The Journal: Setting Goals for 2021

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Topic: Setting Goals for 2021
* The Journey Home: Part 2 is finished
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day

“Aim to write the best that you can every day, and write above that.” Joe Hartlaub

“Thinking is the great enemy of perfection.” Constantine the Great, Roman Emperor

Topic: Setting Goals for 2021

First (again) to get us all on the same page, there is difference between Goals and Dreams. Both are achievable, but Goals are within your direct control. Dreams are not.

In many of the “setting goals” posts I’ve read recently, many other writers spout that same sage advice, but oddly, few seem to actually understand it. Like another writer acquaintance who wrote, “What’s the worst thing that could happen if it doesn’t work?” after having gone dumpster-diving in the “waiting” world of the 1980s as if that’s a necessary reality today. It just isn’t so.

If she applied that same sentiment to her actual writing (and to self-publishing), she would have a lot more books out and probably be a lot more successful than she already is. Her own quote flashed right over her head. Sigh.

But to goals —

For several years, I’ve had a daily goal of 3,000 publishable words of fiction per day. That’s an average over a 30-day month. The actual writing would take place only on writing days. Non-writing days would necessarily pull the average down. So if I averaged 3000 words per day over a month, that would mean I wrote more than 3000 words on at least some of my writing days. The average is what matters.

Had I written every day and accomplished that goal exactly, I would write 90,000 words in a month and 1,080,000 words in a year. Yet my total over even my best year (2016) was only 702,838 words, for a daily average of only 1925 words. Two hours of work. Seriously. And that year, I experienced more than one month of writing over 100,000 words. And if I remember correctly, I wrote in every month that year.

In a typical “good” month, I averaged only around 2600 words of fiction per day. Again, spread over the entire month, including non-writing days.

You might think these numbers indicate that my daily word-count goal is fine where it is, or that I should even lower it a bit, say to 2500 or even 2000 words per day. After all, that would be easier to reach on a daily basis. But that’s misleading.

A goal is something to strive for, something that drives me to the keyboard. It’s something to which I am confident I can repeatedly come close but which I am also certain I will seldom reach. If I routinely hit my daily word count — if reaching it becomes easy — my goal is too low.

And of course, given that I expect to fall at least a little short of my correctly set daily goal (again, on average), a goal that’s too low will pull down my monthly and annual totals too.

Given that I haven’t hit my annual goal of over a million words in a year yet, and given that my daily word-count goal has remained the same for over 6 years, I have to assume that goal isn’t working for me. But it isn’t too high. It’s too low. It isn’t making me reach enough.

I could simply leave the goal as-is and “be determined” to reach it. But that’s business as usual and thus far it hasn’t worked.

So I’m raising my annual goal (what I’d like to produce) from 1,080,000 words of publishable fiction per annum (3,000 WPD x 30 days x 12 months, which leaves 5 days to spare) to 1,440,000 words of publishable fiction per annum. Which means I’m raising my daily word-count goal to 4,000 words per day. Completely attainable for me. And if it seems “off” as I continue into the year, I can always adjust it up to 4500 or 5000 words per day or down to 3500.

But if I hit 4,000 words per day for a month, I will have written 120,000 words in a month. For those still locked into traditional publishing’s thinking of what constitutes a novel, that’s still 12 novels on a year. For me, it would be more like 24. But more on novel lengths later.

Even if I fall a little short of my goal, maybe I’ll still reach that magic 1,000,000 words of fiction in a year. So that is both the reason for and the sum-total of my goals: 4,000 words of publishable fiction or more per writing day.

My short-term goal is to begin and complete one more novel before 2020 is out. Completely achievable, given three factors: 1) it typically takes me around 2 weeks to write a 50,000 word novel; 2) the novels in my current series seem to resolve in around 45,000 to 55,000 words; and 3) there are currently almost 3 weeks (20 days, counting today) left in the month. And my characters in The Ark are currently in a story-telling fervor. Woohoo! (grin)

I won’t set a particular goal for the number of novels I’ll write in the upcoming year because a “novel” isn’t a set quantity. Also, outside of a particular series or genre, the length of novels varies greatly. Novels range anywhere from 25,000 words up to over 100,000. I’ll just say that I would like, as a kind of vague goal, to write 15 novels in 2021. I expect to exceed that, especially if I continue writing the current series for the whole year, which is entirely possible because of the nature of the series. That nature is one overall setting with hundreds of smaller settings inside it and a cast of thousands of characters from numerous cultures who are necessarily and constantly changing.

But that series aside, if I were to reach my new daily word count exactly every day for 360 days (for example), that would be fourteen 100,000 word novels or twenty-eight 50,000 word novels or fifty-six 25,000 word novels. (Many “famous” novels are in this range.) See what I mean about novels not being a set quantity?

If you’re looking for a recommendation, I recommend the same for you. To set your goals, start at the ground and work up:

  1. Figure out how many words of publishable fiction you can realistically write in an hour. (For example, mine is 800 to 1200 words per hour or 13 to 20 words per minute, either of which leaves plenty of time for staring off into space.)
  2. After you know how many words you can write per hour, multiply that number by the number of hours or partial hours during which you can realistically write in a day. Then,
  3. to create your goal (to make you reach) add 10%. Why? To frighten yourself just a little.

I know 4000 words per day is a good goal for me because I’m a little frightened at the thought of it. If it didn’t scare me a little, it wouldn’t be a good goal.

Finally, as you set your goals for 2021, don’t forget to set learning and practice goals also. Those can be vague or specific. My vague learning goal for 2021 is to at last learn to lay out paper books and cover spreads.

My own next “big” specific writing technique to learn, which I will practice in the upcoming 4th and successive novels of the FOH series, is writing an entire novel in 1st person POV but with multiple viewpoint characters — without confusing the reader.

One more note: Never let your goals affect your stories, by which I mean, don’t let your goals add pressure to your stories. Stories are not important. They are only a few minutes’ or hours’ entertainment. Nothing more. As I keep trying to drive home, if you’re a writer, WHAT you write is not important. THAT you write is what matters. Hence the need to set goals.

As I wrote to a friend yesterday, “None of my goals affect my stories. And the only way they affect my writing is to drive me to the keyboard.” Wish me luck, as I do you. See you on the other side.

The Journey Home: Part 2 is finished

I was able to first-read my own novel yesterday and allowed myself to touch it here and there as I went in one huge cycling session. I’m pleased to report it’s a good story. There was (as my characters had tried to tell me) one significant bit of missing information, a tiny slice of a scene that added maybe 50 or 100 words to the story but made a huge difference overall.

I’m glad I obeyed that little voice (my characters) when they told me something was “maybe missing” then sent me on a scavenger hunt to wait for it to pop around a corner as I read.

What a wonderful job I have! I’m a very lucky guy. And this morning, after I post this, I’ll send Book 3 of the Future of Humanity (FOH) series, to my first readers. Then I’ll start writing Book 4.

To those first readers: Don’t feel overwhelmed. It’s the holiday season and some of you are writing your own books. If you won’t have time to devote to reading this, just let me know that. If you will have time, no rush at all.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Bob Dylan’s Catalog Sale…” at

See “Getting Through It” at

See “What happened to the ebook revolution?” at Be sure to see PG’s take.

See “Working On A Story…” at Dean’s selling off some digests if you’re interested.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1640 words

Writing of The Journey Home: Part 3 (Book 4 of the FOH series)

Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for December……… 49423
Total fiction words for the year………… 501954
Total nonfiction words for December… 9180
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 194390
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 696344

Calendar Year 2020 Novels to Date…………………… 8
Calendar Year 2020 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2020 Short Stories to Date… 13
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 53
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 214
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31