Regular readers of this site will know that I like to preach the importance of setting concise, written goals, both in the short-term and long-term. I personally write best if I set a daily writing goal, whether that be a word count, a scene, a blog post, or whatever. I also set monthly and yearly writing goals.
I don’t usually have too much trouble reaching my daily goals, but I rarely reach my month goals, and have yet to reach an annual one. (Yeah, what’s up with that?)
I caught myself feeling a bit down about that, as the year is almost half over and I’ve done a pretty terrible job on some of the most important things I wanted to accomplish this year. Sure there were some life events I didn’t take into consideration when planning out my year, such as the birth of our third child and Holy Fudgesicles getting published, but here at Write Good Books, we don’t make excuses, we look for answers.
So with that in mind, what is it about my daily goals that makes them achievable and what is it about my monthly and yearly goals that makes them unachievable?
It’s a tough question. I think one reason is that when I set a daily goal, I usually have a pretty good idea of what the day will look like. If I know I’m going to have two hours to write, it’s easy to plan a post here, and small word count goal on a story. But when I set a monthly goal, I’m not breaking it down into tasks or spending any real time planning how I’ll get there.
Two recent “fails” are 1) Write a short story every month and 2) Finish revising a novel this year.
While trying to look at why I failed to reach those goals, I made a major discovery.
First, if it’s so difficult to write a short story every month, then why was I able to write a short story every week for four weeks when I was in a horror writing discussion group last October? (Just for fun, one of those stories, Not Real?, was published on MicroHorror.com in January and another one, Four Corners, is set to be included in next months issue of Beyond Imagination Magazine.)
Second, if it’s so difficult to finish revising a novel in a year, then why was I able to do a complete revision of Holy Fudgesicles in a few weeks at the request of the editor?
There is a very obvious solution. In all three successful cases (the daily writing goal, the short stories, and the novel revision) I had a firm deadline attached to the goal.
- Finish Writing Goal X by the end of the day.
- Bring a new piece of fiction to group every week.
- Turn in revision to editor by a fixed date.
You’re saying “Congratulations, Captain Obvious. Deadlines matter.”
But I’m saying, “Holy shit, I just solved one of the major mysteries of my universe!”
If I’m not reaching the hypothetical monthly goal of finishing a new short story, it’s because I’m not imposing any kind of deadline. I need to be incorporating that goal into my daily ones.
So now that I understand how the world works, I’m going to say, in writing, that by June 30, I will have a detailed outline of my new novel finished, as well as character sketches for the major players.
And it will work. And it will also be an awesome novel 😛