Setting goals is a great way to make things happen. Experts tell us that people see better results by setting a goal of say, getting 10,000 steps per day on their pedometer than telling themselves they’ll be more active. In the same way, setting a specific goal for your writing – say, 2,000 words per day – is more likely to bring you success than telling yourself you’re going to finish a novel this year. However, before you set your goal, there are a few things to think about.
Get a plan in place first. Whether you’re an outliner or a panster, having everything you need to write already at your fingertips before you write – research, character sketches, etc. – will make it easier for you to write quickly. The more detailed the plan, the more quickly you can write.
Set a goal that makes sense in the context of your life. Do you have a job and/or kids at home? If so, 10,000 words a day is probably not feasible. But if you can write full time, by all means set the bar high.
Set a goal that works with your psychology. I personally feel a sense of failure if I set a goal I can’t keep. That takes the joy out of writing, so I tend to set a goal I know I can reach. However, I know of people who set outlandish goals for themselves because they like the challenge. Do what works for you.
Set a goal that is based on your writing speed. Some people are prolific. Others are slow writers. To some extent, this is based on the type of writing you do. Plot based novels (i.e., thrillers) and formulaic novels (i.e., Harlequin) tend to move more quickly than novels heavy on character and theme. I’m a slow writer who would like to write more quickly, so I totally get if you want to speed up your writing. Just be realistic about how much you can change over the course of one novel.
Set a goal for excellence. Yes, the goal is a finished novel and the sooner, the better. However, characters that leap off the page, plot twists and themes that resonate take time. Factor in time to ruminate on your story. You may even want to set a goal of taking a daily walk so you can think about what you’ve written or a goal of thirty minutes at the end of your writing day to edit for excellence.
Plan for time off. Schedule in days off to spend with friends and family and to rest your brain. Take a week off to go on vacation. Wearing yourself out doesn’t make for good health, and your writing will thank you for the physical and mental rest.
Plan for the unexpected. Life happens. A relative goes into the hospital. Your pipes burst and you have to move out temporarily. Writing life also happens. A key plot point turns out to feel unrealistic when you write it or your storyline has wandered off into a black hole. No worries. Take a writing goal vacation for a day or two while you get your story back on track.
Writing a novel is a marathon. And anyone who’s trained for a marathon knows that goals and a plan are important, but preferably, goals and a plan that take your life and personal style into consideration.
Have you used writing goals to good effect before? We’d love to hear how it worked for you.
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