Setting Goals

Over on his extremely good blog, Rabbiting On, my good friend Dave Hartley, discussed setting goals for writing. His way of setting goals for each month for his novel writing is a smart one, which I was definitely going to steal, pass off as my own and potentially make piles of actual real money from.


I am, as regular readers will no doubt know, writing a novel. Two novels actually. One, Cowards is a complete first draft, which is currently being read. The second, currently untitled was in a very early stage, at 15,000 words and about two chapters. I was settling down into the plotting and I was beginning to get a handle on the characters too.

Then a week ago, we were robbed.

I’m not talking about some hyperbolic football, 5-0 ‘we were robbed’, I mean literally, the smashed windows, stuff gone, terrifying sort of robbed. Whilst we were talking to the police, and listing everything that had been taken, I realised that of the many things I had lost, my latest novel was one of them (my first, luckily had been backed up and sent to a reader).

Jonathan Lethem would be proud. He is one of a few writers who recommends deleting first drafts before beginning anew. In his Paris Review Interview he remarks that he never keeps hold of them so as to maintain an illusion of perfection.

“There’s no paper trail, I destroy the traces of revision.”


When I added up what I had done, what I had lost, I realised that actually, it was an opportunity to sit down, plan properly and work out a series of goals, that, like Dave and a great many writers I know, I can use to meet the single overriding goal of the year: Complete another draft of novel one, a finish the first draft of novel two.

There are, of course lessons to be learned. Do not have smashable glass, back up all your work, do not buy a sign that reads ‘Please Burgle Us’ or anything like that. But in reality, I’ve managed to see this as a kind of positive, a way to, instead of meander through a draft without planning things out and aiming for something each month, to sit down and set myself some targets.

This month then, with only a week or so left, I’m going to start off simply. My goal for January is to rewrite the synopsis of the novel. I can then look to February to begin the actual writing part.


2 thoughts on “Setting Goals

  1. i knew fabricating a break-in would make you see the value of setting goals. it was a drastic step but I won’t pretend it wasn’t fun. now, the thing is, I was going to give you all your stuff back but, you see, well we were robbed. The sneak thieves broke into our house and stole all your stuff. Sorry. I knew I shouldn’t have taken that ‘Please Burgle Us’ sign.

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