How to Write Your Book This Year: 10 Writing Tips

How to Write Your Book This YearSo many people talk about writing a book but never actually sit down and do it. If this sounds like you, make this the year that changes. Make this year you finally write your book! (Or if you’re already working on it, make this the year you finish!)

This post is going live in December, so it’s intended to be setting you up to write your book in the upcoming year, but you can use these tips to write your book in ANY twelve-month window. Don’t let the calendar hold you back!

Here are ten tips to help you write your book within twelve months:

Sit with your idea and get excited

It might be tempting to dive right in a get writing, but that could backfire on you. You run the risk of going too hard, too fast, and burning out before you hit ten thousand words. Instead, take a moment to make a plan and savor your idea. Let your characters cook in your head for a month or so while you get your act together. Jot down some notes and ideas to keep your excitement up, but try not to start writing until you have some kind of plan worked out.

Set a reasonable goal for one year from now

Now that you’re excited about your idea, set a REASONABLE goal for what you hope to have accomplished one year from now. Reasonable is key! As nice as it would be to have a book that submission ready after a year, if you’ve never written a book before, that’s a massive goal. If you set your goal too high, you might get discouraged and give up. So if this is your very first book, a good goal might be to have a complete first draft at the end of a year. If you’re in the middle of a draft, you might want to have a complete draft and a revision plan. Or maybe even to finish a revision (depending on where you are in the process). I can’t tell you what a good goal for you is, but I will say that it’s important to set a goal that’s achievable, while still being a challenge. If you need some help figuring out the right goal for you, check out these posts:  How to Set Manageable Writing Goals, The Importance of Setting Manageable Writing Goals.

Consider a light brainstorm/outline

Brainstorming isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve never written a book before, I would suggest giving it a shot. I’ve always found that I am a more efficient writer when I know where I’m going. I’ve also found that it’s a lot easier for me to walk away from my work or skip writing days if I don’t know what comes next. You don’t need to come up with a deep or extensive brainstorm, but consider giving yourself some plot points and an ending to shoot for. If you need help getting started, check out this post for brainstorming beginners. And for more on brainstorming, check out the brainstorming tag.

Come up with a reasonable, sustainable schedule

Now that you have a reasonable goal and a decent grasp on your story, it’s time to come up with a schedule you’ll be able to sustain throughout the year. If you’re going to write and finish your book, showing up on a regular basis is essential. Like goal setting, sustainable is the priority here. Take a look at your current schedule. Consider activities that you can shorten or cut out to make time for writing. You don’t have to write every day, but I would suggest at least a few days a week. For example, if you can find one hour, three days a week, that’s awesome! Then, if you shoot for 500 words every hour, that’s 1,500 words a week. Which means at the end of a year, you’ll have 78,000 words written. That’s a book!! As the year goes on, you may find that you’re able to find more time or that you write faster once you get in the groove, but at this point, your priority is creating a schedule you know you can maintain. For more help on creating a sustainable writing schedule, check out this post!

COMMIT

Now that you have your schedule, you need to commit to it! This book will not get written if you slack off. Sure, life happens from time to time and you may have to concede your writing time. Some days just won’t go your way. But if you start caving every time something more enticing or seemingly more pressing than writing comes up, you will not write your book this year. If you want to meet your writing goals, it’s on you to prioritize them. For tips on how to commit to your writing, check out this post.

Give yourself permission to be imperfect

Perfectionism will kill your writing. Writing is a process for a reason. It takes time and several drafts to get it right. But one of the best parts about writing is that you can always fix it later. It’s okay if chapter three is terrible in your first draft as long as it gets you to chapter four. Don’t let the quest for perfection hold you back. If your goal is to finish a first draft, it’s okay if it’s a terrible draft! It just has to be finished. If your goal is to get a revision done, it’s okay if there are still things that need to be fixed as long as your book is better than it was before. For more on embracing imperfection,  check out this post!

If writing gets hard, change things up

Your writing will challenge you. That’s good. It’s supposed to challenge you. When you find yourself facing a particularly challenging scene, it’s important to keep writing. Maybe you’ll write slower than you have been, but as long as you can put words on the page, keep going! However, if writing every feels painfully hard, consider that your writerly instincts may be trying to tell you something. Perhaps the direction you’re taking your story in just isn’t right. Or maybe your approach is all wrong. Unfortunately, only you will be able to work out what the root of the problem is, but if it feels like you’re suffering, then I would advise against pushing on. Instead, take a time out and work out what your roadblock is. For more on why writing doesn’t have to be hard, check out this post!

Find some go-to places for inspiration and motivation

Inspiration and motivation will ebb and flow. It’s nice when you feel it, but you can’t always rely on it to meet your daily and weekly goals. Instead, find a few go-to locations or websites for when you feel like you need an inspirational pick-me-up. Maybe you have a story inspiration board on Pinterest. Or maybe you find motivation by bribing yourself with a reward after you meet your goal on a particularly challenging week. You know yourself best, so consider what will give you enough motivation and inspiration to power through. Be ready to call on those tools when you need them.

Get an encouraging friend or writing buddy

It’s easier to stay on top of your goals if you have a friend who will encourage you and hold you accountable. A writing buddy is really ideal. This way you can both check-in and support each other, but it’s okay if you’re the only writer you know. All you really need is one friend who appreciates stories, creativity, and commitment to cheer you on. Make it a point to check in with them on a regular basis and ask for support when you need it. If you don’t think you have anyone in real life, consider making an online friend. I’m not on facebook, but I hear there are writing facebook groups you can join. You can also feel free to connect with each other here in the comments section, or on another form of social media.

Let showing up an finishing be the success

Lastly, reconsider how you measure success. It’s easy to think of a published book or a massive bestseller as success, but there are a lot of other wins along the way that need to be appreciated and celebrated. The first big win that needs to be given its due is simply showing up on a regular basis and producing. It doesn’t matter if your book is good while it’s in the early stages. Finishing a draft and meeting your goals is a success. Let those wins count! For more on why your writing doesn’t have to be “good,” check out this post!

I hope this helps you write your book this year!

Now it’s your turn: What’s your plan to make sure you write your book this year? Tell me about it in the comments!

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How to Commit to Writing Your Novel

How to Commit to your novelTruly committing to your writing can be an exciting yet intimidating thing to do. But if you ever hope to reach your writing goals, commitment is important! So with that in mind, today we’re going to talk about why you need to commit to your writing and how to make it happen!

Why you need to commit to your writing

An inconsistent schedule will hurt you down the line

I try to avoid generalizing, so I’m not going to say it’s impossible to write a book if you only work on it a few days a year, or whenever inspiration strike, or whenever you have time. After all, there may be someone out there who can spit out 10k-15k words a day in a few ridiculously productive bursts. But what I will say is that, even in that best-case scenario, you’re only really setting yourself up to write one book. Because this type of inconsistent work cycle only works if you’re not on a deadline and one is expecting material from you. If you only want to write one book in your life, then this may work for you. But if you want a writing career, consistency is important. And to create consistency, you need to commit to it.

You won’t prioritize your writing dreams and goals if you don’t commit to them

If you aren’t committed to your writing, then you’re not committed to the future you want for yourself. Without a commitment and a semi-serious schedule/plan, you’re saying your goals and dreams aren’t that important. Or at the very least, you’re saying that other things are more important. And sure, sometimes they are. Family is important. A job/money to live on is important. But sometimes, the other commitments sucking up your time aren’t really more important. For example, maybe you don’t really need to watch two hours of TV every night. Or, maybe you don’t really need to spend all of your half-hour lunch break with your co-workers. I can’t tell you what is or what should be important in your life, but I will say it’s really hard to make any goal come true if you don’t decide it’s important enough to be a priority. Writing is no exception.

Your book likely won’t get finished if you don’t commit to it

Like I said, I try not to generalize, so I don’t want to say there’s no chance of finishing a book without fully committing to it, but it’s highly unlikely that you will. Books take a lot of time and a lot of work. What starts out as a really exciting idea can become can start to fizzle out when you find yourself in the middle of your first draft with no clue what comes next. At a time like that, it can be easy to walk away. It gets exceptionally easier when a friend calls and wants to get dinner during your writing time. But if you give up on your book or pass on writing time for friend time, it will be almost impossible to finish your novel. And this is really why it’s so important to commit to your writing.

How to commit to your writing

Don’t let “commitment” scare you

I think commitment has become an intimidating word to some of us. It can make us feel locked in and trapped. It can make writing feel like a chore, or like it’s one more thing on an already too long to do list. Instead, think of your writing commitment as something exciting. You GET to write on a regular basis. You GET to escape for just a little while and work towards the goals. And you GET to spend time with your book, your characters, and yourself. It’s a good thing and an exciting thing! If you can remind yourself of that, it will likely make your commitment a lot more manageable.

Start small

Just because it’s a commitment, doesn’t mean it has to be a big one–especially if you’re just getting in the swing of things. It’s okay if your commitment is 15-30 minutes, 3-5 days a week. Or if it’s any leftover time on your lunch break or an hour every Saturday. The key is to be consistent. Ideally, you’ll write more regularly than once a week, but if that’s where you need to start, then that’s where you start. Get used to honoring a small commitment and when you’re ready, make it a more regular one.

If it helps, think small

Another potentially intimidating part of committing to writing a book is the idea of actually Writing a Book. A book is a big undertaking! They’re hundreds of pages long and there are a lot of moving parts. It needs to be drafted and revised and polished. It’s important to keep sight of the big picture, but it’s even more important to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed with what it really means to Write a Book. So instead, get used to your commitment by thinking small. Every day that you sit down to write, only think about the task you have to complete that day. If you make some kind of progress, no matter how small, you’ve honored your commitment. Let that fuel you to come back again.

Reward yourself for showing up

Plan some kind of reward for yourself for simply showing up to your writing. Down the line, you can reward yourself more for reaching your goals, but in the beginning, celebrate the fact that you’re building a consistent schedule. The size of your reward and the frequency are completely up to you, but don’t let yourself off the hook! Only treat yourself if you actually meet the guidelines you set out for yourself. So, if you decide you’ll reward yourself for showing up as planned for a full five day work week, you can’t decide only showing up four days is “close enough.” Don’t cheat yourself.

Focus on building a writing habit, not finishing a book

Similarly, make sure your goals are clear when you get started. Personally, I think it’s more healthy and sustainable to consider committing to building a writing habit, not just finishing your book. If you take the time to commit and build a sustainable habit, your book WILL get done. It may take a while, but it’ll happen. If you measure your success by how close you are to being done, it can be easy to get frustrated by the time investment and setbacks. It might make you less inclined to continue your commitment. But if success is showing up and moving forward, you’ll feel the success and benefits of your commitment daily. And before long, you’ll have your completed book (and maybe, you’ll even be on your way to more).

I hope this helps you commit to your writing!

Now it’s your turn: Have you struggled to commit to your writing? If you have, what are some roadblocks? If you haven’t, what helped you commit? Tell me about it in the comments!

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How to Create an Effective Writing Schedule: 8 Writing Tips

How to create an effective writing schedule

If you’ve read other posts on this site, you may have noticed that balance is a big theme. I think it’s important for us as writers to be dedicated to our writing, but I don’t believe we should run ourselves into the ground trying to make our dreams come true. Instead, I think that we should strive to push ourselves without killing ourselves. And if you ask me, that starts with creating a writing schedule that accommodates both our writing and lives.

With that in mind, here are eight steps to making an effective and practical writing schedule:

1) Find an amount of time you can write consistently

Consistency really is the key to completing your book and reaching your goals. If you truly value your writing, you need to make time for it. How much time depends on your life, commitments, and work style, but I would say you’re better off doing a little bit every day than a lot once in a while. If you’re just starting out, see if you can carve out fifteen to thirty minutes a day. The goal, in the beginning, is to simply make writing a habit. You may not end up writing every day once you settle in (I don’t!) but the point here is to get yourself in the used to writing on a regular basis. Once it’s a habit for you, you can have more flexibility. For now, just get yourself used to showing up regularly.

2) Figure out a realistic word count goal

Now that you’ve got a sense of how much time you can commit to, consider how much you’d like to get done during that time. I find having some kind of plan or goal for each day helps me to stay focused on my work. If I know what I need to get done in the time frame, I’m less likely to end up online or wasting time in some way. The key here is to be realistic about what you can reasonably accomplish in that time period. You may have to time yourself in the beginning. See how long it takes you to write 100 words at a normal pace. Once you know that, you should be able to figure out what you can get done in your given time frame.

3) Consider making your actual goal 15%-20% less

That word count goal you just figured out? That’s how much you can accomplish if your story is cooperating, you’re not interrupted, and everything is going your way. That’s the dream! But it’s also not something you can always depend on. Instead, consider making your goal 15%-20% less than you can reasonably accomplish. If you accomplish this new goal early, spend the rest of your time going for that dream goal.

Setting an achievable goal is crucial to maintaining a regularly effective writing schedule. It’s important to feel like you’ve accomplished something each writing session, so you’re motivated to show up again the next day. For more on setting reasonable writing goals, check out these posts: How to Set Manageable Writing Goals, Why Setting Reasonable Goals is Important.

4) Commit to keeping your schedule for 21 days

Once you come up with your daily writing schedule and goal, commit to keeping it for 21 days. That’s allegedly how long it takes to build a habit. Don’t worry about what comes after those 21 days. Don’t worry about maintaining this time for the length of your book. Just worry about the 21 days! Set reminders. Turn down last minute offers to socialize. Fully commit as much as possible to these 21 days and protect your writing time at all costs.

But keep in mind, your writing time doesn’t even have to come at the same time every day unless that works for you. Just strive for the same amount of time at some point each day. Though, I’d suggest starting each day by planning when you will write. The more intentional you are, the more likely you’ll find the time. If you plan to squeeze it in when you can, there’s no guarantee that time will ever come. For more on how to commit to your writing, check out this post!

5) Assess and adjust

Once you make it to the end of your 21 days, you’ll likely learn a lot about how you work best. Now it’s time to adjust your writing schedule based on what you’ve learned. Did you feel like time was up as you were just getting into things? See if you can find more time for yourself. Did writing every day burn you out? Try cutting back to five or six days a week. Did you find it too hard to stick to the same amount of time each day? Could you be productive with a little less time on some days? Adjust accordingly, then try your new schedule for another 21 days (if you’re not writing every day, try for 21 writing days).

6) Do your very best to show up every day, but if you miss a day, let it go

This is where the “push yourself, don’t kill yourself” comes in. Somedays, life might get in the way. Maybe you chipped your tooth and spend the day at the dentist, or you need to pick your kid up early from school and you lose your writing time. If life happens, don’t beat yourself up or stay up extra late when you’re exhausted and run down. Don’t kill yourself! Let it go and add another day to your 21 day writing commitment.

On the other hand, if you have the writing time but “just don’t feel like it,” push yourself. Suck it up, get in front of your computer or notebook and WRITE. Even if you don’t meet your goals, move your project forward. Once you build a regular writing habit, you can play hooky sometimes. But until then, force yourself to show up when you plan to.

7) If you do need to catch up, don’t do it all at once

I wouldn’t recommend putting too much deadline pressure on yourself when you’re just starting out. Once you have a writing habit you can add deadlines. You’ll likely be able to handle that deadline better if you’re used to writing on a consistent basis.

But if you have a deadline, whether it be self-imposed or for a contest or editor, and you can’t write a missed day off, try not to catch up all at once. Doubling up might burn you out and you may run the risk of falling even farther behind. If you planned on writing 500 words on the day you missed, try adding 100 words to your goal for five days. That should put you back where you need to be without pushing yourself beyond your limits.

8) If you miss more than a day here and there, re-evaluate your commitment

Life may get in the way sometimes, but if that happens more often than not, you may want to think about re-evaluating your commitment. If you planned a half hour, consider scaling back to fifteen minutes and really digging into it.

However, if it seems that even that’s asking too much, you might want to re-evaluate your priorities. If you’re not getting your time in because you keep saying yes to outings with friends, or non-essential favors for friends and family, I’d encourage you to be more protective of your writing time if you really want to finish your book. (I have a whole post on how to protect your writing time and say no to others.) If you’re losing time because of a family emergency or some other serious, time-consuming situation, consider putting your writing aside for now. Handle your situation or adjust to your new normal, then come back and try this process again.

I hope this helps you create an awesome writing schedule that works for you!

Now it’s your turn: What does your writing schedule look like? What helps you stick to it? What do you struggle will? Tell me about it in the comments!

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How to Prep Your Writing for the Year: 6 Writing Tips

How to prep your writing for the new yearThe new year is just a few weeks away, which makes it the perfect time to get your writing life in order for next year! Of course, there’s no bad time to decide to prioritize your writing, but the new year gives us a blank slate and a clear start date to take advantage of. So if you’ve gotten off track, or if you’re just looking to revamp your writing life, now’s the time to start planning!

This post was written with the new year in mind, but you can definitely apply it for any long term writing prep!

Here are six tips to help you rock your writing life in the upcoming year!

1) Focus on building a habit

As exciting as it is to envision reaching your goal, making that your main focus may be one of the quickest ways to deter you. When all you can see is the end result, it’s easy to get overly ambitious and attempt to do too much too fast. And once that happens, writers can also get overwhelmed, discouraged, and decide to call it quits. If you instead put your focus on building a regular writing habit, chipping away at your goal will become manageable, sustainable, and hopefully enjoyable!

2) Be realistic about your goals

I’ve said it before on this blog, but it’s always true! It can be easy to lose sight of reality when you’re planning. Or, at least it is for me. I get excited when I make plans–too excited. I see all the possibilities and the fact that I’m sitting down to make a plan is a sign to me that I’m serious about my goals. And that seriousness alone can get the best of me. It makes me want to push myself as much as possible in order to meet my goals as soon as I can. But when that happens, I burn out. We all have our limits. Yours will probably be different from mine, but they’re there. Set goals that challenge you, but be realistic. You won’t meet your goals if you burn out. For more tips on setting manageable writing goals, check out this post.

3) Be realistic about your time

Just like you have to be realistic about what you can reasonably accomplish, you also have to be realistic about how much time you have available to you. Be honest with yourself and plan reasonable goals accordingly. If you want to write a thousand words a day, but can only write for fifteen minutes a day, it’s going to be hard to meet your daily goal. And it will also be easy to get discouraged if you consistently fail to meet the goals you created for yourself. It’s okay if you can only write fifteen minutes a day. You may want more time–and down the line, you might be able to find some–but if all you have is fifteen, you’re better off acknowledging that and planning for that, then trying to work with time you don’t have.

4) Don’t plan too far ahead

If you’ve never planned an entire writing year before, it might be better to try to plan on making a regular writing commitment than a concrete plan. You should absolutely set goals and checkpoints for yourself, but if you create a rigid plan for the whole year, you might be setting yourself up for a setback. Sometimes your work has its own ideas. Sometimes you think you know your story is going then you’re reminded that your writing has a mind of its own.

Odds are at some point this year, your project won’t go as planned. You’re going to need to regroup and adjust your plans and goals and all of this is a lot easier to do if you haven’t planned too far ahead. My advice is to make set a goal for the year, and maybe even monthly checkpoints that would help you meet your goals, but only create a serious plan (i.e. what draft and chapter you’ll be working on each day) one month at a time.

5) Consider investing in your writing

If you’re going to get serious about writing this year, that also means trying to be the best writer you can be. Make it a point to beef up your craft book collection, take a writing class, or consider enrolling in a writing program. And yes, all of these things cost money, but if you start planning and investigating options now, you might be able to save up for a writing class in the fall or end up with a solid book collection by the end of the year. For classes and writing programs, check out your local colleges, community centers, and libraries. For craft books, you can do an internet search or check out the resources page of this site!

6) Go into the year knowing what you’re going to write

Start planning what you’re going to write now! Whether you do a concrete brainstorm or you simply start thinking about your next story, it’ll be a lot easier to build or change your writing habits if you’re truly excited about what you’re working on. So start thinking about your project now, so that when January comes, you’re ready to dive in!

I hope this gives you a good idea of how to prep your writing for the year!

Now it’s your turn: How do you prep your writing year? Has anything you’ve done in the past been particularly helpful? Tell me about it in the comments!

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The Importance of Setting Reasonable Writing Goals

The Importance of Setting Reasonable Writing GoalsI’ve talked about how to set manageable writing goals before, but I never really got into why setting reasonable writing goals is so important.

Setting reasonable writing goals has been really helpful for balancing my writing life. When I aim too high and don’t meet my goals, I have a harder time functioning outside of my writing. I feel like my work day isn’t finished until my goals are met and it’s harder to focus on other things when I feel like I should still be working. Being fully present is just as important to writing as actually writing. It’s what gives us the experiences and emotions that we write about.

Another problem with setting unreasonable goals is how easy it is to fall behind. Once you do, you’re often in a constant state of catch-up, which most likely only makes you fall farther behind. From there, it can go one of two ways. You either get discouraged and quit, or you get hyper-focused on your goals and other areas of your life suffer as a result. Neither option is ideal for a happy writing life.

Here are some things I (try to) do to set reasonable writing goals:

Under-scheduling

This is something new for me. Basically, I’m making a conscious effort to do less work daily in the hopes that I’m sharper and more productive when I am working. This will ideally make me more productive in the long run. Minimalist blogger Courtney Carver explains in this post. This also builds in plenty of time for things not to go as planned, so it’s easier to stay on track. So far I’ve found that this has made me more productive with the time I have and that the quality of my writing has been better than it was when I was scrambling to do as much as possible.

I plan my day the night before

This gives me a realistic sense of my time and a better handle on what I can accomplish within that time. I schedule everything, from waking up, to getting coffee, doing yoga, writing, appointments, work, travel time, and even watching TV. If I have all of my time accounted for, I can’t afford to procrastinate, which keeps me productive throughout the day.

It’s also nice to see where my time is going and to see if I can sneak more writing time in if I need it. For example, if I end up on an unavoidable phone call during my writing time, I know I have the window of TV time later in the night to get more work in. It’s also helped me see how much of time was going to non-essential or repetitive tasks so I can alter my schedule accordingly. Thanks to this, I started baching a handful of daily tasks, which has helped me find more time to write.

Stretch Goals

I’ve mentioned these before. The idea is every day you set a ‘light’ goal that you can guarantee you’ll have time to accomplish, and then a stretch goal that you really want to accomplish, but it’s okay if you don’t. This (ideally) gives you something realistic to work towards while still working to be as productive as possible. This also keeps you from wasting writing time if it turns out you’re super locked in and end up with some extra time on your hands. It’s a good solution if you’re like me and find yourself getting over ambitious with your goals. This way you can be realistic without selling yourself short.

If I get behind, I don’t try to catch up all at once

Instead, I make a plan to chip away over an extended period of time. So, if I miss a day of writing, instead of doubling up I’ll add a few hundred words to my daily goals for the next week or so. If I don’t have time to add to my daily goal, I add another day to my overall schedule. I’d rather be a day late and have something I enjoyed creating than push myself to the point that writing becomes a source of stress. I’ve found this is something my writing benefits from. If you’re on a tight deadline, this may not be an option. Still, do what you can to distribute your catch up work as evenly as possible.

I imagine when you set your writing goals, you probably did your best to distribute those goals pretty evenly. So why does it make sense to double up just so you can catch up? Sure, it may take longer for you to feel like you’re caught up, but you will catch up. However, if you put too much pressure on yourself to catch up at once, it’s likely that you’ll get overwhelmed or discouraged (or both). This may make you start to feel like writing isn’t worth all this. Writing is always worth it, but pressuring yourself to write, isn’t. Do what you can to avoid putting yourself in that kind of situation.

My Reality

Setting reasonable writing goals is admittedly a weakness for me. I like to be productive and I always think I can do more than I realistically have time for. Plus, goals keep me motivated. Whether it’s fixing a scene or hitting a word count, meeting a goal gives me a feeling of accomplishment, even if I don’t like what I wrote that day.

But I also know I’m a better writer when I’m a balanced writer so I try to check myself whenever I start to get too caught up in my output and my goal of finishing my project. These tips have been a huge help in maintaining (or rediscovering) that balance.

I hope this helps you set reasonable writing goals!

Now it’s your turn: How do you set reasonable writing goals? Have you found yourself struggling to meet your goals? If you have, how do you manage it? If you haven’t, what tips can you share? Tell me about it in the comments!

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How to Set Achievable Writing Goals: 7 Writing Tips

I get a lot of questions about how to manage writing time. That question has an involved answer, but I think it starts with learning to set manageable writing goals.

When I first started writing, I was a serious binge writer. I would write 150 pages in ten days and then nothing for months at a time. My writing was unreliable and I didn’t like it. So in an effort to be more consistent, I started to create daily, weekly, and monthly writing goals.

Here are some things I did (and some things I’ve learned to do) to create manageable writing goals that help me make it to “The End”.

1) Prioritize consistency and progress

This should really be your overarching goal. When I first started goal setting, I set my goals too high and found them hard to meet. I was focused on how quickly I could finish my book instead of how much I could reasonably get done.

With that in mind, I would recommend putting your focus on building a habit and moving your project forward and nothing more. If you keep moving forward, you will finish your project! This will also help turn writing into a lifestyle.

I will also say that it’s better to write a little bit on a regular basis than a lot every so often. What a “regular basis” means is entirely up to you, but I would recommend at least one day a week if you’re just starting out. Once that becomes a habit, you can add another day per week as you see fit.

2) Break your goals into manageable steps

If you focus on your Big Writing Goal, the project might feel overwhelming. So, start with your big goal, and then break it down into as many steps as possible. Let’s say you decide you want to write a book in a year. Then start to break that goal down. What do you need to have accomplished by the end of each month to help you reach that goal? What about by the end of each week? And the end of each day?

Once you have your goal broken down, your day-to-day focus should be on meeting your daily goal only. Trust that if you do this, you will eventually reach your Big Writing Goal.

Side note: This doesn’t mean you have to plan your entire year in one shot. I tend to know what I want to accomplish by the end of the year, and at the end of each month, but I take my weeks one month at a time and my days one week at a time. If that makes sense.

3) Be realistic with your time

It’s easy to get ambitious and set some high goals right out of the gate–at least, it was for me. Challenging yourself is fantastic, but if you don’t have the time set aside to meet these goals, you’re setting yourself up for a struggle from the start. Before you put any expectations on yourself, take a minute to look at the time you currently have available and/or how you can rearrange your schedule to gain some writing time.

If you can only get 15 minutes on your lunch break that fine! You can make that work! But if you decide you want to write 1,000 words a day and you only have those 15 minutes to do it, there’s a good chance you’re going to find yourself frustrated really quickly. Be realistic with yourself about the time you’re planning to put into writing and try to set goals that can fit within that time frame.

4) Start small

It’s okay to start with really small goals. This is key if setting and meeting goals is either new to you or has been a problem in the past. Maybe 100-500 words a day? Or 1-5 pages a day? Or, if you’re brainstorming, plan one chapter a day–whatever small manageable goal feels right to you.

Setting goals this small may almost seem pointless but I promise it’s not! It helps you build a habit. If you meet your goal on days 1, 2, and 3, you’re more likely to use that momentum to show up for day 4, right? It puts you in a position to succeed. It puts you just a little bit closer to a finished project. That’s something to celebrate. And once you get into the habit of writing on a regular basis, you may find that you get faster, and can add to your goals. Or you might find your success has you motivated to carve out more writing time.

Basically, you can always find ways to increase your goals later if you want to, but first, it’s important to know what it feels like to meet your goals on a regular basis. That’s how books/stories/movies/plays get written.

5) Adapt if you keep falling short or ending up with extra time

Don’t be afraid to change your goals if they aren’t working for you! I think some writers get discouraged when they don’t meet the goals they set for themselves and give up. But they shouldn’t! And you shouldn’t either! If you find that you are continually failing to meet your goals, change your goals! Make them a little (or a lot) smaller. Once you know what’s “too much,” you’ll have a better idea of what might be just right for you.

On the other hand, you may have undershot your goals if you find yourself with extra time on your hands. I think it’s okay if finish early from time to time–everyone deserves to clock out early on occasion–but if you find yourself with roughly the same amount of time leftover on a fairly regular basis, you may want to think about upping your goal.

Every writer is different, so don’t set your goals based on a friend’s progress or success. Base them on your own.

6) Try adding stretch goals

If you’re like me and you consistently find yourself overestimating your goals, you might want to come up with two sets of goals for each day/week/month. First, a set of easily attainable goals–goals that you should have no trouble accomplishing. Then add some stretch goals. These are goals that would make you really happy if you met them, but you know it’s okay if you don’t. Then you can use any stretch goals you don’t meet as a starting point for your next day/week/month.

Personally, I find this approach to be the best of both worlds. It keeps me on track and realistic, while still challenging me to get done as much as possible.

7) Cut yourself a break if things don’t go as planned

Maybe a chapter needed more attention than you thought, or maybe your kid was sick one day and stayed home from school. Sometimes life, or writing itself, interferes with our goals. Don’t beat yourself up. Instead, set new goals for tomorrow and keep moving forward until you reach THE END. After all, that’s the whole reason we set these goals in the first place.

I hope this helps you set killer writing goals!

For more goal setting tips, check out this article from Fast Company.

Now it’s your turn: Do you set writing goals? How do you manage them? If you don’t set goals, are your thinking of starting? Let me know in the comments! You can also let me know what you’d like to see covered more in the future.

Pin it up!