Sunday, November 27, 2011

From The Trenches: Maggie - Goals and Methods

First off, a quick apology for the lateness of this. No, there isn't an excuse, other than I forgot. Twice. But here it is, better late than never.

Since it's November, and many of us have been consumed by NaNoWriMo (key words: have been -- it's pretty much over!), I thought it was a perfect time to discuss goals and methods. More specifically, writing goals and methods. They go hand in hand.

I think it's really important when you're writing a novel -- particularly when you only have 30 days -- to have a battle plan. I'm not talking about plots or backstory or beat sheets. I'm talking about the end picture and how you're going to get there.

goal (n.) - the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end.

In the beginning, ask yourself this: What is it you want to accomplish?

For example, when I began NaNo this year, my goal was to write a novel in 30 days, with a minimum word count of 50k. I knew what I was looking toward (shiny winner buttons, bragging rights, a purple word meter) and I knew what I had to do to get there.

I had to write.

While that sounds simple, I don't need to tell you that it isn't. At all. We all know how easy it is to get off track. Life happens. There's homework, jobs, family, relationships, friends, commitments, holidays, trips-- you name it, it's there to stand between you and your goal.

This is where your method comes in.

method (n.) - a procedure, technique, or way of doing something, especially in accordance with a definite plan.

How are you going to tackle this? When will you make time to write? How much are you going to write every day? Where will you write? For how long in a single sitting?

For a lot of people (me included), this is the hard part. Goals are easy. You know before you begin. You can just see it. Giving your great-grandmother a novel dedicated to her. Sending that query on July 14th. Printing that manuscript out, and hugging it while it's still warm. (I may or may not have done that last one.)

So how do you make it happen?

There are many answers to that question. Take baby steps. Don't look at the whole, just look at each day. Tape inspirational quotes on your wall. Print out a schedule. Make a spreadsheet. Hang a daily checklist above your bed.

Too organized? It's okay. Schedules don't work for everyone.

Maybe you need a big graph with boxes to color in? A reward system where you treat yourself to your favorite Starbucks latte every Saturday, provided you've met your goal? Have a friend text you to check up on you. Get involved in a writing group (like Write On!). Have people around you to cheer you on.

But most importantly, you need MOTIVATION. See your goal. Want it. Strive for it. Get determined.

The power of the human spirit is pretty much limitless. When we want something badly enough, we'll do anything to achieve it. Even if that means losing two hours of sleep to meet your goal, or giving up your free time, or missing an episode of your favorite show. (Hey, it'll be on Hulu later.)

So how badly do you want to win NaNoWriMo? How badly do you want to give that to your great-grandmother? Get serious. No more excuses.

Set your goal. Decide a method.

Achieve it.

Happy Writing!

For the comments: How do you meet your goals? What are your tips, tricks and methods? Share your motivational stories and wisdom.


  1. Be super competitive and make yourself write more each day than the day before (and make sure day 1 beats last year's day 1). Ahem, I may or may not be more testosterone than estrogen :) Seriously, though, I'm a big fan of the nano graphs. I don't do well with per-word-number rewards, especially food, because I have no self control. I like word wars. I LOVE my critique group. People are awesome. I'm really hungry right now, but I'm outlining. That has nothing to do with this.

  2. @Taryn You're simply irreplaceable. (That means I love you!!) XD But seriously. Competition DOES work. Word Wars rock!

    @Authoress Thank you!! :D

  3. I agree with Taryn. And you. I LOVE word wars. My best method is getting someone else to bribe me. If THEY hold my reward, then I have to hit my goal. If I have it, I can trick myself to slack off, but if someone else says, "Hey, do this, and I'll give you this." or some such thing, I'm much more likely to fight to the end.
    Or, like with NaNo (MAN that graph is amazing). I wasn't getting any particular reward, but having someone else set the endline made all the difference!

    Anyway. Good post. :)

  4. @Constance Hehehe. I know this about you. XD And yes, that graph IS amazing. It was totally me vs. the graph all month.

    Thank you, Twin! =)

  5. I work best when I report in to someone (as you and Constance know!). Being accountable to someone else means I have to admit it if I fail, and I can't slip it under the carpet.