Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Years ago I read a really good article in Writer's Digest about setting writing goals. I can't remember the author's name, but she wrote about 2 types of goals: process goals and outcome goals. Process goals are goals like "for X amount of time I will write every day" or "I'll learn all I can about quilting or fishing or nursing" (or whatever informs your story). Process goals are, just like it sounds, about motivating you to start or stay with the process of writing.

But after a while if you're going to finish something, you need outcomes. Outcome goals are goals like "I will write 500 words a day" or "I'll finish a first draft by this time next year."

These concepts have been very helpful for me, and it's time for me to remember them. Because...I need to get moving. I have a book due in March 2008. Yikes.

With Orange Mint and Honey (you can read the 1st chapter here), my goal was to try to write 500 words a day. What really helped me do that was keeping track of the number of words I wrote every time I wrote. It's really simple. I take a lined sheet of notebook paper and write the date and the number of words I have. So, for example, day one might show 500 words, day two might say 1,000 words, etc. It's satisfying to watch the numbers add up. However, sometimes a good day of writing is really editing and I end up with fewer words than I started with. That's harder, and I have to remind myself that it's still an accomplishment (maybe even a greater one).

But first, I'll do some process goals like reading over my notes and character sketches to familiarize myself with my people and their story. The hardest part for me is starting. Looking at the blank screen. Yeesh. That's why I like to just get some words on my sheet of paper as fast as possible. They can be really lousy (at first), but they need to be there. Then I can move on.

The other thing I'm going to do is take the Lighthouse Writers Workshop master novel class. I should end up with a 200-page draft and some good critiques in 6 months. The class is supposed to begin in March. I'm guessing by May I'll be up to present my first 100 pages. Better get a move on!

I'd be happy to get other tips about getting started with a writing project and keeping going once you're started. What works for you? Writers, holla back!

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