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Day Two: Set October Goals

Nano is a challenge that relies on the power of goals. In 2016, over 380,000 participants committed themselves to the audacious task of writing their novel in 30 days. Less than 76,000 fulfilled their commitment. Classic goal setting theory states that goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

I don’t know about you, but I never thought that SMART goals were very inspiring or motivating. Something seemed to be missing. Then I came across HARD goals.

HARD goals are characterized as Heartfelt, Animated, Required, and Difficult. A couple of these require explanation.

Heartfelt relates to how you care about your goals. According to Mark Murphy, “A HARD goal has to be something which promises you more value than any other goal imaginable.” It must grab your heart and inspire commitment.

Animated speaks to a visceral quality of the goal. Murphy explains, “HARD goals are so vivid and alive in your mind that if you don’t reach them, you’d feel like something’s missing in your life.” I think this is one of the major appeals of Nano: it taps into the longing that many people have to write a book. One statistic suggests that 80% of the population hold this desire, so it is a nearly universal instinct. Nano makes achievement of a lifelong goal conceivable.

Required is an aspect that rests with the goal-holder. But I’m guessing that the more the participant believes the goal is required, the more committed she will be to the cause.

Nano heaps plenty of Difficulty into the mix. Couldn’t they have at least picked a month with 31 days? What’s up with that?

HARD goals are so compelling and aligned with a person’s value system that they develop their own momentum.

How can you prepare yourself to take on a HARD goal like Nano in November? One way is to set some HARD goals for yourself in October.

I recommend three flavors of goals. Set goals for:

  • A word-count based goal for daily writing productivity
  • A time-based goal for story development
  • Task completion goals for miscellaneous preparatory step

A word-count based goal for daily writing productivity. If you don’t already have a daily writing practice, establishing one now in October will help ease you into October. I’d suggest shooting for 500 words. The writing could be anything—journaling, sketches for your novel, other fiction, word sprints. The point is to get your juices flowing and to start forming the writing habit. Please remember that nothing written in October can count toward your November productivity.

A time-based goal for story development. In addition to your daily writing goal, you might set a target of spending one hour a day on various story development tasks. These can include working on the plot or character development. We’ll cover ideas at length in subsequent postings.

Task completion goals for miscellaneous preparatory steps. As you work through the “31 Magic Days,” you will receive plenty of suggestions for steps you can take to prepare. Add these to your to-do list and assign due dates.

As you set your goals, remember the characteristics of HARD goals. To the extent that you can weave these qualities into your goal setting strategy, you will provide yourself with motivating goals that will truly feel satisfying to accomplish. This approach will help prepare you for Nano on multiple levels: you’ll develop your goal fulfillment muscles, and you will complete valuable project readiness tasks to facilitate your writing process come November.

Happy Writing!



Visit the Countdown to Nano Program Site for a listing of all the articles in the series.

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