It's a good idea to get familiar with budgeting time and word count before you actually write. Funny though, it works best to do this after writing your first chapter. Actually, it works best if you've written before, and kept track of your output, but let's be honest and laugh for a minute. Better? Good, now there's a method to this madness.

Don't worry, the only way to go from here is up    Credit


Budgeting time is the single biggest challenge any author will face if they already have their summary and outline written. If you don't, sincerely I wish you good luck finishing your novel and not having to do massive edits for continuity. Now, to first budget for time, you need to know how much you can write. From your current project and others, what you need to know is A) how many hours on average per day you write and B) how many words on average per hour you write.

How do we get there? Well, be a scientist for a moment and realize you need a large sample to get a real average. Measure hours you can write on the following days (time yourself on 3 days for each category) as well as your word count output for each day:

1. Days you work and are not sick, stressed, or socializing
2. Days you work and are stressed
3. Days you work and are socializing
4. Days you work and are sick
5. Days you do not work and are not sick, stressed, or socializing
6. Days you do not work and are stressed
7. Days you do not work and are socializing
8. Days you do not work and are sick

Basically in the adult world those are the eight kinds of days we encounter time and again. Pick three of each, say three work days with nothing else happening, and truly time yourself and write down the new word count for what you wrote that day. Once you have all those numbers, add them up and divide by twenty-four. That's your average daily time spent writing. Or, let's be honest, writing and surfing the web while watching movies or TV.

It feels like this, but it's simpler. See below.    Credit


Why is this important? Well you need to ask yourself if you can commit to this. Say it works out to 1.5 hours per day. In a week (you should always give yourself one day off to account for error, so assume you write for six days in a week) that would be 9 hours per week. Can you commit to this number? Say in a week if you're sick or busy, can you take a Saturday and do all 9 at once if you can't do 1.5 per day? That's the trick. If you have to do your weekly expectation in one day, could you? If you couldn't do 9 but could do 7.5, aim for 7.5. This means one hour and fifteen minutes a day you should expect to commit to writing.

Commit. I mean it. Writers need special care and feeding meaning when we write, it comes before our spouses, before our children, before our jobs, before our friends. It's sacred time, and god help you if you interrupt us. Commit to this. Let family and friends know. That's your time, and trespass upon it means forfeiture of life.

Now that you have a reasonable expectation of time, how many words do you write in that time? Once more take all the numbers gathered from those 24 days, add them, and divide by 24. In the above example remember we got to 1.5 hours writing per day? This number, let's say it's 950 is what you write in 1.5 hours. in 1 hour you roughly write 633. If you can commit to 7.5 hours per week,that means your goal is to write 4,750 words per week.

Why is that important? You need goals. Douglas Adams said his favorite thing about deadlines was the whooshing sound they made as they flew past. Become an international bestseller and you can make jokes like that too. For us working slobs that number 4,750 is do-or-die.

If this man is not your god, may I suggest a conversion?


Remember word counts, do research on your genre's word count goal, it's usually a range. Aim for the middle, divide by the weekly output, and you have your goal of how many weeks to write your first draft. Once you complete your first draft you will have established a pattern of writing, so it makes setting goals for editing easier. In that case you just need one day to see how fast you edit.

Why is this important? Well, with goals you keep motivated. In fact, give yourself a small reward every time you meet your weekly goal, something small and indulgent, like a Brazilian pool boy, or chocolate truffle, or a new ammo clip for your .45, whatever floats your boat. That will keep you going; finishing a project is the hardest thing, and it requires motivation.

Once you get a feel for budgeting your output (never do this until your first draft is written) go ahead and make a public announcement of when the project will be published. This of course works best for self-publishing, if you seek to have an agent and all that jazz, pick the date you'll mail off your query letter. Why? Old procrastinator trick: give yourself a date that if you fail causes you public humiliation, and you'll work your ass off to meet it.

Now that you have everything in place in terms of what you must generate, it's time to budget. Follow the steps above and you will know your guidelines and goals. Be an adult and meet them. Remember the covenant of adulthood: slave first, party all night later. 

By the gods this is easy after all! 

The Formulas

Taken from data from 24 days - word output and hours spent

Weekly Time Goal (T)
 ((SUM of all data) / 24) * 6 = Weekly Time Goal
     If this does not work, adjust the weekly time goal to a number that does work

Weekly Word Count Output (C)
 ((SUM of all data) / 24) * T = Weekly Word Count Output

Date Of First Draft Completion
  1. Find the word count range for your genre
  2. Aim for the middle
  3. Subtract any writing you have completed
  4. Divide that number by C
  5. The final number is the number of weeks to write your first draft