When You Need To Write FAST (And Procrastination Is Not An Option)


Do you ever battle the piranha of procrastination? You know, that sharp toothed literary fish that devours your writing time?

Yeah, me neither. I start writing at 3pm every day whether I have other things to do or not. (Please, if you have conquered that smiggley little creature, e-mail me. I’d love to know the secret.)

My Dilemma

For the past two and a half months, procrastination has not been an option. On September 12th, my publisher and I decided the book I’d been writing during summer would be book two. Yep, my own personal version of Nanowrimo. But instead of 50,000 words in four weeks, I needed 96k in ten.

And not just words. Words I’d be proud of turning in. Words my editor could read in complete sentences. It seemed insurmountable.

What Helped

I built myself an Excel spreadsheet that broke down the task into Bird by Bird numbers. (See Anne Lamott’s stellar book on writing if that reference zoomed over your skull.)

Ten weeks is approximately seventy days x 1,372 words per day = 96,040.

Yeah, I know, there needs to be editing days in there too—as well as research time—so I gave myself fifty days to write the novel (1,920 words per day) and twenty days to research and edit.

My writing pace is 1,000 words per hour so I knew if I could commit two hours per day to writing, it was doable.

Not easy, but doable.

And taking my eyes off the summit and zooming in on the number of steps I needed to take up the mountain each day made a tremendous difference in my emotional state. (I turned the manuscript in this past Sunday night and made my deadline.)

Might work for you too whether your deadline is ten months or ten weeks. Procrastination be gone.

(By the way, I wrote my first novel ROOMS in six years. My second, BOOK OF DAYS took two. THE CHAIR, my third, was finished in five months. And as you know, the novel we’ve been discussing—currently titled THE NAMELESS ONE (October 2012) was complete in ten weeks. For those of you who are math savvy you realize applying the exponential timeline outlined above to my fifth novel means it’ll be written in three days. I can hardly wait.)

James L. Rubart is the best-selling, and award winning author of ROOMS, BOOK OF DAYS, and THE CHAIR. During the day he runs Barefoot Marketing, helping authors make more coin of the realm. In his free time he dirt bikes, hikes, water skis, and take photos. No, he doesn’t sleep much. He lives with his amazing wife and teenage sons in the Pacific Northwest and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman. More at www.jameslrubart.com