Monday, January 30, 2017

5 Easy Ways to Set (And Keep!) Realistic Writing Goals

If there's one thing I've learned when it comes to writing goals, it's that I need to be realistic. I cannot finish a novel in a month (ahem, NaNo.) I know because I've tried. Several times. And can tell you that failing is no fun

Nowadays, I try to be realistic about what I can and can't do, and I set my goals accordingly. In this way I can not only achieve my ultimate objective (writing a fabulous new story) but I can do it in a way that doesn't make me feel like shit. (Did I mention that I've failed NaNo four times?) 

Here are a few tips to help you set (and keep!) realistic writing goals.

1)  Set average word count goals vs. total word count goals.
If your plan is to write every day, that's great. But be honest with yourself - some days are going to be better than others. Instead of forcing yourself to adhere to a strict daily, weekly or monthly total word count , why not set an average? In this way, you can build in some flexibility for the inevitable things that will pull you away from writing. 

Writing 1,000 words a night five nights a week may not be realistic. But writing an average of 5,000 words a week may be. Give yourself some flexibility - it will increase the odds of achieving your goals. 

Think about it this way: if you write a page a day for a year you will have a 365 page book at year's end. The same holds true if you write 7 pages a week--it doesn't matter if you write one page each day or crank out seven in a single night--the end result is the same.

2) Pick a day of the week to dedicate to writing and tell everyone you know. 

This holds both you and them accountable. If your family agrees in advance that Wednesday nights will be your writing nights, then they know that they need to make adjustments to their schedule because you won't be available. And if you know they are making adjustments to better enable you to write, then you will be more likely to make good use of that time for writing. It's win-win.

3) Meet a friend and write with them.

I recently started meeting a group every Thursday night at a cafe near my office. There have been nights when I didn't feel like meeting up, but as soon as I see their texts come through (I'm on my way! See you in 5!) I know that I can't back out.

If you don't know other writers in your area, check out They host a regular series called Shut Up and Write at locations across the country, in which writers sign up to meet at a set time and place to write. Signing up to attend a session may be just the kick in the pants you need.

4) Binge watch shows vs. watching every night.

This can be an enabler to #2 and #3. Thanks to Netflicks and DVR, we can control when we watch TV. If you are someone who watches several hours of shows a day, why not condense your viewing to a few nights a week? This way, you can free up a few hours a week to support your writing goals without falling behind on your fav shows.

The approach can be used for other time sucks like social media. The trick is to identify how you are spending your leisure time, then make some minor shifts that better enable time to write throughout the week without having to abandon the things you love.

5) Reward yourself. Often.

Who said you have to wait until a book is finished to celebrate? Writing a book is hard work, especially when you consider all the other things you have going on in your life. Take the time to reward yourself and recognize the little wins along the way. It will help keep you motivated.

Met your weekly goal of 5,000 words? Tell your husband and open a bottle of wine. Figured out how to fix that now-glaring plot hole? Send a celebratory Tweet out to the writing masses and do something that makes you happy as a reward. There are a million milestones between the moment you start writing a book and the moment you finish it--take the time to stop and smell the flowers along the way.

Happy writing!

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