Hello lovelies. Welcome back to the blog. Today I want to go over goal setting for the new year. I know I’ve gone over this for short term planning before, but I want to give you a way to plan your entire year realistically so that in December of 2021 you can look back and know you accomplished something.
Where do you even start?
I’ve talked about this before on the blog, but I like to start my year plan by blocking out the days I know I won’t write (vacations, movie and book releases, birthdays, holidays). If you know you’re going to spend the entire weekend binge reading the next book in your favorite author’s series when it comes out in March, you can pretty well say that you won’t be writing any words during that time. Remember: You can plan for zero days, but it’s much more difficult to catch up if you said you were going to write words those days and you didn’t.
Be realistic on how much time something takes.
According to Bill Gates, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”
This is of course also important when you think about writing. In 2020 I had a very slow start, yet I was able to get through three editing passes, including two full rewrites and one full critique. I completed an outline of another novel, and started writing new words into that novel for NaNoWriMo. I mean, I’ve done a lot this year, and had I just thought, “Oh I’ll work on one draft/novel this year…” I might not have gotten as much done.
You can’t rely on your own memory once a year to know how much or how fast you can do. You need to be writing it down and tracking your time and average productivity. The more data, the better. Here’s an example from my own tracking sheet:
2014 – 78,419 Total Words (215 Average Words Per Day)
2015 – 70,835 Total Words (194 Average Words Per Day)
2016 – 99,855 Total Words (274 Average Words Per Day)
2017 – 71,205 Total Words (195 Average Words Per Day)
2018 – 87,905 Total Words (241 Average Words Per Day)
2019 – 107,589 Total Words (295 Average Words Per Day)
I’m not going to include my 2020 word count because 2020 isn’t done yet and that would be a misleading average, but you can already see that while some years I get close to 100,000 words in, I am, in any regular year, only getting about 80,000 words, and in a bad year, only 70,000 words written.
Here’s what this tells me. I shouldn’t plan for 100,000 word years because I’m not always performing at 100% output every year or every season. Yeah, I reached the end of 2019 with more words than I’d ever written EVER. I absolutely can have years where I smash through everything, but that level of output cost me 2-3 months productivity in 2020 because I was totally burned out.
I can, however, reliably plan for about 200-225 words per day on average. Knowing that means I can predict many things. If I wanted to draft a novel in 2021, I could. 80,000 words total in a novel, divided by 225 words per day, equals 356 days. If I’m planning for two weeks of vacation, plus whatever other holidays (maybe 21 days total in a year), I can reliably say that I will have a drafted novel finished in January of 2022.
That number is low as we can see from this year’s progress. That is because for easy math it doesn’t take into account any increased output during NaNoWriMo, or the fact that I don’t usually write only 225 words in a day when I am writing, but it’s the pace that has proven to be my sustainable “normal” after 6 years of data capturing.
Build in extra days on top of that, because life.
All of this is not to say that I am writing every day either. I work a full time job, I suffer from migraines, and some days, some weeks, I literally can’t even. This is just my average in any given year. Check out my actual 100,000+ year stats:
Isn’t that awful? There are almost 7 months of the year that either I didn’t write a word at all, or I wasn’t properly tracking. I was pretty consistent in Q1, almost nothing the rest of the year, then BAM, NaNoWriMo, then nothing again. That is NOT sustainable. I can’t even tell you what I drafted in NaNo last year, it was just a blur.
Life happens, but I might not have burned out if I wasn’t trying to keep up with a breakneck pace at the beginning of the year.
What are your tips for making a sustainable writing practice? How do you plan for a new year? Let us know your favorite planning tricks in the comments below!