79. Set & Achieve Your Writing Goals

It may seem like everyone around you is finishing their books while you’re still trying to figure out how to get yours written.

Know that you’re not alone. In fact, most people who want to write a book never will.

But you absolutely can be one of the elite few who accomplish this goal.

In this episode, I enlighten you with 5 action steps to set and achieve your writing goals and finally finish writing your book.

For more writing tips and inspiration, follow me on Instagram @candiceldavis.

Mentioned in This Episode

Jump-Start: A free guide to help you jump-start your nonfiction book.

Complimentary Consultation Call

Episode Transcript

Hey there and welcome to Nothing but the Words. I’m your author coach, Candice L Davis.

How’s your writing going?

A couple of things are happening right now that are inspiring more people to write.

One is that NaNoWriMo is right around the corner.

If you’re not familiar with NanoWriMo, you can check it out at nanowrimo.org. The link will be in the show notes for this episode at CandiceLDavis.com/79[CD1] 

NaNoWritMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s been happening for more than 20 years now, and it’s a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in a month.

Lots of writers take advantage of it to work on whatever book they’re writing. It could be a memoir, how-to book, or any other genre.

Obviously, if you write 50,000 words in a month, or just over 1600 words a day, what you’ll have at the end is a rough draft, not a finished manuscript, but some people find it helps to write along with 1000s of other people.

The other thing happening right now that has a lot of people writing is that the end of the year is in sight.

We’re just on the cusp of November.

People who said they were finishing their book in 2022 are quietly freaking out right now.

Some of my coaching clients are really stepping up their writing game right now. They’re determined to finish writing their books before the end of the year, and they have a plan to do it.

I have a couple of one-on-one clients with book deals whose manuscripts are due to their publishers by the end of the year.

They can’t afford to freak out. Instead, they’re getting super serious about meeting their writing goals.

Maybe you’re trying to finish your book by December 31st too. Even if you’re not, I think it’s important to be able to set and meet your book goals.

If you’re self-publishing, like most authors are, you don’t have anyone setting external goals for you.

If you don’t meet your personal deadline, no one will know except you.

Maybe you have an accountability partner or a mastermind group who will give you a little hell about it, but what can they do?

They can nudge you and support you, but they can’t make you write.

Here’s how you can stop messing around and get real about your own writing goals.

#1. Set your own deadline.

I’m not going to tell you to announce it publicly. Fear of shame can drive some people, but I don’t find it to be a very good motivator for many people.

Instead, I find most people can make excuses to the public just fine.

Choose a date by which you believe you can finish writing your draft of your manuscript and lock it down as your deadline.

If you want to finish your book by the end of January, put the deadline on your calendar.

Add reminders every week of how many weeks you have until your deadline.

If it helps you, share your deadline with someone who really will support you in holding yourself accountable.

#2. Choose a word count goal or a chapter goal.

One of my clients is currently writing a chapter a week. That’s the schedule she needs to be on to meet her December deadline, and she’s making it happen.

She’s also blocking time each week to implement the feedback I’ve given her on the chapter she submitted to me for review in the previous week.

Yes, she’s also running a business while she’s writing her book. But this is a priority for her.

You can set your goal by chapters.

Or you can set a word count goal. If you know you can write 1000 words a day, which is about 3 pages a day, then that’s 5000 or 7000 words per week, depending on whether you take weekends off.

If you only write 500 words per day, or 1 and ½ pages, that might seem like a small number, but it’s still 2500 to 3500 words per week.

But how much you need to write will be determined by your deadline.

If you have 8 weeks until the deadline you set, and you have 16 chapters to write, be honest with yourself.

Will you really be able to write 2 chapters per week?

If not, adjust your deadline now.

Unrealistic deadlines just set you up to fail. That’s not a situation you want to be in.

#3. Track your progress.

You can mark your word count on a calendar on your desk, where you can see it every day. You can create a spreadsheet and let it automatically tabulate your total word count.

You might just mark an X on a calendar when you’ve hit your goal for the day.

I love to see the growing word count, so that works best for me.

If you write in Scrivener, you can set your word count goal there, and it will keep track of how much you’ve written and how much you have left to go.

(And no, I don’t recommend that you jump on Scrivener now if you’ve already started writing your book. It’s not the time to learn a new program. Stay focused.)

#4. Put your writing time in your calendar.

Set notifications and reminders. Mark that time as busy.

If you had a client call, or a meeting with your boss, or a doctor’s appointment in that slot, you wouldn’t think of it as flexible.

If you want to finish your book by your deadline, then your writing time blocks aren’t flexible either.

You may need 2 short blocks a day instead of one longer block.

You may need to block three hours on Saturdays because you don’t have time to write on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Make your writing schedule fit your lifestyle.

#5. Acknowledge your progress and celebrate your successes.

This is by far the hardest step for me to remember to do, and I’m guessing most people skip it.

We want to wait until we write the whole book before we celebrate in any way.

But studies have shown that celebrating a small success trains your brain to want to do that thing again.

Look at the work of BJ Fogg, author of Tiny Habits, of you want to know more about how that works.[CD2] 

It doesn’t have to be a big celebration. Throw yourself a two-minute dance party. Pat yourself on the back, literally. Do whatever feels like a little celebration to you.

If your friend or partner or team member were writing a book, you would happily celebrate their success along the way. Show yourself the same kindness and support.

Listen. I know setting a deadline can seem scary.

Writing your book gets real when you have a deadline.

But remember this is a draft of your book.

It doesn’t need to be perfect—and, trust me, it won’t be.

You’ll take the time to read and revise your manuscript before anyone else sees it.

If you’re following your muse and writing on your own schedule, then you do you. There’s nothing wrong with that process. It works beautifully for some authors who have produced a really exceptional book over the course of three, or five, or ten years.

But if you want to finish your book by the end of the year, or the end of the next quarter or by any specific date, you have to get clear about your deadline.

Get clear about how much you can write and when.

Give yourself the gift of focus on this project.

Allow yourself to feel the emotions that come up as you write—the resistance, any sadness, doubts, or fears—and keep writing anyway.

And finally, celebrate your progress at every step along the way.

If you need help setting your writing deadlines and meeting them, DM me on Instagram @candiceldavis. I can help.

That’s all for this week’s episode, my friends. Thanks for listening to Nothing but the Words. I’m your author coach, Candice L Davis, and I’ll see you next time.

Enjoyed This Episode?

Learn everything you need to know to write a phenomenal book. Subscribe on your favorite podcast player below.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Stitcher
Listen on Spotify
RSS Feed