Finishing Your Novel Takes Time… and a Schedule

Be honest with us for a second… how many novels have you started?

Now, how many novels have you finished?

If you read this blog with any regularity, you have heard us say over and over and over again that writing is really hard. And guess what? We say that because it is true. We all have stories we want to tell. Some of us have the grammatical wherewithal to try putting those stories together on paper. Very few of us have the conviction to finish something that is going to put up as big of a fight as your novel as it comes into the world.

Hence that folder on your computer filled with abandoned Word documents.

If you want to defy the odds and write that novel you have been dreaming of, one of the best things you can do is create a writer schedule of some form. Below are three different ways you can try and create a writing schedule, each for very different types of people.

Which method will you choose?

The Calendar Method

When you think of a schedule, you might imagine something written on a calendar. If you are a busy person who sometimes feels the need to pencil in five minutes for a bathroom break, then this classic method is definitely for you.

The Calendar Method is simple and to the point: you write down on a calendar or in your planner the days and times that you are going to set aside to write. Included in that time is maybe the place you will go to write, whether that be your favorite restaurant for a long Monday lunch, a coffee shop on a quiet Wednesday evening, or your backyard on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

The most important part of this is to be realistic with your time and place. Pick places to write that will not be a distraction. Pick a period of time that will not become a burden. You may decide that all the time you can take away from the rest of your life is 15 minutes shut up in the bathroom while you pretend to poop. Even if that is the case, great! Pencil in that time and make sure you stick with it and start feigning stomach distress a few minutes before. Even just five minutes here and there will slowly add up to a book.

If you choose the Calendar Method, your main goal is this: obey the calendar and never miss a writing meeting.

The Sticker Method

I first saw this method on V.E. Schwab’s Instagram. The basis of this method is that you decide how much time you want to spend writing in a large period of time and then you track your way to that goal in increments.

For example, I could say that I want to write for ten hours a month, and decide to track that time in periods of 15 minutes. Every time I write for 15 minutes, I take a sticker from the book I bought at Dollar Tree (or Target, you boujee asshole) and slap that sucker on a calendar. To make my goal, I make sure I find random 15 minute periods that I can slip in a writing session and earn myself a sparkly mermaid sticker until I have 40 stickers on my calendar—meeting my initial goal.

This method is ideal for those who don’t have the next 30 seconds of their life planned, let alone the next few days. The primary way this method helps you is by guiding you to do something productive for your novel in every spare moment you can find and giving you a little boost of joy every time you add a sticker to your collection.

If you would prefer not to use stickers, you can make a similar tracking sheet in a bullet journal (as Schwab does now—traitor), a sign on your fridge, or a classic thermostat that you color in as you go along as if you are an elementary school raising money for a new playground.

If you choose the Sticker Method, you must MUST MUST make it a goal to get the right amount of stickers! One of the best ways to motivate yourself is by giving yourself a reward when you hit your sticker goal, like a trip to the ice cream parlor or that sweater you have been eyeing at the mall. Up the ante by adding extra rewards for going above and beyond your sticker goal.

The Ritualist Method

They say that old habits die hard—so why not make writing a habit that is as hard to kill as biting your nails?

Think for a moment about a repeated period of time in your day that you aren’t doing anything—and no, watching TV, scrolling your newsfeed for the fifth time, and aimlessly staring into space do not count as doing something. That time could be found when you are sitting alone eating breakfast, or on your commute, or during a lunch break, or an evening hour that you usually spend binging whatever show Netflix is recommending this week before you crash into an early bedtime.

Take that time and devote even just part of it to writing every single day, or workday if you choose to take time from a commute or lunch break. Make it as habitual as brushing your teeth (hopefully) is and you will soon find that you never have to think about writing because you are just doing it.

If you find yourself to be the type of person that refuses to work with any fancy method you see pop up in blogs or social media, this is your un-fancy method. This method is also great for people who find that writing in small sessions here and there is unproductive because of the pressure to accomplish something in those small periods. By making writing a daily ritual, it becomes so common that productivity comes naturally, and days that aren’t productive can be shrugged off the same way you shrug off a mediocre outfit.

All of the best things take time. Even a good cliche doesn’t become a good cliche in a day. Give your novel some much needed attention, and find ways to keep that attention from waning, and you are soon going to find yourself typing “the end.” 

So get going! We can’t wait for you to show us what you can do.