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Welcome to the new year, may it be everything you hope for. And may you keep all your resolutions… although, statistics tell us only about 8% of you will.

I don’t want to start off the new year on such a downer, so let’s try to improve those statistics, but how to do that?

Well, the most important thing, say experts, is to turn those resolutions into goals.

What’s the difference?

Well, a resolution is more like wishful thinking or perhaps the conclusion of an ideal circumstance. It’s something you hope will happen if you start on a path and somehow manage to stay on that path. It’s a start and a finish with no middle.

A goal is a something you work towards through a sequence of steps. To be most effective, those steps should be as small and achievable as reasonably possible. Even better is to set small goals to aim for along the way. These can also give you a measure of how well you’re moving toward the main goal.

For example, your goal could be to write a novel this year. But you’re busy with life and you know writing a novel is a big task, so how to go about it?

To begin with, get used to writing your goals down. The act of putting them on paper gives them a greater sense of reality.

Then, break the task down into smaller, ideal goals, and adjust those until you get goals you think are reasonable. For example, if you want to have the novel ready to submit to an agent or self publish by the end of the year, then you must realize that you’ll likely need at least three drafts: (1) the first, rough draft, (2) the first edit where you clean up plot holes and expand on themes you’ve identified, (3) the polish edit. Often you’ll need more edits, but you should plan on these as a minimum.

Therefore, unless you’re completely rewriting for draft 2, a reasonable breakdown of the year would be 6 months for draft 1, 4 months for draft 2, and 2 months for draft 3. These are just crude estimates and each person will be different, but this seems a reasonable estimate to me. So, how fast do you have to write draft 1?

A novel is approximately 100,000 words. At 1000 words (4 typed, double-spaced pages) per day you should finish the first draft in 100 days (3 1/3 months). That means that finishing in six months (180 days) would require writing 556 words per day, or about two typed double-space pages, seven days per week. Adjust if your schedule leaves fewer days. With a good idea and a strong direction that seems achievable even if your life is fairly busy. You may have to adjust this if you haven’t done any planning or if your story will require a lot of research.

So, you’ve got the first six months set, you’ve planned how much you have to do per day, but six months is a long time to stay motivated on a task and life has a way of interfering, so you will need to build in other goals, checkpoints, if you will along the way.

A simple one is just to subdivide the word-count, ensuring that you work toward 3900 (4000?) words per week, and target 16700 words per month. If you have a good idea about your story structure, then you could also have goals of finishing certain chapters by a certain date. It all depends on knowing how you work.

To keep yourself motivated, plan rewards if you reach those goals, a greater reward the higher the goal. If you don’t trust yourself to be honest, get someone else to give you the rewards. If you’re in a writing group, you could create a series of achievement awards, for example, or whatever motivates you – get creative!

{Not sure I condone this, but some psychology studies suggest punishments may be more successful than rewards. For example, you set up a donation to a cause you are strongly against. Then you give a friend the information such that you can’t cancel the donation unless you are successful and they give you the missing information!}

The other two stages for the second half of the year can be set up similarly, although the goals will be different since you’ll be editing instead of writing.

Then, with some hard work, good planning, and much less luck than you might otherwise need, by this time next year you’ll have your novel done.

Are you thinking about trying this? Have you already tried a similar method? Do you have a different strategy? Let us know your experience in the comments below.

Happy Writing.

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