Before we start, let’s be clear: a book writing plan differs from planning your book. If you need help planning the book itself, check out these time saving tips for new novelists.
Whereas planning your book is the “what” and might include things like an outline, notecards, maps, timelines, and character descriptions, your book writing plan is the “how”. The how includes the steps to get the work done.
It is not just a case of saying, “I will write a book this year.” A plan should be more detailed. If you want to write a book in a year, you need to know how long your book will be. Once you know this, you can break it down into manageable chunks. Figure out how long you can write for and how many words you can write each day. Remember to exclude days like holidays and weekends where you may have other plans and not be able to write.
There are two main ways to plan how to write your book: number of words per day, or time spent writing each day. If you’re a seasoned writer and know how many chapters your book will include, you can also use chapter numbers as part of your plan.
So, now that you know the “what” and the “how” of your book, here are some tricks you can use to stick to your book writing plan.
Track Your Progress
It's helpful to know what your goals are when you start out so you can track your progress towards meeting them. This can involve writing down your daily word count or tracking the number of hours you're writing each day. You can use a spreadsheet or a notebook. It feels great when these numbers add up!
Don’t Break the Chain
I've heard a few people talk about not breaking the chain. From what I can tell, it originated with Jerry Seinfeld. When he was working on his jokes, he found it helpful to write every day. So, each day he wrote, he marked it off on a calendar. The idea behind not breaking the chain is seeing rows and rows of Xs on your calendar and no days without an X.
I’ve done this with stickers instead of Xs and it was fun to see the colorful stickers that filled my calendar when the month ended.
Use a Kanban Board
According to Google dictionary, kanban is "a Japanese manufacturing system in which the supply of components is regulated through the use of an instruction card sent along the production line." For getting your book written, the key component is the card.
Write your goal on a sticky note. This can be a chapter, a scene, or even the number of words. Then create enough cards to get you through a set amount of time—anywhere from the current month all the way to the end of your novel. It’s up to you what time period you want to use.
The kanban board comprises three sections: to do, doing, and done. Set up the sections from top to bottom or left to right. Move the sticky note as you progress through your book. It's rewarding to see the sticky notes move from the “to-do” spot to the “done” spot. Here's a great video from author Sara Cannon showing how she sets up her kanban board.
Try a Task Management App
The great thing about a task management app is you can use it on your desktop or your phone, and there are many to choose from. You can also sync the desktop and phone versions so your task management app is always up-to-date.
Trello is an app that is similar to a kanban board where you can create projects with cards and move them around from board to board. Asana is another app where you can set up projects with individual tasks for each project. If you have an assistant, you can also tag them and share tasks with them in both Trello and Asana.
If you use the Google Suite of products, you might want to try Google Tasks. Google Tasks is an app where you can enter tasks for certain days and they will integrate with your Google Calendar. With Trello, Asana, and Google Tasks you can set up alerts and reminders so you’ll get a reminder email or a notification on your phone.
Trello, Asana, and Google Tasks are all free and Trello and Asana also offer paid versions with extras. I’ve found the free versions to work well for my needs.
Create a Reward List
If checking off tasks or daily word counts isn't enough to keep you motivated to finish your book, create a reward list for yourself. The rewards can vary in size depending on how much motivation you need. And you can give yourself larger rewards for completing larger milestones like the first draft.
The rewards on your list don't have to be expensive. You can use free rewards, like having a relaxing bath. Examples of other rewards costing little or no money are:
- 30 minutes of reading
- taking a walk
- your favorite beverage,
- a new notebook
- office supplies like sticky notes and pens
Other Things to Think About
For time management and drafting your book, there are a couple other things I hear authors discussing a lot.
Keep the Drafting Stage Distinct from the Editing Stage
Depending on what type of writer you are, editing as you're working on your draft can be distracting. But some writers prefer to work this way in order to end up with a cleaner draft. It will take longer for you to finish your first draft if you edit as you go, but if that's what works best for you, go for it.
Tell Friends and Family What You Are Doing
It's easier to reach your goals if you tell people what you're doing. This will also help when you need to write and your friends and family are asking you to do things with them. Let them know that it's nothing personal, but if you're going to get your book finished, you need to keep working toward your goals.
Find What Works for You
I hope after reading through these ideas, you have a better idea of how you will stick to your book writing plan. Feel free to combine ideas. The trick to sticking to a plan is finding what works for you. You may have to try a few things out and see what motivates you most. Good luck writing your book!