Monday, January 2, 2017
Setting Realistic Writing Goals by Jannine Gallant
As the new year begins, most of us take a moment to set a few goals. Since we're a group of authors, my focus is on writing resolutions. However, some of these principles can be applied to other goals, so keep reading even if your life doesn't revolve around getting words onto a computer screen.
Setting goals is easy. Following through on them...not so much. What can we do to change that?
Having realistic expectations is the key to success. And, knowing our own habits is critical to setting reasonable goals. That means you shouldn't stress out because Jane Doe declares her goal is 5000 words per day, but you have a day job, and kids and a husband who expect to be fed regularly, and a dog who stares at you with sad eyes if you don't walk her twice a day, etc. etc. That kind of goal is only going to set you up for an overload of stress and failure. So, take a long hard look at what you can manage with your schedule. Do you only have time to write for an hour before everyone else gets up in the morning or before you go to bed at night? Maybe you have five hours a day you can devote to writing. Are weekends strictly family time, or are they the only time you can take for your writing? My suggestion would be to block out your writing time for the week on your calendar and then subtract a day. We all know life happens, so allow for the unexpected.
Once you've made a realistic commitment to writing time, give yourself a word count goal. If you're slow but precise, you might have a 500 word goal, while someone who writes a dirty first draft may easily write 2000 words in the same amount of time. They'll probably have a lot more editing to do, so it all evens out in the end. Some days don't go as well as others, so I take my daily goal and turn it into a weekly count. That way I can "make up" words on a good day to cover for that day when writing was harder than pulling teeth. Less stress!
Once you have a time slot and a word count worked out, the objective is to actually commit to writing during that time. Facebook is my nemesis. Some days I wonder why the heck I got so little done. Well, maybe it was because I spent my writing time on the internet. MY BAD! Unplug for those two hours. Tell your dog she's going to have to wait for that walk. Set the alarm and actually get up when it goes off in the morning. Turn off the TV in the evening. Do whatever it takes to give yourself a fighting chance at success. And if you really need a morning to sleep in, or an evening to watch Survivor, or a day to clean your house, or your child has a soccer tournament on the weekend...well, that's why you allow yourself a guilt-free day off. Cut yourself a little slack, but not too much!
And last but not least...share your goal with a friend or group of friends. We all need encouragement to keep going. Sometimes knowing you have to report that word count to your CP will be the kick in the butt you need to get off Facebook and write. If you have a deadline to make, that might be motivation enough. Or it might lead to a whole lot of stress. So, set yourself up for success by planning ahead to be finished with time to spare. Adding 100 words a day to your total word count might save you from flipping out somewhere down the road.
So, in the spirit of sharing goals, mine is to write 1000 words per day. Subtract one for life getting in the way and one for promo/editing, and my goal is 5000 words per week. I have two books to produce in 2017. Easy peasy...if I stick to my weekly word count goal. So, what's your writing goal? Think about it and share in comments. Maybe we can all keep each other on track in 2017!
For info on all my books, stop by my WEBSITE. Happy New Year, everyone!
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Wow, I needed this, Jannine. Thank you for your common-sense tactics to achieving that goal. This line sparked the light bulb for me: "Do whatever it takes to give yourself a fighting chance at success." I think that's what's been missing from my mindset, believe it or not. Wishing everyone a productive but balanced writing year!
Nice persistence piece, Jannine. I've been on a 1000 word-a-sitting framework for my new novel, FIRE IS NICE. When I edit, I aim for 50 pages-a-sitting. Both goals are doable for me and should allow me to get two books out a year. You already heard my tale of woe about why I didn't get two books out last year...but I got very close...covers done, release newsletters ready, etc. I spit on those circumstances beyond my control and move ahead hell or high... Mush on, baby!
Leah, I think we sabotage ourselves, more often than not. That's why the "fighting chance" is key to success!
Those circumstances can really throw us, Rolynn, but the goal should be to get back into the routine ASAP. Good for you for having set word targets. I think they're important to getting anything done.
Good timing on your post. Getting ready to mark my calendar for word count and promo time (the latter is a time drain for sure but a must). I'm about with your word count. I want to get two books a year out. Good luck to both of us!
I've never been one for setting goals. Just deadlines. Then working like a madwoman to meet them. I don't know if I could change my habits. Yours sound reasonable. They really do. Normal. I don't do normal well.
Last year was the first time I set writing word count goals. Like you, I chose a weekly goal that equaled my daily goal times six. That way, I didn't worry too much if I missed my goal any give day. It worked much better than I'd expected. I finished my book right when I wanted to! My goal is one book a year because that's realistic for me. Even then, I have to fight procrastination and internet fiddling. I'd love to be more productive, but obviously not enough to do what it takes to get there. LOL. You've got to know yourself, figure out why you REALLY write, and be true to that.
Brenda, promo really does take away from writing time. I'm divesting myself of some of the promo I've done in the past that isn't working. Most of it doesn't take a lot of time but totally fails to produce sales. So, why bother? I'm hoping to streamline all aspects of the business this year.
Vonnie, you have to go with what works for you. Also, in dumping your publisher, hopefully you have more leeway in your deadlines. Now the goal is to find what works best for your new process. Best of luck!
Alison, I think we're a lot alike in our organizational skills. Granted, you plot waaaaay more than I do, but we're both fairly OCD in our need to meet self-imposed deadlines. So as long as we set goals that are realistic, I think we both have a good chance of reaching them!
Excellent advice. I agree the line 'give yourself a fighting chance at success' nails it. Realistic goals are also key. Words to live by as we traverse this new year.
Thanks, Margo. You know me...practical to a fault!
My thumb nail has just disappeared; the rest of the nails may follow, but I'll take your words to heart and give it a try. thanks for the pep talk!
You're welcome, Andrea. I hope it saves the rest of your nails!
I always set goals for the New Year so that I can see how long I last before I start breaking them. LOL This year, I've decided that after my new romance comes out, I'm spending the year writing two holiday novellas, and just going back to some simple short story writing. I'm jumping off the writing treadmill and giving up feeling like a hamster spinning in a cage.
Judy, sometimes change is good. We can look at our writing differently and flex creative muscles we haven't used in a while. As long as we keep writing, all is good! Best of luck with your new projects!
I started keeping track of my daily word count last year. That really motivated me to write more. Not always great (or even good) writing, but as others say you can't edit a blank page. I, too, am examining promotion, also keeping track of results. I need to put my energy and money into what works best. Good luck to you, Jannine. Thanks for the inspiration.
Sounds like you're on track, Diane. Staying focused on what works is key.
Great advice, Jannine. LOL, I'm the Jane Doe who set a goal of 5,000 words per day. Yes, it's unrealistic, but I feel like that's what I need to do to get where I want to be. (Especially since I'm about 5 books behind schedule right now). If I make myself get up two hours earlier than normal, and if I write on the weekends, I can accomplish a great deal. But, I'd probably better back off of the 5k per day. LOL. I made the mistake of reading the Write 5,000 wph book which made me think I could write 5k per day, but there is a lot more to the book than just sitting down and spewing 5,000 words in an hour. Maybe I should change mine to 5 SCENES per day. Even if they are not fully fleshed out scenes, just getting brief scenes down and finishing the book will be so helpful. Then, in my revision/edit round I can expand word count. Oh yes,and the whole accountability thing is huge for me. That's why I created that Databse for AHA. Unfortunately, I haven't started utilizing it yet. But, that is my plan. Thanks for the excellent post!
You can do it, Ally. I don't go after a huge word count simply because I'm such an edit as I go perfectionist. We each have our own process for getting those words down!
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