5 Steps To… Setting Writing Goals

Welcome to the Inspiration Diaries! Last year we had six writers - three published, three on their way - checking in each month as a sort of ‘year in the writing life’. (You can catch up here.) This year we’re doing things a little differently. Three new Inspiration Project graduates will give us a monthly insight into their writing lives, but first Catherine, Carmel and Hazel will be taking it in turns to share some of their favourite writing advice in our new series, 5 Steps To… 


5 Steps To… Setting Writing Goals


It’s January. The start of a new year. Twelve unblemished months in which you might have the time to make all your writing dreams come true. The perfect opportunity to buy some new stationery and call it ‘planning’. Ahem. Here’s how I set my writing goals for the coming year:

  1. Work backwards. Start with the big picture: what do you want to achieve by the year’s end? Be specific and stick to things within your control, e.g. it’s finish my novel and prepare a kick-ass submission package, not get published.
  2. Write them down. I’m starting the year with a Best Self Journal which is undated and only lasts 13 weeks (pictured above). January, February and March are always quiet months for me and the best time to get things done, so this journal and me are a perfect match for the next three months.
  3. Focus on the days, not the year. Your day-to-day routine is everything. Focus less on your goals and dreams (e.g. get published) and more on what your daily routine would have to be like in order to achieve them (e.g. get up and write 500 words every morning before work).
  4. Be realistic. Even if we have all the time in the world, we only have about 3-5 creative hours in us per day. Don’t set yourself up to fail by setting unrealistic goals.
  5. Track your progress. I do love me a wall chart. The Best Self Journal comes with one but - tip! - now is when all the 2020 calendars will be half-price and they’re ideal. The ones with the boxes for days are the business - you can write in your word count! A visual reminder of your progress (or lack thereof!) is a great help. Perhaps try to start your year by not breaking the chain.

Do you set new writing goals each year? How do you do it? Let us know in the comments below!


Hey y’all, happy new year!

Before we go any further, I think it’s only proper I introduce myself. My name is Tanya Deke and I’m from Charleston, South Carolina. Yep, not only do you have an American amongst ya, but a Southerner to boot…which doesn’t mean anything in particular, other than I tend to use the word, y’all, quite a bit.

Two years ago I made the brilliant decision to attend the inaugural Inspiration Project. Trust me, I’m still patting myself on the back for this stroke of genius. It’s true I was the lone American and as one of the more seasoned (southern speak for older) attendees, early in her writing journey, I am here to tell you, it is never too late to follow your dreams. Meeting the talented and accomplished trio of Carmel Harrington, Catherine Ryan Howard and Hazel Gaynor, would have been enough but no, after a weekend with these three rockstars, I returned home with a transformed mindset and an overwhelming desire to take on the challenge of writing a first draft.

As I poke my toes into the big shoes left by my friends, and fellow Inspiration Project attendees, Clare, Casey and Tric, there is only one thought going through my mind; how in the world will I fill them? Like many of you, I followed along as the three shared the ups and downs of their personal writing journey and was inspired by their determination, openness and honesty. Now it’s my turn - Gulp.

We each have our own journey to take and story to tell. Writing isn’t about filling anyone else’s shoes. We are all Cinderella, and must therefore find our own unique pair. Now that being said, it doesn’t mean we have to go it alone; after all, isn’t it more fun to go shoe shopping with friends?


My name is Lisa and I am a writer. I have deleted and retyped that sentence countless times. Well I have hummed and hawed long enough. I’m saying it now, I’m writing it, in fact. I am a writer. I am delighted to have been asked by Carmel, Hazel and Catherine to participate in the Inspiration Diaries. They clearly have faith in me, it’s about time I did too.

I have been dabbling in writing for many years now, but I finally decided to take it seriously in January 2024. That was when I took part in the very first Inspiration Project. Over that weekend I wrote the synopsis for my first novel, I made a decision to take myself seriously as a writer and to finally do what I had wanted to do for so long; write a book. I made some wonderful friends that weekend and found such inspiration and encouragement.

During 2024 I wrote the first draft of my novel. (I’ll just call it that for now, the title has changed more times than I’ve had hot dinners!) and I was delighted to have reached that milestone. 2019 brought dramatic change. I took the opportunity to change career and that meant not only a new job, but commuting and working full-time after being part-time for fourteen years all that on top of a chronic illness which was diagnosed in 2017. So as you might imagine, writing took a back seat for a while, but my writing is now, I hope back on track and I hope to revise my book and start submitting to agents in 2020.
So what do I write? I write historical fiction with a touch of magic. My current work in progress is a dual-time or time-slip romance set partly in contemporary Scotland and partly in the 1600s. My heroine is called Stevie (yes after Stevie Nicks) and ever since a traumatic accident she has had haunting visions of the past. The characters in the past include fictionalised versions of some real people; including one of Scotland’s most famous witches; Isobel Gowdie who gave a detailed confession of her activities and Christian Caddell a women who became a Witch Finder.


Hello! I’m Amy Gaffney, writer, wife, mother, and general Boss of Everything at Home – or so I like to think. I also like to think that my writing journey began when I learned to read, as words absolutely enthralled me; but, honestly, it wasn’t until I read Little Women when I was seven that I decided that I wanted to write stories that made people stay up till three in the morning.

I was a teenager when I tried to write my first novel. Fun fact: I rewrote Romeo and Juliet as a rap! I learned that there is a real craft involved in writing, that planning and time that is essential to forging a career in writing. This knowledge scared me, but it didn’t stop me. Life did. I had a baby, got married, had another daughter, went into business with my husband, had a son, and writing got put on hold.

When my son began playschool I began writing at the kitchen table, not realising that I was following in the footsteps of so many female writers before me. I began Book One, but it wasn’t finished until 2016.

I have always taken anything I do seriously, and writing was no exception. I’d met, through the wonders of Twitter, many lovely, generous people and authors who inspired me to follow my dream. With their cheers I managed to sit my English degree, and to complete a Masters in Creative Writing at UCD.

2019 was a lucky year for me. My poem Tonsillitis was published in the Irish Time New Irish Writing last January, and I was shortlisted for the An Post Books Awards Writing.ie Short Story of the Year 2019. I completed the first draft of Book Two.

I have ideas for two more books, and written a teeny bit of both to taste them, and I will decide which to work on next soon. After all that, I rewrote Book One, and now am considering rewriting it again. My hopes and plans for 2020 are to continue to work on the craft of writing, to get out and meet more writers, to continue to support other writers no matter what stage of their writing they are at, and, of course, to dream of finally getting that book deal!

Join us next month and each month for the rest of the year for more writing advice from Catherine, Carmel and Hazel, and to check in with our scribes! 

Find out more about Catherine, Carmel and Hazel here. Sign up to our newsletter to be among the first to hear about our next Inspiration Project event





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