This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
I spoke about NaNoWriMo last week and one of the many reasons it’s a great initiative is because it sets you a clear goal with a deadline.
While you are waiting to get an agent or get published, one of the hardest aspects to staying motivated and on track is the lack of external deadlines. However, the ability to set (and work towards) a goal is one of the most important and useful things you can do for yourself as a writer – especially if you want to make the move to writing professionally.
Goal-setting doesn't just provide structure and motivation, it's a good way of discovering your own optimum process. The information will be useful when negotiating deadlines with editors or agents in the future.
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When setting yourself a goal, it can be tempting to set the bar too high. I have a terrible habit of setting unrealistic goals for myself, inviting failure before I’ve even begun. You need to set a goal which is definitely acheivable, but also stretches you a little bit. Getting the balance between 'this will be a good challenge' and 'no chance, I may as well not even try' is down to experience and knowing your own limits.Think about your personal preferences, too. Are you a sprinter? The kind of person who will be galvanised by a short and nasty goal (such as the novel in a month challenge) or is a slow and steady approach more appealing?
Don't worry, by the way, which you think is more 'you'. I believe that both approaches end up in pretty much the same place. If you write a great deal in a short space of time, you’re likely to have a few weeks rest afterwards, and if you stick at a low word count consistently over a long period then it’ll add up.
Which brings me to another trick of setting goals: Break them down.
Want to add 30,000 words to your book? Well, that breaks down into ten sessions of 3000 words.
Can't write 3000 words in a session? Fair enough, break it down again. How about writing 500 words in a session? If you manage that, it'll take you 60 sessions to hit your goal which, if you write everyday, is about eight and a half weeks.
Finally, I've been talking about goals related to word counts in this post but you can, of course, set different writing goals.
How about a time one? For example, you could aim to spend twenty minutes every day working on your book. After a month, you'll have spent ten (hopefully very focused and productive) hours writing.