I write novels like term papers – how to make a writing schedule

For awhile I’ve been feeling really bad about procrastinating and wasting time.

It makes me feel guilty. And you have no idea – I’ll watch TV and movies for 16 straight hours to procrastinate from doing any work.

I feel almost OCD about it. The reluctance I have towards something I know I have to do is overwhelming for me. But the weird thing is, there’s nothing I really have to do (except some client work still, book cover design stuff), just piles of projects I should do.

And that stuff doesn’t get done until I commit to a date. I don’t always hit my dates, but I do sometimes. I have so many different projects going I bounce around a lot. But one thing I’ve noticed is I usually do get stuff done just before a deadline. It might be a little sloppy and rushed, sure it could have been better, but I’ll put it off until I know I really need to get it done. Sometimes with just hours to spare.

I wrote almost all of my school papers that way, after starting the day before (even when doing my MA and PHD!). I’m not saying I’m brilliant, it would be a lot easier and smarter for me to spread it out and work on it before hand.

Although I can’t call it a system, it does appear to be the process I use.

Which is suddenly illuminating to the resistance I’ve felt towards writing this month.

I’ve finished and published 3 half-length novels in the last 3 months (about 150,000 words).

Last year I had virtually no experience publishing fiction. I’d never even finished plotting a whole novel before. I struggled in the fall of 2016 through my first rough draft, editing, rewriting and proofing until I actually had some readable material.

This year, I’m starting to get the hang of things. I set a crazy fast publishing deadline, and committed to it by not only pre-publishing for preorder on Amazon, but I also spent some money on promotions. So this is happening.

But my book is about half done. 17 chapters, 11 of them are kind of done. The rest are rough notes, not even a first draft. The deadline for uploading my final manuscript is in 2 days. But I know that’s a soft deadline, because actually I can upload a new version of the book later. So I really have like, 10 days.

And the problem is, I know I can do it.

Each chapter will be around 2000 words. So even if I only wrote a chapter a day in the next week, I’d get it done. Then a day for line editing, and a day for proofreading.

Will it be perfect? No. Can I get it done so it will be readable? Yes.

In fact, the problem I’m facing is that I know I don’t even need that much time. I could do 3 chapters a day for three days – in which case I still have several days to procrastinate. Somehow my body knows the actual deadline, when I really have to get something done.

Then it’ll be stress and caffeinated marathon sessions until I finish.

Part of my easy-goingness is that I know story is more important than style.

I could fix the writing and make it much better, but the story is what counts. I’m trying to publish a lot of stories, quickly, to see what readers respond to the most. I can edit and polish and fix it later (also, since I’m publishing first halves of full novels, I’m even more relaxed because I feel like these are just tests.)

I’m not recommending following my process exactly, but if you find it hard to make time for your writing, it’s probably because:

You haven’t set any hard deadlines.

If you have set hard deadlines, they probably weren’t hard enough (there needs to be a pain of consequence.) I first set my books to preorder over a year ago, and failed that hard deadline – so I got my preorder privileges taken away for a year.

I’ve failed lots of hard deadlines. Yeah it kind of sucks. Failure hurts. But it also makes you more determined. Fail big. Fail publicly. It’s OK.

Keep setting deadlines and getting sick of failing.

But also, think about your own personality.

How did you deal with schoolwork as a kid?

You can write 500 words a day for a year, or I can write 5000 words a day for a month. We both pass 100K and have a finished novel. What difference does it make how we got there?


About Derek Murphy

I help authors and artists turn their passions into full-time businesses, make a bigger impact, and blaze a luminous trail of creative independence. Right now I'm in Taiwan finishing a PHD in Literature, writing several books, and managing a handful of online businesses. Find me
  • TariAkpodiete

    an interesting take. basically, find what works for you, and do that.

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