Does trying to decide how long a book will take to write feel like shooting in the dark? Learning how to manage your writing time is vital, especially when you are dealing with traditional contracts (although it’s important for Indies, also), because how long you will need to write your book is the first question agents, editors, or potential box-set partners will want to ask you.
How can you be expected to put a time frame on art? And yet, writers do. You watch others complete their books on time and even have enough time left over for social networking and marketing. Honestly, how do they do it?
I can provide some insight. But first, here’s the update I promised.
As you may recall, I had some tight deadlines to meet in the past couple of months. I promised you an update on how that went and what I learned. How did I do?
I tried very hard to finish Deceptive Tide by the deadline I set, but I had to switch to writing Hills of Nevermore or miss my deadline for that book, disappoint my publisher, and possibly jeopardize my contract, I postponed doing this as long as possible, which made my second deadline a sprint to the finish line. While I’m waiting for edits to come back on Hills of Nevermore, I’ll work to complete Deceptive Tide. Afterward, I’ll hunker down for an editing marathon on Hills of Nevermore.
Now you know how I spent my summer vacation.
Let my mistake in allowing two book projects to collide be a cautionary tale for you. Could I have prevented this? Yes, if I’d chosen to suffer more to bring Deceptive Tide out sooner, but that’s hindsight knowledge.
A better way of managing my writing time that I’ll employ from here on out is to know what I am capable of before I plan. How is this possible? Read on.
How to Manage Your Writing
The most important thing I took away from my learning experience is an understanding of my own capabilities and limitations. Here’s what I learned that led me to this important information.
- Aim high, but set attainable goals. Being in a situation where I had to write, no matter what, still did not increase my word count to the sky-high levels for which I hoped. I eventually came to the horrifying and liberating realization that no effort of my will can cause me to write any faster than I can write. My goal was 5,000 words per day. Wouldn’t that have been sweet? I have read of other authors who can write this amount of words and even more in a day, and I’ve always been jealous. I was hoping to leverage my panic over my deadline to reach new word-count heights, but it didn’t happen. I can’t write that fast yet, if I ever will, and that’s okay.
- Challenge your limits. I am capable of more than I thought I could do, however. The stress of the situation taught me that I could write twice (and on a good day, three times) the amount of which I had previously thought myself capable. Before my deadline, I only wrote 500 to 1,000 words a day, and that was writing full-time. I can now write between 2,000 and 3,500 words in a day, comfortably.
- Pare down other commitments to the minimum. I can’t meet a deadline in a crisis and keep pace with my regular schedule. When a situation warrants, I need to clear the deck of everything else. This is why I took a brief blogging sabbatical from Live Write Breathe. I knew my followers were behind me on this, and that meant the world to me. Going forward, I’ll continue posting content to Live Write Breathe, because it’s important to me, but I’ll cut back on other commitments that impact my ability to meet my writing goals.
- It’s possible to write a quality novel in a shorter, more intense, time frame. I probably gave it the same amount of time I would have if I’d stretched the writing over months. I just dallied less. I will say that taking longer is more fun and a lot easier, though. As with all of these lessons learned, this is what helped me. Your mileage may vary.
- Delegating to others who support you can make a huge difference. My family members are the unsung heroes here. They stepped up to help with meals, laundry, and dishes so that I could have two weeks to write without having to take care of mundane tasks. I understand that not everyone has a supportive family network, but there are still ways to subtly delegate, if need be. Now that the crisis is over, I won’t go back to doing everything I did at home before. My family now understands that I need their help to allow time to build my writing career. Thankfully, they are each willing to do their part to make that happen. They actually had a lot of fun cooking (plus we got to eat some interesting meals).
Final Thoughts from Janalyn
Whether you plot or write on the fly doesn’t matter. You will still need a working knowledge of how long it takes you to finish a book. If, like I did, you have a hard time estimating this, I hope you can glean from my experience.
Note: If you want release information and more news on Deceptive Tide, Hills of Nevermore, and the other books I write, sign up for my author newsletter.
Over to You
Do you have any additional advice that might help me or another writer reading this post? Or can you relate to this struggle? Leave a comment and let me know!