Achievable Goals

Completing the first draft of Old Souls took me years. Years. Right now I’m revising chapter nineteen, and soon, I’ll only have four chapters to go before my second draft is complete. Sounds easy, right? I should be finished writing my book in no time . . . right?

Except when you consider that I’ve botched every goal I’ve set for the completion of this book. My biggest deadline, to have my novel ready for submission to agents by the time all three of my hellions were old enough for school, passed two months ago when this guy began kindergarten.quotescover-JPG-47

So, why has it taken me so long to get this story out of my head and onto the keyboard? I started my book shortly after I read the work of an author who wrote her first book in three months. THREE MONTHS. Like me, this mere mortal had three sons, a husband and a life. She made writing look so effortless that I said to myself, “Hey, I can do that.”

*Bangs head on desk*

It turns out: writing is hard.

In fact, I’ve learned so much in the past year alone that I’m no longer working from my first draft. It is serving as an outline. I often say that learning to write well is like learning another language: the language of saying exactly what you mean. When an author dives into the writing world, the first thing they’ll realize is that there are way more rules than the average reader ever notices. Don’t believe me?  quotescover-JPG-50

Use shorter words, sentences and paragraphs at points of complexity, do not repeat a distinctive word unless you intend a specific effect, choose words the average writer avoids but the average reader understands, interesting names attract the writer and the reader, seek original images, reject clichés and first-level creativity, make word lists, free-associate, be surprised by language, set the pace with sentence length, when the topic is most serious, understate; when least serious, exaggerate, learn when to show, when to tell, and when to do both, read drafts aloud . . . and finally:  listen to your inner voice and IGNORE ALL THE RULES.

In all honesty, I’m not sure I would have started this journey if I knew just how hard writing is. But then, I’m not sure I would have started a family if I knew how hard THAT was, and of course, I’m so glad I did. If you think about it, the two endeavors, producing a book and raising a family, are comparable . . if you squint just right.

When someone tells me they’re thinking of writing a book, I react almost the same as when someone tells me they’re thinking of tossing a bun in the oven. kjhfjkGoosebumps, excitement, and the sick satisfaction of knowing that these people have no IDEA of what they’re getting themselves into. The late nights and early mornings, the blood, sweat, and tears, and the criticisms from others that you’re doing it all wrong.

I doubt I will ever be able to complete a book in three months. It took three months to pop out my last 8,000 words. This morning, I woke up at 4am to attack one of the more difficult scenes in my book. I wanted to write 1,200 words before my boys woke up for breakfast. Instead, I stared at my blinking cursor for about half an hour, then googled searches like: how to write a battle scene, how to increase tension in key chapters, how to increase blog traffic, and finally, how to clean red dirt off of wooden banisters.

I have come to the conclusion that not only am I a slow writer, but I am slowing down. Actually, I am stuck.

But, I want to get unstuck.quotescover-JPG-97

I want to finish this RIDICULOUS book if it’s the last GOD-FORSAKEN thing I do. And, I want to do it in a reasonable timeframe. Because no matter how hard writing is, it shouldn’t take this long. Maybe D. M. Miller is right, and I’m paying too much attention to the rules. At the end of the day, my book is my baby, and I want to get it out.

In the past I’ve set ambitious goals with the best of intentions, and then become frustrated when they never amounted to more than a few crumbled papers. I have a friend, (incidentally the fastest writer I know) who runs a mile a day. Jokingly, I’ve said to him, “A mile? That’s not very far. Why bother putting your shoes on?” To which he replied, “I ran seven miles this week. How about you?”

So today, I’m putting my shoes on. I’m setting achievable goals. Goals that I’m going to blog about every day this week, partly to hold myself accountable, and partly because I know some of you are facing the same writing struggles as me. My goal for the week is to write 500 words every day. If I do it, I’ll have written 3,500 hundred words by next Sunday.

If you’re struggling, I encourage you to join me! Comment in the comment section, or leave a link to your blog posts about your writing endeavors this week. How do you deal with getting stuck? What are your writing goals? What are the best ways to tackle a battle scene, and how the HELL do you clean red dirt off wooden bannisters anyway?

20 thoughts on “Achievable Goals

  1. Thanks for the shout out!

    Easier said than done, but try not to overthink it. The rules can be overwhelming, and while some are worth following, others are simply fads or are overkill, IMHO. The important rules become a habit the more you write, and practice makes perfect. The more you write, the more you’ll improve, and the same goes for reading. I’m sure you’ve heard this before: read as much as you can. Not only will you see what’s out there, but it’ll help your writing as well.

    I’m not going to lie. My book breaks some rules. And I don’t care. Most of the feedback I’ve received so far has been positive, and the only criticism I’ve gotten came from people who said, “The writing is beautiful, but it’s not my genre.” Fair enough.

    You do so well at writing your blog, I’m sure your MS is very good and you’re simply overthinking it.

    As for the speed writing, I tried to do it myself but also got stuck and then stopped. I’ve pushed back my goal to a more realistic date. Quality over quantity. If you write a book every three months, what kind of trash are you putting out? Not to offend anyone, but personally, I don’t think I could do it. I’ve even read of people writing 10K words/day. In a week and a half you’d have an entire MS! From a purely business standpoint, perhaps that’s a good plan, but don’t let these stories stress you out. Just move at your own pace. Five hundred words/day is very achievable and realistic. Good luck with it!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Okay, okay . . . I didn’t mention the author’s name because many people thought the book WAS garbage. But, I loved it. If she had spent a little more time on it, who knows, maybe she would have won them over.
      What are your daily writing goals, DM? You must be excited to get that second book out!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Everyone has different tastes, and there have been books I loved that others hated too. 🙂

        I’ve had to reevaluate my goals. One thousand/day, five days/week is very doable for me and far more realistic. There are days when I could write double or even triple that, but there are other days when it’s not possible. So if I plan on 5K/week, allowing myself two days off- (because I’m also spending time networking and trying to sell my book, and like you, I am a wife and mother)- it’s an achievable goal.

        So like the title of your post, achievable goals, you have to see what works for you and your schedule, and have realistic expectations, while still pushing yourself- within reason.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s really inspiring! 1000k a day will be a goal for me to strive toward, for sure. At my best, I got in 1200, but I think it’ll be a while before I hit that mark again, especially now that I’m back at work
          I’m always interested to see how other people fit writing into their days. We all have the same 24 hours, but some authors, like you, really have a knack of using that time productively.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. A bit of a long shot … why not get in touch with Bernard Cornwell, or Conn Iggulden or Simon Scarrow … I’m sure they would know a thing or two about bannisters … maybe battle scenes too? Seriously though you’d read Stephen King re horror and maybe tweet him … so these three are the Kings of battle scenes in my eyes … and who knows may be twitter friendly too? Hang on in there Jenny and get your 5 (x100) a day. Cheers Eric.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow, NaNoWriMo, huh?? Congratulations, Eric, what an exciting challenge! I wish you all the best. Please let me know how you get along.
      As for my big battle, I’ve given it a lot of thought. It’s moving along as we speak. 😉 I’m pretty lucky because if I muck it up too badly, I have a few friends who MAY be gracious enough to help!


  3. 1. Set realistic, achievable goals. 500 words a day may still be too much. You’ll know in a week. Maybe look at your last 3 weeks’ average or pic a smaller number and increase it by 10% until you can hit it on a consistent basis.

    2. Write by your rules. By now, if you are 50,000 words in or more, you know what to do. Get out of the way of yourself and do it.

    3. Whether somebody writes 10,000 words a day or 10, that does not increase nor decrease your speed. Write at your pace. When you are working in a tough scene, it takes longer. Everyone understands this. I took 4 days to write a 1500 word argument between a teenage girl and her mom. It sucks. But it’s done and I’ll move on and attack it again later if necessary. In the revisit, it may not suck.

    4. Envision your battle scene like you are telling actors on a stage how to fight it, or like you are playing with 1000 GI Joe’s (you have boys; yo know what that is in Canada, right? GI Joe?) act out your scene in your head and use any recording device to record what you see, as you narrate it to yourself. Doesn’t matter if it’s a cell phone or tape recorder, talk your scene out to yourself, write it down, and then edit it til it flows. Even if ten guys are stabbing each other at once, I can still only read one word at a time. Once the emotions are added from your characters and their reactions, it’ll be good.

    5. Quit reading about writing and start writing. Then ask your friends who you think are better at action scenes to give you their input. Even if they help rewrite 3000 words and half are now theirs, in a 100,000 word book that’s less than 2% and they won’t ask for a co-author credit, trust me. Friends help friends. I needed 8 rewrites for a single kiss, and I asked a LOT of people to look at it. We’ve all been there somewhere along the line.

    6. Are you still reading? GO WRITE!

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Thank you for all this great advice.
    And you know, some of the blog posts I’ve been sorting through this morning have been yours. You’ve written out some great tactics for tense scenes.
    I’m hoping that 500 words a day works . . . if I have to settle for less than that, my kids will be graduating by the time I finish! As for GI Joes, yes we have them up here in Canadia 😉 But, I spent the better part of the afternoon drawing the battle out in a notebook with the help of my nine year old, who I recently discovered LOVES to talk about fighting. Who knew?
    I will be definitely be hitting up my friends for help. It’s one of the reasons I love critique groups so much. Getting support from other authors can make the hardest scenes come easy. Well, easy-ish. While I would never expect them to write out the scene for me, getting their take on things can be incredibly valuable to whole the process.
    I always appreciate your comments and support, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post! I’m feeling stuck lately too. My schedule becomes busier once school starts… Frankly, I cannot relate to the people who put out a book in three months. More power to ya! But it ain’t me. Enjoy the journey. It’s marvelous no matter how long it may take. One day you will be holding your book in your hands. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I shouldn’t be comparing myself to everyone else, really. We all write at our own pace. The important thing is that the damn thing gets finished! Thanks so much for your encouragement, and all the best to you, too. I hope you can carve out a little time to write this week!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Achievable Goals | Music City Arts

  7. I’m a “no kid couple” and this past weekend I went to do laundry at a laundromat – OMG what a hassle – because washer in apartment has been broken for a month and we finally broke down and spend the 45 minutes across the road….had to say this.

    But I love your blog and the suggestions that came out. 4:30 am to write – sounds like punishment. Before I moved to live in Manhattan and when I was single, I used to write on Saturdays… With a goal of 5000-10000 words a day. It worked when I wasn’t traveling and lived in Connecticut. I can’t do that now. I’ve resorted to asking myself for 15 minutes a day where I write something…when I’m inspired, it ends up being at least an hour…sometimes it’s me looking a the clock for 15 minutes.
    I hear your pain. I am Nanowrimoing as well and now I’m just starting to try to write more so I can get the procrastination out the way. I have a day job, no kids- I don’t know how people with kids do it…..

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have no idea how people do NaNoWriMo. None. I hope you blog about it, but I suppose maybe that would REALLY be asking too much, haha!
      As for your laundry situation . . . I suppose I’ll give you a pass for complaining THIS time. Laundromats are never fun, and hauling a month’s load of laundry around the New York would even worse. Thank you for not mentioning naps 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I think it’s true that writers don’t know what they’re getting themselves into when they begin writing and yet know what needs to be done to make it good and how much more to make it REALLY good. Fortunately, for themselves, all writers who will turn out to produce consistently high quality work are obsessive in a clinical sense–really, just as great ballerinas or basketball players are obsessive. That quality is as key to a writer as verbal ability. There’s a reason Saul Bellow wrote and rewrote Herzog thirty times, leading to a Nobel Prize and possibly why he was married five times. As always, I enjoyed your post and look forward to the next one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, thanks for dropping by, David!
      I had no idea Saul Bellow wrote Herzog thirty times. That’s an incredible display of dedication. Also a funny story about his marriages. I’m not sure my marriage would have survived that, either, haha.
      The more I write, the more I realize that the ability to write is a muscle. When you don’t exercise that ability, it gets weak, the same way athletes become weak if they don’t train.

      Liked by 1 person

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