Setting Realistic Writing Goals

September 16, 2015

I’m not sure why, but the question I get most often is this: how long does it take you to write a book?

This question is odd because it’s so incredibly personal. It’s like asking someone what hair product he or she uses.  You could get a million different answers for a million different sets of circumstances.  There just isn’t a one size fits all answer.

More than that, the answer I have may not be helpful to the person I’m responding to.  Why? Because again, it’s personal.  What works for me may not work for the next writer.

To Save a ViscountFor example, I wrote To Save a Viscount in 2 weeks.  Yes, just 2 weeks.

How is that possible?  It’s a 90,000-word novel.

I set a schedule and did a majority of the work before I sat down to write.

Let’s break this down so you can better understand how to set realistic writing goals and achieve them.

Set a Schedule

This does not mean saying to yourself, “I’m going to have this book written and ready for publication by October 8, and that’s that.”

Setting an obscure random date only allows you to get away with procrastination.  A floating date in the future indicates you have plenty of time to finish this piece.  Why rush?

You must set a schedule for each piece of the book.

  • When will you have your initial outline created?
  • When will you have completed research?
  • When will you have finished your character arcs fleshed out and turning points mapped?

Create a bullet point for each element of the book.

Have conflicting deadlines?  Be sure to factor in those outside influences when setting due dates for these elements.

Then you can…

Set Daily Word Count Goals

I teach an entire workshop around finishing the damn book, because so many people say, I have an idea for a book but I never finished it.  Daily word count goals are key to finishing a book, and these word count goals need to be achievable.  For example, I work in blocks of 1,500 word scenes.  1,500 words are much more manageable than looking at the 90,000 words as a whole.  1,500 words are also fairly easy for me to complete in a short amount of time depending on other deadlines I’m working under.

Here’s your homework: set a daily word count goal and see how often you achieve it.  Too often and too easily?  Set a harder goal.  Not achieving it all?  Back off a little and find the rhythm that works for you.



One thought on “Setting Realistic Writing Goals”

  1. Julie

    Great advice Jess. I look forward to applying this to my ancestry writing. I need to set a goal now, then work with it and adjust if needed 🙂

    September 16, 2015

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *