Feature Friday: Time to Commit

Chess Board - TwitterI 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?




A to Z Blogging Challenge: M

A to Z Blogging Challenge: Mapping It Out

A to Z Blogging Challenge: M

Do you map things out?

I’m not referring to making a map like a Tolkien book (and please don’t get me started on how geologically impossible Tolkien’s maps are in the first place). I mean, do you map out your writing journey?

First, do you map out your book?

Of course not, you say. I’m a pantser.

You can be a pantser (or at least a plantser) and still have a map. Depending on the genre and style you’re writing in, your book needs certain checkpoints. Some people manage to get them automatically, but I find having the little checkpoints means I don’t have to stop to think about it (which means I spend more time writing). For my current WIP, I’m using “The Hero’s Journey“. It’s can also be called the three-act character arc, although I see it as four acts. Here are the main checkpoints:

  • The starting point/ real world/ normal world: introduce things as they currently are and always have been
  • The inciting moment/ call to adventure: something happens that gives the protagonist a kick in the pants (but he’ll refuse the call)
  • Major plot point/ personal test/ baddie #1: the protagonist gets another kick in the pants. Reluctantly or not, he’ll end up heeding the call this time.
  • Switch over to the adventure/ road/ trials (starts Act 2)
  • Major plot point/ personal test/ baddie #2 (also called a pinch point): puts the protagonist to the test again and reminds the readers there’s a big bad world out there
  • The protagonist starts to figure things out and act on his/her own
  • Major plot point/ personal test/ baddie #3 (2nd pinch point): after the protagonist seems like he might win, the antagonist deals him a blow that shows it’s possible the protagonist won’t win. This leads to emo time for protag.
  • The protagonist, at his lowest, makes a decision to carry on
  • The climax/ showdown/ Big Baddie: battle of one sort or another
  • The resolution

Even if you’re a fly-by-night pantser, your story will almost automatically contain all of those. However, by having a map, you can look to see where you should be heading next any time you get lost. Helpful in preventing those pesky blocks.

So there’s that. But what about your writing career?

I just write for fun.

Good for you. I think you wanted the door down to the left. I mean, you can stay, but this part is more to help you plot out your six-book series.

If you have a number of books you want to write, list them all. All of them. Be honest.

Now, what are you writing first? How long does it take you to write? To edit?

I’m a bit of a hyper-focused Figment with no life and a boredom issue. I schedule 45 days to write my first draft. Then I give myself 15 days off. That gives me some squirming room.

I do a fast, run-through rewrite in about a week. Note that I edit a bit as I go.

Then I send it to betas. I give them four weeks, but I pad that with two weeks if necessary.

More edits. Lots of edits. Finish up covers and blurbs. Then formatting.

All told, because I cycle quickly, I put a book out in three or four months. However, I write short books. You may need a full year… and that’s fine. You just need to know what you need. Because, if you really want to get that ball rolling, you’ll want to start writing your next book while the first one is with the beta readers.

It gets a bit complicated on my end, so there is a spreadsheet. Mostly I just liked messing with a spreadsheet, but it does work.

How do you organize your books? Your writing plans? What has worked (or not worked) for you?

Publishing a NaNoWriMo Book: Making a Schedule


I’ve been told many of you have lives outside of Writing. Apparently these involve things like Work, Family, and School. I have none of these things, but I’m going to help you plan for November as if I do.

First, the big secret to winning NaNo is to know what you have to do to win. If you have a job and a family, you know that you need to write fast and hard (even if you don’t write erotica). If you have lots of free time, you may need motivation. My trick would be to plot your life the way you plot a book.  (Pantsers, this even means you.)

1. Figure out your life

Find or make yourself a calendar. November starts on a Sunday this year, which is very helpful. Make four weekly calendars (like above) and one with just two days. You have November.

Now, fill in the things you cannot clear off your schedule. Apparently taking a month off to write is frowned upon at most jobs and places of education, so enter those first. Don’t forget commute time. If you’re not a Figment, you have to travel the slow way.

Next, figure out family and social commitments. Missing your mate’s birthday because of NaNo is a bit short-sighted.  You may still want people to talk to you if you don’t become world-famous.

If you’re not a Figment (and I believe I’m the only Figment Writer who does NaNo), put in time for things like eating and sleeping. Even if you are a Figment, don’t forget to include time for overpriced coffee. Writers need caffeine.

Once you have all the must do of life in there, see if you can cut anything out. Can you write during lunch? How about during your commute (only if you use public transportation, please)?  If you’ve blocked in television shows but you don’t have a lot of free time, you do realise most shows can be saved for later, right? This is NaNo. Make some sacrifices for your art.

2. Figure out how much time you need

Well before November, take the time to do some writing sprints. You either need to know how many words you write per sprint (twenty out of thirty minute chunks) or how long it takes you to write 500 words.

Do math.  Sorry; there’s no way around this one. If you average 500 words in 30 minutes or less, I would just round it to 500. If you do 212, round it down (very important).

You need to write 2000 words per day. Trust me on this. None of this namby-pamby 1,667 words. Yes, that will get you to 50,000, but it won’t finish a book. You’ll have bad days and appreciate me pushing you.

Trust me.

Now, more math. If you write 500 words in 30 minutes and you need 2000 words in a day, you need to write for two hours. Doesn’t have to be two hours straight, but you need two hours. If you write 200 words in 30 minutes, you need five hours. (I recommend typing classes.)

Schedule in your writing time around your existing schedule. If you find a day where you can’t write the full 2000 words, do extra on another day.  If you can’t schedule in enough time no matter what you do, then consider that you may be overbooked in your life and get a life coach. Or just ignore your other obligations for a month. Again, I’m not judging.

That’s all there is to it. You have planned your calendar for NaNoWriMo. Congratulations.
Next time, we’ll work on some little hacks to keep other things from interfering with your writing time.
Now go do your homework.


Publishing a NaNoWriMo Book: How to Prepare for November

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Last year I wrote a novel during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). No big deal; according to the site, 325,142 other Writers finished a book in 2014.  However, I wrote in November, edited in December, and published in January.

Most of you aren’t Figments. I believe you have to type or handwrite your words, rather than have them appear on the screen when you think them. But if you’re writing a book with the intention of publishing, there’s some NaNo prep you might want to do now that October is officially here.

1) Solidify your idea

Every pantser, gardener, and booper just cried out in pain. “We don’t plan! We run by the seat of our pants!” (Sounds painful, by the way.) If you’re writing just for fun, yes, pants away. (Please don’t take them off. That’s a verb, not a noun.) However, my studies show that the majority of traditionally published novelists plot to one degree or another. (My studies may or may not be other people’s studies that I’m using as an example.)  J.K. Rowling? Plotter.  Tolkein? Plotter. Even Stephen King, who treats plotting like adjectives, does at least get a good concept of his story ahead of time. Since I disagree with him about beautiful, insightful, useful adjectives, I’ll just treat him as an anomaly.

So, to one degree or another, you need a solid idea before you start November. If you’re writing fantasy or historical, you may want a good map. For science fiction, you may want to research the science. For me, it’s getting point A, a random concept and characters, and point Z. Then I make notes of whatever must happen to get me to point Z. It’s not perfect, but it does keep the story rolling. That’s what’s truly important in November: keeping the story rolling.

But, Z, I don’t even have an idea. Yes, you do. Everyone has ideas. Look out your window. If you don’t have a window, politely borrow one (I don’t advocate stealing). Write down the first person you see. It’s dark out my window, so I wrote “shadow”.  From there, I could write something mainstream about a girl with a phobia about shadows or I could write a Figment made up entirely of the shadows of others. More likely to be the latter for me, but I won’t fault you if you go mainstream.

If you’re still really uncertain, go to a site with writing prompts. No, there aren’t any links here. You’re a big Writer now. Learn to use Google. Searching “writing prompts” will likely be the least-triggering thing you’ll search today.

2) Give yourself a timeline

When I wrote Veneri Verbum, I figured out ahead of time how long I needed for hitting each milestone. The entire novel, by the way, had to be written by November 30th, not just 50k. If you want to be published, you need to do the same. Here’s a tip: however long you think anything past first draft stage will take, double it. This will prevent you from having a matching permanent bald spot on one side where you’ve pulled your hair out trying to meet your impossible deadlines. Not that I mind if you want to match with me, but we should at least get t-shirts or something.

My timeline for 2015 goes something like this:

  • October: plot, outline, and research The Big Con
  • November: write The Big Con (I have it broken down a bit more than this)
  • December: pre-edit The Big Con. There are many who will have an issue with this, but I literally forget what I wrote by the next day. I pre-edit early in the month, then I set the book aside for important festivities like the annual Moan About Snow and Wish for Heat Day.
  • January: re-edit The Big Con, which usually involves a rewrite for me. Then find beta readers. Then bribe beta readers with cookies because I didn’t wait for my beta readers when I wrote Veneri Verbum and it shows.
  • February: plot a new book and make more cookies. Wait on beta readers.
  • March: incorporate all changes from beta readers and re-write book again.  Now proofread or get a good Editor. Since Editors are rather evil in my world, I do this step myself, but I advise others to use someone else for their Editor. You may know one who isn’t evil.
  • April: start formatting. This is a necessary step if you are self-publishing. If you’re not, this is where you send off your book to some nebulous Publisher. If Moses could be left safely in a basket by his parents, I won’t judge you for this.
  • May: submit your book to wherever you like (Kindle, Smashwords, Goodreads, Createspace, Lulu). Some people get a proof copy and re-edit. I like to be as surprised by random typoes and color issues as anyone else.

There you have it. I will never again be publishing my book in less than three months; I can only afford to halve my life expectancy once and that was for the first book.

If you want more tips, I feel like making this into a series. Look for the next part eventually. I’m a little iffy on Time; Figment-time doesn’t work the same as people-time. No more than one week. I think I can manage that.

Go. Do your homework now.