting foods or how I shouldn’t have had so much bubbly last night… No, I’m talking about New Year’s resolutions!

I don’t know about you, but that word–Resolutions–has come to have some negative connotations with it for me.

Breakable aspects you might say.

Resolutions are kind of nebulous and wishy washy. They’re dreams and hopes for a better future self. I typically write my resolutions on a piece of paper and promptly forget about them. I’ll happen upon the paper six months in and, whoops, didn’t do any of that…

On that note, how often do people stick with their resolutions?

Because I’m a data nerd as well as a word nerd, I’ll tell you. According to, 9-12% of people actually stick with their resolutions.

Top reasons for giving up on resolutions

The top reasons for giving up are:

  • Unrealistic goals
  • Didn’t track progress
  • Forgot or had too many

The last one, definitely me.

The first two, unrealistic goals and not tracking, coincide beautifully with what I want to teach you today.

This week is all about transforming your nebulous and wishy-washy resolutions into actionable and measurable goals.

We’re going to break it down to make it stick.

But first, you might be wondering what the difference is between resolutions and goals.

Resolutions are kind of like, “Well, this is what I would like to do for myself in the coming 365 days but I don’t really have a real plan other than do something every day.”

Goals are like, “Boom baby. I’m going to get this done by doing THIS every single day.” And THIS is a measurable thing. Something that shows you where you stand and how you’re doing. Something measurable. And while I loathe the term SMART goals because I’ve been working in corporate America for too long, it is important to have measurable targets to work toward.

I’m assuming if you made a New Year’s resolution it’s probably a Big Deal Goal or BDG for you. You probably want to accomplish it very badly. Lucky for you, I have a five step process to help you nail your big deal goal.

Ready? Let’s check it out.

  1. Describe your goal. Write down everything about it. Dream big here. The bigger the better. Draw pictures, or create a vision board if you want–personally, I’m not into vision boards, but if you respond well to them, by all means! Explore this goal. The ins, the outs, the ups, downs, the wrong sides out and right sides in. Go deep.
  2. Break it down. Brainstorm ways to break your big deal goal into smaller targets. We’ll look more at this in a bit.
  3. Get Clear. Get clear on why this goal is important to you. Dig deep again, and ask yourself some probing questions. More on this later.
  4. Check in. Once you’ve established your goal and your littler targets, check in with yourself monthly or quarterly, not only to refresh the goal in your mind, but to also see how your tracking against the measurements you devised in step three.
  5. Celebrate. Rewards are the key here, my friend! Create some milestones and rewards for when you reach them. Think up a big deal reward for your big deal goal WHEN you accomplish it. Make it enticing and you’ll bake in some extra motivation from the getgo.

Let’s see this in action.

Describe your goal

Pretend one of your “resolutions” is to finish your book. You’re a busy author, you’ve been listening to the podcast, you’ve been inspired by my magical words of wisdom and now you want to tackle the book you’ve been longing to write.

Maybe you even have a habit tracker for daily writing, because someone probably told you “real writers write every day.”

So you have your cute habit tracker you maybe even drew yourself in a bullet journal, or perhaps you’re using one from an expensive planner you bought with the hopes of being more organized (this is me I’m talking about here. I have yet to find a planner that works the way I like to plan and the way my brain likes to plan. Hmmm… perhaps I should create one).

However you’re tracking your new habits, it isn’t enough.

“Finish my book,” the resolution with a check mark every day you show up to write is not how you want to keep track of your progress.

To stick with this goal, you need some targets to hit. You need something tangible to look at. You’ll need to write a certain number of words per day or per writing session, or write for a certain amount of time each session.

If your Big Deal Goal is to finish your book by the end of the year, you need to break that down into bite sized manageable pieces. First of all to make it less daunting, and second of all, as you’ll learn in next week’s post, you can start to create some levels of success that’ll inspire and encourage you to keep going.

Remember what I said about unrealistic expectations?

This is where that comes into play. You shouldn’t pick an arbitrary word count goal to hit each writing session. It needs to make sense for you and the time you have in your busy schedule to write.

I’m here to help you figure out your daily or session target.

Break it down

Consider the average length of a novel is 90,000 words.

Your goal is to write 90,000 words by the end of the year (or whatever your timeframe is). From here you can break that goal down into smaller pieces. How many words per month will you need? How many per week? How many per day?

The answer to that, my friend, if you’re tracking from January 1st to December 31st with no time off is 250 words per day.

If you are fully onboard with the Toucan20 Method–you know, set a timer for twenty minutes, write your buns off, rinse/repeat as time allows–you might have some data already collected.

If you don’t, sign up for the mini-course at the bottom of this page and start using one of the trackers in it right away.

Start tracking how many words per Toucan20 you can write. Even after just a week you can figure out your average per session. Thirty days is even better, and by then you’ll have an awesome streak to keep going. [cute laugh]

Pull out a calculator and a piece of paper, or download the free BDG Workbook linked in the show notes and follow along with me.

Because math is not my strong suit, I’m here to help my fellow non-maths people.

You want to write 90,000 words by a certain date. Write both (your final word count goal and the date you want to finish) at the top of the page. Divide 90,000 by the number of months or days left until that end date. You’ll have your smaller targets.

So, you have your big deal goal – 90,000 words, you have your bite sized pieces. You can now go forth and conquer your novel twenty minutes at a time.

Oh, by the way, this post is brought to you by the Resource Library! Get all the worksheets, guides, cheat sheets, planners, and more to help you on your path to creating the writing life of your dreams.

This post is also brought to you by fruit. The number one preferred diet for Toucans. Fruit. It’s yummy.

Now you have your goal defined, you have it broken down into manageable pieces, the next thing you want to do is commit to your goal.

In order to commit to a goal it has to be important, which means you need to understand why you want this goal. I’ve talked about knowing your why in previous episodes, and I’m bringing it up again here because it is so important.

Get Clear

Why do you want to accomplish this goal?

So, why do you want to accomplish this goal? What will it mean if you don’t stick with it? What are the stakes? How do you feel about this goal? How will you feel if you don’t succeed? How will you feel when you do succeed? Get clear on how important this goal is to you. Don’t think too hard. The best responses are your first responses. If you’re writing a book to prove to yourself (or some nebbie naysayer in your life) that you can, by all means, use that. If you want to finish your book because it’s been languishing away on your hard drive (or in your notebook or partially chiseled on your stone tablet) for years, use that. Stay shallow, go deep, whatever works for you to really realize the importance of this and define it for yourself. Going deep is always better, of course, but don’t spend hours on this activity.

Now you have your goal described, you have your targets, you’ve committed, and now you can get started.

But after a while, you need to check in. Otherwise, you’ll fall into the “Forgot about it” reason for failing at your “resolution.”

Check In on Your Progress

Checking in is very similar to the Get Clear step. What good is it to do this work creating this goal and breaking it down and getting clear if you don’t revisit how you feel about it from time to time? You could do this monthly, but since we’re busy authors here, quarterly is just fine. Check in with your goal. Does it still light you up? Is it still important? Does anything need to change or be adjusted? What have you already accomplished? Again, don’t spend hours on this. Just five minutes to jot down a few things about your goal as you’ve progressed with it.


Finally, step five: Celebrate. Create some milestones to work toward and some rewards to go with each one. Be sure to celebrate with those rewards, too. Milestones for your 90,000 word finish your novel goal could be percent complete – 25, 50, 75, and 100. Alternately, you could jot down some milestones while you go. Say you know there’s an epic scene coming up and you’re a little nervous to write it because your negative voices are telling you there’s no way you can pull it off. Put that scene as a milestone. The rewards here should be bigger and better for each milestone you reach.

Transform Your Resolutions

A quick recap of how to transform your resolutions into goals that you’ll stick with:

  1. Describe it
  2. Break it down
  3. Get clear
  4. Check In
  5. Celebrate

Get the Big Deal Goal Workbook

I know there was a lot in this post. The Resource Library has a workbook for you to make this easier.

Next week you’ll learn about success and how to set yourself up for it.

Set your timer, go write!



Get the Big Deal Goal Workbook in The Resource Library. The Resource Library is chock full of useful cheat sheets, guides, workbooks, and planners. More added as I make them!


Get it in the resource library!

Get this resource AND MORE in the FREE Resource Library!

Get the worksheet, workbook, guide, or other tool mentioned in this post FREE in the Resource Library. The Resource Library is chock full of useful cheat sheets, guides, workbooks, and planners. More added as I make them!

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