When it comes to creative writing, how do you create and then stick to a time table of milestones? I've created schedules a hundred times (e.g. this week I will have completed chapter number so and so), but finishing a chapter really depends on the flow of ideas in my head. Sometimes I finish a chapter in 1 day. Then there are times when nothing creative comes to me for weeks which completely derails my time table (and consequently disrupts my discipline). Any tips?

2 Answers 2


I don't use a timetable, or anything that creates expectations for completion.

I get up and write at the same time every day, until I am done. I use Orson Scott Card's method, and Stephen King's method. I don't know who invented it first. Stephen King says when he is writing, he writes every day. Including Saturdays, Sundays, Christmas, his Birthday, whatever. He doesn't know when he will be done.

Orson Scott Card says when he is writing, he has a block of hours for when he writes, he is in his office and is not allowed to do anything but write. He can do nothing, he can stare at the screen and not write a word, he can lay on his back and stare at the ceiling, but that's it. Write or do absolutely nothing. Don't sleep, don't surf the net, don't read, just write.

When I am writing, I write for at least 90 minutes, up to about 3 hours. I get up at 4:30 AM, every single day. (Whether I am writing or not). From 5:00 to 6:30 AM,I (like Orson Scott Card) am not allowed to do anything else to entertain myself except write. I can drink coffee.

And eventually I finish. I've finished, edited and had professionally reviewed (I can afford that) three full novels and two Screenplays.

Psychologically, if you create expectations for when you will be done, then when you get to the "due date" and you aren't even close, you get discouraged. I don't get discouraged.

I used this same method to lay wood floors in my house thirty years ago, with my wife. I was working at the time, but we committed to working on the floors every Sunday for three hours. And we did! On average in three hours we laid three boards; but some days, just one. Didn't matter. We met our obligation. Some weeks, we got zero boards done, we just rearranged furniture to make a working place, tore up carpet in that area, and cleaned and prepared the concrete underneath.

We bought all the wood and materials up front, and it took us 11 months to lay our wood floors. Professionals could likely have done that in a few days, but it didn't matter, at the time we couldn't afford to get both the wood we liked best, and professional installation. And we finished, and did all the baseboards correctly, and we still love our floors.

Don't try to commit to a schedule that will disappoint you. Commit to a schedule of work, and stick to that. Write, rewrite, edit, read your own story and look for holes or problems. Figure out your plot problems. When you can't make it any better than it is, you are done.

Don't get stuck in a cycle of edits where you are just making it different, not better. And don't set an expectation for yourself that will disappoint and discourage you.

As Stephen King says, the people that succeed at writing are the people, like him, that like to write, period, whether they get published or not. He says most people that say they want to write really only want to have written, they don't actually like to write! For him, writing is his hobby, and just like other people's hobbies, he can engage in it just for the fun of it without selling anything he does. But putting in the time is how you get good enough to sell anything.

Giving yourself deadlines to meet is a loser's game, you will be disappointed, and get discouraged. Just make your promise to write on your schedule, be it every day, or every week, for X amount of time at a sitting. And eventually, you will finish something.

When I write, it takes me about 9 or 10 months to finish a story. But I don't count on that, I will put in my session until I naturally come to a conclusion. No pressure every day to "catch up", I am never behind. It is just another day, and just another 90 minutes, and in that time I do what I can.

  • 1
    Thanks for your insights! Loved them.
    – Batool
    Nov 26, 2022 at 8:25

I have tried things like sitting at the table until I have written 2000 words a day. I was disciplined and did it. After five days I had 10,000 words. Great.


I would write words to get to the 2,000 a day rather than good words. I was writing rubbish to get to the goal.

I found it much better to set aside time and make sure I was sitting with a pen in my hand and paper in front of me. When I wasn't busy with work or other things, I booked several hours a day. At other times I just scheduled an hour. (I wrote four novels in a couple of years this way. I'm not saying they are great or epic but they got done.)

If I have nothing new to write, I revise something I've written before. That way the time is always well spent and I am always productive.

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