June 21, 2018 by Sarra Cannon
As a hopeless procrastinator who knew it was time to start hitting my deadlines, I have found a system for how to plan my writing and production schedule for each novel. It’s a simple system, but sometimes just laying out the dates and planning ahead can make all the difference.
Watch today’s video on how I’m using a Writing Plan page I designed to help me hit my writing deadlines and plan my writing schedule. At the bottom of this post, subscribe to my newsletter and receive a bonus free download of this Writing Plan page to print and use for yourself!
My basic system for planning my writing schedule for a book is:
Note: How long something will take for you is totally unique to your writing style and comfort-level. This example is not to ask you to copy what I’m doing or compare yourself to my schedule! Feel free to adjust the dates and times to fit your own writing.
If you are new to writing, you may not know how long it will take you to plot your work. Or you may be a pantser who doesn’t need to do much plotting or outlining at all. That’s okay! To make this system work for you might take a bit of trial and error. Simply estimate how long you believe each task will take!
After my non-writing days are marked off and my average words per day goal has been calculated, I assign a “Starting Date” to my novel and mark it on the calendar.
Next, I calculate how long I expect plotting and outlining work to take. In some cases (especially with a brand new world or characters), it can take me a month or longer just for this step.
The more you write, the more you will begin to have a good idea of how long each step in the process takes for you as an individual. One of the advantages to using a sheet like this is that over time, you will have a great record of how long each book took to write and how long each step in the production process took, as well.
Once I’ve marked off my plotting and outlining days, I begin numbering the days it will take to write my rough draft. This is where you will use the calculation above for how many days of actual writing it will take to finish your novel.
So, for example, if you are writing a 60,000 word book and your goal is to write 1,000 words a day on average, it will take you 60 writing days to finish your novel. If you’ve marked off any days in between as “non-writing” days, you simply skip over them as you number. For example, if Monday is day number 12 of writing, but you’re taking Tuesday off for a special event at your son’s school, you would skip over Tuesday and assign writing number 13 to Wednesday.
In my example, I estimated it would take 23 days of writing to finish my rough draft. Since day number 23 landed on a Friday, I gave myself the bonus two weekend days as extra padding and marked my rough draft deadline on my calendar printout.
This is another area where your own experience level will come into play. If you’ve never written a novel before, you may have no idea how long edits will take. If you are a beginning writer, I would recommend you estimate that edits will take at least as long as writing your rough draft.
So, if the rough draft took 60 days, give yourself another 60 for edits. If it doesn’t take that long, then yay! You’ll be ahead!
Once you’ve decided how long to give yourself for edits, mark your self-edits deadline on your calendar.
The next thing in my process is to send my manuscript off to beta readers. Beta readers give me feedback on the storyline, the characters, and anything that doesn’t seem to flow well in my writing.
When I get my betas’ comments back, I make changes and go through another self-editing pass before I send the manuscript off to my paid editor.
This may be another spot where you have to estimate if you are a new writer! You may not have beta readers yet, but you might have a good friend or family member who is willing to read through your book and provide feedback. I would say to plan to give them a minimum of two weeks to read your book.
As for a professional editor, it’s good to keep in mind that many editors these days are booked months in advance and can take up to six weeks to get your manuscript back to you. If you know you are planning to self-publish the book you are working on, you might consider reaching out to an editor early to see when they have an opening in their schedule, what their turnaround time is, and what types of edits they perform.
If you want more information on the different types of editors and how to find an editor for your indie book, comment below and let me know so I can plan a post on this topic!
At this point, once I receive the edits back from my professional editor, I am on the tail-end of the production process. Woohoo! It will typically take me a couple of days to make the suggested changes from my editor.
I also take the time to read back through the book a couple more times. The first pass, I usually read it silently to myself, making any changes or fixes as I read. The second final pass is usually with a program called Natural Reader.
Natural Reader is a free text to speech software that will actually read your book to you aloud. This takes hours, but it’s also a really good way to hear awkward phrasing and mistakes in your work. I highly recommend it!
All that’s left at this point is to format my novel. (I use Vellum for my formatting, and it’s magical.) Once formatted, I always upload it to both my Kindle and my Google Play Books app in order to check the formatting and make sure everything looks good.
Next, I send out free review copies to my ARC team. ARC stands for “Advanced Reader Copy”. I would also gladly explain more about this in another post. Just let me know down below in the comments!
On my writing plan, I like to note the target date for formatting, as well as my target date for sending out ARCs.
If you are planning to do a pre-order for your book, you will also want to make note of which day you plan to upload your book.
Yay!! And now we’ve made it to the end of the process–publishing the book!
Once you’ve estimated how long the entire process will take, you can easily look at your calendar to decide on a best-case-scenario target release date.
Right now, I am always playing it pretty close, planning my release date just a week or two after getting my final edits back from the editor. If you can allow more time in your schedule than this, I highly recommend doing that instead of following my example.
I am attempting to write and publish more books than I ever have in a year, so I’ve been cutting down on the production time and releasing the books as soon as they are finished. Next year, I hope to be able to get ahead and slow way down! Goals, right?
Now that your schedule and plan for your novel has been mapped out on your calendar, it’s time to transfer those dates into your “Writing Plan” planner page. You can download the free one below or simply create your own!
I find that having this one page with all my target dates is vital to keeping my schedule! If I don’t have a set target and feel some kind of pressure to get to work, I tend to procrastinate forever and put off my writing.
Having the dates right there in front of me helps to keep me motivated and productive.
As a final note, however, I do encourage you to stay flexible. Life happens and things don’t always go as planned. Heck, even stories don’t always cooperate and simply need more time.
Use your writing plan as a guideline, not an order. If you have to push something back a week or two, simply adjust your dates or print another sheet with new targets.
Writing is a business, but it’s also a creative outlet and an artform. While it’s great to stay on schedule and hit your deadlines, it’s even more important to produce great work that fulfills you.
I hope this has given you some ideas of how to plan your own writing schedule. At the bottom of the writing plan page, you’ll see that I’ve also included a “review” section where you can take notes about how the writing of this book went, what you might change in the future, and any notes you may have about the process.
Over time, I hope this sheet with be a great reference for you to see how far you’ve come, help you plan your writing schedule more accurately, and to help keep you motivated.
How do you normally plan your writing schedule? Or are you a procrastinator like me? Do you think this method of scheduling will help you stay on track? Let me know in the comments!
Subscribe now to download this Writing Plan and Scheduling page. Set deadlines and track your progress as you write your novel!
If you're anything like me, you constantly feel behind and yet, you continue to procrastinate! Looking ahead, setting goal dates, and keeping track of your schedule as you write is one way to stay motivated and on target.
I have been self-publishing my books since 2010, and in that time, I've sold well over half a million copies of my books. I'm not a superstar or a huge bestseller, but I have built an amazing career that brings me great joy. Here at Heart Breathings, I hope to help you find that same level of success. Let's do this.