Goal Setting Advice for the 2015 Winter Writing Festival

The Festival starts next week! The Festival starts next week!! (Monday, January 12, to be exact.)

I’m so darned excited, I could spit. Not very ladylike, but true.

To help you get ready, I’m re-posting a blog from previous years about how to get ready and set workable goals:

One of my favorite parts of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s Winter Writing Festival is the fact that you can set your own goals. But of course that means you need to think carefully about what your goals should be to make best use of the Festival’s awesome productivity-boosting power.

Some thoughts on setting effective Festival goals:

If you look at me now, you might not believe this, but back in junior high and high school, I ran track competitively. (I used to be a skinny little muscle-ball. Seriously. I have pictures somewhere….probably buried under a pile of candy-bar wrappers. Sigh.)

Anyhow, as I think about my goals for the Writing Festival, I think about my track days. The wisdom I learned back then applies now.

1. Know which race you’re running.

Apparently, I have some weird combination of “short-twitch” and “long-twitch” muscles, so when I ran track, my coaches assigned me a wide range of races–everything from the manic kangaroo-style dash of 100-meter hurdles to the marshall-your-energy-for-the-very-long-run mind-game of cross-country.

If you went into a hurdles race with a cross-country mind-set, the other racers would cross the finish line before you made your first leap.

If you went into a cross-country race with a hurdles mind-set, you’d leave the others in the dust…for the first five minutes, and then they’d all have to jump over your prone and twitching body once you’d burned out your muscle’s short-term glycogen stores.

The RSSWWF isn’t a sprint, but it’s not a marathon either. At 50 days, it requires a bit more stamina than the month-long NaNoWriMo, but it’s still a fairly short-term and intensive commitment.

The toughest race I used to run was the 800: half a mile.  It was not-quite-a-sprint, not-quite-a-distance-race. You really had to think carefully about just how fast you could go out of the blocks, and you had to sustain that speed for two full rounds of the track.

My advice for the Festival: push yourself, but don’t kill yourself. If NaNo’s 1667 words a day is do-able but kinda exhausting for you, maybe pull back to 1200, or 1000, or even 100.  If you prefer setting an amount of time to write per day, pick a time that will pinch a little, but not make your other commitments impossible to meet. Your family / boss / pets / dirty laundry can be pushed down the priority ladder for NaNo’s 30 days, but 50 days is harder.  Would an hour a day be reasonable? Can you cut out some internet playtime or a TV show to make that possible? Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something you can hang with for seven full weeks.

If you pace yourself right, you might find that your Festival goals can be sustained long after February is gone!


3. Build in some breathers!

Lots of studies have shown that the best way to build aerobic endurance is not by running constantly–it’s by running for awhile, then walking for awhile, then running again. (My track coaches built our lungs with a crueler version of this: “wind sprints,” in which you ran 50 yards at top speed, paused for about ten seconds, then ran back just as fast and kept repeating the process until your coaches felt merciful enough to let you stop. It worked, but it hurt like hell. I like the alternate running / walking thing MUCH better.)

Lots of Festival participants are including goals like “Take Saturdays off to be with family,” or “Take Tuesday and Thursday evenings off.” This isn’t cheating–it’s sound training advice! Some of you may want to write seven days a week regardless, but don’t kill yourself. A little rejuvenation can help you power up and get more done on your “on” days.

And remember, we listened carefully to those of you who told us last year that daily goals don’t work for you, but weekly goals do. So if your life is too chaotic to chunk your work in neat 24 hour cycles, go right ahead and binge and purge as fits you best, and give yourself seven points at the end of each week when you’ve met your weekly goal.

And here’s an idea that may seem radical, but may actually keep you in the game: build in an EASY option for getting a point on days when Real Life gets in your way. Literally, say, “50 new words on a tough day,” or “10 minutes at the keyboard when the day job / kids / house explode on me.” Only choose that option for getting your point when you’re really desperate, but GIVE yourself the point. It will keep you from giving up in frustration…and keep you much more productive in the long run.

4. Depend on your teammates.

Sisterhood is powerful! The best thing about the Festival is we’re doing it as a group.

Announce your goals loud and clear on the Ruby blog on Monday, March 2. Check in regularly on Mondays and let us know how you’re doing. Accountability = big motivation! (Also, we always give away prizes!)

Use the writing sprints! Many participants last year found the writing sprints (held in the chat room over at to be almost magical in their power to make the words flow. We’ll have regular sprints scheduled at all sorts of times, so keep an eye out for the schedule on the Writing Festival homepage! Sprint not scheduled at a time that works for you? During the Festival, feel free to drop by the chat room anytime to see if you can find a partner for a spontaneous “pick up” sprint, or ask a friend to join you there.  (You might want to make “participate in a writing sprint” one of the ways you can earn a Festival point!)

Also, check out the “Brag Blog” on the site. It’s a way you can get a little inspiration and check in on a daily basis! Of course, the more the merrier, so spread the word!! Everyone is welcome to participate!

 Get your writing muscles warmed up, friends! This is gonna be great!!


35 responses to “Goal Setting Advice for the 2015 Winter Writing Festival”

  1. I can’t wait!!!! When you set your goals, really think about giving yourself multiple ways to earn points. A flat number per day goal works for some people whereas time spent works better for others, but you can also give yourself the option of both methods. For example:
    1k a day OR
    participate in on #1k1hr challenge, regardless of word count OR
    show up for one hour of Ruby Sprints, regardless of final word count OR
    2 hours editing or outlining

    Give yourself different ways to succeed. And track your success! You will be AMAZED at what you accomplish!!! (Several writers recently shared word count spreadsheets for tracking–I like both Jaimie Raintree’s and Sidney Bristol’s)

    So excited!

  2. So ready to go!

    (And you know I ADORE all those pics of track athletes! So inspiring!)

    Let’s write!

  3. I love that we can create our own goals. What a great skill to practice! When we sit at our desks each day, we have to come up with our own goals (apart from those set by our editors : ). If we start out without a goal for the day, there is nothing to reach, nothing to celebrate, no destination. So we tend to wander – not very productive.

    I love that the WWF allows you to make your own individual goals. It helps us build a real-life skill that we can, and should, employ everyday.

  4. Gotta start thinking about how to structure my goals this year—I have a lot to get done and I can’t wait for the WWF to start.

    See you on Monday!

  5. My life is different this year, but I plan to join in as much as possible. The sprints are great.

    Right now, I’m working on my characters background and noting some possible scenes, which, as I’m a punster, might never get used.

  6. Liz Talley says:

    I’m ready to start, but I do need to give more thoughts to my goals. Like I know I won’t write every day, but I will think about my story and do research. I’m going to be doing lots of research on couples therapy this go around. I know nothing of that, so it will be challenging, but I will build that into my goals.

    oh, and I know I’ll get revisions soon, so that will have to be built in, too.

    Sigh, I have more goals to iron out than I thought, but I AM EXCITED about the WWF starting!

    See ya in the chatrooms!

  7. I love this post! So motivational.

    I’m still mulling over my goals, but I know it’ll be a combination of generating word count on a new book, judging contest entries, and finding a healthy balance between mental and physical activity. 🙂 Oh, and attending my local chapter meetings.

  8. Rita Henuber says:

    Elisa this is brilliant. Especially “Know which race you’re running.”

  9. Laurie Kellogg says:

    It was great advice the first time and still is. Thanks for the reminders.

  10. I’m excited and terrified to start the winter festival. My son was a runner, track and cross country and I know what he went through, he lived running and training. I’m afraid my life may not be as adaptable to train/write like that. I do the Heart of Carolina Book in a week each month and I have been able to do 10,000 words most weeks but not every time. How do I set my goals? This is all new to me. 500 words a day, five days a week? Any suggestions on how to do this. Is it just for one project because I also write for a local paper and will have to put in time writing articles during this time period.

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Nothing to be scared about, Sherri!

      “500 words a day, five days a week” would be great.
      So would “10,000 words in one week.”

      Remember the power of “OR” between items in your list. You wouldn’t have to hit every one every day / week….you’d just have to hit one to get your point(s).

      AND, you can always revise your goals midway through the Festival if you realize a different approach would work better for you.

      It’s all about helping yourself focus and be productive…so whatever works, works.

      • Thanks, I’m really looking forward to it. There’s several other things going on at the same time so I’ll start with the 500 at least five days a week or 2500 words per week. I am just getting into better habits of making my writing a priority and allowing myself to write and not feel guilty.

  11. Woo hoo! I’m still figuring out my goals, and your tips have come at the perfect time.

    Can’t wait for the fun to begin!

  12. […] YOU set the goals that meet your personal writing style and writing needs. (For more advice on how to set up your goals, see here). […]


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