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Mile 4: Goals

Ok, I get it. The most obvious goal is write your book, have it published by a major New York publisher (after receiving a huge advance, negotiated by your prestigious, world-renowned agent), and watch it race up the New York Times best-seller list while the awards and reviews roll in. However, it’s possible, just possible, that you should have a fallback goal(s) in case some of that doesn’t happen until your second, or maybe even your third, book.

I am a huge fan of establishing goals. I wrote a business book, “RoadMap: A Guide to a Successful Strategic Marketing Plan,” and the centerpiece of the book is establishing goals. And there are two keys to a successful goal: they have to be measurable and have a timetable. For us, as writers, that takes what is usually a challenging task (at least in the business world) and simplifies it.

How many words? By when?

Every writer sees their writing time differently. Do you break yours down by month, week or day (the three most common, with daily goals being the most common)? Let’s take a look at an easy example.

You decide to write a novel (as compared to a short story or novella) and set 50,000 words (pretty standard for a Western) as your goal. It’s your first, so you generously allow yourself a year to write it. I’ll give you two weeks off over the holidays, so you have 50 weeks.

50,000 words, 50 weeks — you simply have to write 1,000 words per week. Voila!

It doesn’t seem so hard when you look at like that, right? Now, there are plenty of other way to look at goals. Some writers base their goals on writing a certain number of hours per day (or week, or month), word count be damned. Some set a daily (or weekly, or monthly) word goal, hours be damned. If this is your first attempt, you may want to dive into it, see how long it takes to bang out the first few thousand words (noticing that it gets easier after you’ve written the first few chapters) before setting hard goals.

For some, setting goals may be counter to what they’re trying to do. They may simply want to write when they feel like it, and if it takes a month or five years to write the book, it doesn’t matter. If that’s the case, don’t burden the project — or yourself — by adding goals. Just write and enjoy.

Certainly, there are other goals that need to be established that are important and related to publishing (if that is your goal) your book: an outline, research, finding a publisher, cover art, editing, proofing, etc. You’ll have plenty of goals as you go through the process (and we’ll do it together), but for now, let’s focus on when your book will be written.

I wish you good writing, and if you have a question, or something you’d like to share, send me an email at [email protected].

Thank you, enjoy and keep writing!

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