Setting Realistic Goals

A couple weeks ago, I told the world about teaming up with a friend to hold each other accountable. She has successfully met her goal for the past couple of weeks. Me? My character is still alive.

Considering I’ve written over 2K a week, I’m not disappointed. But it does reveal that I’m horrible at estimating how long it will take to get to a particular event in my story. I’m one of those plantser writers–I know where I’m headed, but I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen on the way. In my case, it was an introduction with the Soon-To-Be-Murdered’s son, followed by the discovery of a secret library, and then a meeting with a bunch of bad people to show who STBM is at odds with and why they might want to murder him. I still need to get STBM upstairs for the earthquake that is going to get blamed for STBM’s death. But based on the sparks of ideas that have flashed within my truly dark mind, I think another character is going to pop in and throw some menace around before we get there.

So, I’ve updated my weekly goal with my friend. Instead of trying to kill off STBM, I’m instead going to endeavor to finish one scene a week.

Adding 2K a week and not quite reaching the STBM’s death has added a bit of a hiccup to my story lay out though. This book has multiple POVs, and I’m trying to keep the days on track across all of them. There’s the first day, the third day, the sixth day, and then the earthquake. Since the earthquake appears in all four POVs, it needs to land in the same place in the book. As I keep adding stuff to my current POV, I have to shift the other POVs so that things read smoothly. It’s led me to rethink my current chapters.

I don’t know if it’s my desire for uniformity or what, but for some reason I’ve always tried to keep my chapters the same length. I’d group the scenes based on theme and flow, but most chapters stayed close to a 5K word count. After reading responses to a Facebook post I posed, I think I’m safe to have whatever word count fits. As a result, I’ve broken out some of my chapters in half, having just one scene instead of two. That bumps my finished chronological chapter count from 17 to 22, which is 80K (out of 154K that I’ve written so far for the story overall).

It feels good to be on track again with writing, and that life has let up enough to allow it.

Here are a couple of songs that have been tied to my current POV character since my discovery of her true intentions.

Imagine Dragons – Believer

Young The Giant – Something To Believe In

You might recognize a theme there…

Have you ever set your goals too high? Do you have any habits when it comes to chapters? What songs have you been listening to lately?

Loni Townsend

About Loni Townsend

Wife. Mother. Writer. Ninja. Squirrel.

17 thoughts on “Setting Realistic Goals

  1. Hi Loni. I used to be more
    Uniform with chapters but now I write them for more impact and don’t pay much attention to word count or length. I try to begin each one with the scene picture and
    Create the mood, amp the tension and try
    To leave the end on a cliff hanger or strange thought. I am so happy to hear you are making such amazing progress! Have a great rest of your week.

  2. I like my chapters uniform, too.

    Several POVs during one event in one book sounds challenging. I did it spread across three books, which meant I had to make it sound fresh each time.

  3. Glad to hear you’ve been steady and building momentum. It’s so hard to get on a roll sometimes. When it happens I’m always worried I’m going to do something to screw up my routine.

    I also find it hard to judge how much I need to write to get certain scenes were they need to be. Sometimes I want to completely re-work something and then find myself only adding a few lines. Other times what I think will be a short transitory section suddenly becomes multiple chapters and thousands of words. When I try to outline and plan it, it never feels quick right. Pantsing it drives me all over the place, but the story develops more naturally.

  4. Yay for being on track and making tracks! You really like to have all your chapters the same length? I like chapters to be like paragraphs, varied. (Within reason.) Here’s wishing you epic success as you continue on!

  5. When you said you like to keep your chapters the same length, I said (out loud) “Me too!” I don’t focus so much on the word count, but the page length. (I write single spaced, size 11 and once I hit the ten page mark, I know I’m where I should be. )

    Yeah, I stray away from specific goals, because then I feel bad when I don’t meet them. I work until I feel I’ve made my piece a bit better. Sometimes it’s a few sentences. Sometimes, a whole scene. (I can’t imagine how you’re handling multiple POVs. Bravo to you!)

    I’m reliving my youth and listening to punk bands of the early 2000’s. It’s the soundtrack to my current WIP. 😉

    • Sounds like a soundtrack I’d dig, considering I still listen to all those punk bands from that time. 🙂

  6. Progress is good. 😀

    I’ve developed a weird habit with chapters and often feel the need to end them with the MC questioning things. That’s about it. I used to be obsessive with older (and now discarded) projects and keeping each chapter roughly the same length. I think I aimed more for a minimum than trying to keep the word counts together, but my goals for that one were too high and I would barely crest the minimum.

  7. Rock on with getting back on track with your writing!

  8. I’ve developed into too much of a pantser to try and set goals for when I think I’ll finish a chapter or scene. I do most of my fleshing out of a scene while I’m writing, which is why I have two critique groups. Once a month meetings force me to keep moving and not let myself get too bogged down on details.

  9. I can’t even begin to imagine writing with multiple POVs. It sounds very challenging to keep everything straight. Kudos to you for using this approach. I was interested to see the responses you got to chapter length. That’s something I’ve been wrestling with lately.

  10. I try to keep my chapters the same length as well, about ten pages, but it doesn’t always work. And “Goals-Too-Big” should be my middle name!

    One of the “joys” of being a pantser is going where the story takes you. Can always be ironed out later, and it sounds like it’s getting continually more interesting as you go. Don’t you love it when our characters don’t give a **** what we want?

  11. I’m glad your writing is on track. Mine is spotty at best. I’m with you, I love being a pantser. There’s something so fun about not knowing where the story will..and also frustrating too. But even with that frustration, I love it! Have fun!


  12. Glad you’re back on track with your writing!

    I’ve learned to give myself more time than I think I’ll need for pretty much every project, especially any type of home improvement. If the instructions say the bookshelf will take thirty minutes to put together, I tack on another hour. 🙂

  13. Just keep writing.
    I am very picky about uniform chapters.
    Did you know the Imagine Dragons all shaved their beards for their appearance on the Tonight Show?

    • I didn’t. Wanted to make the appearance clean-shaven, eh?

  14. I hear you on making sure everything gets set up in the right way and in the right order – I have that issue sometimes when I’m plotting, just needing to make sure it all fits together in the right way. It’s why I tend to stick to stuff with only one or two POV characters. >_< As for chapter length, I have to constantly remind myself not to worry about it, as I like it when I can finish a chapter at the end of a day's writing session, and I really don't like starting a new chapter (especially if there's a POV switch) in the middle of a session. But I tell myself that all that matters is writing the book, and keep at it.

  15. Love that you have an accountability partner. That would be good for me. I think one scene a week is awesome. I might copy that. *clicks on radio* *whispers* “Copy that.” 🙂 I amuse myself. Um… Yes, I set goals too high. Or I set goals that are unattainable with my lifestyle. I’m not sure. Now you’ve got me thinking… Anyway, yay you! Hope you’re still on track as I’m late to the party.

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