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Weekend Writing Inspiration: Use SMART-R Goals to Guide You as a Screenwriter

January 11, 2019
5 min read time

Goal Setting for Screenwriters, Part III

“How can I set goals as a screenwriter?”

It’s a new year; a time when resolutions are on many minds.

In this three-part goal setting series, we reviewed common mistakes screenwriters make when defining their objectives, and the importance of setting goals within the context of a vision.

Today, we’ll discuss how you can use SMART goals — or in this case, SMART-R goals — to guide your decision-making process when you lay out plans.

What are SMART goals?

SMART is an acronym that stands for the following:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Resonant
  • Time-bound

I add an extra R at the end to make it SMART-R, where that second “R” stands for Reward.

Let’s take a look at how each of these work while setting goals as a screenwriter.


Being specific in goal setting makes it crystal clear if you’re acting in alignment with your goals or not. Which screenplay (or project) are you specifically working on?

If your goal is to complete your sci-fi spec but you’re working on an entirely different script, it’s time to get serious about which one is your priority.

If your goal is to “write three new scripts” but you aren’t specific about which three scripts, you may end up jumping around from screenplay to screenplay, never making progress on any of them.


How will you measure your progress and how will you know when you’ve met your goal?

Here, think about page counts; word counts, pages revised, or time put in as possible ways to measure your work (you can use more than one). Also, define “done” for this project. If it’s a screenplay, are we talking first-draft done or ready-for-producers done? This will help you know when you’ve completed your goal.


How long will it take, approximately, to complete this goal?

Do you have that time available in your current life? If not, can you and are you willing to make that time available? Is it achievable on a practical level?

While you’re working on this step, take a look at a calendar to see how many writing days you have available; whether you’re writing daily, on weekdays or weekends only, or something in between. I like to use this calendar to help me with my calculations.


Does your goal align with your overall screenwriting career goals? Does the project fit your brand or expertise — or that which you want to develop?

While you’re thinking about these questions, tune into your inner voice and wisdom. Is this goal one you feel drawn to completing? Does it resonate for you on a personal level, too?


By what date will you complete this goal? Is there a specific deadline you’re writing toward? If not, might you establish one to help keep your focus steady?


How will you reward yourself when you finish? Do you want to give yourself rewards for hitting certain milestones along the way, or wait until the goal is 100% complete? (Hint: I recommend the former).

It’s important to reward yourself. As writers, one of the greatest challenges we face is too easily seeing the work we have left to do and forgetting to acknowledge all that we have done.

SMART-R goal examples

Here are two examples of SMART-R goals to help you get started with your own. Notice that the goals are written as “I” statements in the present tense.

Example: I complete my page one rewrite of my 115-page sci-fi spec script, until it’s ready for feedback or coverage, by April 30, 2019

  • Specific: Sci-fi spec script
  • Measurable: 115 pages
  • Achievable: In 80 available working days between January 7 and April 30, I spend 14 days on story redevelopment, which leaves 57 days to write 115 pages (approximately two pages per day). That is doable given my other commitments, and leaves nine days for polishing and proofing
  • Resonant: This is the screenplay I most want to work on and it aligns with my overall screenwriting career goals
  • Time-bound: April 30, 2019
  • Reward: When I complete my script and have it ready to send out for feedback, I’ll take myself out to a nice lunch and a movie

As I completed this goal review, I revised my completion date from March 31 to April 30, because I was able to see in my achievability calculation that I wasn’t leaving enough space for story redevelopment and editing, polishing and proofing.

Example: I send out 100 query letters for my fantasy script by January 31

  • Specific: Query letters for my fantasy script
  • Measurable: 100 letters
  • Achievable: In 18 available working days between January 7 and January 31, I’ll send out five to six query letters per day, which is doable
  • Resonant: I’m ready to take action on getting this script into the world, which aligns with my career goals, current energy and interests
  • Time-bound: January 31
  • Reward: When I finish sending out the letters, I’ll go to the beach

Note that this example includes two key assumptions: 1) The fantasy script is 100% ready to go out, and 2) The query letter is also 100% ready, even if minor variations are made depending on the intended recipient.

Why SMART goals are useful tools

As screenwriters, much like when we identify our protagonist’s external story goal, we (and our viewers/readers) have to be able to know if the goal is met or not at the end of the story. Our ability to know this is rooted in how the story goal is first defined.

For example, creating world peace sounds like a nice and laudable goal, but how do we know if our protagonist has achieved it? We can only answer this question if she has a specific, measurable goal that can be assessed with a simple “yes” or “no” — did she get 100% of the world’s countries to sign the peace treaty, or not?

Now it’s your turn. When you’re setting a screenwriting goal, you’ll want to be similarly able to say whether or not you completed it. This starts with being SMART and intentional about your goals, which will make you able to do just that.

Your weekend writer’s assignment

Take the next step with your own goals. If you’ve brainstormed your year-long and next-step goals (see the last article in this series), use the SMART-R tool to test your goals for achievability, making revisions as needed.

Happy New Year, and happy writing!

Got questions you want answered?

After working with hundreds of writers over the last seven years, writing coach and Called to Write founder Jenna Avery has answers for you about how to balance your life and your screenwriting; trust yourself as a writer, fulfill your call to write, and more. Submit your questions to finaldraft@calledtowrite.com or via Jenna’s online form and she may choose your question to answer in a future article.


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