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:
(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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