Setting Writing Goals Part II

Setting Writing Goals Part II

In the first half of this blog, Setting Writing Goals Part I, we walked through the first three criteria I would recommend for goal setting: achievable, clear and definite. In this post we’ll explore the other two (considerate and satisfying) as well as walk through what this looks like in short and long term goal setting.

So, without further ado, let’s dive in and continue from where we left off! Your goals need to be…

4. Considerate

Keep in mind that your goals need to be considerate of you and your circumstances. If you can realistically write three thousand words in a day, that doesn’t mean you should set that as your goal. You have to be considerate of a few other factors.

First, there are always surprises. You don’t know what your day will look like tomorrow or the next day. You can’t account for everything. If three thousand is your maximum, you would be wise to pull back to two thousand. This way, you are being considerate of yourself as you might find most days there are huge, unavoidable distractions which arise. The reason it is important to take this into account is that if you consistently cannot reach your “achievable” goal because you keep having distractions, you will discourage yourself to the point where you will stop writing.

Be considerate of yourself, your limitations, good days/bad days, how you feel, your need to get up and move around, family and friend commitments, etc.. Be considerate of yourself.

This is one aspect of goal setting which I think people overlook. They set their goals and think that nothing will come up to interfere with them. They also assume that they can reach their goals regardless of what life throws at them. This leads to discouragement. Be considerate of your situation and the unexpected.

Try this… your novel aimed at aging computer science geeks is going to be written at one thousand words a day. Spread that out a bit and aim for seven thousand a week. This way, when you can only write five hundred on Tuesday and nothing on Wednesday (because there is a surprise sale on hats at a local shoe store), you can make up for it on Saturday since you have the whole day free.

5. Satisfying

Finally, you need to have satisfying goals. If you’re concerned about not reaching your goals, it is easy to set easy goals such as two hundred words a day. Or perhaps you end up aiming to have your novel finished within the decade. You are sure if you aim low, you should be able to reach your goals.

Unfortunately, this will not be satisfying to you (nor will there be much motivation to actually write). You will not likely end each day with a sense of accomplishment. Instead you’ll stop and think about how your angst-y book is supposed to be one hundred thousand words and you’ll start doing the math. You’ll realize it’ll take you a year and a half just to get it down on paper. The end date for the rough draft will seem a long ways away as you’re sitting there writing two hundred words. It’s easy to lose vision and passion with unsatisfying goals.

Pick something that’s not too big to discourage you, but challenging enough to leave you satisfied with a job well done at the end.

Try this… actually… I don’t know what to suggest. I don’t know what a satisfying goal might be for you! You figure it out!

So, let’s flesh this out a little bit with two practical examples. One short term, one long term.

Short Term Goal Setting

In November of each year, NaNoWriMo happens. NaNoWriMo is short for “National Novel Writing Month” and it’s a month where people write! Simple?

What they do is they encourage people to write a 50,000 word novel in one month–Nov. 1-30. This is a lot to take on, but it’s doable if you are a decent typist and the ideas are worked out ahead of time. It averages out to nearly 1700 words a day.

This is achievable/realistic if you set aside an hour or two each evening (and your outline/plan is laid out ahead of time). It’s also clear because you know what it is you’re after (a novel in a month–and of course, you’ve laid out your topic/outline, right?). It is definite because you know how many words you need to write each day and you know exactly when you have reached your goal.

It may also be considerate. Realize that you may write 2500 words the first day because you’re excited and 1700 words the next day, but on the third and fourth day you may simply forget. You are now 2600 words behind. So, to be considerate of your situation, you might be wise to do two things. First, aim for 1700 each day, but try to get a bit more so you can get ahead for days you miss (is 2000 unrealistic?). Second, if you have a full day available, try to get 4000-5000 words. If you have Saturday all day every week or if you take a week of holidays that month, write extra on those days and plan it in. This helps you to be considerate of yourself and of how life is always full of unexpected circumstances. One other thought about being considerate of your situation… don’t plan on finishing it all up at the end of the month. 🙂 Set your goals to have it done by Nov. 23rd so you have a week to catch up in case you fall behind.

Finally, remember your goals need to be satisfying. A 50,000 word novel completed in a month is pretty satisfying.
That’s a pretty great (albeit heavy) short term goal.

Long Term Goal Setting

To set long term goals you ultimately need to develop a habit. This is a lot harder than short term goals because even when you enjoy something, it’s easy for it to become a chore.

You need to set an achievable/realistic goal. What is it you are realistically able to write? Are you able to write a little bit every day or do you need to set aside some time every Saturday morning? What is a realistic amount for you? For me, writing 1000 words in a day is quite realistic. If the ideas are there, it doesn’t take me that long. When the ideas really start to flow and I have the time, 2000 to 3000 can suddenly happen. How fast do you type? How easy is it for you to get the words down on paper? The nice thing for me with 1000 words is that I do not find this to be a heavy burden. It’s achievable and I can enjoy it!

Next, the goal must be clear. The last novel I wrote (still in editing and review stage) was supposed to be around 65,000 words (it ended up closer to 75k). It is aimed at 10-13 year olds and that’s a decent length in my opinion (the first Harry Potter book was just under 77k… the last just under 200k…). Since I had a clear goal in mind, 1000 words a day takes about two months to finish the rough draft of the book.

I would recommend you lay out your goals and figure out when, based on your goals, you should be done your rough draft. Set that date firmly in your mind. Maybe even write it on a piece of paper and stick it to the wall above your desk. This gives you a clear date to have your book finished! If you fall behind, put in extra hours. Don’t let that day pass without your book being finished. Remember, it’s a rough draft. It doesn’t have to be pretty. You’ll have to revise and edit it anyway so you might as well push to get it all typed out.

1000 words is also definite. I know when I have reached my daily goal and I can quit at that point knowing I have achieved what I set out to achieve, but I can type more and feel good about it.

It is also considerate. This number allows me to get something decent completed each day, but is also small enough that I can blow through it and write more each day if I’m able. This is considerate of my schedule (this is a hobby, not my full-time job), my family needs and my own needs (writing is relaxing and fun for me). The nice thing about it is that if I miss my 1000 words a day, I’m not too upset because I’ll likely get more than 1000 tomorrow. I’m also considerate of my schedule in that if I work all day and then have an evening meeting, I do not consider it a failure if I do not write my 1000 words.

Finally, this is satisfying. Since 1000 words is a decent length, it’s satisfying to get it done. If I blow through it and reach 2000 or more, it’s like Christmas!

If you’re using yWriter or Scrivener, both offer features built into the writing software to set your writing goals. Play with the features a little bit and see what you can do!

For me, I have in the past aimed for 1000 words a day. Right now, my goals are a little different since I’m in the editing stage for two books and I’m doing a lot of writing for this blog. I have found for myself that when a change of focus or involvement like this happens for me, I need to do it for a little bit to get it figured out in my mind. When I understand how it all works and how I function with the changes, then I can set clear goals.

In the meantime, I have set goals in terms of writing blogs and posting them regularly. I also have been setting goals in terms of when to have Book One completed and put together (it’s in the final editing stage). I hope to have it cleaned up and maybe some of the artwork for it on the go by late-September and have all the formatting finished and ready to print by November (even though I do not plan to have it published till March–I have some other plans in the works which require an early print date). I have some similar goals for Book Two (just with a later timeline) and I’m toying with the idea of writing Book Three with NaNoWriMo this November (I’ve put off writing it for a bit and think this will be a good route to go).

There you have it! These are some ideas to help you set your writing goals and to get your writing done! I hope you have a blast with your goal setting and that it helps you write the next bestseller!

Comment below with your thoughts on how you set and achieve your writing goals!

Shawn

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