Quick Tips: Goals

Perfect morning: blog post written, pens ready, shot of espresso... now to write!

Perfect morning: blog post written, pens ready, shot of espresso… now to write!

I keep having people ask how I work: how do I get my ideas down on paper? How do I write so quickly?

Well, I work one hour at a time. In 50 minutes I can type 1,000 words, and that is most of a scene, usually. Then I’ll take a ten minute break, during which I plot out the next scene in my head, and hit the keys again. That way I get through a day with ease, generally typing 1,000 words an hour. 5,000 a day is easy.

Some people hate having a target. For me it works well. But then I’ve always been target-orientated. I was a salesman and had goals every quarter before I became an author. But first and foremost, I’m a businessman and I work within set timescales. Publishers need to have the conviction that they will get the work in so that they can book time at printers, with their copy editors, with their proof readers. All business is run on targets. So I set my own to help me achieve the deadlines I must hit.

In any case, having a daily word count means you can assess how far you’re progressing. It won’t mean that you write more sloppily. What it does mean is that you know you’ll have to edit hard! [That’s the bit I dislike, and in part I think it may be because I cannot assess my progress. When putting words down, I can see how things are growing. When that’s all finished, I have the main basic story on the computer and it’s down to edits.] However, by writing fast, you maintain a narrative energy that is difficult to emulate when you write more slowly and with perfect prose in the first draft.

So, if you’re writing, set yourself targets, but make sure that they’re not challenging. If they’re too hard, you’ll find them disincentives rather than encouraging. It is important that you can actually hit your targets. Have small goals so that you can achieve them, but increase them if you find that they’re too easy. If you have a full time job, give yourself an hour a day and see how much you can type. If you can get 1,000 words down, you’re doing brilliantly. Through the day take notes and think about what you’re going to get from the scene: where is it heading? Then, when you are ready to type, you’ll find the words flow.

And when you do complete each target, it’s another milestone. That’s good: it means you deserve a glass of wine, or an extra hour on the X-Box, or the naughty delight of that bar of chocolate hidden in the fridge. Reward yourself!

Don’t forget: if you want to be a writer, you can be. But you need to write!

If you want more hints and tips, I’ll be adding to this blog every week. I also have the writerlywitterings channel on youtube, though, if you want to hear me talking about writing and how I do it. Next video on writing goes up on Thursday morning. Don’t miss it!


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