February 24, 2011

The tortoise's goal

For a few weeks now, I've been writing approximately 250 words every day, Monday - Friday. Right now, I have 4,927 words.  That may not seem like a whole lot to a writer, but think back to when you were in school and a 1,200 word essay felt forever long.

Five-thousand words, while not a book, is still a lot of words.  It's a 10th of a short YA novel.  And a 10th plus a 10th plus a 10th... you get my picture... equals a novel.

I took a few months off after sending MAGGIE out to betas, and while it was fun and creatively necessary to take a break, I found myself itching to write again about a month ago.  I wasn't ready to begin work on MAGGIE since I didn't have all my critiques back, so I started something new that had been swilling around in my head, an apocalyptic YA survival story.

I'm averaging 250 words in 15-30 minutes, depending on how distracted I am and how easily what I'm writing flows that day.  If I could keep that pace up over many pages, I'd have a first draft in no time.  But realistically, considering my temperament, environment, and attention span, it would be impossible (and undesirable) to align my expectations to that pace.

I'm going to keep writing 250 words a day as I polish PRODIGAL MAGGIE.  Once I start querying, I'll up my daily goal to 1,000 words.  For a 60k book, it would take me about 12 weeks to finish a first draft.  That's significantly less time than it took me to pound out MAGGIE's first draft.

Maybe I'll find 1,000 words a day to be a breeze.  Maybe some days I'll get on a roll and write double my goal.  Maybe I'll realize 4 pages is just not realistic.  I'll adjust as necessary.

Regardless, I've found that a goal, a systematic goal, no matter how large or small, provides me the best chance of finishing.

Do you have a concrete writing goal?


Carrie said...

250 words a day sounds like a great goal. It sounds like it is a goal you can achieve and be encouraged by achieving.

Emy Shin said...

I've found that I'm often too ambitious in my goals, and feel dejected when I fail to reach them. However, 250 words a day is a great do-able goal, especially while revising another novel. Good luck!

JEM said...

Oooh, the dreaded daily writing goals. This is a concept I've been struggling with for a couple of weeks now as I try to finish out the first draft of my WIP. I'd set a pace of 2,000 words a day, which I can usually accomplish in 1-2 hours. It worked great for about...three days. So my timeline is off by about a week, and my word count has grown. My goal is to get in a comfortable daily writing rhythm in an attempt to act like someone who actually wants to do this professionally :).

The Blue Lipstick Samurai said...

When I was writing SAFE by hand, I forced out a page a day (the size of that page was about 350 words on average), but I just let myself go with it when I was feeling it. Some nights it was so hard that I threw the book down when I'd finished that page, but I tried really hard to stick to that one page. There were only a few days where I didn't make it, and a lot where I went over.

I don't know, I think goals are good. I don't have any now, because getting through school has slammed itself back into my priorities... But I know you're going to do fine! Good luck, good luck, good luck!

Miss Cole said...

Solid goals are good because they focus you and I like to work in a time frame. Best of luck to you in your writing!

I handwrite daily so I'm not sure how many words that is, but I've been doing it for years. I try to type up daily, but that slips when work gets in the way, but I always type between 3000 and 5000 words every weekend. I want to get the second, typed-up draft of my novel done by the summer.

Pam Harris said...

I think it's great having writing goals--I find it's the only way for me to complete a first draft. I don't really have a word count per day; I give myself goals to finish a chapter or scene in a day. In fact, I think I may need to set those goals again soon because I haven't written in a really long time. :(

Yahong Chi said...

Aw, I long for the day when 1000 words/day is easy! I usually try and aim for at LEAST 500 words a day. Or else I just feel way too unproductive.
Good luck with your goals, Abby!

Rachel Bateman said...

I used to write 1000 words a day religiously (and for a while that was 2000).

Since Baby Caveman came along, I just have a goal to work on my writing every day. Some days I get a lot done (like Wednesday when I added 1000+ words to my book) and other days I barely get through edits on two paragraphs. But if I make myself do SOMETHING every day, I find those really productive days come more often.

I think 250 words a day is a great goal! And if you ever want someone to read those 250 words, you know where to find me. :)

Abby Stevens said...

Carrie - Here's hoping! :)

Emy - I do the same thing, which is why I'm setting a goal but being open about adjusting as necessary. Hopefully that will alleviate some of the stress I put on myself!

JEM - I've found that on most days, after a certain point my creativity is zapped and I'm not doing quality work past a certain marker. I believe Stephen King aims for 8 pages a day, every day, including Christmas, but I just can't write that much! ;)

Glenna - School is definitely the priority! It was so cool the way you and Rachel did the Plot and Paper Project. I kind of wanted to join, but I just wasn't ready then. Maybe I will do my own version of it in the future.

Miss Cole - Best of luck in finishing by summer! 3-5k per week is a good output!

Pam - That's what I did with MAGGIE, but my chapters and scenes vary so much in length (my chapters range from 2-15 pages), that it was hard to stay consistent that way. And don't beat yourself up, you are a busy lady! You'll get back to it soon. :)

Yahong - I HOPE 1k a day is easy, lol. If not, I'll just have to pick a lower number that fits. 500 a day is a good goal. And thank you!

Rachel - Considering Baby Caveman, I think that is a good and realistic goal. And those really productive days sure are nice, aren't they? And you know I will take you up on that eventually! :D

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