Writing is a process and getting yourself to the end of a piece involves a lot more than just actually thinking about what you want to say. Developing a system to get you from rough draft to finished product in a timely fashion is common sense.
The key is knowing what you want done and when you want it done. Call them deadlines or anything else you want, but they are necessary. The trick is to create hard deadlines for yourself. Avoid soft deadlines that are unfocused and unclear about what being “done” means.
Negotiating deadlines with yourself is the same with the people you are writing for. Learning to hit deadlines that are realistic and move you forward is a skill that all working writers have. This is the way I do it, but it isn’t a rigid system.
You are free to take anything I’ve outlined here and incorporate it into your own process.
The first thing I do with any writing project is outline my expectations for this particular story and stick it right at the top of my page.
Some things I keep track of in this upper portion of the page:
Goals- A simple statement of what I want to accomplish with this story. This is the part where you say what you are writing and when you want to complete it. I change this part at each due date until the project is completed.
Due date- I put the due date for a story prominently on the page. This isn’t necessarily a “done” date but the date your scheduled to revisit this project and revise the top section. Something is finished when I reach a due date and feel that I’ve completed everything that needs to be done.
Word Count- I usually keep a cumulative word count and the number I want to hit for each day at the top of a story.
Prospective audience- Thinking about this helps set the tone every time you sit down. It puts you into a mindset to write a magazine article or piece of fiction because you are writing for somebody. The faster you can focus on what you are writing, the more useful your time will be. Sometimes a story is only meant for your eyes only and that’s ok. Projects like that are necessary, just keep in mind why you want to write this particular piece and let that guide you.
Finishing any project is a matter of having a clear view of the end you want to achieve and mapping out a specific schedule for completion. Once you’ve worked out all of your expectations for a story, gear every single minute you work on a project toward hitting one of the goals you’ve stated above.
For example, I may have 15 minutes to work on a piece of fiction. In order to maximize my time I have a clear goal in mind to write at least 500 words in that span. After the time is up I see how many words I got through and added it to my overall word count.
The other part that people tend to avoid is measuring progress and adjusting expectations. At the end of each week I’ll look at the top section of every unfinished project and check my current progress against expectations I set the week before.
Review your work as often as you think is necessary. Some people go months or even an entire year before thinking about their goals again. Either way, the important thing is to think about your goals and find a way to make them focused and relevant.
Here are a few questions I consider each week along with some follow up questions:
Did I honestly fulfill my expectations for the week (Celebrate if you did) ?
– If no then ask, why didn’t I meet expectations?
-Then, how can I adjust my goals to make them more realistic?
If yes then ask think about setting more ambitious goals or stay at this pace until next week’s review.
Next topic is rough drafts.