Writing Skills: Setting Goals

Yes, I’m aware that setting goals is more of a life skill, but for us writing-folk it’s especially important. Not only the writing of goals, but the habit of reaching said goals can ultimately change what we believe we are capable of.

M. Russell Ballard, one of the twelve apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints says this on the subject of goals:

“I am so thoroughly convinced that if we don’t set goals in our life and learn how to master the techniques of living to reach our goals, we can reach a ripe old age and look back on our life only to see that we reached but a small part of our full potential. When one learns to master the principles of setting a goal, he will then be able to make a great difference in the results he attains in this life.”

And, if you’re anything like me, you’ve got a backlist of great ideas just waiting to be written down. But they’re on hold because you’re already working on an idea.

Or three…

or five.

Anyway, in the long and short of it, goals are dreams with a deadline, and that deadline is probably the most important thing about setting a goal. Whatever it is that you want to accomplish needs to be completed in a reasonable amount of time. Honestly, there are a lot of people that could write a novel in the space of thirty years. It would only take a few hundred words a day to do, as well. But, by the time you’re done writing that steampunk epic, steampunk will be long dead. Vampires might have become popular again.

father time

At the same time, if you can’t write a hundred words a minute and have three hours a day of solid writing time, you probably won’t get that novel written in a month. For example, on a good day I can hit about 70 words a minute. So, barring the need to stop and think or rewrite or drink some chocolate milk, I’ve had days ranging from two thousand to five thousand words a day. On average, though, I usually hit closer to the two thousand two hundred range. So… I can usually get a book out in a year. Critical is taking longer, though, because I’m letting Megan write over my shoulder as I write. She has the years of research to keep me on the right track.

Okay, so you’ve got a time limit that’s reasonable. You can honestly say you’re done, as long as you keep an eye on it and carefully gauge where you’re at and what’s left to do.

I can’t do that very well. I don’t know many people who can, so we have to break the great big goal into smaller goals. If I’m trying to write fifty thousand words in a month, then that’s my big goal. I can then break that down into weeks. 50,000 divided by 4 equals 12,500 words a week. I like to give myself a day off, so that’s six days a week to write. Eyeballing my math here and we have 2,100 words a day. That’s certainly attainable. And it’s much, much easier to see that I’m succeeding in my goal. I can also make adjustments as needed.

So, setting goals has become a dual skill of both establishing goals and making plans to accomplish said goal. I use it for writing, but it is a life skill that can be applied to any hobby or passion.


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