Setting Goals and Challenges

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* A New Short Story
* Setting Goals and Challenges
* Of Interest

Quote of the Day

“The electric guitar. A vast improvement over the gas and steam-powered guitars of the past.” James Taylor to the audience as he strapped on a Fender solid body electric guitar

A New Short Story

I posted a new short story yesterday and have received several kind comments on it. Possibly because it’s so weird. You can read it at

If you’d rather not miss a story, you should be able to subscribe at If that doesn’t work and you want to subscribe, email me.

Setting Goals and Challenges

As Dean noted yesterday, it’s that time of year, a great time to begin thinking about your goals and challenges for next year. I’m going to go ahead and set mine today. I’m not so influenced by particular dates on a calendar as I am by the knowledge that A New (Day/Week/Month/Decade)Year Starts In Every Moment.

First, remember that goals and challenges are not the same thing as dreams. We all dream of our latest novel being a bestseller, or—dare I say it—even being #1 in our genre on Amazon. Hey, somebody’s gotta be #1. Might as well be you.

But how many people actually buy a copy of your masterpiece is a dream, meaning it’s not something that’s within your control.

You can influence achieving your dream of having a bestseller somewhat by building an email list and doing all those other businessy things, but you can’t simply decide who (or how many Whos) will buy your book.

That’s the difference between dreams on one hand and goals or challenges on the other. Dreams are nice-to-haves that, though you can influence them, are not within your control. So go ahead and have dreams, even strive to make them a reality, but don’t beat yourself up when they don’t come true. It’s not up to you.

Goals and challenges, on the other hand, are completely within your control, barring any emergencies.

(Wow. I started to write “unforeseen” emergencies, but if you see it coming and do nothing to avert it, that’s more of a result than an emergency, don’t you think?

Then again, we live in The United States of America, where Personal Responsibility crept out through the bedroom window of Self-Reliance and slouched out of town on the midnight train to Nowhere sometime in the  late 1960s. And yes, I got the memo, but I balled it up and tossed it into the round file with all the other ridiculous notions that have come down the sluice ever since. But I digress.)

For me a goal is something to strive for that, if I reach it, causes me to feel a sense of accomplishment. It’s a realistic daily word count that, if I want to reach it, forces me to stay in the chair and keep writing a little longer every day.

A challenge (again, for me) is the same thing but with a streak involved. My daily word count goal is 3500 words of publishable fiction per day. That’s actually a little high for me. I often flirt with it without quite reaching it, fall short of it quite often, and surpass it every now and then.

My Daily Word Count Goal—I’ve actually thought about not using a daily word count goal at all. After all, at this point me showing up and writing is pretty much automatic.

But I would feel naked without a daily goal, and even I don’t want to see that. So instead of doing away with it completely, effective today, I’m reducing my daily goal back to 3000 words per day, my long-term standard.

Doesn’t matter all that much, except I get to reach it a little more often. Like when your mom walks past your chair and drapes a towel fresh out of the dryer over you, it’s just more comfy.

If you do the math, you’ll find my average word count for my current novel over the 7 writing days alone is around 2945 wpd. Over the 8 calendar days, it’s below 2600 wpd. And in this profession, if you want to be prolific, the mean average is what matters.

My challenge—days off annoy me. Um, who needs a day off from having fun? Seriously, ask anyone.

So to sweeten the pot, although I just lowered my daily word count goal back to the more reasonable (for me) 3000 words per day, I’m also adding a challenge, also effective today.

I will write at least 2000 words of publishable fiction per day, every day. That’s an hour and a half to two hours a day, and frankly (or fredly, or marionly or alisonly etc.) if I can’t find a couple hours per day—1n 15-minute increments if necessary—to write fiction, exactly why do I call myself a fiction writer again?

Full disclosure, I got the idea for my challenge from Dean Wesley Smith, a challenge he set for himself a year ago, and the disastrous results.

One of his 2022 challenges was to write a short story every day. Period. Every day. Well, but that would never have involved a streak, because he built-in days off and catching up, both of which are negative connotations, and both of which are self-destructive “outs.”

Had he chosen to write a short-story length number of words per day (say 2000?) but hadn’t limited himself to putting all of those words in short stories, I have a feeling he not only would have been successful, but he might have carried the same challenge through into the new year, or maybe even bumped it up a bit.

So there you go. Beginning today, my daily goal is 3000 words of publishable fiction per day, and beginning today, my minimum word count is 2000 words per day. No days off, because that’s just silly.

Of course, the oldest and probably most basic fact of life remains: shtuff happens. If an emergency happens or if a result happens because I was unable to avert it, I might take a day off. No excuses. A day off will end the streak, but that doesn’t mean I can’t start a new streak when I emerge from the smoke and rubble.

Bigger goals—I can hear some of you thinking (not really, but that’s what everybody says) Wull, whut about thangs like the number’a novels you aim t’write durin’ the year an’ stuff like that there?

Honestly? I’m not worried about it. If I hit even my 2000 wpd challenge every day all year, that’s 730,000 words of publishable fiction. That would be 7 100,000+ word novels, or a dozen of my more usual 60,000 word novels.

If I hit my daily goal of 3000 wpd, that’s a whole other deal: 1,095,000 words of publishable fiction. That’s just under 11 100,000 word novels or slightly over 18 60,000 word novels.

See what you can accomplish if you just set a daily word count goal and stick to it?

To write 18 novels in 12 months I’d have to write one every 20 days. That is completely doable. To round it up to 20 novels in 12 months I’d have to write one every 18 days. Again, if you look at my output during the first 7 months of 2021 (13 novels), this is completely doable.

So I’m not setting a number-of-novels goal. No pressure. I just wanna have fun playing with my characters and putting new words on the page. I wish and hope the same for you.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “On the Gift of Longhand” at Especially for PG’s take. Primarily because of damage incurred by the formation of my “pencil bump,” I literally can’t write more than a few words, printed or in cursive, without my right hand cramping into a claw. However, I don’t miss it.

See “Map of the universe lets you journey through space-time” at Human hubris never ceases to amaze me.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1320 words

Writing of Santa Fe (novel, tentative title)

Day 1…… 3877 words. Total words to date…… 3877
Day 2…… 3460 words. Total words to date…… 7337
Day 3…… 2011 words. Total words to date…… 9348
Day 4…… 1050 words. Total words to date…… 10398
Day 5…… 3673 words. Total words to date…… 14071
Day 6…… 2501 words. Total words to date…… 16572
Day 7…… 4046 words. Total words to date…… 20618

Total fiction words for December……… 4046
Total fiction words for the year………… 219020
Total nonfiction words for December… 2390
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 200470
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 419490

Calendar Year 2022 Novels to Date…………………… 2
Calendar Year 2022 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2022 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 68
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: In this blog I share my experiences, good and bad, as a prolific professional fiction writer. Because It Makes Sense, I trust my characters to tell the story that they, not I, are living. This greatly increases my productivity and provides the fastest possible ascension along the learning curve of Craft because I get a great deal more practice at actually writing.