I love to treat my goals a little like my plotting. Give them freedom, and watch them grow and mutate into something better (preferably with superpowers or rainbow hair).
I feel the point of a writing goal is to give yourself a basic framework so you ACTUALLY START WRITING and then you can feel free to escape on the tail of whichever idea takes you.
Remember that little goal I set myself for January? Janowrimo? Newsflash – I didn’t make my 50,000 words (I wrote 35,000). And I’m not disappointed in the slightest. In fact, I’m totally stoked with what I achieved!
So, why shouldn’t you mind if you don’t achieve your writing goals?
1) You got in there and wrote! *celebrate!*
Okay, so when I’m suggesting you didn’t achieve a goal, I’m presuming it still inspired you to write and connect and plot and create. If you wanted to write 50,000 words and you managed 400 before giving up and turning the tele on, your goal clearly hasn’t worked at all. Go find yourself a more awesome goal.
A goal like 50K means you’ve got to go to your computer again and again, day after day if you’re committed to achieving it.
Getting to the computer is the hard bit. Once you’re actually there, you’ll find you stay.
(And forget to eat. Or curse the urgent need to pee you can no longer ignore. Who’s with me here??)
So make a big, wonderful, exciting goal. Commit to doing it and reap the rewards – even if you don’t achieve what you set out for.
2) You wrote super-quality-awesomesauce
During my Janowrimo I got to the point I didn’t know where the second MS was going. I’d changed it so much and the ending I’d envisaged wasn’t going to cut the mustard anymore.
I could’ve kept writing tripe until my imagination kicked in, and then deleted all the useless crud… OR I could stop writing, read some great kid lit to inspire me, take walks, go to bed at a decent time and play board games with my daughter.
ALL WHILE FIGURING OUT THE AWESOME NEW ENDING!
I chose the second option. Who wouldn’t?
Quality over (let’s be honest – arbitrarily set) quantity.
Unless you have a publisher breathing down your neck with a deadline (and if you do, well done, mate!) it makes little sense to force yourself to write if you don’t know where it’s going.
3) Your organic writing makes for enthralling reading
No one likes tropes.
Boring writing is… boring.
You want to be reading a book yawning because it’s kept you up half the night wondering what will happen, not because you’ve already figured out the ending and the characters are wooden.
A great character will start to tell a writer what they’re going to do next as they’re being written (and often what they’d do has nothing in common with what the plan said they’d do). Those are the best characters to read. Alive. Real.
It’s the same with a goal. Don’t stick to it only because you wrote it down. Think about why you made it. Was it because you wanted to finish a certain MS? Then what’s the point of writing drivel just to add to a word count?
Let yourself stray to areas your imagination wants to take you. That’s where the great story is.
So, my friends, make goals joyfully, race to achieve them with relish, and feel free to change them when a better goal comes along!
Want to read more? The wonderful Marie McLean wrote a great piece about goals in writing here.