Planning Ahead: One Day, One Word At A Time
Looking at a blank page can be daunting - especially when you've got so much to do over the coming year. So Geri Krotow is sharing her best planning tips with us to help you out!
Are you a day planner aficionado or does the thought of having the next month planned out give you hives? Are you a hardcore “pantser” who never uses an outline or synopsis for your first draft? I’ve been all of the above, but as my career has grown and deadlines are more frequent (I am so grateful for this) I no longer have the luxury of being a fly into the mist writer or planner. Plus the fact that as a traditionally published author I sell on synopsis, pure pantsing is a thing of my past, pre-published life. Not that I don’t still brainstorm willy-nilly; of course I do. I’m a writer and an artist and all that entails. But I’ve gained tremendous traction by pre-planning and setting writing goals which include yes, daily word count goals.
Before we progress, please keep in mind that life is one day at a time. Writing a book is one word, one page at a time. This is what it all comes down to. Really.
Don’t panic or reach for a paper bag just yet—I’m not asking you to jump into the deep end of hourly billing practices. What I am doing asking you to start with a moment of quiet, a piece of paper, and a pen. Where do you want your writing to be by the END of 2018? Do you want to finish your first novel, write in a different sub genre, stretch to write the greatest number of books you’ve ever done in a year? Write it down at the top of the page, along with the word count for your project.
Now, divided the number of words by 52. See that number? That’s how many words you need per week this next year. Divide that number by 5 or 7 or even 2, depending upon how many days you write per week.
For our example we’ll pick a longish category length book at 70,000 words. If my goal is to write one book this year, I need to write 70,000/52 = 1346 words per week. Since ideally I like to write 5 days per week, 1346/5 = 269 words per day. Yes, you read that right. Less than 300 words per day, M-F, gives you a finished category length novel in one year.
The next task is to find a calendar or day planner that you will use. Not what your colleagues or partner tell you works best—what you like and will use regularly. This is a place to spend a little extra, if you’re able, because you’ll use it most days for an entire year. Bullet journaling has become popular and you may prefer that—look it up and then go find a suitable journal.
Take your time and find one that meets your needs. I used to use a smaller size but have found that I like the larger styles that have monthly, weekly and daily grids. My planner also has a 2 year pull-out year planner, which is particularly useful for book deadlines and release dates. In one glance I can see which months will be the busiest, and where I need to not over-schedule writer appearances e.g. book signings. I love meeting readers but the reality is that if I’m spending too much time on the road, I’m not getting enough writing done. Without the next book written, I have nothing to share with my readers!
The best kind of day planner turns into a running journal of my daily word count, promotional events, writer and reader conferences. I save my calendar pages for tax purposes. Here in the U.S. it’s important to have documentation in the case of an IRS (tax) audit. I have my day planners as long as I have my tax records, about 5 years. Then they get shredded! J
I know that planning seems overwhelming, but I’ve learned to look forward to every November/December when I order the next year’s planner pages and then pick a day to sit down and, well, plan. It’s helpful for me to also write a list of my important dates—deadlines, releases, promo deadlines such as blog posts and newsletter releases, and of course the most important—family commitments.
When my kids were young and still at home I kept my family and writing calendars separately, but as an empty nester I like to write in when the kiddos are coming home—because very often those are days I know I won’t get any writing done! Family fun takes priority, always.
When non-writing friends discover how full my deadline and release schedule is they often remark that I’ve lost my marbles. I may have, indeed, but I’d be lost without planning out my years, months, weeks and days.
It’s helpful to me to have a running list of my deadlines/events, and I do this on a white board I have on the wall next to my desk. It’s not as fancy as the nice day planner I use, but it works. Mostly it helps my anxiety stay at a lower point when I’m in the midst of writing a scene and think “I’ll never get this book done.” Looking at the next due date always puts things in perspective. Even when I’m behind on my word count, seeing the deadline motivates me and keeps writer’s block and procrastination at bay.
I hope this has motivated you to go get yourself the best planner ever, because the world needs your stories. Remember, it all boils down to one day, one word at a time. Baby steps lead to a completed manuscript sooner than you can imagine. May 2018 be your most productive writing year yet!