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How to Make the Best of Your Writing Goals

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Fiction Therapy logo with a cartoon man on a couch reading a bookEvery year, more than 400,000 people participate in NaNoWriMo to write 50,000 words of a novel over the 30 days of November. Phew! December gives you time to breathe now, right? No, I know it doesn’t. You’ve got other stuff now.

NaNoWriMo, though, and other initiatives like it, can be good to get you really put some words on the page. They provide a community feel, and social media feeds are full of encouragement over the month from fellow participants. It helps to make writing fun – well, that’s the intention – and it works on a psychological level too when you see others struggling but persisting (or not).

It’s also a strong motivational tool to declare to others your commitment to do something; it’s a common technique for helping anyone stick to a behavior they’d otherwise find difficult, and that could be giving up an addiction or finally achieving a long desired goal.

Of course, not everyone makes it to the end or has the 50,000 words they set out to write. Others will have more than that or are still adding to their word count to make it to “The end.” Many might have found some inspiration in what they wrote and will be rewriting and reworking the rough draft they developed over the month.

No time to wait

That inspiration doesn’t have to come from a NaNoWriMo effort and you can, of course, at any time, apply the same techniques of writing with a daily word count, telling others of your commitment and getting support from fellow authors.

Even then, you might not reach that goal you set out to achieve. But there are many benefits to writing in general and more specifically by setting yourself writing goals, whether you achieve them or not.

To be a writer, you have to write. That seems obvious, but many people wait for inspiration, for their muse to appear, but it really helps to force yourself to write sometimes, and initiatives like NaNoWriMo and the many others can help. These can show you that you don’t need to wait for some divine intervention to be able to get words on the page.

It takes some determination. It takes hard work – especially to get started – but it is possible to get a significant chunk of writing done even if you don’t really feel like it. It doesn’t have to be every day and you don’t have to hit a specific word count; sometimes it’s enough to make the time to get a paragraph or two done to show that you can do it even when you’re not in the mood.

Throw nothing away

It might be that you look back at those paragraphs or whatever you’ve written in the month, week or whatever and find that you just don’t like what you’ve written. Still, the practice of writing will help make you a better writer anyway. And the fact that you can look at something you’ve written and judge that it’s not up to standard means you’ve already progressed as a critic of your own work – as long as you don’t go too far with that.

And maybe you’ll find those first draft chapters at some later date and be inspired then. Maybe this was not the time to write that story, but the time will come. Those pages might take a lot of redrafting, but maybe they contain that kernel that will inspire your very best writing.

Even if you don’t make it to the end of your writing goal, for whatever reason, there are practical gains to be made. Setting a goal to achieve a certain word count in a set amount of time will show you if you can actually do it or not, or if there are just too many other things that get in the way. Maybe you just don’t have time right now. It can seem like a great idea to write 1,667 words every day, but then you see that it takes precious time away from other important commitments. Sometimes you only really know that when you try it.

Also, once you try these kinds of writing goals, it’s only then you discover the times of day you have available to write. You might aim to write every evening, for example, but find that you don’t sleep so well because the stories are still playing out in your mind throughout the night. Then you try mornings and find that works better for you. You can see how much time you can realistically commit to writing in a week and that can help you plan a longer term writing schedule.

Whether you made it to the end of NaNoWriMo or any other writing goal, you can still have many advantages benefits from trying. And setting goals is not the only way to make these gains, your writing practice in general will provide you with something that will make you a better writer, even if just a little bit.

What gains have you made from setting writing goals? What other benefits do you get from setting goals.

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