To be successful at anything – including writing – you must set clear goals.
Without goals, you are merely meandering, a stream that covers ground until reaching the lowest point. With goals, you are a mighty torrent carving out a great canyon.
Unlike a business selling a product or someone losing weight who look at numbers to measure their success, writing goals are a bit more nebulous. If your goal is to write a novel within a year, for example, you can plan to write x number of words per day, but doing so is no assurance that the novel will be any good.
Instead, approach writing goals via action steps that follow the writing process over a set period. For example, you might outline the novel or nonfiction book chapter by chapter over a month. You then would write x words per day over three months (Penning just 778 words daily over 90 days will get you a 70,000-word book). Next, revise x pages of that draft per day over three months. Then you will revise x pages of the revised draft daily for the next three months. This still leaves you two months to spare; you might use that time to make one last revision of the parts that still bother you or to format the book for self-publishing. Without an action plan, though, you’re just a stream lacking a course that will reach its destination only through luck.
If you already have such goals but as a writer feel like you’re doing no better than cutting a furrow, you probably suffer from one of two problems.
First, your goals may be too great for the amount of energy you bring to the task. A river can carve out a canyon in a few million years, but a small creek likely would need hundreds of millions of years to accomplish the same task. To achieve your goal in a year, you may need to churn out more words and dedicate more time to writing each day. If you need two hours rather than the one hour you’ve dedicated daily to writing 778 words, then you need to commit yourself to an additional hour of writing. Otherwise, you’ll have to settle on taking two or three years to achieve your goal.
A second problem is that you may not be working toward the goal in an efficient way. Even the mightiest river will pool into a lake if it hits hard enough rock. The canyon is carved when the water hits soft, erodible rock. Likewise, you need to find a way to achieve your goal by finding the path of least resistance to it. That likely means focusing your writing sessions on a single manuscript, not waiting for “inspiration” to strike, and mastering new writing skills and knowledge related to your genre.
Unless you’re content just journaling for the pleasure it intrinsically brings, set a writing goal and devise a workable action plan to achieve it. Do anything less is resigning yourself to never being published.
My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.