We have Netflix to thank for a very important style of storytelling. It had already been around in some shows, such as Firefly, or some of the crime dramas, but Netflix is what has made it mainstream—the bingeable episodic story. As I mentioned, it was already around. Take the graphic Novel. A Graphic Novel might be a twice yearly release of a comic book, compiling six months worth of stories into one place, but aren’t we all thankful to be able to sit and read a perfect bound story in one sitting? Each episode/comic might be standalone, but you knew when you bought it, that there would be a cohesive arc across the entire Graphic Novel. 

Until Netflix, the vast majority of shows suffered under the burden of needing to capture the attention of their audience each and every week. Every episode of Star Trek needed to ensure if this was the ONLY episode you watched, you wouldn’t be lost and you’d know who each and every character was. Not any more. Take the Netflix Original series for the Marvel Knights such as Daredevil and Luke Cage. If you were young enough to pull it off, you could watch the entire season in one night. I was thankful each broke down into two separate arcs under the umbrella of a single story that would tie it all in together at the end. They took lessons from Graphic Novel storytelling, and told a full year of stories told in a single season. They could take their time with an episode in the middle with a ton of exposition, because they knew they had your attention, and you wouldn’t be at that episode without having watched the others. You were in the middle of your binge, and perhaps needed an escape from the excitement, (or relief from the adrenaline rush of the Hallway Scene in Daredevil Season 1, Ep. 2.)

Why do I bring all this up? Because of this, we now have “permission” to  use the same storytelling form. A novel can be episodic like the Netflix series, or the graphic novel. It was a form of storytelling I wanted to employ in Thrice. “If I was directing this book as a show, how would I break this down?” And so I kept that in mind when I outlined the book. Of course, rules and plans like this don’t always go according to the plan. But analyzing stories, and making plans are important, just as Sun Tzu said, (paraphrase) “Always make a plan, even though it will fall apart as soon as you get to the battlefield. But it’s the margin of the plan that prepares your mind for the battle.” Having a structural plan for my outline was important to me, and would provide the skeleton for the flesh of my outline to sit upon. And I’d like to think it’s the better for it, after these two and a half years of work I’ve put into it. 

What are your goals? Have you set any benchmarks you want to reach?

“Of course I have. I want to write a book.”

Ok. That’s your goal? You can do better than that. When do you want that first draft done by? When do you want to have that short story ready for submission to a short-story publication? How long do you expect this piece of work will be? 

Goals are daunting. I get it. But if you’re serious about the craft of writing, you’re going to have to set some goals. Even a hobby wood-worker is going to set some goals. “I want to build a rocking horse for my grandson.” “I’m going to build a cabinet.” Those are good goals. They aren’t general “I’m going to do woodwork.” They have the beginning of a plan, and can start the process. That same wood-worker may inform his wife “I’ll be working in the woodworking shop every Saturday from 9am-noon. He does this, and begins to produce. Maybe it’s drafting, or cleaning and sharpening saws and hammers, but he is dedicating that time to his goal.

Some authors set themselves a word count goal. I do that. Although I tend to look at a week at a time. If I am “on a roll” I might set a high goal of 5-10k words for the week. This sounds daunting, but when you take into consideration that once I start writing I can put out 1000-1500 an hour? 5000 is reachable in a couple morning of work. Even if I’m struggling I can probably hit that low weekly goal. But it took me four years of writing to get to that word count goal as a normal standard. I did it by starting small. 

When I started out, I started by setting a goal of 500 words a day. When I was on a roll, I upped that goal to 1000 a day. Here’s the thing: Anyone can write 500 words a day. Chances are you text that many words a day to friends and family (not to include emails you send at work.) But the secret is this: if you write 500 words, chances are you will not have finished your “thought.” You’ll probably keep going. If those 500 words a day are a struggle to get out at times, that’s alright. Because you still hit your goal, and also probably got through a particularly hard-to-write passage. I have a character I write who always turns out well in the end, but she is not based on any part of my own personality. She’s difficult to write. Often, I have trouble even getting through five hundred words in her story, when I can, in the same time, write 2000 words in someone else’s Point-of-View. But every time I go back and edit and work on her passages, it works well, and my readers say the same. The short goal of 500 words lets you look back and say “At least I got my 500 words in. At least I wrote.”

If you wrote 500 words a day, five days a week for a year, you’d have a 130,000 word body of work. That 100K word novel you’re working on? You can do it. 

What goals have you set for yourself? Do word count goals seem daunting? What other goals can you set yourself that are equivalent?

~ Andrew