Friday, February 15, 2013

Setting Writing Goals

Every November, a month of literary madness ensues, in which would-be and actual novelists attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That this is doable has been more than proven by thousands of writers, me included. Some people can write 50,000 words in a week or less. Those who write the required number of words win the coveted NaNoWriMo "Winner" badge to post on their websites, blogs, Facebook, etc. It's a goal with an incentive: bragging rights.

Still, that's just once a year. What about the rest of the months? What do you do when there's no NaNoWriMo to spur you onward? And what if you didn't actually write The End on your November opus?

NaNoWriMo gives you a goal. You aim for 50,000 words in a month. Having that goal is what makes it doable for some people.

What we as writers need to do is set writing goals for ourselves when it isn't November (or if we aren't WriMos). With NaNo, the goal is set for us. If we aren't used to setting goals for ourselves, deciding what to set can be a challenge. Here are a few guidelines to help you in setting your goals.
Javascript Modern Clock by filtre
Courtesy of Open Clip Art Library

  • Your goal should not overwhelm you.
    • Don't set something so impossibly high that you'd have to be a superhero to accomplish it. Very few people can write 50,000 words in a day, for example. I know of one prolific author who actually can write 30,000 words a day, and in two or three days, he has another finished novel. He's amazing. Not everyone can do that. If you can, great! Set that goal and stick to it. If not, don't beat yourself up. You are unique!
  • Your goal should be challenging enough to keep you interested.
    • If you set a ridiculously low goal, you may either write that number of words in a day and then quit (bad when the story is coming together well), or you may think that you can skip several days. Neither is good for you. Set your goal high enough that you can accomplish it, but not so low that you get bored.
  • Find a group of like-minded writers and share goals with them.
    • Writing groups are a good place to start, either online or in person. Be sure it's not the kind of group that's going to pick you apart. You need to be encouraged, not discouraged. And be sure you encourage the others in the group to reach their goals!
  • Decide whether you can write every single day, or if you should write on a five- or six-day schedule.
    • Be realistic. Only you know how many hours of writing time you can squeeze into a week. 
    • Be sure to make allowances for emergencies. Having a small notebook with paper and a pen can help when you're called away from your computer suddenly. (I've written in hospital waiting rooms this way.) You can always transcribe what you've written into your document later.
  • Set a realistic time goal.
    • I finally set my mind to write one hour every day. While circumstances sometimes interfere, having this goal makes me sit down and open the work in progress. I've gotten more done since I set the One Hour Goal than at any other time except for NaNoWriMo. Some days I've only managed a few words (generally because I'm rereading to get the feel of where I left off), but other days I've written a couple of thousand words. That's a great feeling!
    • If your time is so limited that you can't do one consecutive hour, set a timer for fifteen minutes, or whatever you can squeeze into your schedule.
  • Consistency is the key to accomplishing your goals.
    • Once you've set them, stick to them. Don't let everyday problems distract you. (Yes, if the kids are trying to tell you something important, make sure they aren't injured, but then get right back to work.) 
    • If you're consistent, you'll be writing "The End" before you know it! Then you can start the next work while you put the first one aside to cool. (This is important so that when you reread it, you can do so dispassionately, the way an editor would. Otherwise, you'll either think it's perfect and dare anyone to change a single word, or else you'll think it's horrible and want to delete the file! Don't do it!!!!)
  • Remember, back up all your documents. You can e-mail it to yourself at the end of every writing session. That way, you'll be able to retrieve it in case of disaster.
Goals are not the enemy. Used properly, they can be one of your very best friends!

What are your writing goals? Please feel free to share them with me! We'll cheer each other on!


dannielo said...

If you'd like a tool for setting your goals, you can use this web application:

You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.Syncs with Evernote and Google Calendar, and also comes with mobile version, and Android and iPhone apps.

Hope Chastain said...

Thanks! That looks great! :)