A few days ago, I received the following request via email:
“Would you mind posting something on your blog about how you plan your workload in the future? … I’m starting my seventh month as a full-time writer (woo-hoo!) and this is my first December to plan a full fiscal year. … Any example you could provide on how you go about this would be very much appreciated.”
I’ve been pondering how to answer this so that I’ll sound both organized and intelligent. But to be honest, it isn’t all that complicated. Of course, I’ve been at this for more than two decades so this planning process has been learned along the way.
In general, I know that I need from four to five months to write a novel and from four to six weeks to write a novella. In addition, I must plan time for revisions and edits that follow the turning in of a manuscript. Most of this scheduling happens at the time I get a contract offer. I sit down with a calendar for the coming year(s) and block out travel time, writing time, editing time. I always try (and often fail) to build in some days, as much as humanly possible, for personal sickness and family emergencies.
I use the calendar creator in WordPerfect and print the months needed, two months per 8½" x 11" paper. Then I write with a pencil on the days and weeks of the calendars so that I can visualize what the coming year or two will look like.
I write for multiple publishers which means added pressure to deliver books on time, because being late with one book doesn’t just impact that publisher. It could affect all the other publishers and future books, too. I’ve had that happen, and it’s embarrassing and stress-producing.
I keep a daily running tally of pages produced. I also use the Journal tool in Outlook to note what else I’ve been doing so if my production is down I’ll know what "life" was doing to me at the time. If I drop behind on my schedule, I’m very aware of how many pages/words I need to write to catch up. I keep a close eye on my planning calendar at all times. Sometimes I don’t catch up until I’m in a panic as time draws to a close.
The key thing is to try not to over-schedule (over-contract) yourself. Be reasonable. Be sensible. Don’t sign a contract for more books that you can write in a certain period of time. It may be tempting (we all love to be wanted!), but don’t do it. Contracting into the future isn’t a problem. Just don’t think you can write faster than you can. Be aware of your own writing pace. Some authors can do four thousand or six thousand or even ten thousand words in a day. Not me. I’ve had to learn what my own pace is and then plan accordingly. It helps to have quite a few completed books under your belt to know what that pace is.
I don’t know if this answers the question posed to me, but I hope it’s of some help to the writer who asked the question. And maybe to a few other blog readers as well.