Saturday, December 30, 2006

Daily Goals

Writing goals are trickling in. I think I'll make January 6 the cut-off to get in.

I find it helpful to break a big goal down into daily goals. That helps me stay on track. The obvious, easy way to do this is to divide the amount you want to do by the number of days you have available. Be realistic here -- if there are days you know you won't be able to write, don't count those days (and if you end up managing to work those days, it's bonus!). If you get behind, you know you have to write more on other days, and if you get ahead, you know there can be days when it won't hurt if you get a little behind. If you're not working at a steady pace, or if you're consistently getting ahead or behind, you can recalculate your daily goal every week, or every day if you're really obsessive (that's fun to do if you've done some extra work and you can see your daily targets drop).

A more complicated but perhaps more realistic way is to weight your daily goals. Writing is like using almost any muscle. The more you do it, the easier it is and the stronger you are, and you have to build up some endurance. You have to be able to run a mile before you can expect to complete a marathon. Therefore, your daily totals in the beginning may be a lot lower, but as you keep on, you'll find you can write more each day. You also may get more into your story, have a better sense of your characters, and build a sense of enthusiasm. I find that I often fiddle around for the first half or more of the book, and then write the ending all at once. I may spend two weeks writing the first 100 pages, then write the last 100 pages in two days (yes, I am insane).

I'm sure there's some way to create a mathematical formula to come up with weighted daily goals that get higher gradually but still add up to the overall total, but don't look at me to figure it out. I'm a word person. I find that doing the flat averaging and recalculating each week ends up giving me a sort of weighted progress, but you have to not let yourself be discouraged if you aren't meeting your targets in the early days and if that makes your daily target go up some.

It doesn't really make much difference whether you use words or pages for your goals. I tend to go with pages these days because that's how I pace my books and it's more visible, but I do also keep track of word count along the way.

Once you have your daily goal, it can be fun to create an incentive system. I call this the M&M method. I count out an M&M for each page in my daily goal into a dish that sits beside my computer. When I finish writing a page, I get an M&M. It's a little treat, and it gives me an obvious visual representation of how much more work I have to do to meet my goal. If you also made a New Year's resolution to give up sweets, I guess you could also do something like move paper clips or buttons from one dish to another, but really, a few M&Ms are nothing, and if that's all the sweets you're allowing yourself, that makes it even more of an incentive.

In other news, I updated my web site today with some info and covers for several upcoming books I've contributed to (as well as Damsel). Next month I'll do a more extensive update with some additional behind-the-scenes stuff and maybe another deleted scene. And now I have to go make some chili con queso so I can properly watch Texas in a bowl game.

No comments: