Are Daily and Weekly Writing Goals a Necessity?

Photo credit: stargardner on Flickr
I wrote not too long ago about the usefulness of keeping track of your word count progress, so I
thought it appropriate to cover an equally important and related topic—that is, daily writing goals.

I’d read early on about the importance of keeping a daily writing goal, and I have to say it’s probably one of the most useful bits of writing advice that I’ve ever followed.

You see, before I kept daily writing goals, I suffered from pretty frequent writer’s guilt. I would write, but even after a particularly successful writing stint, I would wonder if I’d written enough. Truth be told, no amount ever felt like enough—I always finished thinking, I could write more. 

Needless to say, it made writing needlessly difficult, as I was never sure if I’d made enough progress. It wasn’t until I started to set a daily goal that I was truly able to appreciate my progress and feel accomplished after a successful writing sprint.

In addition to helping to eliminate writer’s guilt, maintaining a daily writing goal accomplished something else as well—it encouraged me to write every day and make consistent progress on my manuscript.

Now that I’ve pretty near perfected a daily writing goal that works for me, I actually keep two goals—daily and weekly writing goals. Allow me to explain.

Using Scrivener (although a calculator would work just as well), I know that in order for me to finish the first draft of my current WIP by the end of the month (or at least reach 70k), I currently need to write 1,723 words every day, or 12,061 words a week. Because I’m an overachiever, I aim for about 2,000 words a day, or 14,000 words per week, which gives me a little extra wiggle room in case the sekrit project turns out to be longer than I anticipated.

The benefit of maintaining a weekly writing goal is again to fight writer’s guilt. If I miss a day, or even two, I know that I have the rest of the week to make up the difference, which usually equates to a couple hundred extra words a day. Nothing to sweat over.

The main idea behind daily and weekly writing goals is to train you to write every day—or at least as consistently as you can realistically manage. In order to use these writing goals most efficiently, there are two rules to follow:
  1. Set realistic goals. Look, I’m more than well aware that not everyone can expect to churn out 2,000 words a day, and that’s totally ok. Everyone has different circumstances, and if yours make it difficult to meet more than 1,000 or even 500 words a day, then don’t set your goal for any more than that. There are few things more discouraging than setting a goal impossible to meet, so instead start with a goal you know you can meet. Start small, and if you find you can easily meet the goal, then try bumping it up a little. Everyone has a different golden number—the key is just finding yours.

  2. Don’t guilt yourself over not meeting goals. Life happens. Inevitably, you’re going to eventually miss a day, or several days. You may find that you can’t meet your weekly goal one week, or you may discover halfway through the month that you’re behind schedule.

    It’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up over what you haven’t accomplished—instead, look at the progress you’ve made. Even small progress is progress—even twenty words added to your WIP are twenty words you didn’t have yesterday.

    If you find that you’re consistently missing your goal, then don’t sweat it—it’s probably a sign that you might want to reevaluate your goal. Set the quota a little lower and keep pushing forward. You’ll make it as long as you keep writing.

Do you keep a daily or weekly writing goal? Why or why not? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Why one writer lives by daily and weekly writing goals while first drafting. (Click to tweet
Do you keep a daily or weekly writing goal? Here's why you may want to consider it. (Click to tweet


Martina Boone said...

I can't really do daily goals too well, but weekly goals work great for me. Unfortunately, I edit the previous days stuff as I go, so my word count sometimes gets smaller instead of bigger :). On a weekly basis it evens out.

Great post. Have a wonderful week!

Ava Jae said...

Thank you, Martina! I've found that weekly goals can be a great way to reap the benefits if daily writing is more difficult for your schedule. And while the editing while drafting bit isn't a personal issue for me (as I don't edit at all while first drafting) I can definitely see how it may occasionally conflict with the word count goal. But as long as it evens out in the end, I suppose it all works out. ^_^

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Martina! I hope you enjoy your week as well. :)

Andi-Roo said...

When in the midst of drafting, I found I MUST complete a scene (or section), regardless of word count. But I do try to ensure each section is at least 750 words (and usually they're much longer than that!) so meeting this small-ish goal isn't extremely daunting. My WIP is set up such that there are 3 sections per chapter, so being able to say, "I completed an entire chapter this week!" is very encouraging, even though all it means in reality is that I did a grand total of maybe 2500 words that week. Still, as you pointed out, even SMALL progress is progress. In writing, at least, I take baby steps and celebrate the small victories!

Ava Jae said...

Sections are another great way to handle writing goals. My WIPs aren't so structured as to have x-number of sections per chapter, which is why I usually stick to word count to measure, but I can see how counting sections would be helpful and encouraging as well. :)

In the end, you're totally right--any amount of progress is progress and should be celebrated!

Carla said...

I normally keep a weekly writing goal, because I tend to put a deadline when writing a book. Actually for my current WIP I do have a deadline, because I already have a publication date.
Anyway I find a weekly goal less stressful than a daily one. Only exception during NaNoWriMo, when I need a daily goal if I wanna win ;)

Katie G said...

I set a deadline for each new project and then set daily writing goals based on how long I think the novel will be. I've found that having the goal helps make sure I'm on track.

Vicki Orians said...

I set a deadline for each MS and then go from there. I like to have enough flexibility in my writing schedule to know that it's okay to take a day to watch TV without getting that "writer's guilt." For example, for my current MS, in January I gave myself a deadline of July 20 for it to be polished, as well as my query and synopsis. Knowing that I could write my query while my MS was with my CPs, I got to work on that MS, and by the end of May, I'd gone through two rounds of revision and put the book in betas' hands. And that was with giving myself days off when I needed to relax my brain! I like deadlines, not word goals.

Ava Jae said...

I agree that weekly goals are definitely less stressful to maintain (assuming you don't wait until Day 6 to try to meet it, that is). But you're right about NaNoWriMo. In order to make 50k by the end of the month, daily goals are enormously helpful.

Ava Jae said...

Agreed! Definitely helpful to have some kind of measurement to determine if you're on, ahead or behind schedule.

Ava Jae said...

That's really interesting! It sounds like you set one major goal that encompasses everything (writing, editing, etc.) rather than smaller goals for each step. I can definitely see how that would still help maintain focused without stressing over it, as long as you keep on top of it. :)

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