Friday, 8 April 2011


‘They’ tell you that writers should set goals but I’ll start by saying that I don’t consciously set goals for myself.

I’m aware that many writers decide on word-count or page-count goals - it might be 500 or it might be 5,000 words a day, or it might be a specific number of pages.

What, I wonder, happens when they don’t achieve their goal?  Do they feel guilty or frustrated?  Do they feel pressured to achieve that magic number of words or pages?  Is their writing dictated by the goal rather than by what they’re actually writing?  In other words, does the goal become more important than the story?  And, maybe the most important point, are they concentrating more on quantity than on quality? 

Writing 5,000 words a day means you could complete a 75,000 word novel in 15 days.  Even 1,000 words a day would complete it in just over a couple of months.  Nice idea!  But I can’t work like that.  Some days I DO write 1,000 words, other days I can struggle over 50 words.  I know my writing would suffer if I was striving for a word count each day.

My ‘goal’ is simply to write the best story I can.  Okay, maybe that’s not a ‘measurable’ goal as such - except that I think I CAN measure it.  I’m my own worst critic.  I know when I’ve achieved what I want to achieve, whether it's an emotional experience, a build-up of suspense/tension, or simply a word picture of a scene.  I know, too, when something doesn’t ring true and then I work at it until I’m satisfied with it.  

I once read: For a writer, ‘that’ll do’ is not an option.  Maybe my goal is never to say ‘That’ll do.’

I’ll be interested to hear of the goals you set for yourself!


  1. Last November I participated in NaNoWriMo, attempting to write 50,000 in one month. I found it stimulating and exciting. I did not finish, but really enjoyed the exercise. However, I could not do that daily. I don't have a word count goal, but do have the goal of writing daily.

  2. I've set myself the goal to write daily while I'm in drafting mode with an unofficial word count goal of 1k but really as long as I make 800 I feel like I've had a good writing day. For me, 800 words is achievable even when I'm dragging my feet, it just takes longer and forces me to figure out why I'm struggling. For the last three or four days I've been landing naturally on 906 words, that must be my sweet spot!
    - Sophia.

  3. Some people put too much pressure on themselves. That's why my #5 tip for goal setting reminds people "Goals are flexible. Life changes and so do goals. Never be afraid to adjust the timeframe for a goal. What's important is to keep moving forward." Thanks for sharing and reminding people to set their own rules/pace.

  4. My daughter is getting into writing. She is so passionate about it. She doesn't seem to have a goal of words. More on how long she writes per day so she can get done what she wants.

  5. Like you, I don't set goals. Some days I write pages worth of text; sometimes days pass while an idea percolates in my head. I totally relate to your approach to goals. :)

  6. My daily goal is to write at least for one hour. I don't worry about word counts during that hour. I just focus on writing.

  7. Sheila - I admire you for trying the NaNoWriMo, I couldn't do that. Not just because of the stress of it,but knowing I was rushing and therefore not writing the best I'm capable of.

    Sophia - I like your 906 words! Must be a magical number. Maybe I'll check out my word count over a few days and see whether my output varies a lot or a little.

    Sylvia - agree about the importance of changing goals if necessary, that way you don't get stressed over some impossible goal you've set yourself, and you learn to be flexible.

    Ruth and Sherri - I think the goal of writing each day is probably the best - that way you're thinking of quality not quantity.

    Jeffrey - you and I obviously think alike!

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  9. I needed to read this today. Do I set a goal to write regularly? Yes. Am I fast writer. Absolutely not.

    Sometimes I feel bad about this, but reading your post makes me realize what really matters. Consistency and doing the best you can. Thank you for this.

  10. I set goals such as write for an hour a day, but right now I am at a loss for inspiration for a story.:(

  11. Angela, I'm so pleased that it helped you. I sometimes feel very inadequate when I read that somebody has written 5,000 words that day, but then I remember that what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for everyone. We all need to go at our own pace and do what's right for ourselves.

  12. Emily, hate it when the inspirational muse disappears. Read an interesting hint the other day - look at a paint chart (especially one where the colours have been given fancy names) -choose any five and then try to use them to get your mind working on ideas.

  13. Not reaching writing goals and other goals for that matter does make me feel guilty and frustrated because I only think that what I didn't accomplish will be added to tomorrow's list of duties that I must fulfill in order to meet my goals, so it becomes an uphill battle that is very discouraging.

    Add to that a computer that has a slow processor and this makes for a very angry me!

    I just want to say "screw it. screw it all"!

    "Goals" is a nice topic that you picked for today's post. Thanks for writing it.

    The Madlab Post

  14. One short story per month is what I've set.
    I write in chunks so I don't set time or word goals.

  15. Nicole - your frustration is one of the reasons I don't set specific goals like word or page counts. Life is better without that kind of stress. I want to enjoy my writing!

    Giggles - that's a realistic goal where you can relax and not feel pressured. Good for you.

  16. It's healthy to do whatever feels comfortable. I think witing goals would drive me crazy. Writing is rather spontaneous for many.