Word-Smashing 3: How To Schedule Your Time

The Arts

Every day for the past month I’ve been pulling down dawn-to-dusk working hours (often going well past midnight). I’ve been working to finish the second draft of the next Bryant & May novel. I keep very little written down about it, except in a single manuscript file in the Cloud – everything else is in my head.

Alongside it runs a mental schedule that keeps me on track. It tells me that there will be 50 chapters, three drafts, a final polish and six edits (three for the UK, three for the US). There’s a second track that reminds me I’m about to be commissioned for something different, and I have submitted an outline accordingly. I have to be aware of the timings for this project; they’ll be different to the Bryant & May schedule.

But separate to these is a third track, for the projects I’ve yet to realise. These are out-of-the-blue ideas that I think will make novels in future.

However, that’s still not the whole picture, because the tracks aren’t linear. Track 1 (B&M) is heading for the finish line. Track 2 (standalone project) is a go as soon as the editor returns with notes. Track 3 (new ideas) currently consists of two books; the first draft of the first one is already written and awaits an overhaul. The first draft of the second one has been started too. Both need work to get them over the start line.

But I can’t write two books simultaneously. It reminds me of the school problem about the fisherman in the boat with the goat and the cabbage; one will eat the other.

Add to this the other demands on your time, marketing, blogging, literary festivals, readings, favours and remembering where you left your long-suffering partner, and you can see why some writers need an assistant.

I could tell you all sorts of things about time management, ensuring a quiet comfortable spot in which to write and using the Dewy decimal system for your research but it wouldn’t alter the fundamental truth; all of the above have to be quite clear in your head at all times. If you lose track of your schedules, you lose pages and may lose the impetus to finish your book.

Quite a few points on your schedule are predetermined. I know I’ll be at festivals on certain dates, I have a publication schedule and meetings roughed in – but publishers work in different ways; one of mine is laid-back, the other intensive, so I have two build in some extra time to cope with them.

Novels are best written while you’re in the zone the whole time. Hopping in and out of them to manage a few pages at a time is okay to a point, but you’ll never totally immerse yourself in the world you’ve created, and nor will your readers.

The book is your treasure chest, but your schedule is the key to it.

4 comments on “Word-Smashing 3: How To Schedule Your Time”

  1. Peter Tromans says:

    I used to be employed by a very large and famous company. There was some fixed logic amongst several managers that could be summarised as:

    If one woman can have a baby in 9 months, then 9 women can do it in one.

    If one woman can have a baby in 9 months, then she can work on as many as she likes simultaneously and produce numerous babies all in the same 9 months.

    You see, life is easy when tackled with the right mindset.

  2. Wayne Mook says:

    To have the right mind-set first I have to find where my mind is because it’s always wandering of. plus I have a memory like a…thingy, use it for drying lettuce or is it cabbage, well it’s got holes in it and whirls about at great speed.


  3. Ian Mason says:

    > … thingy, use it for drying lettuce or is it cabbage, well it’s got holes in it and whirls about at great speed.

    Playground roundabout.

  4. Wayne Mook says:

    That’ll be it,


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