How to Write A Book or Finish Any Writing Project in 90 Days
I looked up at the splashes of color and ink dotting the wall. Every idea and every project, color coded and categorized, stuck to the wall in an effort to decide where to step next.
It was Day 2 of my annual planning retreat, and I was spinning. Every project seemed to depend on another, and there was no clear place to start. It felt like whatever I chose would be wrong.
So I froze.
Wherever you are, there you are.
It’s easy to freak out over big decisions.
Perhaps you think today’s decision might screw everything up two years from now. Maybe you still don’t quite know what to say or how to say it. Or you know what to write, but you’re not sure you can find the right people to read it or to support you.
When I started taking my writing seriously, I was afraid of all those same things. And if I’m being honest, I’m still afraid of them.
But fear means it matters, so I’m learning to use my fear as a signpost instead of a roadblock.
We can’t let fear stop us. All your ideas and projects and spinning are for naught if you don’t finish your book and launch it into the world.
Pick a place to start.
Believe me, I get how hard it is to pick one thing and stick to it. (Ask my husband!)
And I won’t lie to you—some of the projects you choose to start may end up needing to be revisited down the road. But as my amazing friend Whitney English says, “Go ugly early.”
It’s better to finish something imperfectly than never to launch it at all.
So, start out by making a list of all the projects you could possibly work on.
Then split up the ones that will take more than 90 days to finish; instead of listing “Write my first book” as your goal, split it into four 90-day goals:
- Plan, outline, and research my first book
- Write first draft of my book
- Edit and revise my book
- Publish and launch my book
Then set aside the “down the road” projects—where you need more resources, skills, or information than you can build up quickly—or the projects that need to be done in sequence. (for instance, you can’t publish your book before the first draft is written, but maybe you’re a pantser and you can do a first draft without an outline.)
What’s left are your immediate opportunities. This is your list of things you could start right now. So pick one.
Maybe you’ll pick the one you can knock out the fastest, or maybe you’ll choose the one that can make all the others go faster. Or maybe you’ll throw a dart at the wall or close your eyes and point to the page or pick the one that looks the most fun.
Doesn’t matter how you choose. Just pick one.
Well…I’m a project manager by trade, so it’s my business to set objectives and make plans to bring them to reality. And I’m here to walk you through doing that for yourself.
So today, we’re going to set a 90-day goal. A goal big enough to feel significant, and a deadline close enough to give you a sense of urgency. Because every day matters when you’re shooting to finish in 90 days.
Let’s do this.
First, define the goal.
What do YOU want to finish in the next 90 days? Be sure it’s something clear and measurable. Something you could explain to your uncle at the Thanksgiving dinner table.
Then take a second to think about WHY you want to do it. Be honest. It might be something spiritual, like a calling. It might be to achieve a financial goal. It might just be a bucket-list thing for you.
It’s YOUR why, so make sure your goal matters to you.
Now, get practical.
1. Define the Tasks.
Take a couple minutes and a piece of scrap paper or a pad of sticky notes, and start writing down everything you need to do to reach that goal. Use verbs—these are all things to DO.
Doesn’t matter what order it’s in. I often start at the end and work backwards on this, but don’t worry about missing a piece (sticky notes are great for this so you can move them around). This is an iterative process, and there’s plenty of time to add/shuffle as you need to.
2. Put Them in Order
Once you think you’ve got most of them (again, don’t overthink it or wait until you’re certain you have everything), try to put them in order. What needs to come before what?
You’ll invariably think of new things to add to the list. When you do, just jot them down, and slip them in wherever they belong (this is why I love sticky-notes!)
3. Add Dates
We’re not making fruitcake here. Grab a calendar, take that list, and mash them together.
Start at the final task, which is probably something like “Send finished manuscript to my publisher” or “Announce my new blog is live.” Count 90 days out from today, and put that as your due date.
Then start working backward. How long do you need for the previous task? How long for the one before that?
Don’t overthink it. Throw some dates in there and keep moving.
Maybe you’ll discover your goal is easier than you expected and you can finish a little sooner. Maybe you’ll discover it’s still really big and you need to break it down into smaller chunks…that’s ok. Keep adjusting as you need to. It’s your plan.
And if you get stuck, try asking your community for help.
4. Announce Your Plan
The last step of this is to make sure you have some support.
If you are the only person who knows your deadlines, it’s all too easy to push something off to next week or the week after. Having an accountability team will help you evaluate if it’s a curveball or an excuse.
And share your plan on social media so your friends and family can support you, too!
Your words can’t change the world if they’re not in it. So what do YOU want to complete in the next 90 days? Share in the comments…
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I am a writer, a project manager, and a corporate refugee with a heart for orphans around the world. My two daughters were adopted from Ukraine at ages 12 and 14. I post about writing, chasing dreams, and making a difference in the world, and sometimes I share fun snippets of fiction in-progress.