Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

This post is the twenty-second in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Ahh…it is a new year. This could be the year you finish (or start) your novel. To help you reach that goal, I want to talk about setting writing goals and developing good writing habits. Now if you are one of those people who makes New Year’s resolutions, you can check out my post on 5 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers.

Establishing Writing Goals

Image result for writing goalIn life, something always comes up and unfortunately, it isn’t always writing. To stay on track and complete your novel, you may need to establish some writing goals.

To do this you need to be specific and realistic. Don’t just say you want to write each day. Set yourself a goal of how many hours, words or pages. Some authors like to set daily goals while others set weekly goals.

But no matter which you choose, make sure your goals are realistic. Nothing is more discouraging as never reaching your planned amount of writing because you were too ambitious when setting your goals. You don’t want to set a 25,000 word weekly goal if you can barely get 1000 written each day. You want it to be something that you can actually reach.

Maybe setting a specific word count worries you. In that case, you might want to set a certain amount of time to write. If you do this, you may want to find a block of time that you know you can consistently do some uninterrupted writing. It can be in the mornings before the rest of the family gets up or before you get caught up in your to-do list. Or maybe your time will be in the evening when everyone is in bed or during lunch at your office.  Don’t just find a few spare minutes here and there. Look for a set block of time that you can dedicate to nothing but writing. (To be the most productive with your set time, check out my post on avoiding time wasters.)

Image result for good writing habits

Developing Good Writing Habit

Now that you have established your writing goals, check out these good writing habits to help improve your writing.

1.) Establish a daily writing schedule – A daily writing habit is crucial to improving your writing. It is better to write fifteen minutes a day than to binge for six hours over the weekend.  Much like an athlete, you need daily practice to improve.

2.) Don’t forget to read – You can learn a lot about writing by reading what others have done. You can learn what not to do or what you don’t like as well as pick up ideas for things that did work out well. Pay attention to sentence structure, word choice and how the material flows. Check to see how (or if) the author successfully draws you into the story.

3.) Finish what you start – All too often writers begin something, and then a newer, better idea (or even just life) comes along, and they abandon what they were working on. Shiny, new ideas are always tempting. Don’t give in! Unless you are absolutely stuck on your project, wrap up your current project before moving on. (That doesn’t mean you can’t jot down your idea in a notebook so you can expand on it later. It just means don’t get distracted by the new project.)

4.) Write now, edit later – It is important to just write and not judge what you have written down. (At least not at first.) Even experienced writers don’t crank out perfect first drafts. Set a timer and just write.  And accept that much of what you write in your first draft may not make it into the book. The important thing here is to write. You can worry about word choices and sentence structure later.

5.) Know your craft – As a writer you need to understand thinks like grammar, spelling and punctuation as well as the importance of editing and polishing your work before you show it around. Make sure you learn the rules and then be sure to edit, edit, edit. Consult grammar and style guides if necessary and learn to properly format your documents. You can learn a lot by revising or rewriting what you already wrote.

Improving your writing is hard work. Maintaining a consistent writing schedule is hard especially with so many distractions vying for your attention. But the only way to improve is to practice, practice, practice.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

Setting and meeting a writing goal

checklistI have posted before about setting goals when writing a novel. I typically don’t like them as they never seem to help me. Something always seems to come up, so I don’t reach the number of hours or words that I want to achieve. This leaves me discouraged.

My latest novel has been a slow process. It has been almost two years since Destiny, the conclusion of my trilogy, came out. Some days I feel the need to hurry up and get this one completed. I would like to give my readers something new and of course, a writer’s credibility increases with each published novel.

Lots of things have happened in the past two years that have kept me from working on this latest book. There have been big vacations, lengthy hospital stays for my mom, the death of a friend and of course the normal crazy busy stuff of being a parent and an active community member.

Another reason this book has taken a little longer is that unlike working on Destiny, I had to start over and create a whole new world. There were magic systems to set up, characters to develop and a plot to tweak.

But even as much as I usually resist setting up a writing goal, in July, I decided I need to come up with one. I actually set up two. One was very aggressive with me putting in lots of work in a short time frame. But knowing that I would have other things – such as my bigger role with the PTA – taking up some of my time, I created a second set of goals that was probably a little more realistic.

I accomplished the first step of that second goal on Tuesday. I completed the first draft of Alexandria*. (*This is the working title and probably will change before publication day.)

Now I know there is a lot more work ahead but when I say I have done my first draft it is more than that. You see I have a habit of writing and editing at the same time. While I am writing, my husband is reading completed chapters. As he makes suggestions or corrections, I am continually adjusting and rewriting my novel. So as I began to work on my second draft, I have already basically been through the novel in its current state twice.

My official second run through will involve making sure the story line stays on course and that there are no major discrepancies. Since I have already flushed out many of the sections based on my husband’s comments, I hopefully won’t have tons of rewriting to do. If anything, I hope to trim it down some from its 98,000 words.

So the next goal is to have the second draft completed by the end of October. Well maybe it will be more like the middle of November. Either way, here is sticking to this new goal.