Voltaire’s line about “One should always aim at being interesting, rather than exact” does not apply to all aspects of life.
In writing? Sure. I’d rather read an interesting book that fudges some details over one that compromises the plot in favor of realism.
But we’re not about the writing here. Not about the details of the writing, anyway, the content. That’s on you. What we do here is help you specify and achieve your goals in a realistic and repeatable manner. And to do that, we need to be exact.
What was the last goal you set? Lose weight? Eat better? Save money?
All worthwhile goals, but how do you know when you’ve achieved them? Skip dinner and you could wake up tomorrow to find you’d lost a pound. Goal met. Oh, you meant you wanted to lose a significant amount of weight. Well, what’s a significant amount? What’s “significant” to you might be all in a week’s workouts to me. Have rice with dinner instead of greasy fries and you’ve officially eaten better. Buy generic instead of name brand and you’ve officially saved money.
But that’s not what you meant when you set those goals, was it? Who can tell? You weren’t exact. You weren’t specific.
When setting goals we hope to actually ACHIEVE, we have to be as specific as possible.
I want to lose 20lbs.
I will cut out sugar from my diet.
I’ll put 10% of my paycheck into savings before I even see it.
These are specific, achievable goals. But the work’s not done.
Because once you set the goal, you have to come up with a plan, a SPECIFIC plan, to meet it.
HOW will you lose that 20lbs? What steps will you take? Working out? Eating less? How quickly do you want to lose it? Give yourself a deadline, deadlines are so important with goals. Otherwise you could just keep going forever. I’m going to lose 20lbs. When? Eventually.
This also applies to writing.
When you set your writing goals, BE SPECIFIC. How specific? As specific as you can. How many stories do you want to write this year? How many days can you devote to writing? How many words a day can you write?
The most effective way to make sure you achieve your writing goals is, oddly enough, with math. People use this approach every year when they participate in NaNoWriMo. You’ve got 30 days to write 50,000 words, so how many words do you have to do a day? 1667. Or 12,500 words a week, however is easiest for you to measure.
I know from experience that sometimes that daily word goal gets away from you, so setting a weekly word goal can be even more helpful as it eases some of that daily pressure when life starts intruding on your writing time.
12,500 words a week for four weeks and you’ve got a novel. And if you write 7 days a week, that’s 2000 words for six days and a measly 500 the last day. But first you have to set the goal.
Now, obviously your goal isn’t going to be to write a novel a month for an entire year, so that 12,500 words a week word count is actually going to work out to something a lot more realistic. Say you want to write a first draft in three months. Over 12 weeks, that means you’ve got to do 4167 words a week, or 834 words every day for five days.
Holy crap you could probably do that before you’ve even had coffee. Think about it. 834 words a day. My daily goal when I’m writing new words is at least 1000 and anything over that are bonus words. 834 is cake. So if I set myself a goal of writing a 50,000 word novel in three months, and I started on January 1st and wrote my usual 1000 words a day, even at only five days a week, I finish that first draft the first week of March, not the last week. Goal not only met, but CRUSHED.
But first I have to SET the goal and be specific. Telling myself, “My goal is to write a novel” means nothing if I don’t give myself the parameters within which to reach the goal. I need a deadline and a plan. I’m going to write THESE days every week, at THESE times, and in that time on those days I’m going to write THIS many words. That means that, within that allotted writing time, I’m not checking emails, I’m not taking phone calls, I’m not answering texts until that day’s words are done. Maybe even use those emails and texts as a reward for having finished the day’s words. I’ve got a DVR full of shows I want to watch downstairs, but I’m not letting myself do it until I finish this blog post because I had written on my calendar for today “movie review and blog post.” I finished the movie review a while ago, all I have left is this post and my day’s work is done.
The gist here is this: it’s not enough to tell yourself you’re going to do something. Going to and DOING are two different things. Yeah, you’re GOING TO, but what action have you taken TODAY to move yourself closer to that goal? Nothing? Then shove your “going to” up your anyway the important thing to remember when setting writing goals is this: BE SPECIFIC.
“I’m going to write a novel” means nothing. “I’m going to write a novel in this amount of time”, now you’re talking. Now you’ve got a serious goal you can reach, because you know how much work you have to get done within that amount of time. From there it’s just the simplest of math to set yourself on the path to achieving this goal. Never set a vague goal. You won’t reach it. Be specific and take action.
The most difficult goal in the world becomes just a little easier, a little more feasible, when you’re specific.