Thursday, September 27, 2012

Should you set writing goals?

by Stephanie Morrill

Once a month on Go Teen Writers, we're lucky enough to have a group of authors take the time to answer a writing question. This month's question is:


Do you ever make writing goals for yourself? What kind of goals do you make and how often?




When I'm nearing deadline, a have a minimum word count number per day, and try to do 1000 words before I do anything else (email, Facebook, shower). That jump-starts me and sets the tone for the whole day's productivity.



When I’m drafting, I have a goal of 2,000 words per day, five days a week. I don’t always meet that goal, but having it in place helps me know if I’m ahead or behind. When you’re working on a deadline you can’t afford to be behind for too long.




Absolutely! Without goals, I'm not sure I'd ever get anything done! I'm a big fan of checklists, too. There's something so satisfying about checking something off a list. Done! I set a daily goal of 1,000 words. If I'm on deadline and I miss that goal, I know I have to make up for it in the days to come. I also set reading goals because I believe continuing to read is an important part of being a writer. My goal is to read at least 24 books a year. I've fallen short the last few years, as I've written more than one novel during that year, but I get close. I also set goals to attend a certain number of conferences each year (I teach at several writers conferences throughout the year). I also set goals for other projects––volunteering at a homeless shelter, antique/flea market shopping and decorating projects, traveling to different parts of the country (and hopefully world!) These are fun things, but I consider them work-related because they broaden my horizons and hopefully make me a more interesting person, which in turn, makes my novels more diverse and more interesting.



I usually make writing goals when I'm on a deadline. I figure out how many weeks I have until my deadline and divide that into the amount of word count that I have left. That tells me how many words a week I need to write to meet my word count by deadline.



All the time. They are like New Year's resolutions. I never keep them.

I lost motivation while writing my most recent chapter. I had to say to myself, "Ok, write two more pages, and then you can hold the pet bunny." My soft, cuddly rabbit is a great motivator.




Sometimes I set a monthy goal -- either word count or page count -- or a far-off-in-the-distance completion date. Mostly I don't pay any mind to personal deadlines, unless it's for an obligated assignment. I tend to write as it comes to me and finish up, well, when I'm done.



What about you? Do you set writing goals for yourself?

30 comments:

  1. This was an excellent post! Thanks everyone! Great timing too. I was just wondering if I should force a goal/deadline upon myself.

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    1. I love it when the timing works out!

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    2. *Force*, Ms. Nickname Giver? Oh dear...maybe Herbert can help keep you motivated. ;)

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  2. Goals? Yes! Yes! Yes! I realized this year how vitally important goals are in my life. And not only pertaining to writing, either. I have a set of goals that I have to do each week, and a couple for each day. As I go to bed each night, I’m thinking “Did I reach my goals?” and sometimes if the answer is ‘no’ I have to jump up and do them before drifting off into lala land. =) Short-term goals are a little harder to keep, because I can’t say “I’ve gone for 32 weeks without messing up on any of my goals.” So that’s something I need to work on.
    Amazing post! Thank you!
    ~Aidyl

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    1. Aidyl, I find your comment very motivating! I find if I'm not intentional with my time, it slips away and I don't know where it went. I love the idea of having both daily and weekly goals.

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  3. Oh yay! I'm glad there's someone else out there who just writes as it comes. Thanks for the post!

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  4. I always pushed myself to reach daily goals, even before I had a contract on the horizon. There's flexibility there, and the goals have to change as I enter different seasons of life. But once I settled on what was comfortable--stretching me but not TOO much--it then allowed me to tell my agent and, later, editor, how long it takes me to write an average book, which allows for forward-planning. A handy thing to have. =) So I guess my point is that I set goals so that I know my own pace.

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    1. That's a great insight, Roseanna. Especially when you move from pre-published to published, it's helpful to have a gauge on what you can handle.

      The perfectionist in me sometimes feels like, "I don't want to make goals because my life with two little kids is so unpredictable that I might not be able to achieve them!" I'm still learning how to push past my perfectionism and build flexibility into my goals.

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    2. Oh, Stephanie! I can totally relate to you with the whole “I don’t want to make goals because I don’t know if I can accomplish them.” thing, because even though I don’t have any children, I do have a chronic illness that sometimes makes it very hard (if not impossible) to get anything accomplished. Some days I’m like “Oh my goodness! I just got so much done!” and then other days I (literally) lay on the couch all day long without the strength do move. I hate making goals that I don’t keep, but I guess it’s better to try than not to. ;)
      ~Aidyl

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    3. Oh, that must be so frustrating. At least my unpredictabilities have cute little faces. You're right, I need to do a better job at making goals and just doing my best.

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  5. Yes, I do have goals :) I have an ever-present list of things that need to get done. Sometimes, it takes me forever to fall asleep because I'm worried I'll forget something!! My mom says "That's one less thing for you to have when you're a woman" :D

    As for writing goals, I sometimes have them. Like now, with the 100 for 100...! That's a very reasonable goal, and when I have a reasonable goal, I stop at nothing to achieve it. xD

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    1. Amanda, that's one of the things I love about the 100 for 100 challenge. It's a reasonable daily goal, but it's also a long-term challenge to be so consistent. I'm glad you're doing it with us!

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  6. I really do need to set some more goals for myself. Sometimes I decide I'm going to write/read/etc. But when life gets busy, it can be so hard to keep up with those goals. I did pretty good during NaNo until I was at a conference for a week. So I guess, competition give me a little bump to want to keep working. But the 100-4-100 is certainly helping me at least do some writing!

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  7. I set goals. I never seem to reach them though, I think I set the too high. Like right now, I want to write 1,000 words a day. Very rarely do I get that. I'm trying to find my place, o guess you could say. I tend towards perfectionism and overacheiving (my mom always, always tells me im too jard on myself) but that can have a high price if you aren't careful. That's the balance I'm trying to find.

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  8. Yes, I most definitively set goals for myself! I am like, the Queen of procrastination and without them I would ALWAYS be telling myself I've got tomorrow. I try to make them realistic though. 5000 words per month is the highest I ever force myself to write. =)

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  9. This post was really interesting!
    I set monthly goals for myself and track everything in Excel. Not only does making a spreadsheet satisfy my inner nerd, it also helps me figure out what a realistic goal is, and what helps and doesn't help when I'm. trying to write.
    It also makes me accountable for my writing - the 100 for 100 challenge has helped with that too :)

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    1. Kate,
      I make spread sheets, too! Currently my goal is 800 words a day for 100 days. It's a nice goal because it's doesn't seem quite as unattainable as 1,000. Then again, I sort of stopped working on my manuscript all together once school started, so who knows if I'd be able to keep that goal on top of all the homework I have. Anyway, the fact that someone else makes spread sheets to track their progress makes me really happy. I even put the numbers in red when don't I write enough! Inner nerds are awesome :)

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    2. Awesome, I'm not the only one with an inner nerd :)

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  10. I do sort of. But not really a certain number of words a day. I do try to plan out my novels but not according to word count, more just giving myself a deadline to finish by this date.

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  11. I loved Donita K. Paul's writing goals. YES! Everyone needs a soft bunny motivator (or chocolate. Chocolate is good too.)

    My writing goals consist of a chapter a day. Doesn't matter when I do it. Just do it. I have a little log that I fill in and it feels good to keep track of how fast I can write a draft. Fast is fun.

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    1. Fast *is* fun ;) Makes me feel like a super author :D

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  12. I try to write 1000 words a day but it almost never happens with school. 500 is usually the real number.

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  13. I do 1k words a day if possible. :) It definitely keeps me on track, and usually I find I've exceeded that goal, which makes me feel amazing. ;)

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    1. Your comment made me smile, Cynthia. :)

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  14. I feel like my writing always involves a goal of some sort or other, probably because I'm always writing heavy during semesters. :) It's Finish the Book or Bust.

    But this school year, my writing goal is all wrapped up in 100 for 100, which is working out nicely. :)

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    1. I *loved* your 'Finish the Book or Bust'. I don't think you've left a single comment that has not made me smile, Rachelle. Thank you for that.

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    2. And I meant BETWEEN semesters!

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