Wednesday, December 14, 2011


‘They’ tell you that writers should set goals but I’ll start by saying that I don’t usually set specific goals for myself.

I’m aware that many writers decide on word-count or page-count goals - it might be 500 or it might be 5,000 words a day, or it might be a certain number of pages.

What, I wonder, happens when they don’t achieve their goal? Do they feel guilty or frustrated? Do they feel pressured to achieve that magic number of words or pages? Is their writing dictated by the goal rather than by what they’re actually writing? In other words, does the goal become more important than the story? And, maybe the most important point, are they concentrating more on quantity than on quality?

Writing 5,000 words a day means you could complete a 75,000 word novel in 15 days. Even 1,000 words a day would complete it in just over a couple of months. Nice idea! But I can’t work like that. Although I took part in NaNo and completed the ‘goal’ of 50,000 words in a month, I was very aware of how the quality of my writing deteriorated. That story will need a complete re-write.

My ‘goal’ is simply to write the best story I can. Okay, maybe that’s not a ‘measurable’ goal as such - except that I think I CAN measure it. I know when I’ve achieved what I want to achieve, whether it's an emotional experience, a build-up of suspense/tension, or simply a word picture of a scene. I know, too, when something doesn’t ring true and then I work at it until I’m satisfied with it. Sometimes I can write 1,000 words in a day; sometimes I’ll agonise over just 50 words. I once read: For a writer, ‘that’ll do’ is not an option. Maybe my goal is never to say ‘That’ll do.’

I’ll be interested to hear whether you set goals and, if so, what kind of goals?


  1. When I started to write, my goal was to write a best-seller. I didn't know realize how much I needed to learn.
    My goal became learning the craft, and I studied and practiced. I am a much better writer now, and get paid to write about gardening.
    I just entered a contest and hope to place. I want to be published in romance.

  2. Good luck in the contest, Ana!
    I guess we'd all like to write a best-seller, but I doubt I'll ever reach those dizzy heights. However, as long as people enjoy my books, that's good enough for me!

  3. For me, writing is emotional. So setting a word-count goal is probably as useful for me as writing an outline (and we all know how that turned out!). I try to set small goals, like finishing a scene, or editing a particular character. Some days it works, others it doesn't. But if my goals stress me out and become a chore, then it makes me not want to write anymore.

  4. I agree with all this, Jen. Even in NaNo, I didn't set myself any daily word target.
    But I do sometimes set small goals, like you do e.g at the moment,I'm aiming to complete the rewrite of the final two chapters of my WIP before I go away next Monday. But I don't manage it, I won't stress about it!

  5. Each month we have a goal portion of our chapter meeting in my RWA group. Members are able to write down a goal and attach a dollar to it. At the next meeting, the goals are read out loud. Members who make their goals have their names put into a drawing. Who ever's name comes out gets the pile of cash.

    I always try to set a goal. This last time I made mine to finish my WIP - my Thanksgiving novella. (We have two months this time around because of the holidays.) Normally I do a shorter goal, finishing a chapter or getting to a certain word count.

  6. Perhaps we all ought to do that on HWH at the beginning of each month, Debra. We could play with virtual dollars (if I have any left after my visit to Florida next week!)

  7. I don't think I can work with word count goals - especially after my first NaNo attempt, although that was good for discipline.

    I'm needing to set goals on which work I want to finish and send out, in which order - that would be a step in the right direction!

  8. I'm in awe of all the different stories you have on the go, Rosemary. I find I can only concentrate on one story at a time. When I was doing NaNo, I abandonned my current WIP; now I've gone back to my WIP and left the NaNo story somewhere on a backburner.