Last September I set a personal writing goal of 500 words every weekday and 1000 on weekends. (Okay, I said 200 and 600 publicly, but that was only because I was worried I wouldn't hit 500/1000 and didn't want to set myself up for failure.) However, even though I had a goal, I did not keep track of whether or not I was hitting my target each day. This was stupid. I was sabotaging myself and my efforts to get back on track as a professional writer. Not just because I wasn't holding myself accountable, but because by giving myself permission to not keep track I was telling myself the goal was not that important. If you do not take your goals as a writer -- do not take yourself as a writer -- seriously you will always be someone who wanted to be a writer. Or in my case, someone who was once a writer.
Not surprisingly, while not holding myself to my word count goals, I did not produce as many stories as I had intended. Something had to change.
So beginning January 1, I posted my daily word count on my Live Journal. This has perhaps made my journal a little more dull than usual, but it has definitely made me accountable. It shouldn't need to be said, but the key to accountability is honesty. There were three days in January when I didn't write anything, and I have to admit that on those days I was tempted to "forget" to post my no-word count. But I figure I'm in a staring contest with my own career as a writer, and I'm not going to be the one to blink.
How did I do in January? Better than I'd expected going in. My worst days were of course the zeros, and I also had a couple of days that came in around 200; on twenty of those thirty-one days I wrote fewer than 1000 words. But I also had five uninterrupted hours one Sunday to produce 4900 good words; very close to one thousand words an hour. In total I wrote 32,750 words in January -- call it an average of 1000 words a day.
But producing words means nothing if those words are not the building blocks of a finished product. It might be more meaningful to say that in January I produced two short stories (a 12,900-word science fiction tale that took two weeks and a 2600-word mystery written in a single sitting); four articles of various lengths; two Novel Spaces columns; and the first 9,000 words of a novella that will probably run in the neighborhood of 30,000 words when finished. The completed works have all been submitted to markets.
Goals have to be meaningful and they have to be taken seriously if you are to succeed as a writer.
What are your personal writing goals? And what are you doing to hold yourself accountable?