You need goals to keep you moving, no matter what your task is. The completion of a great task, such as a book length manuscript, is not the only kind of goal. To maintain steady progress toward the goal, you need supplementary goals at specific intervals. For a writer, this is a daily, weekly, or monthly goal.
This post is about how to set those little goals. Each benchmark gives you a manageable amount of work.
I write all my fiction on my computer, not counting a few paragraphs here and there that I write on my iPad, when I’m away from the house but waiting for something. Since modern word processors will give you a word count, you can get a precise estimate for what you’ve written. This means you don’t have to count your pages and multiply by 250 (for a double spaced page of pica typewriter text). I never print out a paper MS unless a prospective publisher requires it.
Ever since I left my last day job, I’ve maintained a spreadsheet of how many words I write per day. At the beginning, each worksheet represented a week. Starting on that fateful day, April 10, 2010, I wrote about 50,000 words, finishing the first draft of Mistress of the Topaz on April 24th. It was a performance worthy of a Nanowrimo contestant. This includes losing a day due to sickness and another time when I accidentally lost a day’s work by saving a different file on top of it. Over those same two weeks, I also spent two of three hours a day house hunting, picked out a new house, and signed the contract. I had a huge load of enthusiasm to discharge and knew exactly where I wanted the book to go.
I have never matched such productivity since.
Over time, I changed my spreadsheet so that each worksheet is a month, not a week. I found that I often could not keep a weekly goal, after which I’d start getting discouraged, and be even less productive. So I changed it to a monthly goal, or in other words, separate monthly worksheets. That works better for me.
My monthly goal is always in the 10000-20000 range. From the point of view of my fellow professionals, that sounds like not very much. I can only say I’m not the same woman I was five years ago. My wife and I both have health issues that get on the way of our creativity and other aspects of daily life, so we have to spend some time helping each other.
If I run ahead of schedule, I add to my monthly goal. This august, I added first 1000 words, then another 1000, and finally another 500. I exceeded all of those goals by a few hundred words, so I credited my account for the next month, so to speak, by subtracting that surplus. But my September goal is still higher, because I feel like I’m on a roll.
To me, writing is writing. The words of this blog post will go into my monthly total for September.
Happy writing to all, and good luck getting published.