What are your daily writing goals?

She who fails to plan, plans to fail.

Last year, for my birthday, my then 17-year-old son gave me what turned out to be one of the best birthday presents I have ever received. He admitted that he hadn’t gotten around to buying anything, so, on a simple card, he wrote that he knew I wanted to take my writing more seriously, so he was giving me the gift of telling me to write 250 words per day for a month. I asked him if I could email my daily output to him as a way to keep myself accountable (reassuring him that he didn’t have to read it if he didn’t want to), and he agreed.

I decided to use his gift as a way to begin a work of children’s fiction that I had been planning in my head for awhile. Two months later, the first draft was complete.

Two hundred and fifty words might not seem like a lot, but it was the perfect goal. It wasn’t overwhelming. Even if I didn’t get around to writing during the day, I could crank out 250 words in twenty minutes before bed, if I put my mind to it. I had no excuses. And, most days, I wrote much more. My son knows me well, especially my being a late bloomer when it comes to learning to make detailed goals, and my need for baby steps in the planning department.

Ali Hale, in a DailyWritingTips’ review of Stephen King’s book On Writing, agrees that setting modest, pragmatic goals may work better for many writers than aiming too high:

“King strongly believes in setting writing goals, and recommends a minimum of a thousand words a day, six days a week. I tried following his advice (whilst working a full-time office job) and didn’t last long – you might prefer to set your own goal at five hundred words a day or even two hundred. Since King himself says he writes 2,000 words a day whilst working on a book, I suspect his advice is aimed at those aiming to make fiction writing their career (especially given his advice to read for four-six hours a day as well!).”

In Publish Your Nonfiction Book, Sharlene Martin and Anthony Flacco suggest a goal of two pages per writing session, which is a bit different from a measurable daily output, because it applies whether you write once a week or every day. Their “Two (2) Page Rule” includes any new writing that directly contributes to your current project, from character sketches to first drafts, outlines to dialogue.

Since I will be traveling next week, I am setting an interim goal of writing one long-hand page of manuscript every day until I come home. Writing long-hand will be easier in hotel rooms and at my parents’ house than trying to find a computer. Also, I want to experiment with writing first-draft material by hand, something I haven’t done in awhile. Finally, I know that one page is do-able. If I write more, great, but I want to be sure that I begin this project with some success upon which I can build. Once I get home from my trip, I will reassess and set more permanent goals.

I have also decided to keep a small notebook with me at all times for this project, in which I keep a running list of ideas for scenes or even short descriptions or bits of dialogue. That way I will never be at a loss for something to write each day, even if it is a snippet from the middle of the story or a description of a character’s clothes.

What are your writing goals? Do you aim for a certain number of words per day? Pages per day? Something else?

What works for you? What hasn’t worked before?

4 thoughts on “What are your daily writing goals?

  1. Thanks for this post, Lisa…I love your description of using your son’s unexpected gift to give you the incentive to begin your own journey.

    I have tended to set my expectations in terms of blocks of time carved out almost daily for writing time, rather than numbers of words or pages, and I found that an hour and a half or two hours of writing seems to “complete” something inside me.

    I’m now trying to repeat that more than once a day, with a break in between…and because I’ve set aside my novel revision for the summer, I am focusing on specific projects each week, whether that’s submitting polished mss., or polishing a picture book.

    I tend to do best when I do one thing at a time.

    • Carol, thank you for sharing what is working for you! I find the difference between working for a certain amount of time vs. a aiming for a specific output (words or pages) intriguing, especially since sometimes one strategy works for me better than at other times.

      I love the idea of a specific project per week. Like you, I am finding that I work best (and am happier) when I focus on one thing at a time. This is written from someone who is a recovering 21-browser-tabs-open-at-a-time writer. 😉

  2. My goal is to write…something…every day for at least 15 minutes. I realize that may not sound like much of a goal at all, but the challenge for me is to quit thinking about writing and just write. I assume (hope) there will be days I write more, but to start off I just need to get myself writing. Period.
    And I LOVE the idea of carrying around a small notebook for ideas. it’s funny, but now that I’ve decided what I want my project to be, I find I’m having all sorts of ideas and inspiration show up in my thoughts. I had to grab some scratch paper at work today and start jotting things down!

    • Angelique, isn’t it a fantastic feeling to be overflowing with ideas?! I think that 15 minutes a day sounds like a terrific goal.

      I have a post about notebooks that I have on another blog, and I’ll re-post it here this week. It makes such a difference for me to write down ideas when they come to me, before they fly away to wherever they go (especially as I get older and can’t rely on my memory as well). The more I jot things down, the more ideas seem to come…

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