Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tips For Laying Out a Writing Calendar

by Eva Marie Everson @EvaMarieEverson

Tips for laying out a writing calendar.
Recently, at the Florida Christian Writers Conference held in February, our guest speaker Robert Benson told the enraptured audience that he writes 600 words a day. This is the general rule of thumb for him and, apparently, it has served him well.

During a Q&A, one of the conferees asked if 600 words a day would also work if he were a fiction writer. (In other words, when the juices are flowing, how do you stop writing?). Robert said he thought it would, but he had no way of actually knowing.

Well, I can answer that. I’m both a fiction and nonfiction writer and I’ve used the “X-number of words a day” rule for many years now. As in Mr. Benson’s case, it has served me well.

So, let’s say I have six months to write a manuscript of 90,000 words (I use that number as an estimate—I typically write between 85,000 and 100,000-word manuscripts). First thing I do is grab my calendar and start counting out the days. I do not count days when I am physically traveling (that’s hard enough without adding the stress of writing … and writing well), Sundays, or days when I know I’ll be otherwise engaged (family events, etc.). I also give myself 15 days before the due date as my “editing only” days. These are the days I re-read the manuscript, looking for holes, errors, places where I can fill in, etc.

Calculate the number of days divided
into the number of days.
Now, let’s say I have calculated 105 days to write this novel. I then write the days (from 105 to 1) on the calendar squares.  I take out my calculator and discover that with 105 days, I will need to write approximately 860 words a day. Can I do that (and factor in research, etc.)? You bet I can.

Here’s the way it works, however. On Day #105, I write my 860 words a day. On Day #104, I re-read and edit my first 860 words and then add another 860. On Day #103, I re-read my second 860 words and add another 860. On Day #102 my best friend calls and tells me she’s having the worst day of her life and can I meet her for lunch. Lunch becomes lunch-followed-by-shopping and then we add a stop at our favorite cafĂ© for coffee. By the time I get home, there are several emails to answer, a few phone calls to return, and I’m both physically and mentally fried. Plus, I promised my daughter I’d watch my grandson that evening so … forget that day’s 860 words.

The next morning, I re-group. I have to recalculate my days. I had 105 days to write, but I chopped off one, which means (in total) I do not have 102 days left to write, but 101. I’ve completed 2,580 words that I subtract from the 90,000, which means I have 87,420 words to completion. Now I have to write approximately 890 words a day. Still quite do-able.

As the days tick away, I find that the 890 starts to look like 1,890. Life simply happens, but at least I’m not a week away from my due date and I suddenly realize I’m 50,000 words behind. I’ve managed my time because I managed the numbers.

With all the balls I juggle (and they are numerous), I have yet to miss a deadline (except for the one that involved a family crisis and in that particular case, the publishing house offered it before I asked).

When you look at an overwhelming number such as 90,000, it’s easy to gasp and run. But if you break it down by the number of days, it’s as easy as … well, writing approximately 850 words a day.

Tips for laying out a #writing calendar - @EvaMarieEverson on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Think you don't have time to write a book? Tips from @EvaMarieEverson (Click to Tweet)

Eva Marie is a multiple award-winning author and speaker. She is one of the original five Orlando Word Weavers critique group members, an international and national group made up of critique chapters. She served as the original president from 2000 to 2007 and is now president of Word Weavers International, Inc. Eva Marie served as a mentor for Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild for several years and has taught at a number of writers conferences nationwide. During the 2010-2011 school year, Eva Marie served as an adjunct professor at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. She describes it as one of the best times she ever had while working. Eva Marie also serves as director of Florida Christian Writers Conference (along with Mark Hancock) and the Education Consultant for SON Studios.

She is both a past and current student at Andersonville Theological Seminary where she plans to receive her Masters in Old Testament Theology sometime before her ninetieth birthday. Eva Marie and her husband make their home in Central Florida where they are owned by one very spoiled dog, a funky chicken, and two hearts-full of grandchildren.

*Carol Award Winner for The Potluck Club
**ICRS Gold Medallion Finalist
***Multiple awards, including 2012 Inspirational Readers Choice Award & Maggie Award (Chasing Sunsets), 2013 Maggie Award & 2013 Christy finalist for Waiting for Sunrise, 2014 AWSA Golden Scroll Award (Slow Moon Rising), 2015 AWSA Golden Scroll Award (The Road to Testament)
****CBA Bestseller List several months running and a finalist for Retailers Choice Awards, 2013


  1. Eva, Thank you for showing us an easier way. I did not count words but I will now.

  2. You taught me that years ago and it has served me well. :-) I use 1000 words a day for mine, and when I stall at 650, I push my self to keep going. I will usually end up with 1500 or more. It's like the "wall" a runner hits and pushes through.

  3. Great post, Eva Marie! Thank you! My goal for several years has been to write 1000 words a day, five days a week, and on most days, I reach this goal. I like your idea of working backwards from the completion goal date to calculate the number of words per day. It reminds me of the concept of "beginning with the end in mind" - always a good idea when setting a goal. Thanks again for your valuable insights. You are a blessing! :)

  4. This sounds so doable. It helped a lot. Thank you.

  5. Thanks Eva. I loved (and related to) all your examples of distractions that get in the way of our writing goals ~ especially lunch with a friend followed by shopping, and baby sitting. :0 I needed this calculation reminder now more than ever, since we may also have a few unwanted (like a million doctor visits in a year) challenges thrown into our daily schedules. Bottom line: I don't want to close my eyes and realize I didn't finish what I was meant to write. :)

  6. I like this. It's concrete. Very doable.

  7. Thank you for the advice. I get bogged down with personal issues and then feel I should be doing something else. I will try to do this.

  8. Thank you, Eva. Always a good reminder that the numbers count, especially when the days like to slip away.

  9. Thanks for the inspiration. I am just getting back into writing after a death in my family. Instead of saying I need to write a blog post , book chapter, or article, I will set the goal of writing a certain number of words... starting today!

  10. Hello everyone! I apologize for not responding to all the comments, but I'm so glad you appreciated the topic and advice!

  11. I love this strategy! Can't wait to try it.
    Thank you, Eva. You just give and give..,
    Big hug to you, my friend.

  12. Loved this, Eva Marie. I love that Scrivener does the numbers for me, but that's how I keep up with my writing goals too. : )