NaNoWriMo Prep Step 5: Setting up your NaNoWriMo goals

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Are you ready to start setting up your NaNoWriMo goals?

Now, I know what you're thinking: doesn't NaNoWriMo do that for us? Isn't 50,000 words the goal?

And the answer is yes — ish.

I mentioned before that planning everything for NaNoWriMo, such as my research, helps me with this step. And that's because having an idea of what I need to research helps me set up my smaller writing goals.

You see, “write 50,000 words in 30 days” is kind of a vague goal. It just doesn't really mean anything to me. I like to set up smaller goals to help me break that vague goal down into actionable tasks. This not only helps keep me motivated throughout the entire month, but lets me start my day each day already know what I want to do.

There's nothing wrong with using the goals set for us by NaNoWriMo as our own goals. But I have found that setting up my own NaNoWriMo goals makes them more personal. They mean something more. And because of that, they tend to be more motivating than if I were just to go with the goals they set for me.

NaNoWriMo Prep Step 5: Setting up your NaNoWriMo goals blog title overlay

First, my ultimate goal.

The goal for NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words, but this might change if you're doing Camp NaNoWriMo instead.

One of the nice things about Camp NaNoWriMo is that you get to set your own goal for the month. Although, I do typically like to just stick with the 50,000 words.

The reason I like 50,000 words is that it averages out to 1,667 words per day. If you've been writing a long time, you know that 1,667 words in a day is a realistic goal that most writers of moderate motivation can reach with a little push. But it can also get blown right out of the water with a big push. It presents a challenge without becoming overwhelming.

So, my ultimate goal, of course, is to hit that 50,000 words by the end of the month, every month.

Next, my weekly goals.

Once I have my monthly goal figured out, it's pretty easy to divide that up into weekly goals. 50,000 words divided by 4 weeks is 12,500 words per week. For those of you who are pantsing or freestyling, this is probably about as close to a specific goal as you can get.

I don't like setting up daily wordcount goals because for me it feels like forcing creativity, and I don't work very well when it feels forced. But I'll get to that in more detail when we discuss daily goals.

For those of us who plan at least part of our novels, or who do a blend of planning and pantsing, I use my outlines to help set up my weekly goals.

Now I know that there are several ways to plan out your novels and outlines. Not all of them work for me, although I have tried just about all of them. For those of you who use beat sheets, you can split up the beats into your weekly goals. For those of us who use an outline with chapter notes, it might feel a little harder because we don't know exactly how long our chapters will be. But we can take a guess and split up the chapters between the four weeks just as though they were beats.

This means that for planners and plantsers, our weekly goals are going to read more like “Chapters 1-7” along with “12,500 words.” I use both for my weekly goals so I can help keep track of where I am at for the week and if I need to adjust anything (say, moving one chapter to a different week).

This also brings up a really good point: by using some form of measurement other than word count, you give yourself something to shoot for. “I'm going to write seven chapters this week” gives you something to shoot for that doesn't quite feel so overwhelming.

That's just a chapter a day, with no pressure about how long that chapter needs to be.

Finally, my daily goals.

I don't set specific daily wordcount goals when I'm purely pantsing a novel or freestyle writing. Instead, what I do is have a blanket goal. And every day I sit down at my computer or laptop with that goal in mind: to write 100 words.

That's it: 100 words.

You see, by the time I reach 100 words, one of two things tends to happen. Either I have struggled too hard to get to those 100 words and I know I'm not going any further…or I get myself on a roll where the words and ideas are just flowing and I better stick with it while I can. This allows me to remain flexible in my freestyling, rather than trying to stuff it into a rigid schedule.

One day I might only write those 100 words, but the next day I might get in 2300 words. Who knows? But the beauty of freestyling is the joy of finding out when you're done.

When I am planning or plantsing my novel, of course, I go about things a little differently. I sit down every week to review my weekly goals, and plan out daily tasks based on those goals. I assign two types of tasks for each day: writing through a particular scene or chapter, then researching what I need for tomorrow's writing session.

So, my goal for a Monday might be something like: “Write chapter two and introduce character #3, research sword types for fight scene in chapter three.” Then my list for Tuesday would read “Write chapter three with sword fight scene, research pirate vessel schematics for escape scene in chapter four.”

I like writing my daily goals out this way because I never sit down at a blank document and wonder where I wanted to take my story. I use my pencil in my bullet journal to keep track of my list and adjust if I need to for length or time.

You don't need to have your daily goals and lists all ready to go before we launch on the first. I'm usually lucky if I have enough planned out to get the first three days planned out for myself.

After you're done setting up your NaNoWriMo goals, it's time to get in touch with your accountability partner.

Back in step two, you started training for NaNoWriMo with a partner who could help keep you on track. With your ultimate and weekly goals set up, now would be a great time to touch base and share your goals with that writing buddy or accountability partner.

Exchange goals and talk to each other about what you plan to do to meet those goals, and what you might need help with.

Are there hindrances that you fear may come up that will keep you from meeting those goals? Do you know of any obstacles that might get in the way? Discuss those with your partner as well so you can create a plan for how to get around those things, and so they know what they need to prepare in order to help you.

Ready to move on? Let's get prepared for NaNoWriMo together!

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