Monday, August 25, 2008

Guaranteed Way To Finish That Book!

When was the last time you finished a book? Do you find yourself struggling to get words onto the screen? Is the thought of writing a book a year daunting?

Well relax, it doesn’t have to be.

The expectations of readers for authors have changed drastically since the days of the first romance. Now, not only is it harder to get published and the market tighter to get into, reader expectation (combined with publisher expectation) almost always require that you write at least a book a year if you want to maintain readership and keep your name from fading with the dust. No writer worth their salt wants to be known as a one-book wonder. Or worse – a one book writer.

I’ve never been fond of math, but I’ve discovered there’s a secret formula for guaranteeing a book a year no matter how busy you are – and it has nothing to do with being prolific. It is “Dedication + Time Management = Book”.

The first part of the formula, “Dedication”:

This is the key variable. Decide how important it is for you to finish that book. Where is writing in your list of priorities? Is it in the top two of your priorities? Top three? Bottom three? Only you can answer this. Your decision will reflect your will to finish that book.

The second part of the formula, “Time Management”:

You hear it all the time: Less is More. In this instance, the saying is true. What some writers tend to do (myself included) is crash write. Yes, like crash dieting. It’s never safe and never good. You can achieve the desired outcome (page count) within a short period of time, but you wear yourself out fast. Those 55 pages last week turned into 0 pages this week and next week because you’re burned out. You’ve written yourself sick. Just like dieting, it’s a dangerous roller coaster ride.

What you need to do is learn to pace yourself. Work at a speed that is comfortable to you – and doable. Set small goals, such as one hour a day, or one page a day. A small goal is less daunting and easier to accomplish than a large, broad goal, like 50 pages for the week.

Take small steps. Think of it this way: There are roughly 365 days in a year. If you wrote just one page a day, you’ve written a book at the end of the year at 365 pages. Factor in more “Dedication” into the equation and resolve to write 2 pages day. That’s two books in a year!

What was that? You’re too busy? You can’t find time to write? Not even a page?

Let me ask you this. What’s playing tonight? What happened on the last episode of American Idol? Did you see the last Grey’s Anatomy? Who do you think will be next to go on Desperate Housewives or Lost?

If you can answer at least one of these questions, then you’re not too busy. If you can find time to watch TV, you definitely can find time to write. Again, it comes back to “Dedication”. How important is finishing this book to you? Instead of wasting that hour out of your busy life to watch TV, turn the TV off for the evening and put that hour to good use by writing. Time yourself. You will be amazed at how much you can accomplish in an hour knowing that you have only that hour and you have to make it count.

One hour a day. A page a day. A book a year. How daunting does it sound now?

You probably won’t be able to answer what happened on the last episode of your favorite TV show, but you finally have that book written and ready to be submitted. There’s no contest there. And just think, when that first sale comes around and your readers are demanding more books, you know you can keep up with their demands by giving them a book a year!

Not bad for someone who’s dislikes math, huh?


Savanna Kougar said...

Mai, great topic and post. I do very little tv watching, and would rather write.
My big bugaboo right now, is the time it takes for promo, not just the time, the energy.
I spent a couple of hours yesterday on the Joyfully Reviewed loop on Liquid Silver day, with a couple of hours of preparation the day before.
And I enjoy the Flash Fiction on the Sunday Liquid Silver blog -- but I ended up writing 700 words of a new Flash, which I really like, but then I didn't write on the book I have contracted...
It's a whirlwind out there, new authors!

Evonne Wareham said...


You touched a chord here, as I am currently reviewing the way I write, and what! I hope to experiment with setting aside bigger blocks of time, but don't know if it will work. As you said, if you can do a little every day, it soon mounts up. I remember, a long while ago, when I finished a book in a year by writing all day, every Sunday. It can be done, you need a method!

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Great post Mai!

I am a die-hard fan of the "to do" list. Everyday I have a list of things I will do. Writing tops the list everyday. I get up at 6am just so I can workout, eat, shower and then write for three hours before I start working at 10am. Then I work until 8 or 9pm, then I write for another hour. If I have time I watch some TV that I recorded (I don't watch anything directly anymore since this way I can fast forward through the ads!) then before bed I read and prep everything for the next day.

Yes, it's a crazy schedule but I do get everything done. :)

Like you said, if you have time for TV, you have time to write!

Here's hoping we all make writing a priority!

Mai Christy Thao said...

Savanna, your right about the promo biz taking up time. I know authors who set aside a certain number of pages or wordcount to write a day, or block of time. Once one or the other is achieved, they move on other things, like promoting, emails, working on websites, blogging, that sort of thing. Say if I my goal was 10 pages a day or 4 hours, and I get my 10 pages done in 2 hours, I can mark that as completed and move on to my next task for the day. Also, I've noticed the majority of authors like to do their writing early for two reasons -- because the kids are in school, and because they can get their writing done and have the rest of their day for errands and other aspects of being an author.

Evonne, my suggestion is to start off small. Start by adding an additional half hour or hour to your writing. Once you decide that's manageable and you have room to add in extra time, then you can add more time. It IS all about the method. Good luck with yours!

Anitra, omg, you and I are so alike. I have my day scheduled and slotted out, down to how much time it takes me to drive to and from work, how much time it should take me to get ready for work, how much time I have for emails, etc. Scary, I know! Sadly, I haven't been following my schedule for some time now, but I'm definately learning to make writing a priority again!

Savanna Kougar said...

Mai, thanks. If only everyone else followed my schedule. Yeah, that's the ticket. Now, all I have to do is convince Siren and AMP not to have loop chat days at the same time tomorrow. Or knock out those ten pages before I post. That won't happen, since my brain needs a bit of de-fogging. And I generally write better at night.
But, oh well, I just have to keep learning what works and what doesn't, and to limit myself on the promo, so I have more time to write.
I admire you and Anitra for your ability to schedule so well, and keep at it.

Mel Hiers said...

Great subject, Mai!

NaNoWriMo actually taught me how to finish. It's a bit extreme, but the habits I formed while participating stuck with me. I give myself a deadline, make myself accountable to someone else for that deadline (I call Morgan my Word Count Policeman), and make sure I hit my goal every day.

I never know ahead of time what my day is going to bring. But I know that it's going to involve at least 1,000 words. :-)

Savanna Kougar said...

Wow, good job, Mel!