In an ideal world, you pick up a pen when inspiration strikes and furiously scribble three pages of perfect prose and then sit back and sigh. You wake up in the dead of night with a brilliant idea and rush to your computer and let the words just flow from your fingertips. You wait for your muse to appear before starting your next book, however long it may take. While all of the above can happen, this approach is not exactly realistic when you are writing on a deadline or writing more than one book a year.
So what do you do instead? You schedule your writing. I know, I know, it doesn’t exactly sound romantic, but that doesn’t mean it has to be forced, either. (Well, sometimes it might feel that way, but that’s when I remember that writing is work!)
For the next 14 months, I have multiple books scheduled to write, and multiple books scheduled for release. I’ve played with my schedule, rearranged a few things, accounted for a few more, and settled on a monthly plan that allows me to meet my goal. I think the first step to take when scheduling your writing is knowing what you can accomplish in a given time frame. Several writers keep track of their daily word count, myself included, and while this is a great tool for motivation, it’s also essential in planning your projects. Knowing what you typically average per week allows you to more confidently suggest a delivery date to your editor. It also allows you to plan your career for as much as a year or even two years out. In an industry where books are written long before they hit the shelves, knowing what you can produce in a given 12-month time frame can help shape your long-term career goals.
Of course there are other factors that need to be taken into consideration: revisions, line edits, even blog tours and promotion can eat up a lot of the day and cut into writing time. I'm a planner (in case you haven't noticed) and so I factor time into my schedule to outline - I usually spend a solid three days outlining a project before I start writing. On the weeks where my daughter has school vacations, I have to conservatively assume I will produce absolutely nothing, and on days where I am knee-deep in revisions, I know my word count is going to take a setback.
Anticipated release dates are also something I take into consideration when scheduling my writing. When I’m writing a Christmas book, for example, I try and schedule as far out from the season as possible, if not the year before. Sometimes an editor will suggest a window for release, and once again, this would factor into the order of projects on the schedule.
Yes, it would be nice to only write when the mood strikes me, or to only work on the project I am most interested in at the moment, but I just don't think I would meet my goals that way. Maybe I take too much of a business approach to my creative side, maybe I've even taken some of the fun and spontaneity out of the process, but goal setting and project planning are what keep me focused. All in all, I try to be realistically ambitious with my writing schedule, and having a month by month calendar breaks it all down into an organized, achievable system. Without it...I'd be mess!
So how about you, are you juggling multiple books? How do you plan your writing schedule?