This article was originally posted on our sister site, loribaxter.net. Reposted with permission.
Tony Robbins once said, “If you talk about it, it’s a dream; if you envision it, it’s possible; but if you schedule it, it’s real.” Leaders are those who closely guard their calendars, and for a book-writing endeavor to be real, it must go on the calendar.
But with so much already on your plate, how can you find time to write a book?
Understand how your book project fits with your other priorities.
Some people start to write a book on a whim, without having clear goals or intentions for finishing and seeing it published. Not surprisingly, when the task becomes difficult (which it will) or other priorities compete for their time (which they will), many manuscripts are abandoned.
It’s okay to start on an impulse, but at some point along the way, finishing a book will require more intentional planning and dedication. Writing a professional-quality book is a months-long process, and to make sufficient room in your schedule for that period of time, you need to know where your book project fits with your other priorities.
To find your book’s place among your other commitments and goals, identify why you want to write your book. Whenever I find myself struggling to make time for something, reconnecting with my why will often get me back on track.
These questions might help you identify your why:
- How will writing a book positively impact your business, ministry, career, or cause?
- What kind of effect do you hope your book will have on those who read it?
- What impact do you hope to have on the larger industry or community you are writing for?
- What groups of people do you hope will access your book?
- What kind of reviews, awards, or achievements would you like to see your book receive?
- What do you hope will be different in your own life or career after you have published your book?
You may not have answers or strong opinions on all of these to start, but questions like these can help you find the motivation behind your desire to write a book.
If your why is not compelling enough, then it may be that the project is better delayed for a future time. Remember also that writing a book is a temporary project, not a permanent change to your schedule. It will be hard work for a season, but then you’ll see the payoff! (For a better idea of the time commitment, keep reading.)
Need help identifying the ways writing a book can provide value to your life and career? Read Lori’s article “Six Ways Writing a Book Can Change Your Life.”
Decide when and how much you will write.
Once you have clear goals and have outlined the why for your book project, decide what kind of a writing schedule is realistic for producing your book.
Just how much time is needed to write a book? The answer to this question is anything but simple and will vary widely depending on what type of book you’re writing, how much material you have to share, how fast you write, and more. But let’s take a look at some average numbers just to give you a place to start.
The average nonfiction book is around 50,000–60,000 words. If you sit down with an idea of what you want to write, you should be able to produce somewhere in the neighborhood of 800–1,000 words an hour. Again, this may vary widely; some accomplished authors can write 2,500 words an hour, while novice writers may have trouble producing 500 words in the same time span.
Unless you’re far on either end of that spectrum, you can probably expect to need close to seventy hours to produce your first draft. But don’t be surprised if that number climbs to over 100 when you add research and editing.
How to reach that hundred hours will look different for each person, but here are some of the options to consider as you plan your writing journey and establish a regular routine:
- Daily writing time of sixty to ninety minutes
- A half day of writing once a week
- A full day of focused writing twice a month
- A weekend writing retreat two or three months in a row
- A weeklong getaway to produce the bulk of your manuscript in one setting, plus some combination of the above options
Let’s look at what each of these may look like, how to plan them, and what the pros and cons of each may be.
1. Daily writing routine
The approach I recommend most is a daily writing schedule. You’ll build momentum, develop a writing habit that can continue benefiting your life, and possibly finish your manuscript faster.
Can you commit to waking up an hour earlier for two or three months? Or shortening your lunch break and writing during the middle or end of your work day? If you’re a night owl and don’t have trouble thinking or writing well at the end of the day, perhaps you can set aside time each evening to write for an hour.
To make the most of a daily schedule, think about what you’re going to write about each day in the hours before you actually sit down to write (or the night before, if you’re writing in the morning). That way, when you sit down to write, you won’t be going into it cold and struggling through the first ten to fifteen minutes. If you need to do research for your writing, try to save it all up for one day or do it outside of your designated time so that it doesn’t constantly eat away at your writing time.
One difficulty with a daily routine can be that you’re spending so much of your time in the details of each chapter that you may lose sight of the big picture and struggle with how to transition to the next section. When you only have a short amount of time each day, it’s also easy to spend it laboring over a paragraph or two and make little progress over the course of a week.
If you find yourself getting stuck and not producing much each day, consider scheduling a weekend retreat (more on this below) to reconnect with the project’s big picture, your underlying motivations, and the meaningful message you’re trying to communicate to your readers. It may be the boost you need to get unstuck and move the manuscript forward significantly.
Want to complete your manuscript faster? Increase your hour per day to ninety minutes and extend your daily routine to the weekend.
2. Weekly half day or biweekly full day
If writing every day is not feasible for your schedule, consider whether you could do a half day of writing once a week or perhaps a full day every other week. Are Fridays a slow work day for you? Consider taking off from your job early in the day and spending the last four to five hours of the day writing. Or perhaps you can spare a full day every couple of weeks. A full day of writing can produce probably 5,000–8,000 words, provided you are mentally prepared going into it and allow yourself some creative breaks during the time block.
Again, you should have an idea of what you’re going to cover before you start your time. Have your research done ahead of time if you can, and create a rough outline of what you’re going to write about before you sit down.
A less-frequent half day or full day may not be habit-forming the way a daily writing routine can be; however, if it works better for your schedule, it is still a way to get through 100 hours of writing in a few months, enabling you to write your book in the middle of a busy schedule.
3. Weekend retreat
For some, a day-to-day or week-to-week writing routine may be too much on top of their other regular commitments. Setting aside one weekend a month on the calendar might be a better option.
For a weekend retreat, block off your weekend completely. Clear your time away with your spouse or partner if you need to, and make arrangements for the kids. If your home or work office will have distractions, consider getting a hotel room or going to a B and B that will provide a peaceful and quiet setting.
Start with an outline of what you hope to accomplish, such as completing a rough draft of three to four chapters. Fit in a relaxing dinner or a short trip to the hotel spa to give yourself a break. A swim or soak in the hot tub is another way to get out of the room for a bit while staying in a mental space to continue thinking about your project.
Can’t afford a getaway? Think about whether a friend might have a space where you could stay for the weekend to get away from your normal surroundings, or whether another writer friend might want to split the cost of a getaway with you. If home is your only option, do your best to clear away any clutter and keep normal distractions and responsibilities from interrupting you. Set up clear parameters to keep you on track (no answering the phone, checking the mail, or cleaning the house).
A weekend retreat can also be a good idea in conjunction with a daily writing routine. Taking a full weekend at the beginning of your project to focus on the big picture for your book and produce a substantial outline of each chapter will make your daily writing go faster and smoother. A weekend retreat might also be helpful in the middle of a project if you’ve gotten stuck or need a boost in your motivation to complete your manuscript draft.
4. A weeklong (or longer!) getaway
While it may be a luxury that many can’t consider, taking a week or even two away from your normal life to write your book can be a rewarding experience that will leave you with a substantial manuscript draft.
Some AirBnB owners advertise their spaces specifically for writing retreats, offering reasonable long-term rates with accomodations geared toward writers (good Wi-Fi, a comfortable writing desk, a secluded setting with few distractions, etc.). Or perhaps you have a favorite vacation spot near the beach or in the mountains that you know would work well for a writing getaway.
Whichever writing schedule you choose, once you’ve decided, PUT IT IN YOUR CALENDAR. Mark off the times or days when you’ll be writing for the next three months. If there are accommodations to be made, for a weekend retreat or a longer book-writing vacation, book them early to have one less thing on your plate.
If you typically plan further ahead than the next quarter, then you should assume you will need longer than three months to finish your book. Even if the writing is complete, you’ll have other tasks to attend to push the book toward publication, which I’ll be covering in future posts. You may want to keep these designated times or days blocked off for working on your book for a second quarter.
Prepare for success.
Now that you’re clear on your motivations for writing and have decided on a writing schedule, it’s time to set yourself up for a successful writing experience that will make the most of the limited time you have in your schedule.
1. Make space for writing.
Designate a desk, office, or other space where you can write without distractions. If you can, pick a room with a view and a comfortable chair where you can work for large chunks of time without becoming uncomfortable. Make your space beautiful and clutter-free, with elements that inspire, and you will enjoy the time you spend there and be drawn to write more often. Set up your laptop or computer, and have a journal or notepad close by for capturing quick notes and ideas.
2. Gather your tools and resources.
Do your best to gather the tools and resources that will set you up for optimum writing success. If you are using a computer that is slow or stalls frequently, you’re likely going to have some frustrating writing sessions that will start to chip away at your motivation. Consider purchasing or borrowing a laptop that will be more reliable and that you can take with you when writing elsewhere. A simple laptop with internet and a reliable word processor will not be too large a financial investment.
Secondly, gather whatever reference books and documents you might need and keep them close. An up-to-date style guide can be a big help (I recommend Chicago Manual of Style), as well as titles by other authors you might refer to in your own work. Is there an author whose writing inspires you? Keep it on hand for a quick read when you feel stuck.
It’s a good idea to bookmark any web resources you might need to use so that you don’t have to go searching for them when the time comes. You can also print them out so you can avoid the internet altogether, which can be a big distraction and eat away at your writing time. Having your research done ahead of time can also be helpful, because research typically requires a different frame of mind than creative activities. Keeping these processes separate can make both activities more successful.
You’ll also want to keep your writing goals close by to serve as motivation when the process becomes difficult.
3. Eliminate distractions and excuses.
In addition to the internet, you want to avoid other distractions that can steal your focus and your time. Shut off email and phone notifications while you write, and decide ahead of time if and when you will check them.
Let others in the room or building know you shouldn’t be bothered for a certain amount of time. Use noise-canceling headphones if you need more help focusing. You can also choose a white noise option from YouTube or decide if you work better with instrumental music in the background (anything with words tends to be distracting).
Need more help making the most of your writing time? Download Lori’s free guide “10 Strategies to Beat Writer’s Block.” It will help you write without getting stuck, do your best work, and get that manuscript done!
If you follow the advice above to connect with your why and determine the writing schedule that works best for you, then the best thing you can do for yourself is honor your scheduled time and make the most of each writing session that you have. If a particular schedule isn’t working for you, change it up. But do your best to keep moving forward.
Someone somewhere is waiting to hear the message you have to share with the world, so look for ways to make your dream real by putting it on the calendar.
If you are ready to write a professional quality nonfiction book in 2020, download the Ultimate Book Writing Starter Kit at loribaxter.net/start. If your manuscript is finished and ready for another set of eyes, the Scribe Source editing team is ready to help!
About the Author
Lori takes big ideas and creates strategies for communicating them creatively and effectively. Her specialties are developmental editing, project management, and content strategy. She started the business in 2005 with a dream to help people effectively communicate their inspired ideas with the world.