The Backwards Approach to Drafting a Novel

Veronica Rossi 6 Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Setting a daily or weekly goal is a great way to get a rough draft written. Many writers commit to chunk of writing time every day, or a target word count. They're the equivalent of taking a step on the path to completion. Keep taking those steps and the end draws nearer with each one. One becomes ten, becomes a thousand and before you know it, you've covered a great distance. You've drafted a novel.
Many writers also have an end goal--a total word count, or a completion date that they aim for--when writing a rough draft. I set both of these, but more important to me than looking forward is the ability to look back.
Allow me to explain. Every manuscript I write gets its own wall calendar. On the calendar (Eckhart Tolle for my current work in progress), I block out time to plan, and then I note the day I start writing. I aim for at least a thousand words a day. Every day, I write my word count on the calendar. Most days, I meet my goal. Some days I fail miserably. And others still, I double it.
I add up my weekly totals on the calendar, and jot down dates where I reach (or discover) pivotal milestones in the story. I draw stars and smiley faces on good days. I draw skull and crossbones on bad ones. For great days, I bust out the highlighter.
Can you picture what this calendar looks like?
It's a record of all the peaks and valleys in the process. A visual representation of all the steps I spoke of above. And here's why I love this: because it's important to remember that every day is not the same. Some days are terrible. Stumbling. Painful. But there are smiley days. Days where I hit three thousand words without breaking a sweat. And for me, seeing those ups and downs takes some pressure off. When I sit down in the morning to write, seeing the journey as an overview makes me feel better. It calms me to see the chaos. The craziness. Because maybe I had a poor stretch last week, but I was on fire the week before that. And look at yesterday....

Then I push my calendar aside and top off my coffee. And then it's time to see what happens today.


Love this post! Maybe I should buy a calendar for my WIP! :)

This is a great idea! I love the idea of having a visual representation of good and bad writing days.

I never thought about having a word count as a goal, much less marking it on the calendar. And I love calendars! Thanks for the tip. Makes so much sense.

Thanks for coming by the blog, ladies! I just wrote down today's tally on my calendar. there's something so satisfying about meeting small goals. Happy writing to all!

I really do love this idea. Also, if you end up actually having a pattern (like a high point seems to come every 5-8 days, or a low point) then maybe there's some mental prep work that can happen: "Okay, I'm having a crap day but in approximately 76 hours I should be feeling better again!!" haha, okay not that precise but yeah.

Yep, gotta agree. The calendar sounds like a great idea. If I don't smarten up though, my will be all skulls and crossbones.

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