What is The Recipe for Writing a Book on Schedule?

If you’re a writer, I’m sure you’ve asked yourself the above question several times by now. That is why today I have a guest post for you by Karen Rivers, who is here to give us some advice.

Her article, “The Recipe for Writing a Book on Schedule”, also appeared on FFDO when the #fridayflash community website was still up and running, but since it closed last year, I really wanted to share this article again, with as many people as possible.
Hope you enjoy this as much as I have!


Here is what my writing schedule looks like:

Write something.


Here’s a recipe for writing a book on a schedule, if you go in for that sort of thing:

Write something.
Delete it.
Write something else.
Save it, just in case, but delete it later.
Write a character. Think about a character. Wait for the character to become herself.
(Worry that you’re possibly losing it.)
(Just a bit.)
Keep waiting.

When you have your character, think about something that could happen to your new person. That’s the “What if?”
That’s your novel.
Go for a walk. Think some more, while you are doing other things. Turn the story over and over again in your mind.
Write the first chapter.
Abandon it.
Go back to doing what you need to do which is rewriting an older project, replete with characters and what-ifs. Rewrite the old thing by re-reading it. Wonder if it’s any good, after all. Decide it isn’t. Wallow around in self-doubt for a good long while. Peruse job listings. Polish resume.
Go back to writing your new thing. Get all fired up about the new thing! Get halfway through the new thing and remember that you have the other thing you are required to finish.

Finish it by avoiding opening the document until finally, nauseated, and late, you face it. Sentence by sentence. At first, it’s tooth-grittingly hard. It will be.
You will take a while to remember how to breathe under the water of your old, lumpy draft. It’s not nearly as shiny and exciting as the new one. Resent it.
But keep at it.
Eventually, something will give.
Let the pace pick up. Remember when this WAS the exciting, shiny, best thing ever?
Get caught up in the excitement of it again. Think about nothing else. Think obsessively about their characters and what they would do in any and every situation.
Forget what you are saying half-way through a sentence because you’ve just finally realized the one thing that’s going to bring the plot together.
Walk through the woods, watching your feet in the leaves, while you mentally shift the entire book back six months on its own timeline, changing the seasons the characters inhabit. Realize this is going to be really hard.
Do it anyway.

Rewrite the entire book in one rush of 27 solid hours so that the timeline is suddenly right. (At certain points, this will feel like wrestling angry vipers. Don’t give up.)
Feel high from doing that. Feel like you should do something exhilarating. Like cage-diving with sharks.
Clean your house.
Re-read your most recent draft.
Realize that although the timeline is right, a bunch of the other stuff is not.
Wallow a bit more in self-doubt that’s balanced by slight awe that you managed to actually do what you thought you couldn’t do with the timeline. If you did that, you can do anything.
Remind yourself.
Blog some stuff.
Walk more in the leaves and pouring rain, the wind whipping into your eyes. Listen to loud music. It’s probably safe to sing now because not very many people are in the woods.
Go home.

Realize that a pivotal part of your character is just plain wrong. Go through the book very slowly, chipping off this wrong part and adding in the right part and fixing the long ripple that this repair has made.
Feel like your fingers are bleeding from this effort.
Take a week or two to do that, working hard, head bent over your desk, sweating.
Re-read your WIP again. Realize it now almost sort of works.

Then, from the beginning, go through very slowly, as though with an extremely hot iron. Take your time. Iron each word as smooth as you can, and from there, push your iron further, over each sentence. Iron the paragraphs.
Take another large chunk of time to view the whole thing as a … well, a whole.
Realize that you’ve actually done it.

Go for another walk, only this time, think about nothing. By now the leaves will be gone. It may be snowing. While you are thinking about nothing, a new idea, a new character, a new setting will creep into your mind.
When you get home, write the first few pages because you need that rush of excitement to keep you going. Pace yourself. It’s not quite this book’s time yet, because you have that other one on the go that needs to go through the hard part. The work-part. The edit and the rewrite and the labor of getting your story to its natural end. Word counts? I guess I don’t see how word counts fit in. The books are as long as they are when they are done. Word counts are just not in my process.

That’s why it’s a “job”. Starting books is a hobby. And a really fun hobby.
Finishing them is the work.


karen rivers*This article came to a life of its own from the original blog post on Karen’s blog,“no na no wri mo for me, thank you. but you go ahead…

More about the author:

Karen Rivers is the author of a bunch of books. She likes to talk about herself in the third person. Karen’s ego is entirely connected to how many people fan her on her site, so she thanks you for your support. And so does her ego.


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