Goal-Setting and Beating Records (An Update of Sorts)

As many of you know, NaNoWriMo has recently finished. I’m still a bit abuzz from the experience. This year was my last NaNoWriMo in high school — or, in other words, the last NaNoWriMo before college (and being super busy!). As such, I decided to set some high goals for myself; I wanted to beat all my old records and try and surpass my highest goals if I could.

Did I manage to do that? Well, let’s see:

In July of 2014, I wrote my personal best of 112,714 words. This year, I surpassed that with 142,743 words. And my new daily record is 25,464 words in ten hours (whew, that was some day!).

I think I can happily say that I did pretty well. I’m actually really proud of myself — and why shouldn’t I be? As writers, our chosen career can sometimes be a bit lonely and not always as productive as we’d like it to be. We should learn to celebrate the little things, and especially the big things.

So that brings me to the topic of this time’s post: setting goals and beating records. I possess a high WPM and an ability to easily come up with stories in my mind, without a need to go back and edit — this allows me to write quickly and efficiently. However, I know plenty of people who have a harder time with writing words down quickly. Because of my high typing speed, I can set higher goals for myself — but that hardly means I’m a better writer. Indeed, it may mean I’m just churning out crap faster, haha.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that depending on what type of writer you are, you need to adjust your goals based on that. If you’re a slower writer, who thinks more about the story and the characters as you write, rather than just speeding through the story, try a slow but steady goal — an hour a day or something.

For daily quotas, there are several different ways to look at it. They can generally be broken into three categories: time, pages, and words. Do you measure the time you spend writing by hours (or minutes, even), the number of pages you write, or how many words you can get down? I usually go by words, but sometimes that can be intimidating for people.

If you’re editing or even planning a story, it may be easier to go by time since you can’t measure that with a specific page or word count. Some people also think time is better since they are not constrained to meet a certain word count — since some scenes may be slower or faster, harder or easier to write, they can simply just spend the hour (or however long) working on it, rather than trying to get five hundred words into that scene.

For those who are busy, with jobs or school, you could write in time intervals. Steal fifteen minutes here and there. This is not my preferred way of writing, because I usually like to get into the “zone” and write for hours, rather than jumping in and out and writing for little bits at a time. However, I am blessed with extended blocks of time to be able to do that (at least currently . . .). If you don’t have several hours to yourself, you might be one of those people who need to take advantage of every spare minute to yourself. Carry around a notebook. Think about your characters in your free time. Watch the people around you, and search for ideas. As writers, we should take grasp of every opportunity in front of us.

Goal-setting is a hard thing to do. How can I find a proper goal for myself that I’ll be able to consistently meet, that won’t drag me down, won’t bore me, but keep me inspired and get me working steadily on my project? Well, I can’t answer that. You have to figure that out for yourself. It might take some fiddling, some changing up your routine, but eventually I’m sure you’ll find something that works for you.

Goals can help you focus and if you tell people about them, they can help keep you accountable. As with NaNoWriMo, having a goal can stretch your abilities, shooting you higher than you ever thought you could reach. The encouragement you get from the people you share your dreams with can also be very beneficial.

Mostly, I’ve been talking about daily goals. But what about other goals, vaguer things like deadlines to finish a draft, editing a story, or sending out query letters? For these, it might be good to have those daily goals to push you to those — you can adjust your daily goals according to your deadline, so you’ll reach it in time. As encouragement, think about giving yourself rewards each time you manage to be on schedule (if you have three months until your deadline, you can give yourself a reward every month).

As the new year approaches, are there any goals you’re setting for yourself? What do you hope to accomplish in the next few months? What are you proud to have accomplished this year? Beat any records lately?

Thanks for reading! For those of you who participated in NaNoWriMo, great job! It was an awesome year. As always, keep on writing!

~ J. Dominique