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November 02, 2006

NaNoWriMo Daily Incremental Goals Formulae

Getting to 50,000

Note: This entry is very long, with lots of numbers and math. I promise it's not actually as complicated as it looks. If you don't care about NaNoWriMo and/or hate math, though, you might want to move along.

Over the past few years, I've developed1 a system for calculating daily incremental word count goals for NaNo. When sitting down to write, the day's goal can often seem overwhelming. It sounds like so much. Writing a list of smaller goals makes it all seem much more achievable. This system has two big advantages. Reaching multiple smaller goals allow you to feel a more frequent sense of accomplishment, which helps you keep going. And the goals are close together, so when one is reached, the next always seems so close that it seems silly not to try for it.

So! Ready to give it a try?

First, define your variables:

A = your current word count
B = daily minimum (1667)
C = your personal daily goal
D = amount you must write each day (including today) to get to goal: (50,000-A)/(31-E) [yes, 31, not 30. Math is weird.]
E = day of the month

Calculate the following:

The first five are the "reasonable" goals.

1. A + B (current word count plus today's minimum. This keeps you as ahead or as behind the NaNo minimum as you already are.)
2. A + C (current word count plus daily goal. This keeps you as ahead or as behind your own goal as you already are. If your goal is greater than the NaNo minimum, this helps you catch up or puts you ahead.)
3. A + D (current word count plus average you must complete to finish on time. Note: if you are behind, this will put you less behind, but if you are ahead, it will put you less ahead.)
4. B x E (today's NaNo minimum, regardless of your current word count)
5. C x E (today's goal, regardless of your current word count)

The next five are the "dream goals." They're basically the above goals plus an extra day. Because really, we all want to get a day ahead, right?

6. A + (Bx2)
7. A + (Cx2)
8. A + (Dx2)
9. B x (E+1)
10. C x (E+1)

Now make a list of goals.

Arrange the numbers in order from least to greatest. Add round numbers in between them - at least every multiple of 500. If you want more goals, add in multiples of 250 or even 100. Also add any of these round numbers between your current word count and the lowest number of 1 - 7.

I promise this isn't as confusing as it sounds. To illuminate things, let's make my goal list for today as an example.

A = 1744 (my current word count)
B = 1667 (daily minimum)
C = 2000 (my personal daily goal)
D = (50,000-1744)/(31-2) = 1664 (amount I must write per day to make it)
E = 2 (since it's November 2)

1. 1744 + 1667 = 3411
2. 1744 + 2000 = 3744
3. 1744 + 1664 = 3408
4. 1667 x 2 = 3334
5. 2000 x 2 = 4000
6. 1744 + (1667x2) = 5078
7. 1744 + (2000x2) = 5744
8. 1744 + (1664x2) = 5072
9. 1667 x 3 = 5000
10. 2000 x 3 = 6000

Now I arrange them in order:


And I add all the multiples of 250 between my current word count and the highest goal:


Now I write those numbers on a piece of paper and keep it next to me as I write. As I reach each goal, I cross it out. The beauty of this system is that the next goal is always so close that it's easy to trick yourself into writing just a little bit more. For example, today I'm planning to try for Goal 2 (current word count + 2000), which is 3744. But once I get there, I'll see that the next goal is 3750, which is ridiculously close, so I'll write another sentence to get there. And then the next is right there at 4000, so I'll probably keep going... etc. If you like to play mind games with yourself, give it a try.
1 I think I got the original concept from a fellow NaNoWriMo participant several years ago, but I've long forgotten who it was. The details, formulae, and explanations are my own.

Posted by Kat at November 2, 2006 12:51 PM

I'm at 6,624 now, so can I go knit?

I'm definitely going to run this trick tomorrow. My goal number (C) is 2500. I think it'll take me one more day to get a full day ahead. I should hit 10,000 words tomorrow, but if I score a mere 7,500 I won't complain.

Posted by: Ivy at November 2, 2006 02:23 PM
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