The Most Effective Goal

In today’s Journal

* The Road to Amarillo
* The Most Effective Goal
* Of Interest

The Road to Amarillo

Well, The Road to Amarillo is published at Draft2Digital and at Amazon. To see the cover, and to read about the book and a little about the Wes Crowley Gap series itself, please visit

Also, the Wes Crowley covers on the page at are actually in chronological sequence, so the correct reading order.

For a limited time, I’m giving away Book 1 of the series, The Rise of a Warrior. To take advantage of this giveaway, either visit or simply email me at and let me know which eformat you would like. (It might take a day or two for all the vendors to update the price to Free.)

The Most Effective Goal

I’ve talked on here several times about the value of setting goals. Various pundits say a weekly goal is best, others a monthly or (incredibly) an annual goal.

Those are all fine. I’ve used them all, mostly simultaneously, or cumulatively. But the only one I really found effective was the daily word-count goal.

The effectiveness of the daily word-count goal is based on the same reasoning that led my paternal grandfather to tell me, re gasoline tanks on vehicles, “Keep the top half full and the bottom half will take care of itself.” Truedat.

Likewise, no matter what your annual, semiannual, quarterly, monthly or weekly word-count goal is, it will come a great deal easier if you set a daily word count goal and strive to meet or surpass it.

You don’t have to write every day to make use of a daily goal, but some basic common sense applies. Write on the days when you’re able to write, and during your writing time, um, WRITE. Strive to reach your goal on days you have scheduled to actually write.

Basic to everything else is establishing how many words of publishable fiction you can write in an hour. To do that, simply set a timer and then write fiction for an hour. The average is about 1000 words per hour.

Note 1. That’s not very fast. It’s only 17 words per minute. Many typists in high school can easily hit three times that speed, and 60 or 70 words per minute is not unusual.

Note 2. If you can type with all your fingers and if you’re writing fewer than say 800 words per hour, and-or if you’re being very careful with individual words and sentences instead of just telling a story, check in with yourself. You have some critical voice issues. (Dean Wesley Smith hunts and pecks with two fingers and he hits around 1000 words per hour.)

Once you know how many publishable words of fiction you can reasonably write in an hour, multiply that times the number of hours you can write on a given day. I recommend adding another 500 words or so to that number to make yourself stretch a litte. That number should be your daily word count goal.

You can also establish your daily word count goal by going the other direction. Set a longer-range goal first. This is what I do.

Of course, if there’s a real deadline in play, this becomes super easy. Say a publisher or ghostwriting client wants you to write a 60,000 word novel, but delivery is required in thirty days.

Easy peasy. Your daily word count goal depends only on how many days per week you want to work. If you work only on  weekdays, your daily goal has to be 3,000 words per day or thereabouts (three hours per day). If you can work all 30 days, your daily word count goal falls to 2000 words per day (so two hours per day). Sign the contract, collect the cash, deposit it, and go sit down at your writing ‘puter. You got stuff to do.

But if you’re like most of us, you have to set deadlines for yourself. To do that, decide how many words you want to write in a year or whatever division of a year makes you happiest.

For example, I would love personally to write 1,000,000 words of publishable fiction in one calendar year. (Note that most fiction writers turn out 200,000 to 300,000 words per year. I know one who writes only two 60,000 word novels in a year and is thought by her peers to be “prolific.”)

Anyway, a million words probably seems like a lot, until you do the math. My one million words per year would require a semiannual goal of 500,000 words, a quarterly goal of 250,000 words, or a monthly goal of 83,334 words. And then things go a little off the tracks because not all months are the same length. It’s also 19,231 words per week if you want to work all 52 weeks of the year.

As an aside, I was on track to surpass 1,000,000 words easily in 2021 before I screwed up and stopped smoking cigars, thereby fouling my neural pathways. That is easily among my greatest regrets in life, and I don’t have very many.

EVERYBODY is addicted to something, folks. Everybody self-medicates in one way or another. If you need it in order to function, by all means, partake. It’s absolutely nobody else’s business.

To continue with the example, I am able to write every day. So if I want to write 1,000,000 words in a calendar year, my daily word count goal for a period of 360 days (five days off because life happens) would have to AVERAGE 2,778 words per day. Less than three hours per day. And that’s an AVERAGE.

If you wanted to write only five days per week and take weekends off, that would be 260 writing days per year. You would have to write at least 3846 words per day on each of those 260 days to reach your 1,oo0,000 words on the year. My point is, that’s still only 4 hours “work” per day, five days per week. Not a bad gig.

So if I set my daily word count goal to 3,000 words per day, and if I write most days, my million words is pretty much assured, right?

Wrong. To this day I’ve never written 1,000,000 words of publishable fiction in a calendar year. Most of the time, I end up averaging around 2500 words per day. (Remember, this includes days off, sick days, etc.) I remain hopeful, if my own writing every gets fully back on track.

But I digress. I’m me. You, on the other hand, are you.

Figure out what you want for an annual goal. Divide that by 12 to set a monthly goal.

If you stop there, though, with only a monthly goal, you’ll soon find the end of the month fast approaching without you having written very much. Human nature.

Same with a weekly goal, as some of our current Bradbury Challenge participants are learning. If you set a weekly goal, life happens, and all of a sudden it’s Sunday morning and you HAVE to pound out a short stoty TODAY. And then there’s all that pressure. And of course, the more pressure there is, the louder critical voice gets and the more difficult it is to Just Write The Story. (grin)

But if you set a daily word count goal, you will establish a writing habit, and the thing about words is, they don’t care where they go. That’s why I keep saying, THAT you write is important, but WHAT you write doesn’t matter at all.

Say you write novels, but you’re also involved in the Bradbury Challenge. If you write 3000 words per day, 2300 words might go into your Bradbury Challenge short story. The other 700 words from that day’s writing can go into your novel, or another short story.

Or maybe you’ll surpass your word count goal one day because your challenge short story didn’t wrap until it hit 4200 words. Good for you. Pat yourself on the back. Now brace yourself, because tomorrow morning your daily word count goal resets to zero.

Or say your short story wrapped at 2300 words and you decided to take the rest of the day off instead of going to your novel or starting something new. Again, that’s fine because your word count goal resets to zero tomorrow morning.

It’s truly a win-win. If you meet or exceed your goal, it resets and you get to go again. If you fall short, you fail to success because you STILL have far more words than you would have without a daily goal, and the goal still resets. Every day you have the opportunity to meet or exceed your daily goal.

Also, each day that you meet or exceed your daily goal, think of how great it will make you feel. And if you meet or exceed your daily goal EVERY day or even MOST days, you will blow your weekly, monthly, quarterly, semiannual or annual goals out of the water. And think how good THAT will feel.

Nothing will more quickly speed your ascent along the learning curve of craft and enable you to increase your inventory of fiction than setting and striving to meet or exceed a daily word count goal.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “I Feel Bad For New Writers… Part 8… Myths” at

See “Mindset, Motivation, and Tchotchkes” at

See “Lessons From The WGA Writers Strike” at

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1540

Total fiction words for May……… 14404
Total fiction words for 2023………… 97868
Total nonfiction words for May… 17610
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 99300
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 197168

Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 2
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 73
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 221
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark, adherence to Heinlein’s Rules, and that following the myths of fiction writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.