Setting Goals

I’ve just made a pact with three other members of my critique group to set writing goals every week. We’re all either starting novels or are partway through first drafts. I’m just starting a new novel. It’s actually going to be the first of a trilogy. I never thought I’d write a trilogy but I have so much story this time I can’t do it any other way. I’ve made a lot of notes for all three books and  have outlined all the major plot points, but now I need to go back and flesh out the in between scenes for the first novel. I started writing the first chapter because the dialogue was so strong in my mind that I had to get it down. Next week I want to go over my notes and make sure I’ve stacked my scenes the best way and that there is a strong progression in the story with an escalation of tension. I also feel like I’m missing some scenes in the beginning so I need to pay attention to my instinct and think about that.

It’s good to take time to just think about your story. Usually writer’s block happens because you haven’t thought about your story enough. Or at least that’s the case if you’re an outliner. If you’re a pantser, then you’re writing by the seat of your pants and planning isn’t necessarily part of your process. I need to know where I’m going before I write a scene. Next week my goal will include more thinking time and less writing time.

Once I’ve worked everything out in my head and I’m ready to continue with the first draft, I like to set a minimum goal of writing one page a day. It’s amazing how quickly those pages add up. And it’s not hard to find enough time at the end of the day to write one page. I try to set realistic goals so I don’t get discouraged. Then, when I exceed the goal, it feels like a bonus.

Try setting realistic goals for the book you’re working on or for your next one. Don’t set a goal of finishing the first draft—that’s too big. Set smaller goals—I will finish the chapter I’m working one, I will finish the scene I’m writing, I will figure out the first act plot twist. It also helps to set goals with a writing buddy. They will keep you honest. Plus when you tell someone you are going to do something then knowing you’ll have to tell them if you did it or not will inspire you to make your goal. Accountability is a wonderful motivator. And meeting a lot of smaller goals will make it easier and quicker to reach the long term goal of finishing your book.

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