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!