Hey, welcome back to Worldbuilding Wednesday! With an actual post this time. *cheers* This time I’m talking about the power of Goals and Deadlines because I noticed something yesterday and wanted to share my progress.
People often advise you to set goals when you start learning to do something. Or when you set out on a new task, a new job, whatever. It’s good advice. I’ve always set goals for myself. I just haven’t been very good at following up on them until the last couple of years.
I’d do New Years resolutions and a week later I couldn’t remember what I’d resolved to do. I’d buy journals with the absolute intention of writing in them every day and I’d get maybe a week, never more than two, and it’d sit there for months, untouched. There wasn’t any drive to keep up on it. I didn’t really care all that much about the goals I’d set, or sometimes I cared a lot about them but I didn’t really feel a drive to do anything about it.
But a couple of years ago I noticed that having deadlines at work was very, very effective in getting me moving, in making sure that I actually did what I needed to do. And wouldn’t you know it? The goals I’d always set myself didn’t have any concrete deadlines.
So when I first started publishing things I followed the old, sloppy method of saying “I’m going to publish my stories” without setting any deadlines. One story went up in November 2012. The next didn’t go up until January 2013. And then I only got a couple here and there until April 2013 when I got really frustrated with myself and said “fuck this noise, I’m going to publish something every week for a year!”
Crazy intense goal. Just insane.
But it worked for me. Why?
Well, it made me sit down and actually figure out how long it took to do each step of writing and publishing a story.
I’m a fast writer. I can put out a 6000 word short story in 2 days if I really work at it. And for that first year I really worked at it. I figured out exactly how many minutes I would need to write a story of a specific length and that let me set up a production schedule for the whole year. I could write stories, slot them in, and know that “Okay, I have time now to write a novel while publishing the short stories each week. Go, go, go!” and then I could publish the novel, write more short stories, throw up collections every now and then. It worked really well.
I figured out the publishing time needed, too. For me, now, putting a short story into POD format takes about 2 hours total. Creating the Ebook formats takes no more than 1 hour, usually more like half an hour. Creating a cover is quick anymore, as long as it’s an established series that I have branded properly. That takes about half an hour. So we’re talking about 3.5 to 4 hours to get a completed short story ready to publish. Not bad. Doable if it’s spread out through the week.
Uploading the story or novel? Takes about an hour or so to get it up on everything. Really not a big deal now that I’ve done it so many times. I’ve developed a pretty good process for it and I know about how much time each site takes.
From April 2013 to April 2014 I only missed two weeks out of the whole year. I wrote and published 50 titles. :D
Then, for April 2014 to April 2015 I decided I’d work on novels. I had lots more short stories than novels so I wanted to work on that. My goal was to write a novel for each of my series, eight total.
This week is the end of that one-year goal and I didn’t actually do that bad. I missed two series that weren’t ready for a novel yet. No idea what to write for them, frankly. I need to write more short stories for them before I can expand out into a longer length. And one series that I knew what to write didn’t get done in time. *shrug* Can’t be helped.
In the last 12 months I’ve written and published five novels with two more in edits that should come out in the next few months. I have a trilogy that needs a massive rewrite that I hope to release sometime in the fall. In addition, over the last twelve months I wrote and published nine novellas, seven short stories and put out four collections. That’s a total of 27 titles in 12 months.
Nowhere near the previous year but I was also working hard on my writing skills, developing better openings, character depth, setting, all that good stuff. So I’m not unhappy with the results. I think I’m a stronger writer than I was a year ago. I’m definitely happy with the stories I released.
But I know why the total number is lower than the previous year: I didn’t set firm deadlines for when those books were to be done. I didn’t use what I’d already learned to drive myself to sit down, write, edit, publish, on a regular basis.
At the start of this year I got frustrated with the relatively lower number of stories I’d released so I went back to the one story a week goal. It’s going well again and I’m happy with that. Deadlines and insanely high goals work well for me, apparently. Since I published my very first story in November 2012 I’ve written and published a grand total of 1,147,621 words.
Okay, so fine. I’m fast, I’m determined (and mildly nuts to do this to myself). Do I think other people should try the same thing?
Oh God no! No, no, no!
No, my advice to you is to figure out how to set goals and deadlines that motivate you. Weekly publishing goals work like a race for me. They’re a challenge that gets me in the chair and writing on a daily basis. It makes me incredibly happy to put my stories up. I love getting to do my posts (and yes, I still need to post last week’s collection here–sorry!) about what I just published.
My advice to other writers and creators is to really watch your reactions. If deadlines make you whine and curl up in a ball, don’t use them. But if they help you, go for it. Tracking my production, my word count per day, my stories produced, my production schedule, works very, very well for me. Find the things that work for you.
A place to start is tracking your words per minute (WPM). I average about 38 WPM every time I sit down to write. This means that in 10 minutes I can get an average of 380 words. In 30 minutes I can get 1140 words, half of a chapter. A full hour will give me a chapter every day. Let’s say you’re slower. You write 15 WPM. In 10 minutes you’ll have 150 words. In half an hour you’ll get 450 words. Nothing to sneeze at. That means that you need 2.8 hours to write a 2500 word chapter.
That’s not all that long, when you think about it. Three hours to a chapter? Try and carve 15 minute chunks out of your day, every day, and pretty soon you’ll have a novel.
If you know your writing speed, if you know how to motivate yourself, if you’re consistent and determined, pretty soon you’ll have more stories published than you would have expected. Experiment. Try things. Keep what works and discard what doesn’t. And then keep yourself honest by tracking what you’ve done. As they say on the Mythbusters, the difference between fooling around and science is writing it down. Track your progress and do more of what makes you successful.
And good luck! I hope you all succeed in hitting all of your goals this year!
I hope that you enjoyed reading this. Please do ask questions if you have any. I like sharing my world building but writing these takes time away from writing stories that I could publish. Thus, it would be greatly appreciated if you would consider leaving a donation. All money received goes toward keeping me writing and posting these columns. Thank you very much!