Scheduling Your Work
Steven Raichlen’s advice to new writers includes this gem: “Set concrete goals with realistic timetables. Write a mission statement.”
Yeah, that’s what you got into the arts for, isn’t it? Mission statements. Timetables. Mmm. Yeah. Gonna need you to finish a chapter over the weekend.
I once lived on the dream that a creative life meant waiting for grand flashes of inspiration that would result in feverish, week-long sprints of productivity, followed by three weeks of absinthe and the company of actresses.
Since then, the life I chose in the meantime has moved me into project management. I’ve had to fill out endless reams of paperwork, schedules, statements and lifecycles.
They’ve helped me.
Schedules aren’t poison Kool-Aid. Deadlines aren’t disasters.
Raichlen continues: “When I started Island Apart, my mission was to use the skills I had acquired writing food stories and cookbooks over the years to start, write, and finish a publishable novel within a year.”
Here, he sets out his goals – to start, to finish, a publishable novel, within a year. They’re good goals! Achievable. Admirable.
For most people, completely likely to slip.
It’s still a grandiose vision with no solid dates or schemes other than “by the end of the year.” I can only tell you from my own experiences, but when I made plans like that, somehow December rolled around every year with no motion at all on the dream.
When I started FAMISHED: THE FARM, I knew I’d have to do better. I sketched out a plan that gave me space but kept the momentum going. In this post I discussed the broad timeline, but to be more specific:
With a deadline six months away, I took one month to re-read the rough draft in its entirety.
The second month, I worked on broad edits, cutting away the scenes that I knew wouldn’t translate.
In the third month, I focused on filling in the gaps left by those edits.
Month four was detailed edits, looking for places where characters’ hair changed color or they referenced events cut in month two.
Month five was dedicated to character voice: Spending hours on each character’s lines to make sure they sounded like themselves throughout the book, and, more importantly, didn’t sound like any of the other characters.
And in month six, I went through a chapter a day to tighten prose, lose adverbs, etc.
When my editors at Apocalypse Ink asked me to line up alpha readers, I gave them a firm deadline of one month. They’re my friends, yes; but I needed help in a specific time frame. In week four I planned to reach out to all of them to check on their progress, but that wasn’t’ necessary in the end.
After that I had only one month to implement their edits. I worked through those, keeping character voices and consistency issues foremost in my mind.
Was this all planned? Yes, absolutely. That planning, that schedule, let me meet my deadlines, reach my goals, and satisfy my editors. That planning got me published. It made my dream come true.
I’m still waiting on the absinthe and actresses, though.
Side Note: I read through most of the following interview with a routine level of interest before the name rang a bell … Steven Raichlen! The guy who literally started me grilling! A fellow writer-chef!
I was so excited I had to go make some ribs.
Steven. Read my book, then call me. Together we’ll make a killing.
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