It’s a lot easier to do anything when you have a plan, and writing a book is no exception. I’m not talking about plotting at this point but about knowing what you will do and when you will do it. Thinking things through in this way helps you set and monitor goals and lets you think of things you might othewise have missed.
I wish I’d started planning each book project sooner, I’m certain I would have more written by now. Without a plan, it’s easy to just give up when the day has gone wrong and you’re tired. Not that I don’t still do that now, but not as often. Having clarity about what where I’m going and what I want to accomplish sustains me.
Being analytical, I find developing systems fun and am happy to share what I learn so that you can adapt my systems for your own use. There’s no better time to start planning than today.
How to Write a Novel to the End: Easy Plan to Schedule Your Book Project
- Determine your word count. Even if you are self-published and don’t need to write to a specific word count for an agent or publisher, you will probably still want to align to the expectations of your potential audience. This varies by genre, so do your research. A good starting point is this word count guide maintained by agent Terry Burns.
- Decide how many words per scene you typically write. The average is about 1,500, but you’ll want to base your figures on your specific average. Count the words in typical scenes you write or have written, add your totals together, and then divide to come up with an average.
- Assess the number of scenes you will need to write. Divide your total word count by the average number of words you write per scene. The result is the number of scenes to come up with in order to reach your desired word count. I go into more detail on steps 1-3 in Plotting a Novel By the Numbers.
- Schedule writing sessions using a calendar. The kind of calendar you use doesn’t matter, only that you keep track of your writing sessions. If you want to automate your schedule, consider using a calendar system that sends you reminders like Google Calendar. Once you’ve scheduled a session, do everything reasonable to keep it. Allow some margin to help you with this by having a buffer day either weekly or monthly, depending on the pace you set. If you plan to write frequently, you’ll want to schedule a weekly buffer day. If you’ll be writing in weekly sessions, then scheduling a buffer day once a month is fine. If you reach a buffer day your and are on schedule, you can always work ahead.
- Discover how many words you’ll write in a typical session. This takes a little trial and error, but it’s worth the effort. Once you understand how much you’re capable of writing, on average, you plan to avoid overloading your schedule. To do this, track your word count for a few sessions, add the totals, then divide by the number of sessions to obtain your average.
- Divide the total number of words you plan to write overall by the average number of words you’ll write per a session. This gives you a projection of the number of sessions you’ll need to write the first draft of your novel.
- Jot your word count goals for each session in your calendar. Try to meet your word count goal for each session so you can keep pace with your goal and avoid a rush when you reach your deadline.
- Mark the wordcount you expect to reach by each buffer day. That way you can quickly check to make sure you’re on track.
- Set a completion deadline for your first draft. Allow a little margin so you won’t stress if you fall behind your wordcount goals.
- Use the same process to determine your editing deadlines. You’ll probably edit at a different pace than the one you set for writing your first draft. Take time to sort out what that is so you can work out a schedule you can live with.
Finding the right rhythms for your writing and editing processes is essential for writing a novel to the end. Even if you’re not used to scheduling your time, why not give this system a try? You may be pleasantly surprised to see how it increases your writing productivity.