Thursday, March 07, 2013

Writing Schedules

At the 2012 Darkover con, I took part in a panel on “how to make yourself write.” In that session I publicly announced my intention to commit myself to a regular writing schedule once I quit my day job. Well, as of December I’m “retired” (if it’s possible, technically, to retire from a part-time job), and I’ve started collecting Social Security. So, having committed myself, I’ve begun implementing my plan. Some notes on how it’s working out:

A while back, it dawned on me that at a rate of 1000 words a day, an author would complete the draft of a novella in a month and a standard-length novel in three months. It takes me about two hours, sometimes less, to churn out 1000 words. Even I, methodical and often downright sluggish as a writer, can force myself to write for two hours in a day, given an available chunk of time that size. Following that schedule, over the span of mid-January through mid-February I did produce a novella to submit to one of my publishers for a March 1 deadline.

One thing I discovered is that, in practice, I won’t be writing for two hours, seven days a week. Two of the weekdays are a little crowded, so my output on those turns out to average closer to 500 words. Also, Sunday afternoons typically have to be set aside for this weekly blog, my monthly blog for the VampChix site, and working on my monthly author newsletter. So I can complete a 20,000-word novella in about a month, but probably not a 30-000-word one. A full-length book would take closer to four months than three; however, my typical novel is closer to category length. Given enough viable plot concepts I could get excited about, I could produce a novel and two novellas (or two or three short stories), or more than two novellas and short pieces, per year with plenty of time for revision. Plus occasional travel and the inevitable down time between projects.

One of the other panelists at that Darkover session asked whether I counted other kinds of writing-related activities in the daily two-hour commitment: Revision? Editing? Outlining? Promotional activities? The mechanics of submitting to publishers? I waffled on that answer because I hadn’t thought about it before.

I’ve decided rewriting, editing, and galley proofing definitely count as legitimate activities for the “writing” slot of the day. The part of the outlining stage that’s done on the computer counts. The preliminary handwritten phases (e.g., rough notes on characters and plot points), I think, get done at other times of the day or week. Promotional stuff doesn’t apply against the two hours because promotion isn’t writing (any more than grocery shopping and paying bills are housekeeping, even though some people who give advice on managing household chores count them as such). Neither is correspondence with editors.

In addition to scheduling definite times for writing and my writing-related commitments (blogs and newsletter), I’ve resolved to do at least one promotion-related thing per week. I belong to a couple of lists specifically set up for sending out excerpts and announcements, yet weeks or months go by when I don’t post anything. Without a commitment to motivate myself, I easily “forget” to take advantage of such opportunities.

How do you “make yourself write”? What kind of schedule, if any, do you follow? I’m always interested in other writers’ working processes. Maybe somebody knows “the secret”!

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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