Reverse Engineer Your 2016 Writing Goals

We’re closing in on the end of the first month of the year. I can’t quite believe it!

Most of us started off the year with solid intentions to write. How’s that going for you?

If you’re writing less than you’d like to be, this is the perfect time to make a course correction.

In fact, in some ways, it’s the BEST time to make a course correction, because we’re early enough in the year that small adjustments will go far.

So dig out your end of 2016 writing goals and take stock. (And if you haven’t created your 2016 writing goals yet, here’s a great tool to help you — and no, it’s definitely NOT too late!)

Do the Math

If you haven’t done this yet, reverse engineer your goals so you can see where you’re wanting to be by the end of the month (and at any point along your projected timeline).

Example 1: Finish an 80,000 word novel by December 31.

For example, if you’re aiming to complete an 80,000 word novel by the end of the year, you can figure out your approximate daily word counts. The math for this tells us that you’ll want to be writing about 320 words per day, 5 days per week, all year, excluding holidays (there are 251 working days in 2016).

This means that by January 31, you’ll want to have completed approximately 6,080 words (19 working days in January). This assumes that you’re either writing by the seat of your pants (a “pantser”) or that you’ve already plotted the novel. It also assumes that you work on weekdays and take holidays and weekends off.

Example 2: Plot AND finish an 80,000 word novel by December 31.

Another example: If your goal is to complete an 80,000 word novel by the end of the year, but you haven’t plotted it yet, you can set a timeline for the plotting and the writing. You might allow two weeks or two months to plot; it’s up to you, your writing process, and your available time.

But once you know your timeline, you can break down the plotting into increments, such as chapters or plot points that you want to hit by a certain date. Then you can assess your progress.

Let’s say you’re aiming for two months for plotting, and we’re nearing the end of January right now. So you should be halfway through the plotting at this point, or ideally around the midpoint of your novel. Then, starting in March, you’ll have 212 working days left to write those 80,000 words, or about 377 words per day.

Tools and Adjustments

I love spreadsheets for this kind of calculating and planning. (In fact, I’m working on making a special one for you right now — stay tuned for that!)

Of course you can adjust these calculations for your project and schedule, such as if you prefer to write on weekends, for instance.

Or as in my case, if you’re writing screenplays, you might want to set a daily target page count rather than a word count.

Also, be aware that these calculations don’t include revision or editing time, which may not always lend themselves to a linear progression since deeper cuts and reworking tends to work better from a to do list method.

Assess Your Progress

Once you’ve reverse-engineered your goals, check in: Are you on track to meet your goals by the end of the year? Do you need to bump up your daily word counts or adjust your time table?

One of the smartest things I see writers do is get crystal clear on the math of their projects so they know exactly what to aim for and can pace themselves well. It’s all too easy to live in fantasy land, unclear on what you’re trying to accomplish, floundering in hope and optimism rather than grounded, practical reality. 

So check in on where you’re supposed to be, and make an assessment of what — if any — adjustments you need to make, and you’ll be good to go. 


Need support to meet those goals? 

Coaching CircleMy Called to Write Coaching Circle will give you support, accountability, and more encouragement than you can shake a stick at to write on a regular basis and make sure you’re finishing all your writing projects.

If you’d like to join us in February, sign up no later than TOMORROW, Thursday, January 28th at Midnight Pacific Time here:

We can’t wait to write with you!

5 Tips for Building a Writing Habit that Lasts All Year Long … Like Clockwork

It’s that time of year. We’re all making resolutions and setting goals, thinking about our biggest, fondest dreams, and what we hope to accomplish with our lives in the year ahead and beyond. As writers, usually our resolutions, goals, and visions have a lot to do with our writing, along with the other big goals we’d like to accomplish.

And once you’re clear on the dream — you’ll want to have a way to put it all into action.

This is where building a lasting writing habit comes into play. Habit will get you through to the end, where willpower and determination might otherwise fail you.

5 Tips to Build a Lasting Writing Habit

When it comes to building a writing habit, habit itself is the key word. We want you to get your writing to a place in your life where you wouldn’t even consider NOT doing it, the way you wouldn’t even consider not brushing your teeth every day. That’s when you know you’ve got a solid writing habit.

Here are 5 tips for how you can build a habit that lasts:

Tip #1: Write daily or near daily.

When you’re trying to build a habit, aim to write DAILY. Writing on a regular basis is a hell of a lot easier than writing infrequently, it stirs up more frequent creative thoughts, and it eliminates the whole need so many writers have to “warm up”. It turns out that most “warming up” is procrastination and resistance in disguise, and you won’t need it once you’re writing regularly.

In fact, when you write on a regular basis, you’ll find that your subconscious mind is always working on your project, so it’s much easier to dip in and out of it on the fly.

So when you’re starting out building a writing habit, or even rebuilding one, aim to write every single day. There’s a kind of open window into our writing that closes more tightly the longer the span of time that passes between writing sessions. So keeping that window of time to 24 hours or less, when you’re building the habit, is key. Once you’ve got it down, you can start experimenting with taking days off here and there.

When I first started writing regularly, I had to write every day or my resistance levels would build up to code red proportions. Now I can take weekends off and step back into the writing come Mondays with less drama and angst.

Tip #2: Set small, attainable goals for your daily writing.

Lots of writers crash and burn by setting unrealistic goals for themselves. Many writers are surprised to discover how much they can accomplish in just 15 minutes of writing every day — it adds up over time into so much more than you would ever think. (Check out the story about Rick, who went from 5 minutes of writing a day, to now working on finishing a 6th major draft of his novel.)

Do yourself a favor and start out your habit building with a super small, easily attainable goal that you KNOW you can do, every day, even if it’s just 5 minutes day. When new members start in my Called to Write Coaching Circle program, we encourage them to focus on even just checking in every day as a way of building the habit muscle.

Tip #3: If you’re not writing, make the goal smaller.

Once you set your goal, if you don’t find yourself doing it, don’t despair or call yourself a failure!

Instead, take that as a useful piece of information (your resistance is higher than that goal) and set the goal smaller, even if it’s writing for one minute.

Truth be told, when you’re building the habit, it’s NOT the size of the goal that’s important, it’s the habit itself that is.

Once you’re meeting and succeeding with your initial goal, you can build up to more over time. I started out aiming to write for 15 minutes a day (and finished a script that way) and gradually built up to writing three to four hours a day at my peak before I had baby #2. 

Tip #4: Create triggers for your writing habit.

You always brush your teeth when you get ready in the morning and before you go to bed, right? Getting ready in the morning and going to bed are triggers. You don’t debate about whether or not you’ll brush your teeth, you just do it because you’re so used to it, it would feel weird NOT to do it. So if you can set up a trigger for your writing, it makes it easier to do.

Here are some examples of possible triggers: 

  • Write immediately upon awakening. A huge benefit of writing first in the day is that it clearly separates it from other life tasks and obligations so you don’t have to transition so much between other things to writing and back again.
  • Write with a timer or during a group writing sprint. When you use a timer or you’re writing alongside other people, the writing energy just kicks in and carries you along. 
  • Write after meditating or exercising. It’s nice to stack other resistance-provoking activities next to each other in the day and hit them with a one-two punch.
  • Write before exercising or before doing some other kind of regular activity. Then you have something to “bump up against” in your schedule. 
  • Write immediately after you get home, eat dinner, or put the kids to bed. Know that when you’re done, you’ll write before you do anything else. 
  • Write before going to bed. If you’re a die-hard night owl, consider making writing the last thing you do. 

If you keep doing the same thing, over and over again, it will become a regular part of your routine, and much easier to sustain over the long term.

Tip #5. Create as much accountability as you need to keep writing.

There are many different kinds of accountability, including writer’s groups, mentors, deadlines, accountability parties, and writing buddies.

The trick is to figure out exactly how much YOU need to keep the fire lit under your writing motivation and put it into place. Look for the right combination that keeps you in action.

For example, you might want to have a writing buddy you exchange pages with every week, to keep you honest, whether you actually read each other’s work or not. You could combine that with a writer’s group, like my Called to Write program, which provides daily accountability. If that isn’t enough for you, you could also add in an in person writing group and/or a contest or submission deadline to keep you focused.

There’s no one size fits all answer here. You might be someone who is either great at staying accountable to yourself or someone who rebels against any kind of accountability. If that’s the case, you may you prefer to put your focus on community and connection, rather than accountability, so that what helps keep you motivated is that your identity is tied to your writing and the group you’re in.


Put these five tips into action and see what you can do! It’s amazing what happens once you start. I wish you all the best in 2016 for a creative and productive year!


Coaching CircleMake 2016 the year your writing takes off!

If you want help, support, accountability, and more writing encouragement than you can shake a stick at in 2016, join the Called to Write Coaching Circle.

When you join us by December 31 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time, you’ll lock in our 2015 rates and have all the support you need to get your word counts soaring. Plus, when you enter coupon code NEWYEARWRITE you’ll save $30 on your first session or package. Join us!

Find out more and register here: