Saturday, 26 February 2011

How I Write. . . Targets

I haven't been doing my targets this month, and my word count has slipped. It's strange that the act of posting my targets motivates me into getting things done, but I better get back to it.

I have a few main targets. They tend to change a little from month to month depending on my mood.
Submissions-- four subs to the pro press every week (can be an old story).
Wordcount -- 5K of finished fiction/poetry per week. (counting only work that is ready to submit).
Write1Sub1 -- write a new piece every week, sub every week.

These targets are useful because they are within my control. A target like 'get one acceptance from  Fantasy and Science Fiction' is not helpful, because it's something that I can't control. This is my usual target outline:

Week 1 eg. subs 4  word count 8K new poems 2  poems subbed 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4

Runnig Total
Monthly Target

I just fill in the blanks as I go along. The weekly target seems to work for me. A monthly target is too vague, and a daily target is too subject to the vagaries of life.

Here's an example of how it works for me. When I totted up my monthly word count, I found it came to 5K, which is quite low for me (did a lot of poetry in the first two weeks). Now to meet my targets, instead of working on my shiny new work in progress (a steampunk story at a very early stage), I'll work on an almost finished 15K story from from last month. Sticking to the targets I've set out, really puts me on track.

What about you? Do you find writing targets useful?


  1. I agree they're useful and a great way to stay on track in meeting your goals. Instead of one acceptance by F&SF, I try to be rejected by at least 5 pro-paying markets each month. That means I've subbed to them! And there's always the off-chance a miracle could happen...

  2. *laughs* a minimum professional rejection quota? I like your style, Milo.
    The great thing about my subbing strategy is that it leads me to seek out new markets. It's not a numbers game, but sometimes it feels like one. More subs equals more rolls of the dice.

  3. Hi crusader,

    yep i really need to do this, i am falling behind in my goals. Will write it up on a poster for behind my computer methinks.

    happy crusading and writing


  4. Targets are useful to me, and yet I'm not subbing anything right now. I don't feel like anything I have is ready. I really need to get on the short story subbing train though.

  5. Hi, Constance. Thanks so much for stopping by. I'm enjoying the crusade. Look at all my lovely comments. Good luck with your goals (don't make them too tough).

    Trisha, I never know what is good enough. I really have no idea (which always seems strange to me) so I sub everything.

  6. This system sounds great for keeping you on track! I definitely don't do anything this refined/organised as sadly I'm not the best at pre-judging exactly what is achievable by when. But I'm getting better at it. :-)

  7. I have to admit my only target is to do 2 chapters of my WIP per day. This can change - I did 10k words on Thursday which ended up being 6 chapters, and then did nothing the day after. I haven't submitted anything to any markets this year. Just did a couple of fun things for my blog and that was it, as far as shorts go.

    I have a vague intention to write more shorts once I've got my first draft of this WIP done. I think yours is an excellent system :)

  8. I am more successful when I do a weekly word count goal - my online writers group has this cool thing called Word Watchers and we keep each other posted on whether or not we met our goal and use the posts as a way to encourage one another. Keep setting goals!

    New follower and fellow crusader - nice to meet you!

  9. Yes, I definitely do this, although the actual targets tend to change depending on what I'm doing. It could be 5K words a week of a novel for instance. Obviously Write1Sub1 is a key thing this year. I do like your Running Totals box. That's a really good idea which I just might copy ...

  10. Word counts tend not to be very useful, so I have only one goal:

    Finish the rewrite by 30 April.

    It should keep me motivated to write and it means that the word count matters only in that it is what it takes for me to finish...


  11. Misha, sadly editing takes me almost as long as writing new prose. I hope that's not the same for you.

    Simon, my targets change a little from month to month depending on what fad has cuaght my attention.

    Alison, the idea of having word watchers sounds good.

  12. AnneMhairi - I just can't get over that 10K in one day. You're an ispriation-- once the children are back in school, I'm going to give it a whirl.

    Adina, it is difficult to judge how much you can get done. Real life tends to get in a way. But with monthly targets it all kinda evens out. I tried daily, but that was too subject to change.

  13. You know, when I was learning Japanese, my instructor said, "A fat man is not the result of only one meal." What I took from this is that, if we slip up, it's okay because it just puts us a little behind and we can work harder to make it up later. It's okay if you don't make your target...just try do do so the day after that.

  14. I agree, Michael. I don't stress if I don't meet them. But the strange thing is that if I don't write them down, (I usually post them on my blog), I don't get half as much done.

    Must be psychological or some such.

  15. I'm impressed with your targets.
    I've been poorly for past 2 weeks so not met my targets. At the moment I shall have to be happy with a minimum word count and hope I improve gaian soon :O)

  16. I don't follow targets. I can't. I write when the muse strikes (always wanted to say that!)

    Fellow crusader saying hi. Hope you'll pop over to mine. I'm trying to start a "review club".
    Louise x

  17. I am a bit too disorganized, but I've slipped too much in writing. I might have to do something like this.
    New follower from crusade.

  18. Madeline: Hope you're feeling better soon. I don't worry if I don't meet the targets, they're just a tool.

    Hi, Louise. Thanks for the invitation, I'll pop over and say hi. I was interested to here you say you don't have targets. That's cool, we're all different as writers. I personify my muse as a man -- do you do that.

    Hi Diana, hoorah you're follower number 100. My follower count has shot up with this crusader malarkey. Great isn't it?

  19. I am so impressed by your goals, Deborah, especially the "submit 4" goal. Editing takes me a super long time, too - longer, I think, than writing first drafts. At least it feels that way!

    Do you retire short stories at all? I've put quite a few of mine on the backburner that I wrote last year. Slowly, I am building up a backlist of stories that I feel more confident in. It's just that I feel the ones I'm writing now are much better. I'm wondering if I shouldn't revisit and try to polish some older stories.

  20. Retire a story? Absolutely not.

    Vylar Kaftan's story Kill Me, picked up 18 rejections before being selling and getting 6 Nebula recommendations.
    I've heard lots of similar stories, about how stories were about to be trunked, but went on to sell to presigious markets.

    As writers we are the worst judges of our work. I sold a story to a pro market on my 8th try.

    Now, about polishing older stories. I don't. I stick to Henlein's rule of 'don't rewite except to editorial request' I know some writers do, and if it works for them -- great. My feeling is that if the story's almost there, you'll get a rewrite request. It's happened to me lots of time. And there's always the risk that too much polishing will edit out your voice and make the story 'flat'.

    Subbing is a matter of minutes. You've got nothing to loose. Rejections? Water off a duck's back.

  21. Well, your track record certainly speaks to the advantages of not retiring stories! I don't have a problem with racking up rejections - they are par for the course and nothing to worry about, agreed. I guess I do tend to give up where specific stories are concerned, though.

    I'm beginning to think I've been thinking the whole process through way too much. to dig out some older stories and get them back in circulation!

  22. Setting targets work well for me, except that I now need to remember to make a list. I find that without my targets listed in black and white, I don't get much done.

  23. J.L., I post my monthly targets onto my blog. That way I don't loose them. Cunningly titled 'monthly targets' in my pages. It seems to get quite a few hits.

  24. I'm really good at setting targets ... and then forgetting that I set them.

    Public declaration seems nice. I publicly declared last summer that I'd make 100 submissions in the next 12 months. It's been 7.5 months since declaration and I've only made ten submissions. Makes me think that your weekly goal is spot on for the reasons you mentioned.

  25. Eileen, there's something about posting my targets onto my blog that makes me do it. I don't know why. It's not as if my readers are going to come to my house and beat me, if I don't do it.

    Weekly targets make sense for me. A monthly target give me too much room for slippage.

    And 100 a year? That's do-able. Hard work, but less hard than writing the things in the first place. Let's say two a week. You can do it.