I can tell you all sorts of secrets for getting your book written. Once you have it written, I can give you all sorts of tips for getting it to market. However, until you’ve actually committed yourself to doing it, it’s not going to happen.
“Well, of course I’m committed. I keep reading your lousy blog for advice, don’t I?”
That just means you’re committed to learning how to do it. You haven’t committed to doing it.
“Okay, semantic-laden Figment, how do I commit to doing it?”
Set a deadline.
I’ve heard all the excuses (really). Don’t bring me your excuses. I’ve used them myself and probably made them funnier (because, well, I’m funny). There are no excuses.
You can work to a deadline, even if you’re a creative.
You can write a full-length novel, even if you’re the busiest person ever.
The only reasons you can’t finish a book by your self-imposed deadline are either that you were too ambitious or you quit.
We don’t do quitters. You can modify your deadline if life happens or you can suck it up for a little while and pretend you don’t have a choice, but you don’t quit. Clear?
Now, let’s work on the ambitious part.
In order to set your deadline, you have to know how many days per week you are going to write, how many hours (or minutes) a day you can commit to writing, and how long your book is going to be.
“But I don’t know that! This is hard!”
It does involve math, so I’ll try to simplify it.
Do an exercise for me right now. No, not later. If you have the five minutes it takes to read this post, you have the five minutes it takes to do the exercise:
Write for five minutes about a talking tree.
“But I haven’t done any research.”
If you really can’t figure out what to write about a fantasy talking tree, fill in the gaps with [look this up later]. You can even count it toward your word count total. If you cheat and write nothing but [look this up later] for all five minutes, I will write you into a book as a snot-eating toddler. I promise.
“But I don’t do well under pressure.”
I can’t make you do this, but if you don’t at least try, I have a team of ninja fox memes standing by to steal all your favorite books while you sleep. It’s not pressure. It’s motivation. You want to write a book.
Shuttup and write. Er, sorry. Bad manners. Suck it. Write.
Five minutes later.
How many words did you write? Multiply it by 12. (You have permission to use a calculator.) That’s your words per hour.
How long is your book going to be? The minimum for a real novel (regardless of NaNoWriMo teaching people that 50k is a book) is about 60k, and that’s short. Better to shoot for long and be pleasantly surprised when it comes together early. I usually plan for 100k. I am always pleasantly surprised.
How many days per week will you write? I know the maxim to write daily. Throw that out. You should use your writing skills daily, yes, but no one does a job every single day unless they want to burn out. Pick six days or five days or even just three. Just make sure those writing sessions are sacred.
How many hours/ minutes will you write each time? I strongly recommend one-hour blocks when you can, but if you can’t, work with it. You can always do more math (divide your words per hour by 60 for your words per minute) to do the math later. The important part to this step is to know how much time you have for each writing session. This is an appointment! It’s sacred! Only reschedule it if you wouldn’t show up for your day job for the same reason (death in the family, illness, etc.) You do not have to schedule the same amount of time each day, either. It’s just easier if the time periods are similar.
How long will it take you? Here’s the most math for this whole shebang. If you write 1000 words in an hour (approximately 17 words per minute) and you will write a total of 210 minutes per week, you can write 3500 words per week.
Breathe deep. You can do this.
If you are writing a book that you estimate will be 100,000 words, it will take you about 29 weeks to write it. (100,000 divided by 3500 words per week.)
You can write a book, even on a meager 3500 words per week, in a little more than six months.
“Why not make my goal more ambitious?”
Set yourself up for success with this first novel, not failure. I mean, don’t be a baby about it. If you know you can write 5000 words a week, do it. But be realistic. Have a life on the side.
So, the final step for this is to get a calendar. Buy one, make one, go online. But have an actual, physical calendar. Please don’t tell me how awesome your online calendar is. Get a physical one for this. Please.
In ink, schedule out your writing time. You can move it for emergencies, but the ink tells you it’s meant to be important and permanent.
Below your writing time, write how many words you need to hit. Maybe you end up with some overtime. You’ll get faster as you start to figure out that daydreaming doesn’t get you out of school any faster.
Now, every single day that you are scheduled, sit down and write the words until you hit your goal for that day. When you’ve finished, put your total actual words below the words you need to hit.
Don’t stop. Don’t tell yourself it’s bad; it probably is. The point isn’t to be good for this first draft of a first novel. The point is to finish something.
“I hate you.”
That’s the spirit. Warms the cockles of my heart. Now, finish the book.
Then we’ll work on the rest.
So, did you do it? Did you carve out your writing time? Did you have to modify this plan at all?