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The New Year for Writers: It’s All About Daily Goals

How hard is it to write a book a year?

It depends on who you ask. Writing a book a year–assuming you’re serious enough about a writing career–can either be an incredibly stressful and demanding assignment, or it can be one of those accomplishments that you barely remember doing because it just happened so fast.

Let me explain.

In November of 2011, I had 70 pages of a science-fiction novel written. A little over one year later, I’ve got 580 pages, not counting the additional 50-70 pages of crap that I cut out because it didn’t need to be in there. That’s about 565 pages written in a single year. I look back on it and I don’t even remember writing all of this.

No, I wasn’t on some kind of freakish drug. I remember specific moments during the writing process. I remember waking up early to write before work. But I look back at the process and it seems kind of…fast. Like it just happened and here I am with this huge freaking book, and what the hell am I going to do now?

Recently I thought back to how much time I actually invested in writing Ascendant and what the process was like, and I realized that there was only one way I could have finished the book this quickly (including most of the editing) while working a full-time job and having something resembling a social life.

I could only have done it by setting and meeting daily goals.

565 pages in a year sounds intimidating to a lot of writers. I know this for a fact, having met plenty in grad school who wrote pages like children pulling teeth using a length of string and a doorknob. But the truth is this: anyone can do it. Even non-writers. It’s just a matter of putting in the time.

There are two things you need to determine before you set out to write a novel in 2013. First of all, what is your rate of production? How much can you get done in an hour?

Stephen King writes 2,000 words a day. That’s about 7 pages in MS Word using 12-point, Times New Roman font, 1-inch margins all around. I can do about 4 pages in an hour. That’s my rate. Determine yours.

Let’s say you can write 2 pages in an hour. That’s actually pretty good. You should be proud of that.

Now take a look at your daily schedule and see if you can put aside an hour each day to get this done. If you can’t, try finding two 30-minute blocks where you can sit down and write without being disturbed. Try doing 30 minutes in the morning before you go to work and another 30 minutes at night. It’s the equivalent of an episode of Lost, or two episodes of Friends.

Your goal should be to find 5-7 hours per week to write. If weekdays tend to be really bad for you, try doing 30 minutes each day, Monday through Friday, and then another 2-3 hours on the weekends.

Here’s where the magical part happens.

Let’s say you do the minimum. You spend 5 hours a week writing, and you write two pages for each of those hours. How much have you produced? A typical mainstream novel (not sci-fi or fantasy) tends to be around 85,000 words. That’s about 300 pages using the MS Word guidelines I mentioned earlier. So if your goal is to write 300 pages this year, and you succeed in writing 2 pages per hour for 5 hours each week, will you have met that yearly goal?

Yes, and more.

Let’s do the math:

5 hours a week at 2 pages per hour comes out to 10 pages per week.

That’s 40 pages per month. Multiply that by 12 months and you’ve got 480 pages.

480 pages in one year, and all you had to do was spend ONE HOUR writing each day, with the weekends off for good behavior. That’s an extra 180 pages above your goal of 300. You could take a couple of weeks off for the holidays and still be significantly above your goal.

And that’s how it works. That’s how professional authors craft a book a year. They do a few pages a day, and it just adds up.

Make this your goal for 2013. Practice the craft until you’re capable of producing 2 pages of quality text each hour. Then try and spend 5 hours per week in front of your computer. At the end of the year, you’ll have a rather large novel in your possession, and there are few things on this planet that taste sweeter than that.

Happy new year, and good luck.

Rich

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2 Comments

  1. kanundra

     /  January 1, 2013

    I found through nanorimo as in past years, I can commit to a goal and stick to it. I wrote 50k in 30 days, I finished my novel at 80k in 47. If I write 1500 or so a day, with my job and other commitments, it really is possible. In editing now, so hopefully in a few months I can turn my eye to the second book. :)

    Reply

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