I’ve been working on my novel steadily for about a year. I say steadily, because before that time, I wasn’t focused and didn’t have a set schedule or anything where I treated it like a serious commitment. I worked on it — a LOT — but in many ways, it seemed like I just wasn’t really getting anything done with it.
That’s when I put myself to the task of using a schedule, organizing my time, and setting periodic goals to reach that I could use as a means to hold myself accountable.
It’s one of the blessed curses of writing a novel — Being your own boss.
You are your own boss and dictate how you spend your time and what you want to write, but on the flip side, you are your own boss and have to dictate how you spend your time and have to stick with what you set. That’s where lots of issues with procrastination come in and that just can’t run the show if you want to be successful. It takes effort to kick yourself in the pants and stay on task.
So, I started with setting writing goals for myself. I was already experienced with setting goals and tracking them with other aspects of my life. Don’t ask me to explain why it took so long to figure out to apply that methodology to writing a novel, I’m still trying to understand that myself. But here I am!
I set my goals as daily, weekly, and monthly.
Here are some that are on my daily list, in no particular order:
- Read for one hour in chosen writing style/genre
- Write minimum of 300 words in novel
- Make notes of what needs to be researched during next research session
- Check emails and comments on blog and Facebook, respond if possible
Here are my weekly goals, again in no particular order of importance:
- Complete at least one scene and/or chapter, depending on what is taking the most time or attention
- Listen to podcasts/watch YouTube lessons or lectures, take notes
- Complete three writing exercises from writing reference books
- Spend an hour organizing and prepping blog articles
- Check out Publishers Weekly, Writer’s Digest, and other industry periodicals for news and updates on agents, publishers, and trends — not to copy/follow trends, but to be aware of what’s going on in the market
- Get caught up on everything not completed in earlier goal lists
- Have written at least 25K words in novel for the month
- Look through Dump File for anything that might be useful and make a note in the manuscript of where it can be inserted
And sometimes, there are intermittent goals added when needed. I don’t have any right now, but examples might be things like detailing a building or locale for a scene’s setting — sometimes this includes hunting for pictures in magazines or online. National Geographic and Epilogue are two of my long-time favorite resources.
I keep my goals in a document file in my Scrivener project so that I have it there to remind me and also so that I can check things off as they are completed. I also use index cards taped to my desk and things like that if I’m having trouble with anything in particular.
I have found that by doing this, I accomplish a lot more and have gotten a lot further since doing this than I did in the time before implementing goal lists.
I also reward myself with a new book or music CD at the end of the month if I have met 75% of all goals listed. If I didn’t meet a goal, that one stays on the list and I try harder the next day/week/month to meet it and beat it. It really helps and I know I’ll continue utilizing goal lists in the future.