Sure, we all know how to set goals. We do it on January 1st every year, right? This is the year we’re going to drop thirty pounds. We’re going to go to the gym every day after work and eat nothing but Kale and boiled chicken. Yeah, okay.
Here is the key to effectively setting goals: set small ones that are easy to accomplish. It sounds like a cop-out, yeah, but we are far less likely to follow through with (or even start) something that seems hard. When you bust your ass for a month only to realize you’ve only lost five pounds, you’re likely to say “screw it” and give up. But if you started with a five-pound goal? Well, shit, you nailed it. Do five more.
Setting small writing goals allow you to see the progress you are making, and seeing progress will motivate you to keep going. One hundred thousand words are, well, a lot of words. Do you know what isn’t a lot of words? 500. Much easier to swall
We all have different strategies for writing. Personally, I go back and forth between chunks and chapters. When I have an idea for a scene, I’ll write it out even if I’m nowhere near that part of the story. In between chunking it up, I go piece by piece and stitch the earlier chunks into actual chapters. This way, I can see my progress via the breadcrumbs of chapters behind me.
I’m also a very visual person, and I like seeing the numbers go up. I like Nanowrimo because of the word count tracker, but I fail each year miserably at the lofty word count goal. I stop playing in, like, the first week because I inevitably start to fall behind, and I don’t like losing.
This got me thinking- maybe I could find a different tracking tool. One that lets me set my own goals. And huzzah! I found one.
I like Word Keeper. It’s a couple of bucks each month, and there are some free ones out there, but I like this one the most. You can set different word count goals for multiple projects, and the program generates a finish date for you. Then you just log how many words you write each day, and it keeps a running word count total. There are even graphs that show your progress, and it adjusts your end-date depending on how well (or not well) you’re doing.
I give myself a 300-word daily goal. 300 hundred words doesn’t seem like a lot, and that’s the point. I tell myself, if I write 300 words, I will be happy. Some days, I just don’t feel like writing. I’m grumpy, I’ve had a bad day, and I don’t want to work anymore. But I tell myself: 300 is not that many, and afterward, I can devote the rest of my night to watching murder shows on Hulu.
So, yes, 300 is not a lot. The thing is, I almost always end up writing more. And even if I don’t, I go to my couch feeling accomplished, not discouraged, because I achieved a goal and am 300 words closer to finishing. Suck on that!