Sometimes the problem with having goals for something is not so much when you set them too high but when you, accidentally or on purpose, set them too low.
Since I committed myself to writing at the end of last July, I’ve completely blown away my goals almost every month. Even when I essentially took three whole weeks off from writing anything in the middle of fall, I missed the 51.5k October goal by less than 600 words and while I barely wrote for half of November, I still pulled in 26,000 words.
Taking a look at things, I now have 9 full months of data. If I go back month by month, simplifying a bit so I’m just looking at the basic drafting fiction and nonfiction goals, it looks like this:
(There are a couple of cell references here and there that don’t seem quite right, but I haven’t dug into all of them. Totals might be slightly different than previously reported, in either direction.)
Editing, plotting, and such have targets that aren’t word count dependent, though I do track how word counts are affected. In December, I actually dropped the drafting targets a lot to try to focus more on editing, and while I managed the editing focus on days off, I continued to produce a lot on the drafting side anyway. Mostly, I hit the basic targets, and sometimes a lot more, and while some things took longer than I actually wanted to, they didn’t take more than the actual background goals I’ve set on the writing calendar. (For the Undead stories, for example, editing looked like it was spread across large timeframe, but there are 40 of them that I wanted at it for eventual inclusion in a collection I don’t intend to release until late this year.) I’ve done plotting on stuff I can’t write until next year, even assuming I maintain the quite impressive, in my mind, pace I’ve been working at in 2019 so far.
The targets I go after are set daily based on what data I have and what I expect to be working. Days off are modified by anticipated events but tend to focus more on things that have already had their first draft, whether it’s editing, polishing, or prepping for publication. But, five days a week, I am looking for 2000 drafted words each day: 1000 on the primary project which is usually a novel, 500 on the secondary fiction project, which has often been a different novel in recent months but is really supposed to be short fiction most of the time, and 500 words of nonfiction, normally a journal entry or a blog post. 2000 words per day, 10,000 words per week. My two days off each week from the job that pays the bills, I try to spend several hours on creative pursuits each day, but the nature of those, mostly editing, suggests a much, much lower word count.
All that said, at a high level, not distinguishing weekdays from weekends, I’m averaging 2500 words per writing day so far this year, with only one missed writing day since the calendar turned over. That should mean a 30-day month, in theory, averages about 75,000 words considering all sources.
But going back to the dailies, if the average commuting month has 22 days in it, that means I’m only setting my actual goal at 44,000 words on. Meaning, all things being equal, I’m exceeding the overall targets I set by more than 70%.
Transition: I am making things too easy myself.
The question I find myself asking is if it’s more intellectually and emotionally satisfying to totally destroy a goal you know was a cakewalk, or to just make, or even just miss, a goal you know you had to work hard for?
The more I consider it, the more I think the second option is likely to get me to work harder. It’s nice to smash those daily word counts and it’s beautiful to look back in the month and see the overalls being so much higher than my plan, but I think I’m past the point where the goals I’m setting are particularly meaningful. I’m setting those monthly goals, and accumulation of the lease, just for the sake of setting them. From where I’m drafting this post, I can already see, based on current trends, just about exactly where I’m going to hit all the targets remaining for May, and it’s well before the end of the month. Even with a very light counts from the first five days, by the 8th my average was already 2000 WPD.
I think, for June, I’m going to try an experiment. The goals for June are going to push into the upper territory of what I’ve been consistently doing. In fact, I think I’m going to revise the daily goals for May from this point forward (and only forward, because retconning is a horrible practice), and by the time this posts, because things already slotted, those revisions will probably already have been in effect for a few days.
Be well, everyone.
Addendum: the original draft of this post was dictated very early in the morning on May 9th. I did decide to revise these goals fairly heavily right after writing the post. The revised goals, and they’re entirely on the drafting side of things, because it’s very, very hard to predict the word count change in editing session will produce on any given thing, are as follows:
Primary novel project: 25,750 words.
Secondary fiction projects, taken as a whole: 15,750 words
Non-fiction writing of all sorts: 14,050 words.
Total drafting targets for May now set at 55,550 words, up from the original 40,000. Remembering that these kicked in on May 9th and that there was a vacation involved the beginning of the month, this is still a 39% increase. It goes there by taking my daily goals to the basic average for what I’ve been doing on commuting days (1250 primary fiction, 750 secondary fiction, 650 non-fiction) and adding some small goals for non commuting days.
I will possibly make further adjustments for June. We’ll see where things wind up and if this will push me a little bit harder.
Be well, everyone.by