For 2012, I want to be more productive as a writer. After reading so many blog posts about writing goals for the new year, I am certain I'm not alone.
I am one of those people that need goals to move forward; if I plan on writing only one novel this year, I'm not going to do more than that. On the other hand, if I think for one second I can write ten novels this year, I'm not going to be happy with myself because it's just not possible with the time I have available.
To be a happy and motivated writer, I need to be realistic about what I can accomplish, which is not an easy thing to do.
When I was working a normal job, I had to meet deadlines with multiple concurrent projects. If I didn't meet the deadlines, I had to work overtime, which wasn't going to work for me as a single mom. So I got very good at setting realistic timelines for projects.
When I set my writing goals for this year, I used project management techniques from my previous work experience. I know, I'm a big nerd breaking out the PM when I don't have to, but the plan I came up with feels good to me. I think it's reasonable. If I stick to it, I will be able to accomplish a lot without neglecting my family or becoming that guy from The Shining.
Project management seems like an awful lot of common sense to me, but people in the workplace have a very difficult time of it. I'm guessing most writers out there trudging away at their manuscripts haven't had the pleasure of being immersed in the world of project management, so I thought I would share some tips I think writers can use.
But I don't want to put everyone to sleep, so I'll do this as a series, one tip at a time.
1. Know your pace.
I think the key to setting realistic goals for writing over an extended time period is to know your habits. I don't know if it's possible to accurately estimate how much you can write in a year if you don't have an idea of how many words you typically write in an hour.
I've noticed that I write first drafts at about the same rate. The first hour is fast, the next consecutive hour is slower, and I need more breaks the longer I write. Also, if I go nuts and write for more than two hours in one day, I need a few days off.
Editing takes me two to three times longer than writing, and I tend to take several passes at one manuscript. Writing one thousand words might take me an hour if I'm typing with no interruptions (two if I'm writing with a pen), but it will take me three hours to edit that same one thousand words. But I can edit for hours at a time, day after day, without getting burnt out.
Everyone's writing habits are different. My critique partner writes slower than me, but takes care with every word she commits to a first draft. I'm confident it will take her profoundly less time to edit her novel than it takes me.
The bottom line is that you can't really come up with a plan if you don't know your pace.