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  • Foto van schrijverIris Marsh

Setting Realistic Deadlines for Writers

Bijgewerkt op: 21 nov. 2023

When you work with a publisher, your deadlines are set for you. However, if you’re self-publishing or still writing the manuscript you want to query, you need to set your own deadlines as a writer.

Deadlines help us focus and give us direction, even if they’re not “hard” deadlines. But when you do set your own deadlines, you want them to be realistic. In short, you want to give yourself enough time, reevaluate occasionally and adjust where necessary, and reward yourself for a job well done.

Below, you’ll find exactly how you can set realistic deadlines for your writing goals.

Setting realistic deadlines for writers

Why do writers need deadlines?

You might wonder: do I actually need a deadline as a writer? Who is going to hold me accountable?

Well, you are.

Chances are, if you don’t set any deadlines for yourself, you never finish your manuscript. Often, if we don’t have any direction or set time we want to complete something in, we procrastinate a lot more.

Deadlines are helpful in dragging you over that finish line so you can finally publish your novel. It's also helpful when you're procrastinating because of self-doubt.

How do you set realistic deadlines for writing?

1. Set your overall deadline

When do you want to publish your book? Would that be realistic?

If you’ve never published a book before, a deadline for publishing your book in 1 year may sound workable. But in reality, you’ll likely need longer. This also depends on how much time you have to dedicate to your writing. And it’s not uncommon to rewrite your story a few times before you have a workable draft to continue with.

So why not make that deadline 2 years?

I know that sounds far away, and you want to publish your book right now. But 2 years will give you enough time to create a good quality book and will give you some time to research steps outside of writing. For instance, how you set up your KDP, how to do metadata research, and which cover designer you should hire.

If you’ve already published one or more books, you likely have a better idea of what a realistic deadline is for you. For some, it’s a year or more. For others, it’s 3 months.

Note that date down in your calendar or someplace else where you keep track of your writing goals.

2. Write out the different steps & how long they take

Writing a book comprises many steps. Write down each task that you have to do and give yourself an estimated timeline. For instance:

  • Characterization: 1 week

  • Worldbuilding: 1 week

  • Outlining: 2 weeks

  • First draft: 3 months

  • Revision 1: 1 month

  • Editor: 2 months

  • Find cover designer: 1 week

  • Research metadata: 2 weeks

  • Revision 2: 1 month

  • Line edits: 1 month

And so on.

Once you’ve written this down, see if it would indeed fit with your big deadline for publishing. If not, can you decrease the time in any of the tasks? Or can you move the big deadline further?

3. Set smaller deadlines

Now it’s time to set the deadlines for your smaller tasks. Attach an actual date to them.

Then, each week, see which small task you have to work on. For instance, if you want to finish characterization in a week, determine which tasks need to be completed. These could be:

  • Create your main character profile

  • Create your villain profile

  • Create profiles for important side characters

For your writing step, I highly recommend you break down the word count so you have a daily word count goal. This doesn’t mean you have to write each day (it’s okay to skip a day or two each week). But then you have to consider that you have fewer days in the week to meet your goal.

Let’s say you want to write a standard novel of around 80k words within 3 months (around 90 days). That means you should hit a word count of around 26.667 each month.

Which then means you have to write around 6222 words a week.

If you want to write for 5 days a week, this means you should write 1245 words each day you’re writing.

Ask yourself: is this manageable? If not, can you make more time to write?

If not, perhaps you need to extend your deadline.

4. Do the tasks & reevaluate

Every month (or week if you want), reevaluate both your current goal and your timeline.

It’s possible you misjudged the time you needed for a certain task. This can be positive (perhaps you thought it took more time than it actually took), but most often it means you need more time.

That’s okay.

With the knowledge you have at that moment, reevaluate how much time you actually need for a task. What would your new deadline then be? How does it affect the rest of your tasks?

If necessary, move your big deadline further into the future.

5. Celebrate your wins!

Did you meet your small deadline? Or did you complete your tasks for the week?

Then go ahead and celebrate! It doesn’t matter how you do it, whether it’s taking some much-needed me-time, going out for drinks with a friend, or eating out at an amazing restaurant. Do something that motivates you to continue.

And, of course, once you meet your big deadlines (and yes, finishing your first draft is also a big deadline!), celebrate with something bigger!

You’ve accomplished something huge, so you’re allowed to treat yourself to something great.

When things get tough

Sometimes it may seem that you’ll never get to publish your book. However, when you work on your book each week, you will make progress. Even if it’s slower than you thought it was.

But if you need a little bit of additional motivation, it can help a lot to find a writing partner. If you don’t know someone in your circle, go to a Facebook group or another online community.

Whenever you feel stuck, they’re there to lift your spirits. You can do this!


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