Setting Effective Writing Goals

A while back, a friend made a suggestion that I post about time management. I thought about the suggestion long and hard and ended up having a guest blogger cover the topic here.

My guess is my friend thinks that, comparatively speaking, I get a lot of writing done. Truthfully, time management isn’t the reason for my success; it’s because I’m good at setting goals and using those goals to motivate myself.

4 Characteristics of Effective Writing Goals:

1. Measurable – “I want to write” is not a good goal. There needs to be some quantifiable element. “I want to write 1,000 words” or a scene or finish a chapter — these are good goals.
2. Have a Time Frame – Wanting to write 1,000 words is great, but in what time period? For me, that’s an easy day’s work.
3. Achievable – I’d love to write 10,000 words in a day, but it’s not going to happen. Setting that as a goal would do nothing but make me discouraged as I fail to meet it each day.
4. Aggressive – If my goal is to write a word a day, I’d certainly meet it, but it would take me over 410 years to write the rough draft of Wizard’s Power. A good goal encourages you to go just a little further than your comfort range.

For Daniel Darcy 1 – The Exardo Invasion, my goal is 8,500 words a week, a little more than 20% over the 7,000/week that marks my typical pace. Here are three ways I’m going to make that goal achievable:

1. Understand my Tendencies – I write better in the morning and evening than the afternoon, so I’ll concentrate my efforts on those two time periods. I also tend to produce more early in the week than on the weekend. Thus, I’m breaking the 8,500 words up like this: 1,500/day Monday through Thursday, 1,000/day Friday and Saturday, and 500/day on Sunday.
2. Concentrate on the Weekly Goal – I’m a husband, a father, and an engineer. Though the idea is to not go to bed if my daily goal isn’t met, sometimes life simply does not allow me to meet the demands of my “hobby.” That’s the nice thing about setting the objective of only 500 words for the last day of the week; if I’m behind, I use that day to catch up.
3. Each Monday Begins Anew – Let’s say that I have a really bad week and don’t write anything. Instead of trying to do 17,000 words the next week, I simply disregard the lack. Do what I can do and shrug off the rest. For the 3rd draft of Power of the Mages, I set a ridiculously aggressive goal of 3 months. I figured that there was no way I’d complete it in that time period, and I didn’t. It took me one week longer than I intended. I could have made my life easier and set a goal of four months, but that means I would have finished three weeks later than I did.

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4 thoughts on “Setting Effective Writing Goals

  1. Thanks for an excellent post, Brian 🙂 I wish I was good at setting goals. Mine usually never get realised. Things “just happen”. I’m a terrible self-organiser…

  2. This strategy is the only thing that works for me. That’s why NaNoWriMo is so great. The only thing I would add is that you have to be truly committed to your goals. I find that when I commit to my goals and have someone to report my achievements to, I do really well.

  3. Great stuff! My students are lousy at time management. They always complain that they don’t have enough time for writing, and I think if writing time was a commodity – someone would be making a lot of money by selling it!

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