Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

An Idea For Balance for the New Year…

Combining Challenges…

This is sort of a simple idea, but it has some catches to it. A lot of writers I know are setting writing goals for the new year. And publishing goals as well. I have my publishing goal half set, my writing not so much.

And I have been focusing on exercise and on losing a few more pounds. (How cliche is that for a New Year’s goal?) So need goals there as well.

So here is how I have been looking at each segment. Time.

Exercise… I want to get back to 10,000 steps a day streak. For me that’s five miles. One to two miles are just my normal moving around, going from our place down to our office, that sort of thing. A few errands. But that leaves over 6,000 steps a day I have to make time for. That’s about an hour of a good solid walk.

So rounding up, going to call it 1.5 hours of focus time. I can do that every day to stay healthy.

Losing weight… That will follow if I eat better while doing the steps. No time involved there at all.

Publishing… Doing Smith’s Monthly and short story publishing is going to take a bunch of time. I figure about ten hours a week will get me to where I want to be with all that. So at least another 1.5 hours a day. I can do that too, although more than likely it will be 5 hours on two days. That will get me to my 70 books published and I might add in 70 short stories standing alone as well. Just for fun.

Writing… How I figure time on writing is about 1,000 words an hour (and that is with a break in the hour.) So for a challenge, I need to set a floor amount, something I can hit without an issue every day, get a streak going to give it power. When I am counting word count at the end of the year, I only count consumable words that make me money in some way or another, not emails or responses to assignments or questions answered. I don’t count that.

But I do count my blog, introductions to books and magazines, and fiction writing.

Also remember I have a day job. I am the CFO of WMG Publishing Inc., and I am the front person on the workshops, and I get upwards of 200-300 emails a day. That is my “day job” and it takes time and screen time on my one eye. So I have to keep that in mind as well.

The coming year will not be easy. 2021 is when we pull out of this mess, I hope, but it will take the entire year with a lot of ups and downs. Got to expect that. So I want to take that into account when setting a writing challenge I can keep.

My first thought (since I always go big) was 5,000 words a day, easy for me normally, on normal days, but one bad day and I would miss that and kill the streak. That is five hours of time. Not a good idea if the idea is to set a streak and make it powerful, like my blog streak is for me.

So it needs to be some level of word count that I can hit on the really bad days without much of an issue.  So I finally decided on 2,000 words for a floor. Most days I will do far over that number, but 2,000 words I can hit on just about any day. Only two hours of writing.

Steps 1.5 hours

Publishing 1.5 hours

Writing 2 hours.

Daily total of 5 hours. Easy. 

So my publishing challenge is set. Steps and Writing set.

So for the streak, I’m going to combine two challenges. Steps and writing.

A friend of mine up north does an occasional challenge of 10 and 10. Ten thousand steps a day and ten thousand words a day. She keeps it up for a week or a long weekend. Works great but is all-day consuming each day for her.

So my challenge is going to be 10 and 2. Ten thousand steps, two thousand words a day.

My streak (even with sore feet) is on day two. That’s right, I started yesterday.

I have under 1,200 words to finish on a short story tonight to hit day two. Already at 12,700 steps. Did both yesterday to see how it felt and it was a slight push, but managed it without a problem.

So this blog is 800 words or so. Off to write some fiction. Got a hunch by the time the evening is over, I will be way past 2,000 words and will be watching a Lifetime Holiday movie.

See how combining challenges can be helpful if you stop and figure it all out?




  • Victoria Goddard

    I’ve fallen afoul of over-committing time for my goals and not being able to maintain streaks because of that, so this is a helpful way of looking at it. I’m thinking 2 and 2 might work for me — 2 hours of physical activity and 2 hours of writing — as my ‘streak’ goal. Hard to say walking specifically because once the snow comes it’ll be snowshoeing! Or maybe some indoor push-ups or something, though I’ve never done more than a few days of a streak of those. It’s good to have a dog to force me out in inclement weather.

  • Mihnea Manduteanu

    Very motivating post this one. Where will you monitor the streak(s)? Excel, a notebook, one of those day to day apps? Anyway sounds like something I would get on. I found that streaks for me also need a sort of middle ground, or, if you want, an OT loss like they have in hockey. Was thinking of setting 3k words as the floor but allowing 2k as a “draw”. I know it would make more sense to just put 2000 words as the floor but I found that I works better for me , mentally, if there are days when I hit a par.

  • Philip

    Dean – between your blog and workshops, I’ve learned a lot about writing and publishing. I must say, though, that my favorite topics are when you discuss challenges, streaks, and general math of the business. It’s taught me how to break things down into bite-sized goals because, as you say, you don’t need to be fast or superhuman, you need to be consistent and it all adds up.

    I modified my 2021 challenge to something insane but it will be legendary if I can pull it off. I want to do the chalenge you set out in my favorite post (which I constantly re-read) and that is the Making A Living on Short Fiction Alone. I’m going to try for 15 stories per month, wide through D2D, and priced at $2.99 each. This will require about 2,500 word per day. In October 2015, I wrote and published 30 stories (this was right before I discovered your blog) and it was awesome, so I know I can do it again.

    Believe it or not, the biggest challenge is critical voice is telling me (1) short stories don’t sell enough, so put them in Kindle Unlimited since a “borrow” is a lower bar and (2) $2.99 is too much. However, I’ve ran the numbers and your plan only requires 1 sale in a MONTH. That’s very doable. Thing is, when I did it in Oct 2015 it was all smut shorts which are huge in Kindle Unlimited. Now I’m focusing on westerns and mysteries etc. I’m telling critical voice to be quiet and forging ahead.

    • dwsmith

      Have fun and that is something completely possible. I have no down four different months where I wrote thirty stories in a month, regular stories, not flash fiction. So very possible and sounds like fun, actually.

  • Maree

    For me it’s better to cascade behaviors.
    If I’m in bed at a good time I wake up early and easily.
    If I’m awake early I start writing.
    If I’ve been writing for a while my brain gets tired and I need some exercise to clear it.
    If I’ve been up for a few hours and been for a run then I crave a hearty healthy breakfast.
    And so on.

    The best thing is that even if I occasionally don’t get to bed as early as I should the habits of it all assert themselves and I still mostly follow the routine.