While those of you reading this from my other blog will be familiar with this practice, many of you who’ve stumbled upon my work here for the first time won’t be, but I believe in keeping track of one’s progress. That goal-setting and stat-tracking are important, especially as a writer.
Because it’s very easy to sit down at a computer and tell one’s self “This is writing time. I am a writer.” And then spend the next few hours browsing reddit or listening to podcasts or playing games while only getting a small amount of work done. I’ve known people that do this. They spend a good chunk of their week “working” but by the end only produce a thousand words worth of content. Or two thousand. Which isn’t much.
Now, there’s obviously the rule of quality over quantity, and I’m not going to disagree with that. Obviously a thousand words of well-written prose are better than ten thousand words of schlock that will be trimmed down to a thousand. All you’re doing there is making more work for yourself in the editing process.
But if you’re going to write, it’s best that you have goals. Measurable, trackable, goals. With milestones.
When I first started writing, plugging away at a keyboard full-time, I set myself a goal. I looked up one of the more prolific authors I knew, Brandon Sanderson, and checked around on his AMA’s and blog until I had a pretty good idea of how many words he wrote a day. At the time, the answer I got was twenty-five hundred (Edit: he’s since gone up, and I don’t know which of us is “in the lead” anymore).
So I made my daily goal for “a job well done” a count of two thousand words. A good, stretching goal. And they needed to be good words, and only words written in pursuit of writing. For instance, I don’t count posts like this towards my daily total. I count writing. Writing done on my story. Not twitter or facebook posts. And they needed to be quality. Again, I wanted goals to stretch for.
That was the goal when I started. Two thousand good words per day. At the time, it was tough. And I had a monthly total as well. Working off of two thousand a day, I worked out how much I could roughly achieve in a month and then boosted that number a little to give myself some stretching room. I think I started this around Nanowrimo, so I had a starting monthly goal of fifty thousand words.
Again, I play fair. I don’t just sit down and “write” to meet a goal. It needs to be quality. Needs to move the story forward. Needs to be real. Not filler. I don’t do filler.
So, why am I bringing this up?
Because last month I wrote 100,000+ words. This month I’m already at 75,000 words. My daily goal now, and for the last few months, has been five thousand words per day. Of fiction writing (the only exception I’ve allowed since the start that I count towards my total is the weekly new Being a Better Writer post, since it’s on fiction and takes a good chunk of my Monday). Yesterday my tally was above six thousand.
Okay, so, why am I talking about this? Two reasons. One: I’m happy about it. Who wouldn’t be? I’ve pushed myself and pushed myself and now I’m really racking up the output. If it wasn’t for the fact that I enjoy writing big stories, the kind that are the size of Dead Silver or larger, I’d probably have several dozen smaller books out by now.
But the other reason I’m bringing it up is this: Set goals. Seriously. Every halfway decent job has some form of keeping track of production and output, goals that ensure everyone is doing what they can not just to get the job done, but to improve.
When you measure your own success, you learn how to produce more of it. Writing is no different. Maybe yours won’y be “words written” but “chapter finished” or “this plot point reached this week.” Whatever you set, just make sure it’s a goal rather than a reinforcement of “I’m doing fine.” Push for it. Stretch for it a little. And if you miss it. There’s next week. Or next month. If you hit it, reward yourself. Nothing big, just something you’ll appreciate (personally I tend to pick up a new soundtrack to write by whenever I beat my goal for the month).
Milestones and goals, everyone. You’ve got to push yourself. Strive for improvement.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to get another six thousand words done (or another chapter, whichever comes first) on Beyond the Borderlands today, so I’d best get to work!