Imagine this: you haven’t written anything in weeks. Months, even. You’ve been swamped with school or work, and even on your days off, you’re just not feeling inspired. Nothing’s getting written–maybe you’re making some playlists or moodboards, but words on the page? Impossible.
Then, suddenly, inspiration strikes. You write fifty thousand words in a month. You’re feeling amazing! You can write after all! You’re a legend of productivity!
And then, bam. The momentum fades, randomly, and you stop writing again.
Does this sound familiar? I’ve definitely been there. And I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be like this!
You can take control of your productivity and your muses. All you need is a writing schedule.
This guide to creating a writing schedule covers:
- Why writing schedules are important
- How to make a writing schedule that works for you
- Tips for sticking to your writing schedule
- Software recommendations for writing schedules
Why writing schedules are important
So, why put together a writing schedule? Why not just wait around for that flood of creative energy? You may be the type of person to generally resist routine, and the idea of setting up a writing schedule might seem like the fastest way in the world to ruin the fun.
But let’s talk about how writing schedules can transform not only the quality of your work, but also your career as an author.
Consistency and quality
Writing on a schedule will keep you writing regularly. Some people argue that writers must write every single day—we’ll talk a little more about it later, but that’s not necessary. What is necessary is that you are regularly sitting down to write.
This is going to keep your story fresh in your mind, so you won’t lose your connection to the story. It’ll also keep you practicing your prose, which will keep it sharp as can be. Writing is like any other skill: the more consistently you practice, the better at it you will be on average.
The bottom line is this: the muses will not always come. There will be days that you don’t feel like working, and that’s part of being a human. But if you create and stick to a schedule, you’ll eventually train yourself to write when it’s time to write. You may not want to at first, but once you sit down, you’ll be much more likely to get some good work done.
Writing on a schedule will also keep you accountable.
Regularly checking in on your projects, goals, and stories will remind you that they exist and that they need to get done. It’s easy to close the Word doc and forget the book exists, just like it’s easy to shove your newest hobby into some dusty cupboard and never touch it again. If you’re not regularly revisiting it, you’re going to forget about it, and you’re probably not going to make a lot of reliable progress.
Writing multiple books
Career authors need to write multiple books. If you’re crazy lucky, you may get famous from your debut novel, but even if this happens, you’re going to need to put out more work.
Your platform will grow, ideally, as you continue to put out books. This doesn’t mean you need to put out twenty books a year or anything like that—it just means that you need to be publishing new work regularly. Keeping your momentum is vital to building your platform and sustaining your career, and having a writing schedule will guarantee that you’re constantly feeding that momentum.
How to make a writing schedule that works for you
So, now that you understand why it’s important to create and stick with a writing schedule, let’s talk about how to make a schedule that’s perfect for you. You can customize your writing schedule to suit your lifestyle and your work style, and I’m going to show you how.
Step 1 – Set a target date
First, you want to set a target date. When do you want this draft finished? You may have a deadline from a cover artist or editor, but in all likelihood, it’s going to be up to you to decide when you want this draft done.
Here are a few things to consider when you’re setting your target date:
How long is the project? If it’s a massive epic, you might want to give yourself more time to allot for all of those words. If it’s a shorter project, you may not need a full year to draft.
How much time can you devote to writing right now? If you have a ton of outside work to do, you may not have the luxury of being able to devote an hour or two hours to writing every day. You may want to have your novel written by the end of the month, but that might not be realistic. Set your target date with some wiggle room—it shouldn’t be so far out that there’s no pressure at all, but it should be achievable.
What’s your publishing schedule look like? Certain months and even weeks are more advantageous for publishing, and you’ll want to take advantage of that, which means you have to plan ahead. If you want to publish your book in February, for example, you’ll want to work backward from there. After your first draft, how long will revisions, formatting, and presales take? Again, allow for wiggle room.
Step 2 – Make a word count goal
You may not know exactly how long your project is going to be just yet, and that’s okay! But even so, once you’ve set your target date, it’s time to set a word count goal. Most books average around 90,000 words, with epic fantasies trending much longer and young adult fiction trending much shorter.
Personally, I like to set a goal for 50,000 words. I know my book will be longer than that, so I’ll be sure to hit 50,000 at some point, and when I do, I can set a new goal to finish the project. This also gives me a little dopamine rush when I meet my goal ‘early.’
Step 3 – Break the goal into chunks
Now, you’ve got your target date and your word count goal. I am so sorry to tell you this, but it is now time to do some math.
Count the number of working days between when you’ve set your goal and your target date. Then, divide your total word count goal by the number of working days. This gives you the number of words you need to write every day to meet your goal!
Let’s run an example. Say I want to write 50,000 words in the month of October. My target date is October 31st, and I’m starting October 1st. I’m going to write Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, which means that in October, I have thirteen working days. 50,000 divided by thirteen gives me 3,847 words per day to meet my goal.
Tips for sticking to your writing schedule
Feeling a little lost? Here are some tips and tricks for making sure that you stick to your new writing schedule.
NaNoWriMo is most famous for its event in November, where participants write 50,000 words (or a first draft) in a month. But users can access the site at any time during the year! Put in your target date and your word count goal, and the site will tell you how many words you need to write every day to make it happen. You also get to update the site with your word count, which, at least for me, provides immense satisfaction.
Apps like Habitica, Todoist, or Google Tasks can help you set regular reminders to stay on task. You know how games like Candy Crush literally hook you on playing them regularly? These apps can do that to you, too, but with the work you need to get done.
Connect with the online writing community
It’s easier to stick to routine when you’ve got pals doing the same thing. If you don’t have any local writing groups, I’ve got great news: there are approximately one trillion writers online, and all you need to get in touch is a social media account.
Make some other writer friends to hold you accountable, and post regular snippets or excerpts (if you’re comfortable) of what you’re working on. This way, you’ll need to make regular content to pick an excerpt from, you’ll grow your online platform, and you’ll get work done!
If none of this is possible for you, you can even try getting a friend or family member to hold you accountable. A little compassionate support makes a world of difference.
Set aside time to write
This might sound like a no-brainer, but you have to literally set aside time to write. Just deciding you’ll write Mondays and Wednesdays will probably not result in you actually writing on Mondays and Wednesdays. In all likelihood, you’re already filling that time with something else, and that’s what you’re used to, so it’s not likely to change.
Figure out what time of day is best for you. If you have the luxury of doing so, pick the time of day you’re most productive. For me, it’s the morning. I’m pretty much useless after five in the afternoon, so I don’t schedule my writing time in the evening. If you have another job or other obligations, you may have to pick whatever time you can grab.
Whatever time you pick, schedule it into your day, and make a point to do it at the same time every time. This will train your brain to know that at nine o’clock, it’s writing time, and you’ll find that writing will flow much more automatically as you get used to the schedule.
Create a ritual
The first step to creating a ritual is, as we discussed, setting a specific time to write. But it can also be helpful to have special tasks you do before or during your writing time—again, this will train your brain into recognizing that this is writing time.
Maybe there’s a certain beverage you could make and enjoy while you write, or maybe you’ve got a certain pair of PJ’s that you always write in. Whatever it is, try to make it something that you enjoy, so you’ll look forward to writing. You can and absolutely should bribe yourself with hot cocoa whenever possible.
Take care of yourself
Finally, it’s important to take care of yourself. Burnout is real, and it does not care about your target date. It’s true that sometimes we don’t want to write and we should anyway, but if you find yourself completely unable to write, dreading your writing time, and having real anxiety surrounding your story, it may be time to take a break.
Have other hobbies and interests, take care of your mental health, and build some wiggle room into your schedule so that if you need to take a week or a month off, you can do so without absolutely wrecking your schedule. And don’t beat yourself up if you need to take a break! Life happens.
Software recommendations for writing schedules
Some writing software is free. Some is paid. If you need to track your word count goal, finding the best software for your needs and the way you want to write is KEY!
Take our quiz below and get a recommendation of the best writing software for you.