Saturday, September 8, 2012

Stick to the Schedule

Stick to the Schedule

Back from when I first started writing, I have the manuscripts of five novels that I'll never publish. First, they aren't very good. Second, while long, none of them is complete.

I ran out of steam two-thirds or more of the way through. Let them drift. Lost them.

So one thing I've learned is to establish a writing schedule. If you have trouble getting through a novel, don't fall into either of two bad traps:

  1. Decide you're going to go back and do revisions before writing any more;
  2. Decide to put the book away for a little while and then get back to it.
Problem with the first is that you're apt to get caught in an endless loop, seeking perfection with what you have before bringing the novel to a close. You can't be perfect, and neither can the book. It's vital to have a whole block of marble before you begin to chip away to release the statue inside.

And you have to have a whole book before you can meaningfully revise it.

Problem with the second is that we all procrastinate. Well, I don't, but I'm planning to do it tomorrow, maybe.

Seriously, it's so easy to let it slide, until it's slipped beyond your grasp. The novel becomes a stillbirth, dead before it lived.

Avoid this by creating your own schedule for writing. It does not have to be onerous, but you do have to be dedicated to it. Most writers I've talked to have a writing time - Every day at five a.m. or nine p.m. or whatever, they sit down and write for an hour, or two, or four, or eight. Adjust to your life. 

If you give writing one hour a day, every day, for a year, you'll have a novel.

I prefer, however, to have a target. On an absolutely perfect day, I've written as many as 10,000 words. That's very rare. 

My target is 1,000 words. Every day. Seven thousand words a week, minimum. I almost always do more, 1,500 or 2,000, but I have to stay at the keyboard until I've hit at least a thousand.

A thousand words a day. In twelve weeks, you'll have a draft of a nearly 100,000-word novel.

It may not be perfect, it may need cutting and fixing and trimming and editing, but it's there. It's your block of marble.

And now you can chip away until you've uncovered your Galatea.


  1. Excellent, as always. But there are some exceptions to the Never stop to revise what you've got rule. Dan Simmons is the most notable example. I wouldn't advocate this approach for everyone, but some writers reb their confidence and reinforce their sense of whee their work is going by working in, let's call them movements vs. blocks of marble. Not 10 o4 20 page sections. A movement might be anywere from 100-200 pages. Thank God there are no absolutes, eh?

    1. No way to edit that I can see. So: line three's fifth word should be rev and word thirteen should be where. Line four's new sentence should begin Not 10 or 20-page

    2. Hey, man, you can reb all you want!

      And you're right, there's no one-size-fits-all rule. I may say something about that later on.