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Using Goals and Deadlines to Get Stories Written

Start with the big goal and a dead line for that big goal. I usually make my big goals at the start of the year and check in with them monthly.

Split that goal into steps.

This year one of my goals is to have a finished novel ready for agents in October. I split that into these steps; write outline, write novel (send to alpha readers every week), edit, send to beta readers, revise, format for agents.

Then I split that up into weekly goals. Science says that you’re more likely to be successful if you make a goal that you are 70% sure that you can achieve. With that in mind I decided that I would take one week to write the outline. (This is a book that I’ve already written once before, so I mostly know who my characters are and what’s going to happen.) Then every week from now until the end of June I will write 4,000 words a week.

That doesn’t sound achievable? It sounds better when I split it up – that’s 572 words a day. Or a bit over 1,000 words on the days that I’m not working. (Yes I have a weird work schedule.) I’ve done 1,667 words a day for National Novel Writing Month, so I know that this is ~85% doable, particularly if I have an outline.

After that I’ll take a month to edit using notes from my alpha readers. (All of July)

Then sometime before my vacation I’ll send the novel to my beta readers. (August)

Note that I gave myself a couple weeks of breathing room at this point in case I run late on writing/editing. I put the extra time here because I wanted to make sure that I still got the draft to my beta readers before my vacation, so that I don’t have to worry about it while I’m on vacation. This also makes me feel like these goals are still 70% achievable even if a major issue stops me from writing for two weeks.

I get to take a break.

Then I come back and take a month to apply the edits before my October deadline.

Similar big goal little step plans can be made for any project. Want to write 12 short stories in a year? First split that up into one a month. Then take a week to write, a week for alpha reader responses, a week to edit, a half week for beta reader responses, and a half week for final edits and submission.

Why cram the final edits into a half week? Well hopefully there aren’t major issues to edit at that point, but even if there are knowing that the story is about completed and sent on its way can make the task easier to complete.

What are your goals for May?

Shannon K.

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