Monday, February 22, 2010

The Thrill of Victory, The Agony of Defeat

While the title of this post would have served quite well last week for our Winter Olympics topic, it also serves very well for this week's topic: Setting Writing Goals.

You see, for me, it's very much a thrill when I make my daily/weekly/monthy writing goals, and it definitely feels agonizing when I don't. Even with the potential of defeat, I still set writing goals. In fact, I'm very much a goal-oriented person. If I don't set goals, I'd get very little done. Goals make me accountable, and one of the ways I plan out my goals is by writing lists of what I want to accomplish.

I used to create a daily list of objectives in either a Day Planner or a simple notebook. The problem was that whenever I didn't get to something I'd planned on, or when I didn't complete the goal completely for that day, I had to move things around. I spent a lot of time crossing out entries and writing in new ones.

About six months ago, I changed my game plan. After re-writing a week's goals & plans out for like the third time, I became frustrated. I thought "Wow, Tracy, how much easier would it be if you did this on the computer. Then, instead of always re-writing, you could simply cut and paste, edit the goals as they changed, add in space for that new appointment that came in out of nowhere." And then I thought, "HEY, I can do that easily with a SPREADSHEET!"

So, I did. And, I have to say, I'm actually finding it easier to accomplish my daily writing goals. Probably because it takes so much less time to type than write, to copy and paste than re-write, and honestly? It's helped me stay on track better, because frankly, I don't have the neatest handwriting anymore (I used to. Not sure what happened). I open my Excel calendar in the morning, take a quick look at the day's objectives, and get going.

But back to setting writing goals (yep, I went off on some weird spreadsheet tangent...sorry!). I used to use this nifty program that you simply typed in the book's title, the total amount of words you were aiming for, when you were planning on starting, and when you wanted to finish, and like magic, this program would tell you how many words per day you needed to write to accomplish that goal. If you wrote more than the minimum one day, it would alter the minimum amount of daily words accordingly, as well as showing you when you would finish if you kept up at that pace. Oh, naturally, it did the same if you wrote less than the minimum number on any given day.

It's a great program. I've used it for many projects. But there was a problem...and that problem is that I don't write evenly throughout a book, and I don't always write the same amount every single day (hey, I get sick, have appointments, need veg days, etc). My writing tends to start out slow. The first third of a book is my slowest and often really, really painful. I start to pick up speed the farther into the book I get, and by the time I pass the halfway mark, I'm usually flying and writing far more words per day than I did at the beginning. So, as much as I loved this program, it didn't really work well for me and my writing patterns.

Now (with a new spreadsheet I designed), I start off with lower word counts and ramp up as I go. THIS works SO much better for me. With the other program, I always felt like a failure in the beginning of my projects, because no way was I able to write that much per day at that point in my novel. Feeling like a failure is not productive to writing. At least it isn't for me. So my new system isn't only more honest about my process, but I find it easier to reach those daily writing goals from the very beginning of a book all the way through the end. Feeling successful is productive to writing, at least for me. :)

That's not to say I always reach those goals, because I don't. I have four kids, four pets, other work that needs to be done, and some days I'm lucky if I can write an email, let alone xxxx number of words. On those days (as long as there are not too many of them), I give myself some slack. After all, I'm not a machine. Also, writing at its best is so much fun. I prefer for it to be fun as often as it can be, and when I'm down on myself for not making a daily goal here and there, then it becomes not fun. And trust me, I know that writing is work...but usually, I have fun with my work.

Whew. Way longer post than I anticipated. Hope you all have a terrific Monday and I'll see you next week!


JAD said...

That sounds like a nifty program, Tracy. Out of curiosity, what is it?

My writing habits depend on the story, I think. They also depending on the length of the finished project too. Sometimes when I sit down to something I think "short story length" or "novel length" at the very beginning. Then I get to work. Sometimes that work starts quickly and I get a whole bunch out in a short amount of time, only to peter out in the middle, and pick it up again later; sometimes I don't really amp up until after my "throat is cleared" so to speak. It all depends.

Maureen Lipinski said...

So what's the program??

Tracy Madison said...

Hi, JAD & Maureen! The program, sadly, isn't available any longer. It was called The Word/Page Counter Tracker and was developed/designed by author Kresley Cole (and her husband), and used to be available directly from Kresley's website. I've had it forever.