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May 4, 2011 / Chersti Nieveen

How to make (and keep) a writing schedule

For the May is Utah Author month, today’s archive highlight is Ally Condie. Check out my review of MATCHED here.

I ran into one of my absolute favorite professors the other day in the store. And when I told her I was writing full-time, she asked, “How’s that working for you – are you sticking to a schedule?”

And to my great relief, the true answer was, “Yes!”

But the thing is, days later I kept thinking about that answer over and over again. Because, while I am right where I want to be on this revision, I feel so far behind! But things are coming so well together in this last revision, and I want this version of my story to be the best I can possibly make it. I don’t just want to publish–I want to publish well. I want to take the time to get it right.

How to make a writing schedule:

1. I went through and outlined each of my chapters and made a list of what needed to be changed. Since I am working on two stories at once (one is a revision to take to my writing conference), I format it as such.

Invisible | write chapter 22

TLO | revise chapter 21 (short list of needed revisions)

And since I am an organized freak, I color code it for easy reference.

2. I set up a document of some sort where I record my writing. This can be a writing log, a spreadsheet or a word doc. I use a word doc with tables. The point of this is so you can be accountable for your writing. Is your goal to write 1,000 words that day? Well you have a column to report on what you actually did. It helps you see where you wasted time. [sidenote: I also use a time tracker so I know exactly where my time went, since I am so bad at doing that just on my own.] Why is it important? Because then you can go back and see where you can improve?

3. I separate my goals into days until my project is done. This requires me to estimate how much time each things will take (write a chapter – 2 hours). Sometimes my estimate falls short or runs long, but overall this helps me stay focused on the task.

4. I personally added to my tracker all the list of things I had to do in my life for that day. (Laundry? I give myself an hour to do that.) I then try to do those other things during my writing breaks, if possible. But that helps me set realistic goals. Tuesday is when my writer’s group currently meets, and so I block out enough time on Tuesday to read/critique any submissions and to actually attend group. So my writing load is a lot lighter that day. I also schedule my reading days here. Crazy, I know, but that really helps me stay focused when I want to kick out a project. And I can always sneak in a chapter before bed.

How to keep a writing schedule:

Work out your schedule above and stick to it. That means saying ‘no’ a lot. Of course, there are always things that come up. That’s life. But if you are serious enough, you find ways around it. I like to think about my projects and work them out in my head, and then when it is time to sit down, I give it 100% of my focus. (I still write everyday. It’s just usually another project.) So I take those 4-8 weeks of revision / initial writing seriously and I CUT OUT ALL THE FAT. That includes talking on the phone with friends for hours, chatting on IM, lots of twitter/facebook time, games and movies, and even making my extravagant meals. I stick with the basics and try to get everything done as quickly as possible. And yes, sometimes I do write during (the commercials) of my favorite TV show… because I just can’t give up Castle or Doctor Who.

The big thing is: you set your daily tasks and you do them. Try to work ahead, because you will ultimately fall behind.

Well, there you have it. Hope it help!

Do you have any tips to add? Anything that helps you stay on track?

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7 Comments

  1. Joel Smith / May 4 2011 8:21 am

    While I haven’t set myself a writing *Schedule*, I have set deadlines. Self-appointed deadlines have done wonders for me. I’ll be poking along in a very slow manner, but after I’ve set a deadline to finish a draft, it’s full steam ahead!

    The best part for me is when I really get some momentum going I often find myself ahead of where I need to be to meet my deadline, which then allows me to do some tweaking before the deadline (full-novel critiques are the best deadlines as you will be sharing the finished manuscript, so there is incentive to do a good job).

  2. Liz / May 4 2011 5:41 pm

    Wow, that is crazy. Wish I could be that organized. I should probably at least write down my goals, tho.

  3. Writer J / May 4 2011 6:19 pm

    thanks for this

  4. Leisha Maw / May 5 2011 6:22 am

    I love the idea of creating a spreadsheet to track what I actually accomplished. You are so organized. Thanks for the kick in the butt. 🙂

  5. Chersti Nieveen / May 6 2011 10:11 am

    Thanks for you comments, guys!

Trackbacks

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