Setting Goals for Your Writing

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oldhousejunkie
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Setting Goals for Your Writing

Post by oldhousejunkie » October 26th, 2011, 10:24 am

Since NaNo is upon us, I've become very interested in hearing how writers keep themselves motivated. Do you set daily or weekly goals for yourself? Do you decide to write so many words a day or chapters per week?

I recently posted on my blog (http://carolinewilsonwrites.blogspot.co ... month.html) about how forcing myself to write generally ends with bad results. I've found that writing when I feel like it results in the best work. But I do feel like I've stepped it up in terms of my intentions to get published, so perhaps I should start setting goals for myself. I don't want my next novel to take ten years because I'm not serious about it!

What say you all?

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Re: Setting Goals for Your Writing

Post by Margo » October 26th, 2011, 12:13 pm

I have word count goals for each day (1500 words per weekday, 4000 words per weekend day). I don't panic if I slip a little bit one day, as I can push a little harder and make it up another day. If I slip on my weekly total, though, I get really anxious about it.

I belong to a closed forum where we have all challenged one another to write 1,000 words a day minimum, and we all post our daily word count. Knowing people are meeting their goals and will be looking at my totals has turned out to be very motivating. I did have to give up one of my blog obligations to do it, though. And next month, for NaNo, the closed forum is doing its own challenge (lots of short story writers, so NaNo doesn't work out for them in a strict "write a novel" sense).

So anyway, I went from taking weeks and weeks to get a short story written to an October total (thus far) of 38,000 words written. It's a little short of what I wanted, but I didn't start at the beginning of the month, and I've had some events and technical issues that meant I spent four days this month not writing at all. I'm hoping to finish the month in the 45k-50k range, before stepping it up even further for the forum NaNo.

In the course of doing all this I discovered all of my writing limitations (I can only write when I feel happy, only when I have two hours set aside, only three or four hours a day, only once a day, etc) were BS. I pushed through every one of them.
Last edited by Margo on October 26th, 2011, 12:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Setting Goals for Your Writing

Post by Sommer Leigh » October 26th, 2011, 12:24 pm

I don't set writing goals for myself. My method isn't that structured. Sometimes I sit down and read over what I've written the day before and instead of adding words I subtract words and some days I wrote oceans of words and some days I get a paragraph out and spend three hours otherwise just staring at the cursor. I'm an edit as I go writer, so my productivity may be very high, but the word count of a particular day might be negligable.

Because of how I write, I think if I set a goal of like, 10,000 words by the end of the week, I'd go bonkers and quit before even starting. I'm probably exaggerating, but you get the idea. I do like deadlines though, always have.

All that being said, I don't write only when I feel like it. I write every day, with very few exceptions, like when I'm sick. I don't write a specific amount of time or at a certain point of the day, but I write every day, usually for at least 4 hours. Mentally I just moved it up on my priority list just behind kissing my husband and breathing. So in that respect, I work all the time. I put in almost as many writing hours in a week as I do hours at my grown up job. Not all of those hours are necessarily productive, but that's the nature of the beast, I guess.
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Re: Setting Goals for Your Writing

Post by Sanderling » October 26th, 2011, 12:24 pm

I have to admit... this is never something I've had to give much thought to. I've found, in the three novels I've written so far, that while I'm working on it I get the same itching desire to return to it when I'm away as I would with a gripping pageturner I was reading. It floats in the back of my mind whenever I put it down, and I can't wait to go back and pick it up again. And like the gripping pageturner, most of the time the words flow and the pages accumulate quickly as long as I'm at my keyboard. The only times I ever struggle are when I hit a plot block and I have to figure out what comes next, and then I allow myself to not write for the time it takes to work out the snarl. I'm sure it won't always be this way, though I'm grateful it has been so far. :)

Where I find I need to set goals for myself is in my revisions/editing. I do try to make goals of chapters - I want to do two chapters today, or finish five chapters by the end of the weekend, or whatever. That doesn't mean I always stick to it. But it gives me something to aim for.

As far as your own writing, I think the answer for you might not necessarily be setting writing goals, but simply allowing yourself to take yourself seriously. Allow yourself to write when you feel like it, yes, but change your mindset about what it means to you. I think oftentimes people (including ourselves as writers!) view our writing a little patronizingly. Like a parent finding her kid building sandcastles and the kid announces, "I'm going to be an architect!", and the parent pats her on the head and says "that's nice, dear". When really we should be squatting down beside the kid and saying, "that's awesome, tell me all about this," and then going and signing her up for design classes.

Also, I think you need to figure out if it's a hobby or a passion for you. Using horses as a comparison - horses as a hobby means maybe on Saturday afternoons you'll mosey out to the barn and spend a pleasant couple of hours hacking the trails with your horse; horses as passion means you'll go out to the barn every night after work, go for a quick ride if you have time, or just brush out their coat if you don't, but you'll be there every day anyway - because you want to be, because you don't want to stay away, because all through the afternoon, while you're sitting at your desk at the office, you're thinking about how much you're looking forward to heading down to the barn and spending half an hour working on that new technique with your pony. If you're sitting at your desk at the office thinking, man, I gotta go down to the barn tonight and I'd really just rather head home and have a nice dinner and a bath and read my book and go to bed... one or two nights of that okay, maybe, but if you're feeling that way a lot, maybe it's a hobby, not a passion, and you should recognize that and allow yourself to take the two or five or ten years it takes you to get around to finishing the book. Because at the end of the day, you're writing because you love to write, and if you're not loving the writing it's not fun anymore. And with any creative endeavour, you can nearly always tell when the artist isn't having fun.
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Re: Setting Goals for Your Writing

Post by CharleeVale » October 26th, 2011, 12:56 pm

I'm totally with Sanderling on the one. She is my critique partner after all. :P

It is a bit different for those of us already in the editing process. However, I did the Camp Nano session this Summer, and nothing motivated me more than meeting or exceeding the expected word count of the day. Do they still have a counting system on the website? They kind of help you by telling you how many words you have to go, and how many per day you need to get there, and I tried really hard to get to that goal.

But I like to do chapter or scene goals. To get to this point in the story, to finish a chapter, are usually more motivating to me than arbitrary number amounts.

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Re: Setting Goals for Your Writing

Post by oldhousejunkie » October 26th, 2011, 3:04 pm

Sanderling wrote:I have to admit... this is never something I've had to give much thought to. I've found, in the three novels I've written so far, that while I'm working on it I get the same itching desire to return to it when I'm away as I would with a gripping pageturner I was reading. It floats in the back of my mind whenever I put it down, and I can't wait to go back and pick it up again. And like the gripping pageturner, most of the time the words flow and the pages accumulate quickly as long as I'm at my keyboard. The only times I ever struggle are when I hit a plot block and I have to figure out what comes next, and then I allow myself to not write for the time it takes to work out the snarl. I'm sure it won't always be this way, though I'm grateful it has been so far. :)

Where I find I need to set goals for myself is in my revisions/editing. I do try to make goals of chapters - I want to do two chapters today, or finish five chapters by the end of the weekend, or whatever. That doesn't mean I always stick to it. But it gives me something to aim for.

As far as your own writing, I think the answer for you might not necessarily be setting writing goals, but simply allowing yourself to take yourself seriously. Allow yourself to write when you feel like it, yes, but change your mindset about what it means to you. I think oftentimes people (including ourselves as writers!) view our writing a little patronizingly. Like a parent finding her kid building sandcastles and the kid announces, "I'm going to be an architect!", and the parent pats her on the head and says "that's nice, dear". When really we should be squatting down beside the kid and saying, "that's awesome, tell me all about this," and then going and signing her up for design classes.

Also, I think you need to figure out if it's a hobby or a passion for you. Using horses as a comparison - horses as a hobby means maybe on Saturday afternoons you'll mosey out to the barn and spend a pleasant couple of hours hacking the trails with your horse; horses as passion means you'll go out to the barn every night after work, go for a quick ride if you have time, or just brush out their coat if you don't, but you'll be there every day anyway - because you want to be, because you don't want to stay away, because all through the afternoon, while you're sitting at your desk at the office, you're thinking about how much you're looking forward to heading down to the barn and spending half an hour working on that new technique with your pony. If you're sitting at your desk at the office thinking, man, I gotta go down to the barn tonight and I'd really just rather head home and have a nice dinner and a bath and read my book and go to bed... one or two nights of that okay, maybe, but if you're feeling that way a lot, maybe it's a hobby, not a passion, and you should recognize that and allow yourself to take the two or five or ten years it takes you to get around to finishing the book. Because at the end of the day, you're writing because you love to write, and if you're not loving the writing it's not fun anymore. And with any creative endeavour, you can nearly always tell when the artist isn't having fun.
Wow Sanderling--you blew me away!

I think I'm somewhere in between hobby and passion. When I'm "on" or as I say "when the muses descend", I can't think of anything else. I barely eat or drink or sleep or even get out of my pajamas for that matter. :) I guess it is the in-between-times that get me down. The nights where I have to decompress for hours before even opening my laptop and then I stare at the blinking cursor for the rest of the night. It makes me want to pack it in indefinitely. But then the idea that I might eventually have children that would infringe on my writing time really pains me, so I best get on the stick (as we say down South). I guess I really don't know where I am.

The whole reason I even started exploring this was because my beta reader said that writing was her passion and that she did at least 500 words (if not a 1,000 words) a day. I asked her if there were times she didn't feel like writing and she said only when she had to kill people off! I was just shocked because I had never visualized writing a 1,000 words a day.

You were also right about the patronizing thing. I think the reason it took me 10 years to finish my first novel was because I didn't take it seriously. I figured it was just an outlet because I liked to tell stories. Now that I know a bit more about the industry and have received some positive feedback about my writing, I take myself way more seriously. Just not 10,000 words a week seriously. :-)

And ultimately, I still love to tell stories. Perhaps I'm just having a few "off" months--I moved and started a new job about two months ago and it's been very hard to adjust.

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Re: Setting Goals for Your Writing

Post by Beethovenfan » October 27th, 2011, 12:11 am

I'm VERY much like Sommer in my approach to writing. I edit as I go too, and I don't give myself a word count to shoot for. My only goal is to sit down and write every day. And like Sommer, some days I don't add anything, only edit. But so long as I set aside some time every day to do it. It's like a good habit I don't want to break. I love writing, but for some reason, if I take a day or two off, many times it will turn into an entire week! Then I get panicky and force myself to get back to it.
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Re: Setting Goals for Your Writing

Post by Rachel Ventura » October 27th, 2011, 12:12 am

I have a bunch of ideas kicking around in my head and in little summary paragraphs in a text file on my computer. I'm not going to do Nanowrimo, but I think for the rest of this year outline the ones that immediately stick out for me, and come the new year have a big pool to work from in terms of possible projects to work on.

I have a little checklist (on paper) with the names of each of these, and cross off when I'm done with a major milestone in the process. I've decided I'm not even going to think about social networking (including offline!) until I finish at least a draft each of two of them. I might be 80, and Facebook gone the way of ancient hieroglyphics, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it. ;)

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Re: Setting Goals for Your Writing

Post by dios4vida » October 27th, 2011, 11:48 am

I'm with Sommer and Beethovenfan. I write almost every day, whether I really "feel like it" or not. I show up in my office (my writing space at home) for at least a few hours in the morning after I shower. Sometimes I stay in here all day, other times I'm out on the couch reading by lunch. It all depends.

I don't have a word count goal, per se. When I'm working I really like to hit 500, even 1,000 if I can. If I don't make it, I don't kick myself or put down crap just to make that number (I tried that once, it resulted in a story I love getting trunked for a while). What I write, I write. I just try to make it as good as I can without getting myself stuck on the numbers or stifling the rest of the scene by trying to find that perfect word.

Two years ago I would have never thought I could consistently write the way I do now. I used to be excited to get 300 words a day, twice a week. No wonder it took me years to finish my first book! I'm sure that practice and confidence in my writing and studying the craft has helped me up my productivity, but even more than that I think it's the mindset shift Sanderling talked about. I've always loved writing, been passionate about it, and wanted to get published. But it wasn't until the last year or so that I really started thinking of this seriously. I don't have a day job - this is my job. I want to write the best I can. It's important to me, so I put forth the effort to make it happen. This is truly my passion, I found it, embraced it, am not shy of it, exult in it, and pour myself into it. It's made me a better writer and a happier person because I'm finally "being who I am". It's not for everyone. I've counseled people who weren't really sure about writing to just stop because they weren't happy in it. There's nothing wrong with deciding writing isn't for you, or deciding that writing is something you'll do when the Muse hits and you'll enjoy it but when that time passes you'll go on with your life. That's perfectly acceptable, because not everyone is a born writer. Some of us are. I am. But just because you don't live and breathe the written word doesn't mean you can't enjoy jotting down a scene now and then.

Wherever you fall on the passion scale, as long as you do the best you can in that capacity, you're doing well.
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Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson

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Re: Setting Goals for Your Writing

Post by MattLarkin » October 27th, 2011, 1:22 pm

I don't worry about word count per day, much. Though I was pleased a while back to realize I'd done 8500 words one Sunday. Kind of proud of that. But as long as I'm writing and making progress, spending a reasonable period of time writing most days, I don't stress the numbers.
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Re: Setting Goals for Your Writing

Post by Sanderling » October 27th, 2011, 2:13 pm

oldhousejunkie wrote:Wow Sanderling--you blew me away!

I think I'm somewhere in between hobby and passion. When I'm "on" or as I say "when the muses descend", I can't think of anything else. I barely eat or drink or sleep or even get out of my pajamas for that matter. :) I guess it is the in-between-times that get me down. The nights where I have to decompress for hours before even opening my laptop and then I stare at the blinking cursor for the rest of the night. It makes me want to pack it in indefinitely. But then the idea that I might eventually have children that would infringe on my writing time really pains me, so I best get on the stick (as we say down South). I guess I really don't know where I am.

The whole reason I even started exploring this was because my beta reader said that writing was her passion and that she did at least 500 words (if not a 1,000 words) a day. I asked her if there were times she didn't feel like writing and she said only when she had to kill people off! I was just shocked because I had never visualized writing a 1,000 words a day.

You were also right about the patronizing thing. I think the reason it took me 10 years to finish my first novel was because I didn't take it seriously. I figured it was just an outlet because I liked to tell stories. Now that I know a bit more about the industry and have received some positive feedback about my writing, I take myself way more seriously. Just not 10,000 words a week seriously. :-)

And ultimately, I still love to tell stories. Perhaps I'm just having a few "off" months--I moved and started a new job about two months ago and it's been very hard to adjust.
Hope it was helpful!

I definitely noticed this patronizing in myself when I first started writing. It took me a while to admit to even my close family that I was working on a novel because I was embarrassed, expecting them to patronize me - but really it was just me putting my own view on them. I still struggle with that feeling from time to time, but I think I've finally admitted to myself that writing a novel can be taken seriously.

When I'm in the throes of passion for my novel and I know where the story's headed, I can easily write 3,000 or 4,000 words in a day. More, if I've got the time. ;) But I have stretches where I might not write much at all, or maybe only 100 words a day. Then there are writers who are very diligent with their word targets and can produce words every day. Both are okay. I think it depends on how you yourself operate. It comes back to having fun - if you're not having fun (at least, finding long stretches where you're not having fun; we all have bad nights here and there), you're doing it wrong.

When you find yourself in those in-between times, where you're decompressing for hours and then staring at the blinking cursor, I'd suggest doing one of two things, depending on how your personal creativity works and where you fall on the hobby/passion scale. If you feel no creativity and writing's more hobby, give yourself the night off. Or nights, or months if it comes to that. If writing's a passion and you've got pent-up creativity but you're blanking out on your work-in-progress, work on a different project, start something new if you need to, but write something. You're allowed to be polygamous with your manuscripts, no one's going to accuse you of cheating on your WIP. ;)
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