Planning my writing goals for 2021

This year I feel I’ve made some real strides writing-wise – I’ve joined a writing community online and I feel really reinvigorated. I’ve also scored some real decent hits with completing the third draft of my novel, a first draft of a novella and entering a short story contest (that I didn’t win).

However, one thing that has irked me is that my tracking of my various writing plates I’ve kept spinning has been quite bitty. At most it’s about a week in advance, planning-wise and I feel this has resulted in a lot of that most terrible of things to a writer: wasted time. I need a solution to this problem that doesn’t have me scratching my head thinking “what do I need to do?” or even “what should I be working on?”.

I don’t want to be wasting time thinking “oh, what should I work on this week?” or “I’ll just do a bit of this now…” – that’s ineffiencent.

I no longer want to be inefficient, I want to get things done! A big focus this year had been productivity and really aiming to up my game. With the beta-reads for The Thaw I identified the problem before it occurred and I have striven to organise that feedback into a cohesive, digestible and accessible format that will allow me to get the most out of it.

Spoilers: my solution to being more organised in 2021 as a year includes a spreadsheet.

After seeing in the various videos of Bethany Votaw some fleeting glances at her big 2020 progress tracker, I asked her to send a copy to me and she kindly obliged. I have over the past couple of weeks – off and on – adapted and customised my own version of her tracking spreadsheet.

I’m very much looking forward to using it! I feel that this will firstly let me see at a glance where I am for any given month or week and allow me to see at as glance my off days and on days. I can also use quite granular progress tracking to see, down to the week, how well I am getting on with various projects. I think also being able to see projects next to each other and how they interact will be invaluable for making sure there’s less slack time between things.

Importantly, I’m allowing plenty of room for expansion in this planner as projects evolve naturally and simply pop up – like they did with Nightmare Tenant, which I didn’t expect to evolve into the project it’s turned out to be!

An important facet, too, I feel with this is accountability. When the goals are committed to the spreadsheet, they are there. There is no escaping them. There is less chance with this of wandering off or getting distracted. I will be able to quickly glance at what I have to do. It may be a case of editing 20 pages of manuscript, or writing 2,000 words on a new novella or short story, these will be easily trackable. I also have the extensibility once I have the raw data to create trends and charts (would it be a spreadsheet without a chart?) to see which weeks I did well and which weeks I lagged.

Centralising my planning and project tracking will make me more accountable for sure as I will be able to see at a glance what projects I have going on and where they are in terms of progress and what is left to do. I think as I start to progress beyond writing as a hobbyist to potentially doing this professionally, this workflow needs to adapt.

I’d be really interested to see how other authors keep track of what they’re doing throughout the year – do you plan by the seat of your pants, doing what you feel like every so often, or do you allow yourself to set an at-a-glance battle plan? Reply in the comments below!


  • 2021 Writing Tracker (demo)a blank copy of my spreadsheet above which you can use and customise for your own purposes. You can keep this local or save it to Google Drive etc. I have added annotations for a quick tutorial.
  • 2021 Writing Tracker (lite)a less full-featured version of my above spreadsheet for tracking monthly objectives at a glance, without automatic progress tracking and weekly goals.

8 thoughts on “Planning my writing goals for 2021”

  1. Right now, I struggle with just finding a regular time to work on my projects. My schedule changes from starting at 4 am up to 8 am. Maybe after I retire, I will have a better schedule.
    As of right now, I am a fly by the seat of my pants writer.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Don! I know the struggle – it’s hard to juggle a full-time job, family commitments and maintain productivity. I can just see where I’ve wasted time I could’ve been much more regimented with hence my resolve to do better. Sadly I’ve still got >35 years before I retire.

      Maybe you would find my post on healthy writing habits useful?

  2. Richard!! This looks gorgeous, I love a good spread sheeeeet 💛. Looking forward to all you’re going to do (and thanks for the shout out haha) for

  3. Thanks very much for the spreadsheet. I’m going to try and adapt to do more of a project overview (not just writing). In regards to what do I like to do to motivate and organise myself, I like to use Google Keep and create To Do List for my various projects. Also, I tend to like using competitions as deadlines to give myself something to work towards. Even if I don’t end up winning, at least it gets me to finish a draft.

    1. That’s a great idea – this is just what I’m using for my own personal project tracking this year, adapt it to suit your needs! I’ve already modified mine with a few important dates on the main tracker, say for NaNoWriMo and other submission deadlines. Look forward to seeing how you get on!

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