How I Set Writing Goals

This post isn’t about abstract goals (“Be a better writer”) or ones to help form habits (“Read an hour a day” or “Run 3 times a week”).  This one is about things you want to get done (“Write a second draft of X”).  I do think abstract goals and habit goals are important, but I’ll talk about them next week.  These to do goals can be trickier to handle, so I’d thought about sharing my approach.  Thing is, I discovered I have two approaches to these goals.  I like to think of one as a deadline and the other a finish line.

Deadline goals are goals I want done by a certain date.  For example, let’s say I want to have have a 100 page novel edited and I want it done (starting November 1st) by November 30th.

First thing I do, is make sure I can write everyday.  Holidays, kids’ off from school, special events, and such are taken into account.  In this example, there’s (American) Thanksgiving, which gives my kids 3 days off school.  So, I would have 27 writing days.

My Calendar

My Calendar

Now simple math says I should edit 4 pages on 19 of those days and 3 pages on the remaining 8.  I bust out my calendar and arrow post-it notes.  I don’t do 4 pages 19 days straight.  I actually adjust so I do less on the weekends (3 pages then) and make sure the 4 pages fall on the days I have the most time to devote to writing.

Finish line goals are simpler.  I estimate my work pace or set a goal.  Let’s say I want to write a 30k novella for this example.  The pace for this is 2k Monday, Wednesday – Saturday and 1k on Sunday and Tuesday.  Additionally, I give myself a day off every 10k mark to keep myself from getting burn out.

First step is the calendar again.  Then, using my pace, I start mapping it out.  If I started November 1st (of this year) on November 4th I’d hit 10k, take a break November 5th, November 11th I’d hit 20k, take off November 12th, and reach my goal November 18th (no worrying about hitting the holiday in this example).

Regardless off type, having a good day could set me up to finish early or missing a day due to an unforeseen event could cost me.  Things don’t always go according to plan (hence the post-it arrow use, for adjusting). This is just a rough guideline.

So, that’s how I tackle stuff I want to get done writing.  Pretty simple, but took me years to figure it out.

Do you have a goal setting method?
Got any special goals at the moment?

Categories: Experience | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “How I Set Writing Goals

  1. I love this and I should probably try something like it. It probably won’t hurt me to have a deadline or two.

    • I can’t express how this method has helped me out. Not only is my work more organized (though, not entirely because I realized last week I have a chapter book sitting there… Waiting for another round of edits and has been since before summer), but I feel I am getting stuff done when I accomplish these goals. 🙂

  2. A good approach.

    However, from experience, I know that something will derail whatever deadline I have set in place, no matter how much ‘padding’ I give it. Douglas Adams had it right.

    These days I don’t worry about missing deadlines so long as it is not because I didn’t try. Since I’m not getting paid for writing and have no agent or publisher looking over my shoulder, I write until the story is as it should be. Thinking about it, this is probably the mirror of my disregard of word counts during the writing process. I leave all that fluff for when I edit.

    Goals? Publish my novella next week then find something that pays… like a job 😉

    • Congrats on the novella! I’d love to help you spread the word. Feel free to email me if you’d like my help. 🙂

      I used to be a lot like you, but in the end it didn’t work for me. I started giving myself too many passes. I also felt I wasn’t getting anywhere (lots of projects in progress that piled up and never made it out the door). I spent a long time trying to find the right approach for myself. Mostly, it is cobbled together ideas from other people’s methods, which is why I share mine. Paying it forward.

      Writing is definitely a personal path thing. There’s no one right way to do it. Best wishes in all your future endeavors.

      • Yeah, there is a fine line. Finding the right approach is the key and quite often they overlap 🙂

        Cheers for the offer btw! Much appreciated. A retweet or share here and there is always welcome 🙂

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