Friday, January 23, 2009

Working 9 to 5: How To Stay on Schedule

Whether you’re a professional writer, trying to get published, or even a hobbyist it’s important to give yourself a schedule/deadline. It’s easy to tell yourself, “Yeah, I’ll get to chapter 18 after this episode of ____,” or “Before work, I’ll definitely get to those rewrites,” but never actually sit your butt in the chair and do it. I used to be that person. Sure, I wrote, but it took me twice as long to reach my goal. Daily life, both my professional and social, seemed to always get in the way.

By keeping track, either with word count, page count or by chapter, you can keep yourself honest. The key to a good schedule is to make it challenging, yet realistic. If you don’t think you can write a chapter every day, or even every week, don’t schedule at such a fast pace. You’ll only disappoint yourself and get so frustrated in the end you never get anything accomplished.

Currently, I’ve been working at finishing one chapter in two days. To be honest, it’s a faster paced schedule than I would normally tackle, but fits with my work in progress. I wanted everything fresh in my mind, keeping the story fluid so that I wouldn’t have weird gaps or forget how my characters felt from chapter to chapter.

So, how do I keep track of my schedule? I’ve used many ways. Excel seems to work if you are going to go the word count route. I’ve been using iCal recently to track of my chapters. So far, it seems to be working. I haven’t been too stressed out about it; yet know if I don’t finish half of a chapter one day, I have to write the whole thing the next. It keeps me focused and on my toes.

Here’s the great part…the reward. I’ve talked with quite a few writers that give themselves rewards when hitting schedule goals. It could be as simple as watching an episode of your favorite TV Show, a cookie or even a song downloaded from iTunes. Whatever makes your heart flutter; it’s a way for patting yourself on the back and telling yourself “GREAT JOB!”

So, do you keep a schedule? If so, what’s your favorite method of keeping track and when you hit your goals, do you reward yourself? We’d love to hear from you!


Jenita said...

My favorite method of getting stuff done? Having a set deadline (preferably with consequences), waiting until the last minute, and then realizing, oh crap, I have to write the whole thing in three days...

I haven't applied bribery to writing yet, which is strange because I do it for everything else that has a deadline. I'll be doing something boring (like reading about 29 different proofs of evolution for biology) and I'll think, hey, I want a cookie! And then I'll take a few seconds to look at the cookie drawer, look back at the homework, want to take a cookie, consider feeling guilty for ditching homework... so I tell myself that when I reach a certain point, I can give myself a cookie. writing is just kind of different, though. It's harder to make the words come out when all you can think is the fact that you need to write three hundred more before you get a cookie, if you know what I mean.

I should set a schedule, but I haven't yet.

Tami Klockau said...

I know what you mean, Jenita. I feel like the cookies are calling my name from the cupboard half the time.

The key to starting a schedule is to ease yourself into it. If you don't hit your goals right off, don't punish yourself too much. Just remember there's always time to catch up.

Kessa said...

Julie Butcher-Fedynich taught me how to use an excel spreadsheet - and it has increased my productivity immensely. I find I feel guilty if I don't keep up to the schedule.

Tami Klockau said...

Kessa, I totally agree with you. I hate feeling guilty, but then that pushes me to keep going. I'm having that issue today. I'm a little behind schedule and trying to catch up.