Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Is it ever better to not have a goal?

We all know the big rules of writing: Get your bum in the chair and set a goal.

The goal doesn't have to be a big one. But it has to be something you can accomplish, something that drives you, shames you, makes you stretch.

When I'm drafting, I aim for the standard 1000 words a day. Some days, I write more and feel good. Some days, I write way more and feel great. Some days, I don't get there at all and beat myself up about it. That's what goals are there for.

But now I'm revising my manuscript (and when I say revising, I mean massively rewriting) and the word count goal just doesn't work. Most days, I cut a ton of words and write a whole bunch of new ones so I can't track my progress by looking at my word count on the bottom of my screen.

So I needed a new goal. I decided to make a list of the new scenes I need to write and the existing scenes that need heavy work. I figured I could set a goal of finishing "X of scenes a day".

My list is a whole page, front and back. FRONT AND BACK! I knew I had a long way to go, but seeing it in black and white has floored me. I am overwhelmed. I'm starting to wonder whether I was better off not knowing. And only time will show whether this new goal will drive me faster than no goal at all.

What about you? Do you always have a goal? Does it change as you move through the stages (drafting, revising). Do you work better with or without a goal?


  1. well... I don't always have a goal. I do try to write every day, so that's sort of one... yes? :o) <3

  2. I have a long-term goal of getting an agent and a book contract. But easier, is to write something nearly everyday. But if I read instead, I don't beat myself up. And if I wrote a great blog post, I count that as writing too. As long as I don't take a break from fiction for too long....

  3. I try to set goals, but life just gets in the way. Although I do try to write a bit each day. I need to set and keep a goal to force myself to get the first draft of my current WIP out.

  4. Enjoyed your post and your honesty. Actually, I have a very time-sensitive goal. I'm self-publishing one of my stories. Have an editor. But all's GOT to come together for 15 June as it's a seasonal story. Most days I'm fine with that...but some days I'm like errrrch!

  5. I always have a goal. They say to use the SMART way. Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed. When I draft I aim for 1,000 words a day. Editing/revising as much as my heart can take! I set dates, usually 4-6 months, to have the MS edited/revised. However, LIFE GETS IN THE WAY! You always have to have your priorities :)

  6. Glad to hear I'm not alone - both in setting and not setting goals.

    Kittie - that is SO exciting! Congrats. And I like deadlines as goals because there's no getting around them.

    LV Writer -- Oh yeah, I spent 10 years in the corporate world and ate and breathed SMART! Never thought about applying it to writing though. Hmmm...

  7. I'm definitely a goal person, but I'm always flexible to change it when necessary, depending on whether my writing is slower or faster than I expected - or if life comes up. When it annoyingly does!

  8. O I'm in the same pickle. So much revising that it's frozen me, I feel too overwhelmed. I'm trying to talk myself back into with the old "how do you eat an elephant?" question - "one bite at a time". or "Bird by Bird" according to Anne Lamott's wonderful writing book :) Actually, your idea of writing down the scenes that need work is a really good one. Sometimes when I have a list I can start checking off, it helps. (probably not what you wanted to hear, sorry!)