The Journal: A Little More on Goals and Myths and My Goal

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Going Back
* A Little More on Goals and Myths
* My Writing Goal for 2022
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“[C]ritical voice is non-existent for me. I just do the very best I can every time and release and move on.” Dean Wesley Smith

Going back to the earlier delivery time. I enjoy writing this in the morning and then reporting fiction the next day. Reporting the same day adds pressure, and nobody needs that. (grin) I should have known better than to mess with something that was working.

A Little More on Goals and Myths

First, if you haven’t (or even if you have), read Dean’s “My 2022 Challenge” at Then read the comments. There aren’t many, but some of them might help you.

Then, read “Three Weeks Until The First of the Year” at Especially read the section titled “Check in with yourself.”

My friend Robert Sadler also posted his goal for 2022: See “Quandary-#of Pages & Writing Goals” at

My Writing Goal for 2022

Over the past few days I’ve tried to get serious and set some writing goals, but honestly, I just haven’t been all that motivated. In fact, I’m still running purely on faith and hope that my former excitement about sitting alone in a room making up stories (via my characters) will return full force by January 1.

I really hope it does. I used to hate having to stop for the day because my brain was just too muddled to go on. (grin) And absolutely nothing beats the eager anticipation of rushing back to the story the next day to start writing again and find out what happens next. I sincerely hope at least some of you know how that feels.

Four months ago feels like an eternity. Flashing forward to today, every time I sit down at the writing ‘puter I hope that excitement will return, but thus far it’s made only a couple of cursory appearances.

When I’m actually writing it’s almost as good as it used to be, but when I get up to take even a short break, I really don’t care whether I come back. Often I go off and do something else. And yesterday I didn’t write at all. Unfortunately, I can’t make myself care by simply wishing it were so.

And of course, critical mind comes creeping in. For just one example, am I really writing a story at all, or am I only tapping the keys to put words, any words, on the page so I’ll feel like I’m doing something? And there’s more critical mind input. A lot more. I can still shut it up, but the fact that I have to shut it up is annoying and distracting. For a long time, I didn’t have to do that, at least not routinely.

Anyway, I’m sure it will all work out soon one way or the other. I’m in no big rush to call time of death on my fiction career, and I hope I can eventually get back to the way things were.

Bearing that hope in mind, I thought about challenges. Challenges and the streaks they create are great motivators. I thought about doing the Bradbury challenge of writing a short story per week, but I’ve already done that for either 70 or 72 weeks. So nah.

Hmm. Maybe I could write TWO short stories per week. That would enable me to beat my previous record and do so inside of a year (104 stories), but why would I want to do that? Short stories are fine, but I’d really rather write novels. So again, nah.

In 2021, I got into the subconscious habit of writing a novel in 2 weeks, so I thought recently about setting a challenge to write 20 novels in a year (2 novels per month and 2 months “off”).

But again, why? For what purpose? Bragging rights? Seriously, who cares? Besides, “novel” isn’t a precise quantity, is it? If I were to write 1,000,000 words of fiction but every novel were exactly 100,000 words long, I would have written 10 novels.

So will I have somehow accomplished more if I write the same number of words but it’s all in *25,000 word novels (so 40 novels) or 50,000 word novels (20)? Other than having 10 or 30 more titles on the marketplace (so better discoverability) than if I’d written ten 100,000 word novels, no. A million words of fiction is a million words of fiction no matter how you divide it.

*Note: Everywhere in the world besides American Traditional Publishers (and the professional organization that are still feeling their influence), a “novel” is anything from 25,000 words on up. Hence my own fiction lengths:

Word Count                   Genre

Up to 99                         Flash fiction
99 to 1999                      Short-Short
2000 to 7999                 Short Story
8000 to 14999               Novelette
15,000 to 24,999           Novella
25,000 to 44,999           Short Novel
45,000 to 79,999           Novel
over 80,000 words        Long Novel

All of that said, none of it really matters. A story should be whatever length it needs to be. I use the above only to guide me in pricing.

Anyway, none of the challenges I considered interested me. I don’t really need to be motivated or psyched up. I just need to find a way to flip the switch, and the only way I know to do that is to keep showing up until it flips or I know it isn’t going to. Re challgenges, even the idea of achieving something new or “bigger” doesn’t excite me, except hitting that 1,000,000 word mark for the first time.

So I finally did set a goal, but it’s anticlimactic. Beginning on January 1, I’m going to write 2800 words of publishable fiction every day, on average. Yawn. That’s what, two and a half to three hours of “work” every day? (During most of 2021 my daily goal was 3000 words. The slightly lower number will keep me more focused and be less forgiving of me skipping out on it.)

If I achieve that goal exactly, at the close of business on December 31, finally I will have written over one million (1,022,000) words of publishable fiction in a year. I will also flash past any personal record I set previously for the number of novels written in a year, no challenge necessary.

None of this is a stretch for me. I don’t have an outside day job or people to take care of aside from my wife and myself. So I have all the time I want to put toward my writing.

Back in advice mode for a moment, I do recommend you do yourself a favor and break down any elephantine annual goal you set into a bite-sized daily goal.

I suggest that a great first-time annual goal for beginners is 365,000 words of publishable fiction in a year. (For comparison, SF Grand Master Jack Williamson wrote only 200,000 words per year, but he did that year-in and year-out for around 60 years, and on manual typewriters for the first few decades.)

Anyway, if 365,000 words sound like a lot, it isn’t. To do that would mean you’d have to write about an hour per day (1000 words per hour, or 17 words per minute) on average every day of the year. Almost anyone can find one hour per day to write, if they want to be a writer.

So the idea is, just set your intended annual goal and then do the math. Whatever number you start with, if you want to write every day of the year (on average) divide by 365. If you want to write only five days a week and take weekends off like a normal person, divide by 261.

So if you want to write 250,000 words in a year, you’ll want to write 685 words per day every day, or 958 words per day if you’re writing only five days per week. If you want to write 500,000 words per day, obviously, those numbers are doubled.

Breaking a large annual goal down into daily bites makes the prospect of eating that elephant seem a lot more appetizing. Bon appetít!

Talk with you again later.

Of Interest

See “Merry Misdirection” at

See “What I Learned From Nora, David and Jean: You Have To Connect” at

See “A Christmas Miracle” at

See “Online Copyright Registration Services: Writer Beware” at

See “Booksliced” at Looks like it might be a good resource.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1340 words

Writing of WCGN 5: (tentative title, novel)

Day 1…… 2786 words. Total words to date…… 2786
Day 2…… 2536 words. Total words to date…… 5322
Day 3…… 1205 words. Total words to date…… 6527
Day 4…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for December……… 10865
Total fiction words for the year………… 636749
Total nonfiction words for December… 6500
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 25640
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 834659

Calendar Year 2021 Novels to Date…………………… 13
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 3
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 66
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: In this blog, I provide advice on writing fiction. I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. To be crystal clear, WITD is not “the only way” to write, nor will I ever say it is. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.

7 thoughts on “The Journal: A Little More on Goals and Myths and My Goal”

  1. My goal for 2021 was 1000 words of fiction Monday through Friday and 500 words each for Saturday and Sunday (knowing there would be days I would not write). That adds up to 6000 words per week, about 26,000 words per month and 312,000 per year. I didn’t set any goals for number of short stories or novels, just a word count.
    I’m not going to come close to my goal, but will probably manage half of it, along with 2 short stories published and getting closer to the end of a VERY long third novel.
    For 2022, I’ll keep the same word count goals as 2021 but add short story and novel goals: 1 short story a month and three novels–all published by the end of 2022. Whew, I just set those goals right now. I’ll go print that out and put it up by my computer. I had to stop and see if that would really work with 312,000 words per year. Twelve 3,000 word short stories and three 92,000 word novels = 312,000. So, yeah.
    I’ve set up a spreadsheet that lets me see how I’m doing each day with daily, weekly, monthly and yearly word count goals, oh yes and quarterly goals too.
    The challenge for me will be to write consistently 4 or 5 days a week most weeks.
    Here’s to 2022.

  2. Thanks for this post Harvey. I have been thinking about my goals a lot for next year and I like the idea of writing 365,000 words in a year. Kristine Kathryn Rusche actually mentioned something similar in her blog today along with adding in an hour learning the business of writing a week. This wordcount goal combined with following Heinlein’s Rules has me excited for next year as I think this is manageable for me given my job and home life (three young kids). It will also help me get some streaks going. Although, I did bring up the topic of Heinlein’s Rules when I was discussing goals with some writing friends. I explained the rules… did they push back, particularly on rule three. Makes me realise I shouldn’t discuss that part of my 2022 goals with many other writers as their pushing may help feed my critical voice – which is sad in some ways.

    I am rambling now but I just wanted to add how helpful your blog has been for me. I read one of your old posts (or a chapter from your writing books) before every writing session and it helps push down the critical voice. So thank you!

    • Thanks, Scott. Glad I could help. Re discussing Heinlein’s Rules with others, what could Robert A. Heinlein possibly know? He was only one of the most successful SF authors in the world at a time when writing and publishing both were a lot more difficult. Let the fools go their own way. Ours is one of the few endeavors in which pure justice is quick and sure. Rewriting WILL make a manuscript and a story worse and take it farther from the author’s unique, original voice, every single time. Congrats on believing in yourself and rising above the lemmings.

  3. I’ve also been puzzling over a similar lack of urgency with my writing. While working on my ninth novel in three years I’ve slowed down. And I don’t think goals are going to “flip the switch”.

    You seem to indicate that you don’t have to write to have enough to live on? I know that I don’t. So why do it? Well, speaking for myself, because I always wanted to be a writer and now that I’ve finished a few works I find I do enjoy it. But I’m materially comfortable and I enjoy other things and writing time sometimes doesn’t win out.

    But what about all those great pulp writers and famous authors and pulp speeds? Well, I’ve been reading a biography of Edgar Rice Burroughs and I find that after the first Tarzan and maybe the first couple of Martian stories he jumped in with both feet and quit his job to write full time. He was in his thirties and had a wife and two or three children at the time. He was motivated to feed his family and stay alive using his writing income. I think a lot of the writers we admire were in similar circumstances.

    So I’m thinking how do I align my writing goals with purchasing my next meal? I don’t know. Maybe at this stage in my life I don’t and I just continue on “impulse power”.

    Anyway, what you wrote triggered my thinking. Hope you find that “switch”.

    • Thanks, DW. Great comment. I hope you figure out what’s stopping or slowing you, too. It’s no fun being mired when you want to run. At the moment I’m casting about in my mind for that magical character comment or snide remark or brief, sharp event that will send my imagination spinning. Probably it will visit me when I stop searching for it.

      You are correct that I don’t rely on income from my writing, though that also seems to come more readily when you stop waiting for it. When I write I do so because it’s a fun escape. It’s a way to literally check in on my characters to see what they’re up to in their lives and in their worlds. I don’t bother even thinking about income from my writing. Not because of some BS about writing being “pure” but because I have zero control over it. That and my age and health issues. For me it’s better to tell stories simply for the enjoyment of it. To have fun. And besides, I really am being paid by being the first human who gets to read my characters’ stories.

      You’re also absolutely spot-on about the old pulp writers. Most if not all of them wrote because it was their day job. In fact, most found or created a personal formula to follow and stuck to it religiously. See Lester Dent’s “master plot formula” for just one major example. I bow to their discipline, but frankly, I can’t think of anything more boring than doing anything by rote.

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