Setting Writing Goals for 2018

Hey Folks,

This is a special bonus post to all my Pro Writer subscribers out there. Enjoy!

First, let me recommend you read the comments on Dean Wesley Smith’s post from a few days ago. There are some ideas for goal-setting and challenges there that might resonate with you. For your convenience, here’s the link: https://www.deanwesleysmith.com/getting-ready-for-2018.

What follows is the thought process and rationale that helped me set my own goals and challenges for the upcoming year. I’m including it here in case it might help some of you.

I’ve been wrestling with my commitment to writing new fiction.

My word choice here is intentional. A “commitment” is different, to me, than a “resolution.”
Resolutions generally rattle around in my head for awhile, drop an ulcer into my gut, and then flail off into the eternal past like yesterday’s good news.

I’d rather make a commitment, something that isn’t just a fashion-of-the-day fad. Something that requires (from me) a stubborn determination.

Okay, so as I wrestled with this over the past few months and more intensely over the past few days, Critical Mind said, “Hey, go slow, dude. You’ve been off for awhile.” So I thought about setting a goal to write one new short story per week, nothing more.

Seriously? That would probably be wonderful for some folks. After all, that’s 3 – 6 dedicated hours per week of putting new words on the page. As such, it’s certainly nothing to snort at.

But I don’t have children to raise or a day job that consumes my existence. So what in the world would I do with the rest of my time?

I know me. I’d waste it.

Besides, I’m one of those guys who understands if I’ve done something once I can do it again, barring physical limitations. For example, I’ll never run 3 miles in under 18 minutes again, but I did 46 years ago. (grin)

Okay, so it’s time to get real, and nothing is more real than math.

  • Back in 2015, I wrote 686,146 words of fiction, an average of 1880 words per day. (I wrote 719,084 words overall).
  • In 2016, I wrote 702,838 words of fiction, an average of 1926 words per day. (I wrote 976,298 words overall).
  • But this year I wrote only 453,762 words of new fiction. That’s an average of only 1243 words per day. Overall this year I will have written around 640,000 words, less than my fiction-only output in either of the preceding years.

So how can I use this information? Well, I’m setting new writing goals for 2018. Duh. And I like (very much) to better my personal best.

So my subconscious said, “Y’know, we’ve easily hit 3000 and even 4000 words on most days when you let us play.” (We hit more than that on other days, but not so easily.) “So we think our new DAILY goal should be 2500 words.”

“Okay,” said I.

Sensing a trick, my subconscious said, “To be clear, we are not allowed to stop until we’ve written at least 2500 new words of fiction.”

Well, that’s only two to three hours per day. Every day.

Okay, that still sounded reasonable, but with one modification.

I said, “Deal, but I’ll take a day off without guilt when life intervenes or when I just want to.”

My subconscious grumbled a bit, then backed off, its little arms crossed over its chest. “Whatever,” it said.

But that’s all right. My modification was necessary, so that’s that. For example, I have some camping to do (my funny friend says “cramping”) and some family visits coming up. Things like that.

Plus (as I told my subconscious), what matters with this kind of goal is the average. After all, the target word count is a minimum. Any words over 2500 go into the bank and count toward the average.

Folks, I’m establishing goals to drive me to the computer, not to drive me to drink. It’s all about production, not pressure.

If I can manage a little more on average (2740 words per day), I will have hit that elusive goal of 1,000,000 words of fiction in 2018. Wouldn’t that be nice?

And Dean, my unintentional mentor, recommends what he calls a “fall-back goal.” I get that.

So even if I fall short, if I write at least 2055 words per day on average, I will have written 750,000 words of fiction. And that’s not too shabby.

At that point, my subconscious was convinced and fully on board. And my conscious mind shut up and went to sit in her assigned corner. (Yes, she’s female. Do I need to explain?)

Okay, so for calendar year 2018

  • my daily goal is 2500 words of new fiction per day;
  • my stretch goal is 1,000,000 words of new fiction; and
  • my fall-back goal is 750,000 words of new fiction.

And regarding my conscious mind’s nagging admonition to go slow?

Well, note that these are all strictly word-production goals.

Some of those words will go into short stories, some into novelettes and novellas, and some into novels.

But I’m not setting specific goals in that regard. I don’t need them.

I already know I can write a short story in a day or two, a novelette or novella in a few to several days, and a novel in two to four weeks. And that feels plenty fast enough to me.

The challenge will be to write at least 2500 words of new fiction per day, period, and to take a day off without fretting over it when I need to.

This is incredibly freeing. What comes will come. The eventual form the story takes doesn’t matter. All that matters is putting new words on the page.

And, you know, the average. (grin)

‘Til next time, happy writing!

Harvey

PS: If you want some great long or short fiction, poetry, or nonfiction books on writing, everything I own is still half-price over at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/HEStanbrough, but only through tomorrow.

Setting Goals — 2016 Is Almost Here

Hey Folks,

If you’re a human being with dreams and aspirations, this is a great time to be thinking about what you want to attain or achieve in 2016.

If you’re a writer, that means thinking about goals.

At the minimum I recommend setting a daily writing goal, one that automatically resets at the beginning of each time period. If your goal is to write 1000 words per day and you meet or exceed it, great. At the beginning of the next day, it resets to zero and your goal is to write 1000 words. See how many days in a row you can meet or exceed your goal.

One caution here— Set realistic goals. By “realistic” I mean goals that you know you can reach, but that make you stretch a bit. If you find yourself meeting your goal continually, you might want to raise it a bit. If your set your goal too high so that you very seldom reach it, and if that starts to become disheartening for you, lower it a bit.

I also recommend setting a mid-term goal. What do you plan to accomplish before January 1, 2017? It’s only a year away. And what about long-term goals? What do you plan to have accomplished by January 1, 2021? January 1, 2026? Those are only five and ten years away.

A Quick Discussion of Goals vs. Dreams

Beware of confusing these two.

A goal is something that is within your control, at least for the most part.

For example, writing a certain number of publishable words of fiction per day is within your control unless some sort of emergency derails you one day. And if it does, that’s all right because the goal resets the next day.

Writing a certain amount every week also is within your control, again, more or less. You could write a short story every week and see how long you can keep that streak alive. It isn’t as easy as it sounds. (grin)

A dream, on the other hand, is in no way, shape or form within your control.

A dream might be to hit the bestseller lists with your first novel, or to make a million dollars on your first novel. That’s a wonderful dream, and I hope you achieve it, but if you do it won’t be because you decided it would happen. Too many factors are not within your control.

So by all means, dream and enjoy it.

But in the meantime, set realistic goals. Setting goals is your best shot at realizing dreams.

My Goals

Before I do this, one disclaimer — Your goals don’t have to mimic mine. We lead different lives and have different priorities, and that’s fine. If you surpass me by a bunch, I’ll applaud and cheer you on. If you attain your goal of writing only one hour per day, four short stories and one novel per year, I’ll applaud and cheer you on.

If you are a writer, what matters is that you write.

My goals are based on writing approximately 1000 publishable words of fiction per hour. That’s only 17 words per minute. Leaves a lot of time for staring off into space.

So here are my personal writing goals. I know I can achieve them because I’ve achieve them before. But they’re big enough to make me stretch. If you’d like yo watch my progress (or hold my feet to the fire), Sign Up for my Daily Journal.

Daily:

  • 3,200 new publishable words of fiction per day, plus whatever nonfiction (blog posts, articles) I write.
  • write at least 500 words of publishable words of fiction every day (Going for a streak here. Even if I miss my daily goal, the 500 words will keep the streak alive.)

Weekly:

  • At least one new short story every week. (This was recommended by Bradbury, and it’s a great deal of fun. My previous attempt resulted in a streak that lasted over 70 weeks and about 75 short stories.)
  • 22400 new publishable words of fiction per week (the daily goal x 7).

Monthly:

  • One new novel per month (in addition to the short stories and necessary nonfiction).

Annual:

  • Write at least 12 novels during the year. I would like some of these to be in series.
  • Write at least 52 short stories during the year. I hope, this year, to write at least one story in every major genre except mystery. Mystery just ain’t my bag.
  • Write at least one million publishable words of fiction. If I meet my daily goal for at least 313 days I will exceed this goal by 1600 words.

Side Goals:

  • Create an ebook cover for each of the publications above, plus for the five- and ten-story collections I compile from the short stories (so covers for 12 novels, 52 short stories, and 15 collections—79 covers).
  • Format and publish all works as ebooks
  • Layout and publish all major works (novels, collections) as print booksAlso I will have compiled those short stories into 5 ten-story collections and maybe 10 five-story collections. (Giving readers an option.)

I haven’t set my mid-term or long-term goals yet.

Fiction Lengths

For the sake of full disclosure, and because it seems appropriate to this post, here are my personal definitions of the various lengths of literary genres. This is a brave new world in which we no longer have to worry about hitting a certain page count (a certain folio) for traditional publishing’s price points:

6 to 99 words — Flash Fiction
100 to 2,000 — Short Short Story
2,000 to 6,999 — Short Story
7,000 to 9,999 — Long Short Story (or Novelette)
10,000 to 29,999 — Novella
30,000 to 39,999 — Short Novel
40,000 to 69,999 — Novel
70,000 — Long Novel

Okay, looks like that’s it for this time. See you on January 1 with a new post of interest to professional writers and aspirants.

‘Til then, happy writing!

Harvey

Remember, to sign up for my mad diary of a professional writer’s journey and learn by osmosis what to do and what not to do, click The Daily Journal.

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