Writing a novel – a writer’s journal part 15: Goal setting

As a writer I have learned that I need to be very goal oriented.

  • Setting firm goals for my writing keeps me on track.
  • Setting firm goals keeps me accountable to myself.
  • Setting firm goals helps me to track my progress.
  • Setting firm goals keeps me focused and minimizes distractions.

I’ve written about setting writing goals before (click here).

More recently I needed to revise some of the goals I set for this year. Due to my illness and hospitalization several months ago, I suddenly found myself well behind with the writing of my current novel. For new readers to this blog, this novel for children is my thesis paper for my Master of Arts in Creative Writing. I should have had the draft finished weeks ago and I should now be in the process of rewriting, editing and polishing the finished product. Not so. My supervising lecturers have been very sympathetic to my plight.

About a month ago I reassessed the situation. Could I, in reality, get it finished on time? The lecturers believed I could. I knew it was going to be a close call. So I took a cold hard look at myself, at what needed to be done and the available time left to complete the project.

I decided to set myself a goal of 600 words of my novel per day. This would get me finished on the first draft by the end of September, leaving October to complete the rewriting, editing and copy editing. I also needed to set aside November to write a 10,000 word exegesis essay about how I went about the writing, my research and other matters.

My goal of 600 words daily seemed achievable. Last year I achieved just over 700 words per day for the whole year. This year I was hovering around the 600 mark so it was a realistic goal to set.

To help me visualize the task and the progress (or lack thereof) I was making, I set up an MS Excel file. On this file I listed the dates, my progressive goal for each day and then graphed the actual words achieved. Every day I update this graph and it maps my progress. It is working like a charm. At a glance I can see if I’m ahead of schedule (I was) keeping up (I did), getting behind (currently yes) or slacking off completely (I haven’t).

I think I’ll do it. I might need to take a few extra days near the end, but there is enough flexibility built in to accommodate this eventuality.

So it’s head down, tail on the seat and fingers to the keyboard.

I just can’t afford to get sick again.

Good writing.


I did it.

I finished my novel 10 days ahead of schedule.  This will give me much needed breathing space and more time for rewriting, editing and proofreading.


5 Responses to “Writing a novel – a writer’s journal part 15: Goal setting”

  1. Ken Rolph says:

    I find large goals intimidating. “Write a novel” is something I can’t even get a handle on. I try to set a few small goals for every day and achieve these. Of course, over time they add up to a larger goal. But I can only operate on a daily basis. I don’t compare days. This can be disheartening. I just put down the tasks which will make me feel that one day has been well spent.

  2. Trevor says:

    Goal setting is not for everyone, Ken. It just happens to work well for me. I set daily, weekly, monthly and annual goals for my writing. It keeps me accountable to the only person who cares – me.

    If I didn’t do this I would slack off completely. I know this because that’s me 15-20 years ago. The Prince of Procrastinators.

    On this occasion, setting the goal of 600 words per day worked. I finished the novel today – 10 days ahead of my schedule. The feeling is great. Mind you – it was a hard slog. Managed 2000+ words per day for the last 11 days.

    Now I’ll reset the goals to do the rewriting and editing.

  3. Luis Howard says:

    Goal setting is very important specially if you want to plan long term.:,’

  4. Jade Rodgers says:

    Hi Trevor

    I found this article to be very inspirational. I have never actually thought of graphing my writing each day, but it seems like a fantastic idea and one that I plan to try myself.

    Thankyou for the motivation that I received from reading this article. 🙂

  5. Trevor says:

    Hi there Jade,

    Welcome to my writing site. It is always good to welcome new readers – but to have friends visit is a double blessing.

    I am pleased that the article was of help to you. All the best with your writing endeavours too.