To create a fiction writing schedule is more than planning to write; it’s how we ensure we finish our novels.
It’s the back of the napkin math—if you write so many words a day you’ll finish your book in this amount of time.
The hard part for us all is keeping the schedule, but if we structure our day to facilitate writing easily, following through with our commitment becomes a hundred times easier.
Where to start, what to include, how to plan, and a way you can remind yourself—even automate your schedule—is all below.
We’re going to be carving out time in your schedule for four things:
- Reading Time
- Learning Time
- Writing Time
- Rest Time
By the end of this post you will have created a fiction writing schedule that works for your life.
Define Your Why, Commit, and Prioritize
Before jumping into the mechanics of fiction writing schedules, let’s start with the foundation of your schedule.
In 2015, a couple weeks post-surgery from my second hip procedure, my life was mainly structured around physical therapy. I had eight hours of physical therapy to complete daily.
After experimenting a bit, I found I could read and study the craft of writing during parts of my physical therapy, but during the day stuck at home with my family there was no private time to write.
The only time I could get away by myself to write was at night, usually between 8:00-10:00pm.
Whether I wanted to write or not—even if family was having fun downstairs or a movie was being watched—every night I’d grab my tea, hobble upstairs, and write 1,000 words before going to bed.
They were not good words. In fact, I was on some strong post-surgery painkillers most of the time and I rewrote all of it.
It might have been trash, but when you’re starting out you need to write out the trash so the gold can present itself down the road.
It’s why fiction writing schedules are so important. If left to when the muse calls, we would write, look at our writing, and then give up because, honestly, our first words are terrible with only flakes of gold throughout.
Yet when committed to a schedule we cleanse out our bad writing faster.
Now the structure I used for my schedule then and now will be different then what works for you. Maybe you have kids, have a job you commute two hours to, or a zillion other conflicts.
But if you are serious about trying out writing and finishing your novel, then you will make a way. So as we go through this, don’t be discouraged.
Instead, let those creative juices flow and find ways you can multi-task, eliminate less important activities, and carve out the time to write your amazing story.
What is your desire in writing and life? This free workbook will guide you through identifying what you want and why. This is the first step to making a difference in the world—identifying how you want to use your voice.Send it!
Schedule Reading Time
Right now I’m assuming you fall into one or more of these three camps:
1. There is no time to read.
2. You’d rather spend your downtime on something easier, like watching a TV show.
3. You have no problem finding time to read.
If you fall into camp three, feel free to skip ahead to the next section—you are doing great.
If you fall into camp one or two, I feel you.
Let’s address camp one first…
I know it’s hard to find reading time. In my less than proud moments I would go months without reading a book—fiction or non-fiction. I just didn’t have time.
Now I still don’t have time, but I read anyway.
In our hectic lives spending time on an enjoyable activity our immediate community often says is unnecessary doesn’t seem worth the effort (the horror of doing something you actually adore!).
So, you may need to cut something short: exchange social media for an e-book, challenge yourself to go faster answering emails to get reading in, bring a book with you and read while waiting in line, for a meeting, or while eating lunch.
It’s hard to fit reading in, but it’s a necessity to being a writer.
If you fall into camp two, and you’d rather spend your extra time on something less interactive like watching a tv show, again I get it.
When I didn’t read for months, you bet I was binging TV shows, even in the middle of the day (I didn’t have time to do that either)…again, not one of my proudest memories.
When we’re tired the last thing we want to do is read a book—it takes mental energy. In fact, if we don’t read for long enough, we can forget why we loved it so much.
If you’re relating to me at all, try this—it helped me.
Set a time in the morning, afternoon, or evening to sit down and read for twenty-five minutes. The rest of your free time you can watch something, but save twenty-five of those minutes—just half of a tv episode—to reading.
Keep doing this for a couple months, and you will begin to rediscover why you love reading. The magical, inexplainable love for reading will be yours again.
Find time to read, because it’s how we learn to write.
Schedule Writing Craft Learning Time
The next part of your new schedule is dedicated to learning the craft of fiction writing.
You can dedicate time to learning every day or twice a week—whatever works for. You can read a non-fiction book on writing, take an online course, or read blog posts.
The main point is we need to always be students of the craft, because we will never know everything. It’s a daunting and relieving truth, isn’t it?
We will never be masters, always students. Which means we must always learn, but that all authors are amateurs and learning, too. It’s one of those things we just gotta go with.
To find time learning is kind of like finding the time to read. Set a timer and dedicate twenty-five minutes a day to learn, or listen to an audiobook or podcast on your commute to work.
Try a few different things and pick what works for you.
Schedule Novel Writing Time
The big one—finding time to write our stories.
This is by far the hardest to schedule, not only because the fiction writing process can be time-consuming, but because facing a blank page is terrifying.
Which makes scheduling writing time doubly important, because even if you don’t write a word, you showed up and told yourself writing is important. Keep showing up, and the words will come.
Starting out we want to eliminate all possible obstacles to writing. We want to keep the schedule simple and easy to accomplish.
If ten minutes is all you can manage in a day, it is enough. Protect that ten minutes with your life and use them to write. If writing in the comfort of your bed helps you look forward to writing time, by all means write under your covers.
Morning, afternoon, evening, it doesn’t matter. Take a hard look at your current lifestyle and be honest with yourself: in what part of my day would it be realistic to start a writing habit.
Even more powerful, how can I create a writing habit I look forward to everyday?
Will writing in the morning make me excited to get up early?
Does writing at night with a glass of wine and soft music get me excited?
Use all the weapons you’ve got in your arsenal to conquer your writing schedule.
When we don’t have time, we have to make time—sometimes that means sacrificing something less important.
Which brings us back to the top of this blog post: what are our priorities? Is writing one of them?
- “How to Make Your Own Writing Routine and Why You Should”
- “How to Overcome 3 Types of Writing Blocks (or ‘Why You Should Write When You Don’t Feel Like It’)”
4. Rest is Productive—Schedule it!
Now this is a lesson I learned recently: rest can be productive.
For most of my life my idea of productivity has been how much work I could fit into a day.
When Melyssa Griffin asked in a group call I had attended—asked rhetorically— if rest could be productive, my mind was blown.
Of course it can. Our minds and bodies need rest to be creative and to live a life that makes a difference in others lives.
We can’t function without rest. Sleeping, reading, meditation, prayer, chilling with friends + family or recharging with a movie, it all matters.
While we may not be consciously working, our subconscious is always at work when we are resting.
In fact, the creative solutions that pop into our brains are the result of your subconscious working during periods of rest.
So don’t feel guilty for taking a break, an evening off, or a few days off.
It’s hard to give myself this freedom, but maybe we can help each other improve.
In this workbook, you’ll learn how to sharpen your story’s questions so your readers will be able to relate to your characters and their experiences. You’ll also learn how to develop a stronger emotional connection between your characters and your readers, so they will be invested in the story and eagerly awaiting the next page. This workbook will help you create a story that your readers won’t be able to put down!Send it!
Mark Your Calendar
Now that you have your schedule, it’s time to make it official.
I use a daily planner to organize my months and days, and I make sure writing time, learning time, and reading time are always scheduled.
I don’t always check off each box, but when I don’t I pick up where I left off the next day.
You don’t need to use a physical planner. You can use your computer’s calendar to schedule time and, better yet, remind you when it’s time to sit down and write.
There are also apps you can download to help schedule your day, and send you notifications if that helps.
Do what works for you. There is no right or wrong—we all have our own styles.
Then create a reward for yourself if you complete your fiction writing schedule. Eat a piece of chocolate, have a glass of wine, or watch a tv show. Remember, taking care of yourself will benefit your writing too.
When Will You Start Your Writing Schedule?
Is your new fiction writing schedule starting next week, next month, or tomorrow?
Set a concrete day, mark your calendar, and start stoking the excitement inside of yourself for this incredible journey you are about to take.
Show up for yourself in your writing, and prove to yourself that it’s a worthy use of your time.
Imagine yourself three months from now having kept your writing schedule…what do you see? How do you feel?
Whenever you are tempted to skip writing, remember the image of your future self.
This is how we become writers. It is how we will become authors.
Tell your story,
- “8 Ways How to Become a Fiction Writer for Beginners”
- “How You Can Start the Life of Your Dreams, Writer”
Whether you’re a beginning fiction writer or looking for resources to help you hone your existing writing skills, join my newsletter for bonus content, updates, special offers, and INSTANT access to the Library of Resources!
A storyteller at heart, Sarah works with fiction writers to provide support, storytelling instruction, and assistance in defeating writing blocks. Her blog teaches aspiring writers how to write great fiction, manage a busy creative life, and overcome the fears blocking their path to writing success.
Sarah is the author of Character Presentation: The Advanced Guide to Character Description, Before the First Draft: The Plantster’s Guide to Pre-Writing, and her upcoming novel, The New Dawn.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” — John 1:5