Setting Your Goals

Set Goals Where You Are, Not Where You Want To Be.

This sounds counter intuitive, we set goals because we want to improve on where we are, right? Sort of. If I want to squat 400 pounds, but I’m only squatting 250 right now, it doesn’t make sense to load 400 pounds on the bar and start going at it. Best case scenario I get nothing done, worse case I get injured.

Yet too often this is how we approach writing goals. If you take nothing else from this article or anything else I’ve written, then please take this:

If you are not regularly writing 1,000 words a day now, then 50,000 words for NaNoWrimo is unrealistic.

Here’s why. If you are writing less than 1,000 words per day then there is a reason, and it’s unlikely that reason will disappear at midnight October 31. Whether it’s a lack of time, a lack of inspiration, or too many other responsibilities, you are not going to write  the best word count of the last three months for thirty days in a row.

Do you think you can set a personal record on your squat thirty days in a row? A personal best three mile run time thirty days in a row?

So why does this matter? Why not just set a goal, however realistic, and see how well you do?

Because you’ll burn out. If you average 800 words a day right now, and you set out trying to write 1600 words a day, it will eventually catch up to you. It might take three days, it might take a week, but you will run into writer’s block and you will run into it hard. Then you’ll spend a week of Nano staring at a blank paper and wondering why you suck as a writer.

Better Plan

Set goals you know you can achieve, but that are still better than what you’re doing right now. This is the sweet spot where sustainable growth occurs. On days you’re feeling tired, or other responsibilities ambush you, you can still achieve your goals. It is important to develop a mentality of success. When you succeed consistently, you commit more. When you consistently fail, it drains your creativity and builds writer’s block.

Set Weekly Word Count Goals Instead Of Daily Ones.

If you’re writing 800 words a day, set a goal of 7,000 words a week. A week is long enough that your bad days and your great days can even each other out, also it will allow you to overcome those emergencies and unexpected events that eat into your time.

Set A Daily Time Goal You KNOW You Can Make.

Instead of a daily word goal, set a time goal, say twenty minutes of writing a day. No matter how busy you are, you can find twenty minutes. The app Writometer is great for this, it sets a timer and you can track how much time and how many words you write.

Exceed Your Goals.

The idea with these goals is that on your bad days, you can still hit them. The daily goal will help you develop discipline to write consistently, and before you know it, you’ll start hitting 900, 1000 words a day before you know it. Your goals are there to pull you up on your bad days. On your good days, when the words are flowing and you’re flying through the story, keep writing.

If , at the end of all this, your goal for NanoWrimo is 21,000 words, then great! Go achieve it. But here’s the important thing: The purpose of NanoWrimo should be to make you better as a writer. At the end of November  if you’re a better writer than you were before, if you’ve explored your story more, if you’ve learned more about how you writer, then it’s a success.


If you are one of those people who has the time, energy, and discipline to crank out 2,000 words a day on a consistent basis, then good for you! Hopefully I can join you there some day. But still set goals for where you are. Go write a 75,000 word novel during NanoWrimo. See how many times you can set new records for words per day. This post isn’t an encouragement to do less, it’s an encouragement to set achievable goals for where you are.

Thanks for reading, and I would love to hear feedback! If you think I’m off or missing something, I’d love to hear it. If I’ve helped you out or encouraged you, I’d love to know how.

If you enjoy this, give my blog a follow or check out my Facebook page. And good luck with Nano!


  1. Kristi

    I like the focus on aiming to be a better writing during NaNo, rather than just spewing out 50k words. There have been years where my goal was more than just to write 50k–like to finish the novel, no matter how many words it was. That year, it was an achievable goal, and if I hadn’t challenged myself to do it, NaNo wouldn’t have been as fulfilling.
    In the end, NaNoWriMo is not just about writing a 50k-word novel (or at least it doesn’t have to be). It can lead to better writing habits, a better understanding of your story, and….well, all the things you mentioned, so I won’t repeat them. 🙂
    Good luck with your NaNo!

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