Unless you have a contract (and even if you have one!), it can be difficult to achieve writing goals. Part of the problem is not creating reasonable expectations or making a plan to achieve them. Writing a novel is a big task with many steps. Thinking about the enormity of it is overwhelming. In order to get the writing done, you need a game plan. Read on to find out how to set realistic writing goals — and meet them.
Write Every (or Most) Days
A daily writing habit might not seem reasonable at first. After all, you probably have a day job, a family to care for, and other commitments. However, if you don’t set aside time to write, you’ll never get a novel done. Period. If you want to be a writer, you’ve got to find time to write, even if it feels like your schedule is already packed full.
The key is, you don’t have to write for long periods of time every single day. You could do an hour five to seven days per week. You could increase it to two hours when you have a chance. Don’t discount an hour of uninterrupted writing time. That’s potentially seven hours a week, twenty-eight hours a month. In a year, you’ll have written for 336 hours. That’s potentially a first draft.
I started to write daily (or close to it) this summer, and it made my writing significantly more efficient. I didn’t waste time wondering where I was or where I was going. I didn’t have to reread pages and pages to remind myself what I was trying to do with the project. Each time I went to my computer, I knew what I wanted to accomplish. Because of this new habit, I’ve never been more efficient.
Try carving out a space in your day to write. Maybe wake up half an hour earlier at first to see how that goes. If you’re a night owl, try doing it before bed. If you work and have kids, maybe write during your lunch hour. Don’t feel like it’s not enough because it’s not all day. Go for small, daily goals and you might find that writing is easier.
You don’t need a dedicated office or complete silence to write. In this era of COVID-19, you probably won’t get it anyway since most of the family is home with you. Do your best to tune out your spouse or roommates and make sure young kids are occupied by another parent (or asleep). After that, get honest about what distracts you. For me, it’s my phone. When I’m unsure what to do next, I find myself reaching for a quick sneak peek of the news or social media. That is the least useful thing possible. If you can’t trust yourself, get it out of sight, out of mind. Give yourself one hour a day to work on your craft. Messages can wait.
Be Accountable/Set Realistic Writing Goals
I find that writing can be like dieting in that it always sounds like a good idea to recommit on Monday. Then Monday rolls around and all the planning and strict schedules you made up the week before seem too hard. Realistic writing goals are small and achievable. Extra credit happens when you do more. It can help to set specific goals for yourself or to be accountable to a writer friend. The fact is: you can do it! You can finish that book. You don’t need to be perfect or have an ideal setting to do it. Small, daily, achievable benchmarks will get you there.