Keeping a Writing Schedule

Over the summer I blogged about making a writing schedule and designed one in Excel that set aside 14 hours a week for writing. At the time, a lot of you wrote in the comments section that this was an impressive, amazing, unbelievable goal, but I didn’t heed your warnings. I kept looking at the Excel sheet and thinking, but it fits. I have four hours of free time every day after work. If I just cut out TV time and doing the dishes a few times a week…

In reality, it ended up being an ideal writing schedule, not a practical one. I dreamed of regularly waking up at 6:00 am to write for an hour or two (yeah right), didn’t take into account all the hours of research I still needed to do for my Byberry book, which cut into fiction writing time, and I didn’t allow room or flexibility for anything to go wrong (for example, I wanted to  write on my lunch break every day, but a lot of lunch breaks I ended up needing to call repair men, schedule doctors appointments, etc.). I’m not saying writing 14 hours a week is impossible (though it definitely was for me at the time last year), but the schedule didn’t fit into my real life schedule, so it didn’t work for me.

To create a more practical and realistic–but still challenging–writing schedule, I decided to do some research on myself and my habits, so I could create a more catered-to-me plan. The reason I was really inspired to do this was that 2013 Business Plan I mentioned before. The first week of January, I set end-week word goals for myself, but I’ve been consistently behind schedule. I wasn’t really expecting too much of myself, I thought–just 5,000 words a week–but still I wasn’t meeting that quota. And it was so frustrating, because I wanted to finish my WIP so I could rewrite the first draft and actually have a finished manuscript I could be proud of. One that I could share with my critique partners and get that pins and needles feeling you get when someone is reading your book and you need them to finish and then fangirl with you over it. I’m dying to stop thinking of myself as a writer in theory and actually be a writer in practice.

To do this, I started keeping track of when I was naturally putting my butt in the chair, for how many hours, and how many words were produced in each session. From this, I was hoping to develop a routine.

So that’s what I’ve done for the past three months.

Week 1 (January 14-January 20):

Total Writing Time: 2.5 hours

Total Weeks Word Count: 2,550

Week 2 (January 21-January 27, aka the week of archive research for Byberry):

Total Hours Spent Writing: 0

Total Week’s Word Count: 0

Week 3 (January 28-February 3):

Total Writing Time: 3 hours

Total Week’s Word Count: 3,352

Week 4 (February 4-February 10):

Total Writing Time: 3.5 hours

Total Week’s Word Count: 7,851

Week 5 (February 11-February 17, aka the week of the Death Cold):

Total Writing Time: 0

Total Week’s Word Count: 0

Week 6 (February 18-February 24):

Total Writing Time: 0.5 hours

Total Week’s Word Count: 1,071

Week 7 (February 25-March 3):

Total Writing Time: 2 hours

Total Week’s Word Count: 4,000

Week 8 (March 4-March 10):

Total Writing Time: 3.5 hours

Total Week’s Word Count: 4,389

Week 9 (March 11-March 17):

Total Writing Time: 3 hours

Total Week’s Word Count: 4,237

Week 10 (March 18-present):

Total Writing Time: 4 hours

Total Week’s Word Count: 6,413

TOTAL WRITING TIME (3 Months): 22 hours

TOTAL WORD COUNT (3 Months): 33,863

I was averaging about three hours of writing time a week, with about four thousand words a week. Not a stellar writing schedule, but it was consistent enough that the WIP was steadily growing, little by little. (For the revision process, which is more about time than word count, I’d like to boost it to a regular 5-6 hours of writing a week. We’ll see how that goes.)

I found that just keeping myself accountable, by writing down how much time I was actually dedicating to writing, and how many words I was producing, it helped me stay on track. It kept me from wandering off for a week or two at a time, distracted by other activities.

I’m happy to announce that as of midnight last night, I have a 54,000 word complete manuscript! All total, it probably took about four and a half months to write. It’s YA, post-apocalyptic, set in an abandoned hospital, and plague-ridden. It’s a mess of a first draft and needs a lot of work. But it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It has characters that are really taking form and who I like. I’m so excited about it! It’s taking all my willpower not to tear into a revision right now, but I’m going to let it sit and simmer for exactly two weeks, so I can get some distance before rereading it and evaluating all its shortcomings.

Until that time, I can just admire how pretty and shiny and hefty the manuscript is on my hard drive. :]