Writing a book, even a small one, takes time. The first two questions are how much time do you have? And how are you going to allocate it? This is the point where you may feel more than a little overwhelmed by the task ahead. Take a few deep breaths — inhale, exhale … inhale, exhale. No kidding. Do it. Inhale, exhale. OK, now sit down, and make a list of everything you have to write, starting with the title and ending with the author’s bio on the back cover.
Your Writing Plan
For the front and back covers, you will need your title and subtitle, a brief descriptive paragraph about the book, your bio, and a couple of powerful endorsements, which you won’t have until the book is written. Skip the copyright page for now. The publisher, whoever that might be, will supply it later. You will write the preface… introduction… acknowledgments .. index… bibliography… and appendices after you finish the heart of the book. The table of contents are already done (if you wrote a book proposal). The chapters, of course, are going to take the most time and concentration.
Next, write down these dates:
– Today’s date
– Deadline for each chapter
– Deadline for each section of “front matter” (preface, introduction acknowledgments)
– Deadline for each section of “back matter” (index, bibliography, appendices)
– Deadline for first draft
– Deadline for revisions & second draft
– Deadline for final draft
– Deadline for edited copy
– Deadline for revisions & third draft
– Deadline for copy edited copy
– Deadline for revisions & final draft
– Drop-dead deadline for copy-edited, proofread, ready-to-go-to-the-publisher-or-printer manuscript
The deadlines may be those you set for yourself or those set for you by a publisher. In either case, they are sacrosanct. The time between today’s date and when you plan to have your first draft complete is all the time you have. Everything on the list, from front cover to index, if you choose to write them, must fit in that time frame. You already know that the chapters are the heart of the book, but the preface and introduction are every bit as important. Remember, the former is personal, and the latter is informative. Be sure to give them the proper tone.
Starting from the deadline for the first draft, work backwards to determine exactly how much time you have, what has to be done, and how long each segment will take. Set mini-deadlines for yourself for each segment, and block them out on a large calendar. Be realistic. If it can’t be done in the time allotted, something has to be changed, and it may be your deadline. If you are self-publishing, you can move your own deadlines; if you are working with a conventional publisher, deadlines can be negotiated. When they are impossible, you have a right to say so … before you sign the contract.
Setting deadlines isn’t easy, but it is essential if you’re serious about writing a book. You must know how long the process will take and whether what you have to do can be done in the time you have. If it can’t be done, face reality. Trying to do the impossible is a recipe for frustration and failure. If, on the other hand, you can do it with good planning and self-discipline, you will feel a sense of relief. The facts are clear; you have faced them head on; and you know you are up to the challenge. The rest is up to you.
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