How to Set Writing Goals Using Scrivener Targets

How to Set Writing Goals using Scrivener Targets | Story Writing with Scrivener via

I don't know about you, but I love setting goals.

But even more than that, I love how the process of working daily toward my goal draws me closer and closer to conquering my dreams.

Of course, the conquering doesn't happen overnight. I'll spend months chipping away at one big goal (such as editing my first draft, as I'm doing now). But nothing is more satisfying then finally reaching that goal after months of hard work. It's truly a time for celebration!

Whether you're writing your first draft, revising like crazy, or copyediting your piece to death, achieving your goals is never easy. Somedays, a lack of determination or a hectic lifestyle can leave you feeling unaccomplished.

Thankfully, Scrivener makes life for us weary writers a bit simpler with its Project Targets feature. Taking full advantage of this feature allows you to set writing goals, give yourself deadlines, and craft daily targets for that extra push of motivation you need to complete your novel.

Project Targets Basics

Let's open up Project Targets. You can do this in one of two ways. First, you can head up to the program's toolbar and select Project > Show Project Targets. This will open up a small window in the corner of your screen.

If you anticipate yourself using Project Targets often, you can also add the Project Targets icon to your header toolbar. To do this, right click in the grey area of the header toolbar and select Customize Toolbar.


A new window will appear with dozens of icons. Find the Targets icon - a bullseye - and drag it into your header toolbar. Press done, and the window will close. You can then click on the Targets icon anytime to open up your Project Targets window.

You'll notice that the Project Targets window displays two empty bars labeled Manuscript Target and Session Target. To set your goals, simply select edit or double click on the numbers below each bar and type in your goal. Press Apply to make your changes. You can also select whether you'd like your goals to be achieved in words, characters, or pages by clicking on the small arrows next to each target.


As you begin to complete your Manuscript and Session Targets, you'll notice that the bars begin to fill up with color. Red symbolizes that your goal is not yet complete. As you continue to work, the bars will gradually turn to orange, yellow, and finally green. When the bars reach dark green, you'll know you have completed your goals.

Customize Your Targets

But we've only just scratched the surface of Scrivener's Project Targets feature. By clicking on Options in the Project Targets window, you'll open up a customization window that allows you to take further control of your goals. Let's talk about what each option does...

Count documents included in compile only. By checking this box, you are telling Scrivener to only count words written in compile documents towards your target. Using this option will allow you to exclude notes, research, or other unwanted documents from your target counts.

(Bonus Tip: You can tell Scrivener which documents you want to include in compile by clicking on the document and selecting Include in Compile in the Inspector.)


Target applies to current compile group only. Selecting this option tells Scrivener that you only want to include documents that are specifically selected in the Contents section of your Compile settings. You can select these specific documents by going to File > Compile and then clicking on Contents.

This option is more nuanced than the first option listed above, so I recommend leaving it unchecked unless you have a very specific purpose in mind.

Deadline. Ready to set a deadline for your current goal? Here's your chance! By selecting this box and typing in your deadline, you'll add a new line of text beneath the Manuscript and Session Target bars displaying your deadline date and how many days you have left to go.


Session Targets dropdown menu. Next, you'll see a dropdown menu. Here you can select whether you'd like your Session Target to reset at midnight, when you close your project, on the next day you open Scrivener, or never.

Count text written anywhere in project. Even if you don't want to include words written for notes or research in your Manuscript Target, you can still include them in your Session Target by selecting this box.

Allow negatives. By selecting this box, you are telling Scrivener to take away from your SessionTarget if you delete words from another session. This won't change anything with your Manuscript Target as it already automatically accounts for negatives.

Automatically calculate from draft deadline. Want to know exactly how many words, characters, or pages you must write each day to reach the deadline you've set? Select this box and Scrivener will automatically update the Session Target for you based on how many words you complete each day. Selecting this also allows you to choose which days you plan to write and whether or not you will write on your deadline date.

Show target notifications. Finally, if you're working on a Mac, you can select whether or not you would like Scrivener to send you computer notifications pertaining to your target goals.

When you have your options set just the way you like them, select OK and your Project Targets will automatically update.


Let's Chat!

Do you have any Project Target tips or questions? Want to share the writing goals you've set for your current project? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below. And don't forget to check out the other posts in the Story Writing with Scrivener guide!

P.S. Still need to purchase Scrivener? If you enjoyed this article, would you consider making your purchase through this link for Mac or this link for PC?

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Kristen Kieffer is a writer of fantasy fiction and the creative writing coach behind She's Novel. She's made it her mission to help aspiring authors write sensational novels because obliterating expectations is her jam. Her other passions? Coffee and Tolkien, of course!

Kristen is the author of the upcoming The Books of Maveryn series and The Astral Series, as well as several non-fiction books for writers.