How an Editorial Calendar Can Organize Your Writing Life
Being organized is the key to a smooth writing process.
Think about it—you’re trying to tackle a huge, fifty thousand word (or more) project. You’re juggling plot, character arcs, world-building, and a ton of other moving parts. I’m sure you can see why I’m such a strong believer in outlining your novel before you begin!
However, an outline only covers the story of your novel, not the logistics of actually creating said story. You need to write multiple drafts, coordinate with beta readers and editors, and plan time to do editing of your own, not to mention actually getting some sleep! So how will you make the time to write?
That’s where editorial calendars come in!
While we usually think of editorial calendars as something for journalists, editors, or bloggers, they can easily be adapted to novelists too, and the benefits of having a well-kept editorial calendar are huge. These handy organizational tools let you not only plan out your writing time, but also help you keep on top of your goals and see at a glance what needs to get done and when.
Instead of just “finishing your novel when you can,” a well-structured editorial calendar helps you maximize your writing time by ensuring you’re putting your energy where it matters most.
My Personal Editorial Calendar
Personally, I plan out my writing schedule at the beginning of each month, and even look forward to doing so. It’s exciting to see what progress I’ve made since last month and to feel in control of the progress I’ll be making this month.
When I sit down I have a list of the big milestones I need to hit, and a rough idea of when I’d like to hit them. From there I simply plan around my other commitments, ensuring I have enough time to realistically reach my goals.
By the end of an afternoon, I have a detailed editorial calendar in my planner!
Of course, my personal editorial calendar will probably look different from yours. Not only am I planning goals for my novel, but I’m also writing blog posts, editing other’s stories, completing work for clients, and running this website.
There’s a lot to account for, but it’s probably not so different from your own day-to-day routine—we all have to balance work, self-care, fun, and writing time!
I’m also a big fan of details. I like to plan out exactly what chapters to write and when to write them, along with designated time for editing. Not everyone will like this style, and that’s ok.
The real beauty of an editorial calendar is how customizable it is to your goals, life, and writing style. I know some people who simply set a word count they want to reach during the month, or who specify how many words they plan to write each day. Others try to write a handful of scenes each week, and other simply try to finish their first draft within three months.
Whatever your editorial calendar looks like, the benefits are the same—you’re more prepared, more focused, and more productive.
How to Build an Editorial Calendar for Your Novel
Decide on Your Goals:
Your first task when developing an editorial calendar is to decide on your goals:
- What do you want to write?
- How long will it be?
- What do you need to do to finish it?
- When do you want to complete it?
While it may seem obvious on the surface, getting a solid understanding of your goals will make it that much easier to actually put those goals into action! Think hard about what type of novel you’re setting out to write and when you want a finished copy in your hands. You might also want to make a note of any major deadlines you have, such as submission dates for writing competitions or for publishing agents and editors.
Of course, it also helps to be familiar with everything that goes into finishing a novel—first drafts, second drafts, beta readers, editors, etc… There’s a lot to unpack there, so I have an entire post dedicated just to editing your novel.
Build Stepping Stones:
With your main goal in mind, you can begin dividing it into stepping stones!
Let’s say, for example, that you’re trying to write a 60,000 word historical romance novel. You’ve only just begun your outline, so you still have a lot of work to do.
Your stepping stones might look something like this:
- Finish researching the setting and time period (2 weeks)
- Build an outline based on the Three Act Structure (3 weeks)
- Create a scene outline for the entire story (3 weeks)
- Begin the first draft! Write 500 words every day until complete (4 months)
- Complete an initial round of edits on the first draft before finding beta readers, etc… (4 weeks)
All of these stepping stones can be converted into even smaller sub-goals.
For instance, you may make separate goals for writing the first draft of each Act of your story. These sub-goals can help you further refine how long each step will take, so you can better plan your writing schedule (and enjoy the feeling of checking off tasks!)
Regardless of how granular you get, try to decide on clear time-frames for completing each goal, based on how fast you write, how busy your day-to-day life is, and how much you want to focus on your writing over other projects.
Create Your Calendar:
Of course, none of these goals are helpful if you don’t have a calendar to plan with.
By far the most time-intensive part of creating an effective editorial calendar is finding the best calendar to work with. If you already use a calendar to plan your day-to-day routine, this’ll be easier—simply incorporate your writing goals into your existing schedule.
However, if you don’t already have a calendar, you’re left with two main options:
Google Calendars (or other digital calendars)
- Pros: easily accessible, free to use, shared across all devices, easy to reorganize tasks, backed up in the cloud
- Cons: less tactile, easier to forget about, attached to your email account, requires an internet connection
- Pros: the fun of writing by hand, customizable to your style, harder to forget, easy to reference while writing
- Cons: can be lost, costs money, harder to reorganize tasks, takes up space in your bag or on your desk
No matter what format you use, the principle of creating an editorial calendar is the same.
You’ll pull out your calendar at the beginning of every week or month and plan out what goals you’ll tackle in that time-frame. Perhaps you’ll finish your outline by Monday and write your first chapter by Friday. From there you may set specific writing tasks for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Whatever your schedule may be, make sure to review it at regular intervals so you can stay up to date on what your next priority is.
Consider Your Daily Life:
Now, you may be tempted to base your editorial calendar purely on the time-frames you created while building stepping stones.
I would advise against this for two reasons:
- You can’t neglect the other things in your life, whether that’s work, family, or other projects.
- You need to account for holidays and other events that might throw off your normal routine.
This is one reason it’s helpful to build your editorial calendar into your existing planner. Since your other commitments are (presumably) already written down, you’ll be able to see at a glance how to work your writing goals into your schedule. Perhaps a goal you expected to take two days will really take four because you have half the available writing time during that week. Whether you already have these other commitments penciled in or not, this is an important part of the process.
When building your editorial calendar, make sure to account for holidays, other deadlines, work, classes, family commitments, and evenings out with friends. Your writing life needs to work within your normal life too!
Remember to be Flexible:
As I’ve talked you through building an editorial calendar, I’m sure you’ve been imagining what your own would look like. If you’re anything like me, planning for your novel is fun and exciting. It makes you feel productive and prepared, ready to tackle the world!
However, as fun as planning may be for you (and me), remember to be flexible. Things come up—you have a surprise doctor visit, a friend asks you out to lunch, you’re exhausted from a long day, or your laptop goes on the fritz.
Whatever it may be, set aside a few “weather days” between each goal. These act as days off, allowing you to shift work around or take days off entirely. When something unexpected happens, you can relax knowing you have extra time set aside for just such an occurrence.
Not only does this help keep you on track to reach your goals, but it also gives you extra days to treat yourself. If you reach your writing goals on time, you can reward yourself with a fun evening of movies, or take an afternoon to go to the park. Instead of jumping into the next task, you’re giving your brain the time to rest and reinvigorate itself!
Keep the Passion Alive:
Finally, we come to by far the most important part of creating an editorial calendar for your novel—passion.
It’s easy to get so caught up in the rush to finish your novel, meet your goals, and not fall behind that you forget to indulge yourself. Why did you fall in love with writing to begin with? It probably wasn’t because of checking off boxes, but because you loved to explore the power of words and have wild adventures in magical story worlds.Why did you fall in love with writing? #amwriting Click To Tweet
So always remember to give yourself the time to just have fun. Keep your passion for writing alive and don’t get too caught up in the need to hit every deadline and ace every goal. As helpful as editorial calendars are, sometimes it’s better to just lean back and enjoy the ride. 🙂
“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” – Douglas Adams
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