Writing Goals

All this NaNo discussing has me thinking about writing goals. I haven't usually gone for specific short term goals, like 1000 words/day or whatever. When I've tried that, it usually hasn't gone well. I end up overly obsessed with the word count (or whatever) and the writing itself suffers. I do, however set a goal of working on my writing every day, and on that I'm pretty consistent. I wonder sometimes, though, if it's just a lazy reaction to the more specific goals. I'm not a glacial-paced writer--in the past 2 1/2 years I've fully revised two novel manuscripts, written a new one and am over halfway through the first revision (should be done by the end of the year), and I've written dozens of stories and poems. But I'm not anywhere near as prolific as some writers either. When I'm in full creating mode, my output varies from probably 500 to 4,000 or more words per day. And I'm revising 2-3 chapters per week lately, sometimes on top of other writing or revising.

I do believe firmly in being a disciplined writer, so at times I think such a specific word count goal might benefit me.

At the moment some writers on one forum have a weekly accountability group where we post a goal for the week ahead and report if we've reached it. I've been doing that for a few months now. At times it's been good, spurring me to stop wasting time and get to work. Other times, I'm afraid it's tempted me to skimp on the work (especially since of late my goal always involves revising a certain number of chapters or short stories), so that I rush through it. That's when a goal becomes a negative thing for me.

Long-term goals are good, though I keep them fluid, and apart from the goal I've had each of the past two years of having a professional sale (only a little over a month left for that...I think I have three stories out at the moment to qualifying places), I try to keep them tied only to what's under my control. So goals that inspire discipline, that's what I want, not goals that draw too much attention to themselves as goals, looming, shadowy monsters waiting for me to trip up...


Neil Richard said…
I've been learning that everyone is different when it comes to writing. Sounds like you prefer to work alone. I've seen others that do better in groups. Goals. No goals. Word counts. Page counts. Arghgh!

Seeing as I haven't written anything that amounts to more than a pile of crap, I think I'll stick to reading for now.
Lauren Michelle said…
For me, the minimum word count per day thing works because I allow myself to go back and edit things on a daily basis... not like the approach of writing a whole draft of a novel in (effectively) one go and then doing overall revisions later.

With my approach, it's important to get as much quantity in as possible--once the words are out, I'm happy to obsess over fixing them. With the whole-draft approach, like you said, you're probably going to get an inferior first draft if you stick to a high minimum word count. Thus, since I've seen you say you're not big on revising anyway, I think you've got the right of it in avoiding a minimum.

On the other hand, it probably couldn't hurt you too terribly to try it for a week or two and see how it goes... if you feel like you should.
Fred said…
I think it's always a mistake to compare oneself to another writer whenever process is involved. As tk42one notes, every writer approaches it differently, sets different goals, achieves different results. The best you can do is look at what's worked for some people, try it, and, if it doesn't work for you, try something else.
Daniel Ausema said…
Yeah, I'd say there's a balance there--each writer works differently, and it's great to get to the point where you know who you work best. At the same time, I'm a firm believer in the kind of constant questions that ask if you're doing the best you can. Not second guessing everything, but being willing to challenge yourself to try new things in order to keep yourself invigorated and to push yourself always toward better craft.