Is This a Strong Story Goal?
by K. M.
I'm writing genre fiction and I'm thinking that my main character's story goal could be a journey of self-discovery. She realizes that her life is a bit of a disaster, except for her job, so she accepts a job in another country as a chance to escape from the current routine. She doesn't know that she's being sent long-term, so initially her goal is to just take time out for a few weeks, think things over, do her job and then come home and start afresh. But then when she finds out she's staying in the other country, her goal changes slightly to try and create a new perfect life over there. Except then she gets fired and things get harder and harder before they eventually turn around. By the end of the book, she has discovered a lot about herself and her resilience, and it shows when a friend visits and sees a whole new person.
Do you think that's strong enough?
Unfortunately, that would usually not be strong enough for an agent or mainstream publisher. What you have described is the internal journey of discovery that almost every main character makes while pursuing a concrete external goal that is clearly defined very early in the book.
You have likely read dozens or hundreds of books in the genre in which you wish to write. Perhaps it will help to review the plot of several of them and write down the external goal that the character sets out to achieve. This may give you ideas for your own novel. For example, in one of Maeve Binchy's novels--Silver Wedding--the main character's external goal is to plan the 25th anniversary party for her parents. In Sophie Kinsella's Confessions of a Shopaholic the main character is determined to pay off all her bills. In Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones, the protagonist is determined to improve herself in order to win the love of her boss.
Each of these characters goes through internal change as they embark on a plan to achieve a concrete external story goal. This goal unifies the actions and setbacks and keeps readers eager to discover if and how the protagonist succeeds.