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Advice For Writers: Make Realistic Writing Goals

Hello, Happy Writers, long time, no see! I didn’t mean to go on such an extended hiatus — Hurricane Irma scattered our lives for several weeks, then October flew by, and now NaNoWriMo is chewing up my life! EEK. But! I have returned to issue you your weekly writerly goodness. 🙂

So, we’re deep in the thick of it for NaNoWriMo (Become my Buddy!) and, by now, we’re all probably feeling a tad overwhelmed by the task we have set for ourselves. You might be feeling you’ve bit off more than you can chew with NaNoWrimo — or, in fact, with any of the writerly goals you’ve set yourself this month.

What is the answer? How can we set goals for ourselves, shoot hit, but not get overwhelmed at the same time? I’m constantly gripped with guilt over the amount of writing I haven’t done — and very rarely do I remember to feel proud for the work I have put down. Before you beat yourself up for not reaching whatever goals you have set for yourself, consider — it might be your goals, not your writing, that are the problem.

Understand your limits as a writer, and don’t set yourself up for failure.

I make a lot of writing goals for myself. I mean, a lot. Every few months I have to shift my goal posts back because I’ve predictably bitten off more than I can chew. One of the biggest, most important lessons I’ve ever had to learn as a writer is that you have to respect your own personal limits. If you can’t write 5,000 words every single day for a month, don’t set your goal at 5,000 words a day for a month. You have to be realistic in what you can accomplish, because if you set yourself up for failure, you’ll get discouraged, and then you might not write anything

Also, understand what is and isn’t under your control. Can you write a novel and revise it in a year? Yeah, maybe. Depending on the story and how much time it needs to cook. But can you write a novel, edit it, find an agent, and get in published in a calendar year? Probably not. Publishing is a slow process, and the search for an agent can take months or years in and of itself. The writing and publishing process is long and arduous, and you want to account for that when you make goals for yourself.

If you write 500 to 1,000 words a day, don’t suddenly set yourself a weekend goal for 10,000 words, unless you reasonably believe that you can achieve it. Once you start to fall behind, you’ll feel worse, you’ll procrastinate more, and you’ll feel like a big ol’ failure — and you’re not! Not if you set your personal goals for things you can ACTUALLY achieve!

Examples of unrealistic writing goals:

  • A chapter a day
  • 50,000 words a week
  • Twelve hours spent writing every day

Examples of viable writing goals:

  • A chapter a week
  • 500 words a day
  • Two hours spent writing every day

These are smaller, more manageable tasks!! Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by trying to spread yourself too thin. Understand what you can achieve in a single day or given week and set your goals accordingly. By all means, push yourself, but don’t break yourself.

Don’t gauge personal success by factors outside of your control.

The road to publication is, like I said, long and arduous. Many short story publications have less than a 1% acceptance rate. Don’t judge your success as a writer by factors, like publication, which are outside of your control. Your own success doesn’t depend on the actions of other people — an agent reacting positively to your query, an editor choosing your book, so many readers buying it, awards that may or may not pile in.

Your success is your own. Define it by what you’ve done. If you’ve written so many days a week, if you’ve accomplished your goals, if you’re happy with the work you’ve done, you’re a successful writer. Everything else is gravy.

Break up your goals into manageable chunks.

Make a goal for the year, half-year, semester, or quarter, and break down the palatable steps necessary to achieve it. Then, actually put in the work. It’s not enough to just say you’re going to do these things — do them!

And, occasionally, push yourself.

At the same time, do consider taking yourself out of your comfort zone at least once a month. Maybe you schedule one day to hit 5,000 words. Or you commit yourself into entering a writing contest, or submitting to an upcoming anthology.

Push yourself, don’t break yourself. And be proud of yourself. Whatever work you get done is more than you had before, and that’s worth celebrating!

Happy writing. 🙂

~

What are your goals for this year, my happy writers? Are you pushing through a first draft, or slogging through revisions? Leave a comment below, let’s chat!

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1 Comment

  • Reply Beth Aman

    I love this so very much

    November 13, 2017 at 11:05 pm
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