Tag Archives: success

Setting Writing Goals: The Numbers Game

I’m having one of those moments in my writing where I feel like I have discovered the secret to writing consistently. Well, for myself. Since everyone is different, what works well for me probably won’t work well for 80% of writers out there. At least, that’s how I always feel when I read writing advice. I’m still on the look out for good ways to plot/outline a novel ahead of time, but here it is what I have found that works for me in terms of actually getting the writing done.

Word count goals. Daily ones. Monthly ones. Several monthly ones.

I know that it sounds odd, but at least for me, I found that when I set lofty monthly goals that I missed, my confidence came crashing down to earth (*cough* NaNoWriMo *cough*). After being somewhat stumped with my current project, I joined Camp NaNoWriMo to boost my word count. I hoped to write 15,000 words in 31 days to double my word count. The Camp NaNoWriMo website had a little bar graph that grew as you entered in your daily word count. Watching the bar grow and exceed the projected word count was a pay-off. Each day I strove to exceed that projected word count more and more. By the end of the month, I had written 20,000 words instead of 15,000 words.

This was what worked. It held me accountable to a projected word count while giving me the pay-off of a visual graph that showed me exceeding my goal. Currently, I’m using one of these word count charts. They’re great because they have the same graph visual at the top along with a yearly goal, monthly goal, and projected daily goals. The sheet also tells you if you are on target to finish on time. It’s everything the numbers girl in me needs to stay on track: instant feedback, a visual pay-off, and something that is changeable.

The second part of my numbers game is that I have been setting multiple goals per month. Here is a note I made for myself on my iPhone to track my writing goals for the next few months until I finish The Earl and the Artificer:

word count goals (In case you’re wondering, July’s goals are all the same because I completed it, and the word count determines what other months will look like). As you can see, there are three goals for August: a minimum, a stretch, and a far goal. The reason I set a minimum goal is because I know things come up. For September, my minimum goal is so small because the semester starts up again, and I’m not sure what I will face and how much my writing will be affected by stress, fatigue, and assignments. My only rule for my goals is that the minimum goal cannot get smaller. I will not reduce it. It’s low for a reason, but I will hit it no matter what. I ended up creating a stretch goal and a far goal because I didn’t want to say that I had a maximum goal. If I write 40,000 words instead of 20,000, that’s a far goal but never a maximum. There is only greater than, not a less than for my writing goals. If asked, my real goal is probably the stretch goal. I would really like to hit at least that one every month without fail, but I wanted to have a fail-safe in the minimum goal. Plus it feels good to hit the milestones. That minor pay-off helps to boost you to the major pay-off.

Right now, I’m projected to hitting my minimum goal for August on the 19th. That means, I’ll have about twelve days to add 5,000 more words, which is more than doable. Then, I have the far goal, which I’m pretty sure I will meet as well.

One thing I have also noticed while charting my progress is that my daily word count has also gone up. For both July and August, I have had the same monthly goal, 15,000 words, which means a daily word count goal of 484 words. In July my daily word count average was 645 words per day, and in August, it has jumped to 782 words per day. Right now I don’t know whether to attribute that to wanting to succeed and pushing myself or if it has gotten easier to write book three now that I’m over the hump. The second halves of books tend to write themselves or at least go easier than the first half.

For the tl;dr version: set realistic goals each month, then set one that will make you push yourself, and if you want to really challenge yourself, set another milestone. Chart your daily progress and see if you improve.


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Success and the Awkward Authoress

For a type-A personality, success is a tricky thing to navigate and define. I thrive off getting good grades and being told that I’m at the top of the class. In writing, I’m definitely not at the top of the class. I’m not even in the middle. I’m at the bottom of the totem pole, trying to pull my way up. It’s been quite a while since I haven’t been at the top or a competitor, and it’s disconcerting to know that you’re a nobody.

I know I’m a newbie to the world of self-publishing. It’s been less than a year since I published my first book, and I’ve not only had sales every month but I’ve gotten a few loyal readers who love my books and characters. There is no reason for me to complain, but part of me wonders if I’m succeeding or failing. In this industry, I can’t rely on grades to tell me whether or not I’m doing well. You can’t rely on sales rankings because while you made a sale, you may not have added a reader. You can’t even rely on reviews because you aren’t tailoring the story to the reader as you would an assignment for a professor. Some readers will love it, others will be ambivalent, and a few will hate it. People won’t get it, and you’ll be frustrated that they didn’t see your vision. You can’t go and say anything to explain your point of view, all you can do it hope someone else gets it. It’s frustrating. It makes you question if you’re doing as well as you hoped or thought you were.

The key is to define what success is to you. It’s so much easier said than done, but when you figure out what success is to you, you can determine whether or not you’re actually failing or simply lacking confidence. Do you want to sell a lot of books each year or do you want to gain a larger readership? Do you want consistently high ratings on your books or do you want to grow with each book?

As I’ve written more and gotten deeper into the publishing process, I have found that what I care about are: gaining new readers and improving the quality of my writing with each book. Unfortunately, you need sales to get readers, but I’d rather have ten very loyal readers than a hundred ambivalent ones. In terms of quality, I know my first book is not my best work, and I’m okay with that. I’ve grown since I published it a little over a year ago, and I should have. With each successive book, I should get better. I should improve and grow and experiment. That’s what art and writing are about. The good thing is I know book two is even better than book one, so I guess in that area, I’m successful.

In this area, I find myself battling logic and emotion. Logically, I know that most writers aren’t successful in multiple areas (readership, sales, improvement, notoriety, etc.) until they have at least five books out and do a lot of marketing and connecting. Emotionally, I’m upset that I don’t feel that I’m doing as well as I should. I also realize that no matter how many sales, readers, or 5 star reviews I had, I would still probably feel insecure. This state of mind always worsens when I’m feeling stuck in my current writing project, and guess where I am currently– floundering in planning my next chapter. In order to not fall into this trap (or at least not as often), writers need to define what success is to them and work towards those goals.

What do you define as success?


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Why I Love Julie and Julia

There is something that resonates with me when I watch Julie and Julia.  I cannot count how many times I have watched this movie.  Probably thirty times since it came out.

If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s about Julia Child’s journey from housewife in France to chef while Julie Powell, a blogger, goes through a personal journey to find herself as she spends a year going through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Both Julie and Julia are told that what they are doing is pointless and a waste of time because they will never be like -insert professional-. Luckily, both, especially Julia Child, have this kick-ass attitude. Tell me I can’t do it and watch me do it and succeed. Continue reading

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Wrap-up and Resolutions

Wow, 2014 has been a crazy year for me.  A great year but a whirlwind of insanity at times.

This year, I began graduate school to earn my MFA in creative and professional writing, and now that a full year in the program has passed, I can say that I love it and believe I made the right decision.  I don’t think my parents were terribly pleased when I decided to change my course of study in the second half of my junior year from pre-med to English major, but I’m a lot happier reading and analyzing books and writing constantly than I ever was doing dissections and memorizing muscle groups (though biology and science still hold a special place in my heart and in my books).  In 2014, I also became a graduate assistant at the university I attend, which means I help out the professors and put together the end of semester newsletter as well as work on the department’s literary magazine. Continue reading

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