Goals and Failures in the Writing Process

I’m a natural goal-setter. It’s how I get through life managing my time and nailing down a million dreams I have for myself and those I love. So, I piggy-backed on the goal-setting system of NaNoWriMo.

 I figured, if I could write 1,600 words per day, I could do 2,000. More on the weekends. I could commit to that. It wasn’t too lofty or far-fetched, right?

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To give some context on how my writing volume has evolved, for the longest time I couldn’t write more than 500 words in a sitting.

I’d sit down, I’d write, and naturally come to a halt around 500 words. I wasn’t counting – I was writing longhand. These stories were never finished, mind you. They amounted to a teaser part of a chapter where I left a cliffhanger and never knew how to take the story further.

When I started NaNoWriMo, I felt terrified of the 1,600-word goal. Per day! That was three or four sessions of writing for me for a week, and now I was supposed to do it in a day! So, for the first couple of weeks of November, that was all I wrote. 500 words per day.

Then, something miraculous happened. I could now write double! I thought, maybe I can write even more. But how? I still had to reach that elusive 1,600 words per day, or I would ever reach my 50,000-word goal.

I decided to use the Pomodoro Method, which I still use.

To give a quick version of what it is, you write for four 25-minute blocks with a 5-minute break after each one. After you finish the fourth block, which should be two hours, you get a longer break. I take 45 minutes, but some people may want to do 30, or even 15. You have to find what works for you. Now, the 25-minute block is too disruptive for me, so I extend it out to 30 minutes when I’m feeling it, and reduce to 20 if it’s feeling like a slog.

The last two weeks of NaNoWriMo, I wrote furiously. I took an entire weekend and holed myself up in an Airbnb on Whidbey Island in Washington State to pound out a few words. About 20,000 words. I was determined to finish.

10:00 pm on the last day I’d finished, and I’d revolutionized my writing process and my threshold for volume.

Now, sitting down to write 2,000 words per day isn’t such a daunting task, with 4,000 words on the weekend.

But honestly, sometimes I’m just pooped out from writing every day. I think it’s good to take a break at least one day a week, or even take the weekends off if you’re writing prolifically every weekday.

My goal is to finish my novel by the middle of October. I’ve been writing since August, so I’m not getting a novel done in a month like NaNoWriMo, but I’m also writing a novel that’s twice as long! I was able to develop that much additional content for my NaNo novel that it has doubled in size (estimating according to my outline).

It seems that I keep falling behind on word goals.

I’m over 5,000 words behind (I think it’s more than that now, I’ll have to check). I have a calendar where I write down how many words I should be at for the day. It’s stressing me out a bit, honestly, because I want to write the second book for NaNo this year. Sure, I can write it at any time, but nothing beats the camaraderie you get out of writing a novel in November.

I have allowed myself to relax a bit overall on the goal for the novel because I wanted to start editing professionally in January. Now I’m seeing that might be unrealistic, considering I still have to edit the second draft (which will likely take all of December – I’m writing a novel November!). Then I need to send it to beta readers and integrate their changes where necessary (which pushes me into the end of February if I give my beta readers a month to read).

All in all, I think it’s important to have goals. It keeps me writing every day, even if I’m falling behind on those goals.

Sitting down to write anything is a win, and I have to remember that. The world won’t end because I don’t publish my book “on time.” I don’t have a publisher breathing down my neck with a contract in my face. I can take my time and make sure what I’m producing is what I want the world to see.

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