3 Secrets of Planning Your Writing Time

For writers, often the problem with their planning process is that it’s not being done in the most effective manner. The result? Some writers are unproductive while others give up on planning altogether, only to find they’re still unable to pen enough pages to complete a book.

You definitely want to plan how you will write your book. You need an outline of the plot and character arc, you need to set aside writing time per day, and you need to determine what part of the outline you will write during each session. Not doing so will lead to a lot of meandering, and either a mish-mash of stuff that doesn’t add up to a story or you’ll bury a good story that’ll only be found after cutting thousands of words.

Successful planning really centers on three simple principles – focusing on small doable chunks of a larger goal; doing rather than planning; and remaining flexible.

Focus on small goals
Though your end goal is to publish a book, always divide that task into small, simple doable steps. For example, a book might consist of 70,000 words. If you can write 500 words a day, make that your goal. At that rate, you will need 140 consecutive days, or just under 5 months, to complete your book. From there, move on to your next step, which might be revising 1000 words a day. You’ll have edited your first draft in just 70 consecutive days or 10 weeks.

Do rather than plan
Before starting your writing session, spend a minute or two to plan what you will tackle. It gives your mind an opportunity to focus so that your time at the keyboard or notepad will be productive. But if you have just a half-hour a day to write, and you spend 15 minutes of it planning what you’ll do, you’ve lost too much time. Think more generally about what you’ll cover in your session and limit that thought time to a mere minute or two.

In addition, some writing coaches suggest have a partner or someone else who will hold you to your goals. So once you’ve planned to pen 500 words a day, you’re going to spend a few minutes talking to someone about whether or not you’ve reached that goal. Wouldn’t you be better off spending those few minutes writing another 100 words? By doing so, you can complete that 70,000-word novel about six weeks sooner. You can hold yourself accountable; just put on your big boy or big girl pants.

Remain flexible
No plan is foolproof. You may get the flu and can’t write for a couple of those 140 consecutive days. Don’t beat yourself up over it. What are two days in a lifetime of days, after all?

Also know that any outline you’ve written for your book is merely a guide, not a narrow road you must remain on. If you come up with a better idea for a scene than what’s in your outline, change it. If you find your character arc is heading in a different direction but are satisfied with that route, then keep going that way, even if it means you need a few extra days to revise what you’ve already written. Remember, your end goal is to write a novel not follow an outline. A plan merely keeps you from standing still, wondering where to go; once on the road, sometimes you’ll discover there’s a better way to go thena your planned route.