This post originally appeared on the Book Marketing Tools website in October, 2015 (click here to view it).
So you intend to write a book. Many, many people do, but there are just a few who seem to actually get it accomplished. You’re not Stephen King or J.K. Rowling who make enough money off of their books so that writing gets to be their job. You’ve got bills to pay, mouths to feed, and a roof to provide.
But, guess what?
There was once a time when Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and a whole host of other well-known, well-paid writers had to do things other than writing to get their bills paid, mouths fed, and roofs provided, too. Just search for their bios and you will find that at one time, they worked other jobs (sometimes crappy ones) before they hit it big with their writing. But, still, they got their books done.
How did they do it?
On those same searches, I’m sure you can find out how Stephen King and J.K. Rowling got their writing done while living a whole other life, too. (I know you can in Stephen King’s On Writing book.) I’m not sure what they are, but I have a method that works for me.
Maybe it can work for you, too.
The key is organization. You need to know where you need to spend your time, where you want to spend your time, and have a way to budget that time.
Get a handle on the project
First, evaluate your project’s scope. What’s involved? How long will it take to complete each task? Make a list of all of the things you need to do to complete your book along with the time you think it will take to complete each task (adding 20% to provide flexibility). Don’t feel like you need to list out every single last detail; feel free to group things. For example, you can have the task of “plan publishing” and allow one month or “beta reading” allowing three months. Then, you need only put “plan beta reading” on your calendar at the appropriate time; then you can do another plan for that set of tasks.
Schedule your to-dos
Next, put your tasks in the order in which they need to be completed, somehow identifying which tasks could be done simultaneously. Now, look at your schedule of other things to which you are obligated – like your outside job, kids’ activities, grocery shopping, etc. – and realistically choose a due date for publication, taking into account all of your obligations. Be realistic and give yourself plenty of time, but not too much time that you feel like you can put off getting started.
Work backward and note due dates for each of the other items on your to-do list that need to get done in order to get to publication. Using whatever calendar you use, insert those due dates. Along with the completion date, calendar dates to begin the tasks, and even intermediate dates (“continue working on x”) if it’s a longer term item.
I used this method to complete my latest novel, Taming the Twisted. When I first started, I wasn’t sure where I was going with it or how long it would take and I had no real timetable because I had other books coming out at the time, so I just committed to writing one hour every weekday. When I had about half of it done, knew where I wanted it to go, and decided I wanted to release it in one year, I implemented this system.
After figuring out how many chapters I had left to write, the beta reading and revision steps, publication steps, and marketing planning steps, I worked backward from my publication date to create my schedule. To get the first draft done in time to do everything else, I decided I could write a chapter each week, which left me plenty of time to finish and have my books in my hands ready to sell at my launch on August 15th.
Get to work
Once you create your plan and schedule your tasks, all you have to do next is make appointments with yourself to complete them, remembering to make your writing craft a priority. If you get off, don’t beat yourself up; just rework your plan and go from there.