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How I Get My Drafts Done on Time

All writers have their “process” and I’m no different. When I’m drafting, having a deadline is what works for me, and I’m usually pretty good at meeting it. I’ve done a blog post before on how not everything works for everyone, but I thought I’d share how I get my drafts done on time in case it resonates with you.

I should preface this by saying I am a statistical analyst, so I’m a little obsessed with numbers. (Read: There is math ahead.)

I use my own variation of Don’t Break the Chain. If you’ve never heard of it, Don’t Break the Chain is where you get a calendar (like this one) and every day you meet a goal, you get an “x”. The idea is to get as many in a row as you can without breaking the chain. The more days you have in a row, the harder it will be to let yourself break your streak. Or, at least that’s the idea. (I'm told it's from Seinfeld.)

But I don’t write every day. It’s just never been a thing I’ve been able to do with all the other life things that need to get done. So, I let myself bank days. Stay with me.

To start off, you need to pick a deadline. Say you want to get a 70,000-word draft done in a year. That’s 365 days. So, divide the number of words by the number of days. Voilà! You’d have to write 191.8 words a day to meet that goal. Let’s call it 200 words a day.

Then, you sit down to write. We’ll pretend today is Monday. You write 800 words. You get four x’s! So, you’re good writing-wise until Thursday. But, now it’s Saturday and you haven’t written any more this week. You’re 400 words in debt! So you write 500 words, just barely scraping yourself out of the hole. Because, you see, you need to hit the 200 words to get the x. Those extra 100 words don’t count. (So you might as well write another 100 words today, right?)

And so on, and so on. It’s a bit of a race against yourself. If you’re particularly competitive, this might work for you! You’re basically back and forth between being ahead and behind, but you don’t have to feel guilty about not sitting at that keyboard Every. Single. Day. and you can still have a daily goal.

There are a hundred ways to get yourself motivated to write that draft. This one can be a sure-fire way to either kick yourself in the butt and get it done, or just make yourself feel incredibly guilty. Depends on the type of person you are! But you can always recalibrate. I got pneumonia one year in the middle of my draft and got hopelessly behind. I was in debt more than six weeks. So I started over. I kept the same deadline but adjusted my daily word count to 300 from 250. You can always do the same thing!

Personally, this doesn’t work at all for me when I’m revising, but you can use this, too. Just change the word count goal to a revising goal. Say, revise for an hour a day, or revise one scene, or whatever!

Anyway, this is just what works for me. Let me know if you try this and how it goes!

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