In the beginning, there was the goal. And the goal was to write 1,000 words per day. And the goal was good.
But there came a time when the goal was too easy. NANOWRIMOs had been won. Blogs were under way. Stories and even books had been published. A goal of 1,000 words was easy. But the goal was 1,000 and so, after a thousand words, people quit.
And they, the overseers of goals and achievers in writing, wanted more. The goal was to be raised. The number of the goal would become 1,500, and 1,500 was the number of the goal!
But… All was not well. Those who did the work complained. Some days, 1500 wasn’t enough, there was more that could be done. Other days there wasn’t enough time, 1,500 words wasn’t realistic. And so, a decree went forth. The goal would be an average of 1,500 words per day. Everyone was tracking the numbers anyway, so an additional calculation didn’t seem problematic and the goal became more flexible as long as the average was kept.
But it was not enough. The work did not go forth…
The goal setters in their wisdom had allowed any words to count toward the goal! That meant the goal could be achieved without progress being made. And so, once again, the goal was changed…
Some people are passionate about word count goals. Some people hate them… Some people succeed with them, and some people use them to look very busy while producing nothing. The point of an effective writing goal is to move the work forward (I’ve got an example of how my most recent goal does that over on Words Mean Stuff ). Writing goals are valuable, but they don’t have to be word count goals.
In fact, a word count goal may only be successful if you have a clearly defined project to work on. Otherwise, you may work a lot to produce a little.
If you’re going to use writing goals, consider one of these alternate options:
- A planning goal. For example: “today I’m going to outline chapter 6,” or “this week I’ll do the writeups for my major characters.”
- A unitary goal. For example: “I’m going to write a short story this week,” “today I’m writing that query letter (or blog post),” “This week I’m editing chapter 4,” or “I need to get that abstract done! So that’s what I’m writing today.”
- A research goal. For example: “I’m going to get into the database and pull all articles on ASMR written in the last year,” “I’m going to get all the articles collected into one file and build a spread sheet so I know what I have,” or “I’m going to find five examples of castles that would be good settings for my story (that way I can design my own fictional castle next week…)”
Big goals like “I’m going to write a novel,” need to be broken down into manageable steps. Nonspecific goals like “I’m going to write today,” can be too easy, or totally impossible depending on how you phrase them.
A clear specific goal that helps you understand what you’re going to do, why you’re going to do it, and allows you to wrap your mind around how you’re going to do it is your best bet. That’s the one that’s going to get you through.
A “words per day” goal isn’t wrong, dear reader, but goals that actually help you write are the ones you want. Those are the ones to seek after.
Good luck with your goals, dear reader. And I’ll see you next post.