How to Schedule Your Nonfiction Book Project In 4 Easy, Practical Steps

27 May 2019


Now that you’ve decided to write a book and have identified your book’s angle, the real work begins!

Make this work easier by using the four steps below to create a clear schedule for your project.

Schedule Your Book Project in 4 Steps

Step 1: Identify what needs to be done and how long it will take

There can be many variables involved when deciding on the tasks you need to do to complete your book. This can include how well you know your subject, how much research you need to still do, the time you have to dedicate to your project, and schedules of any outside people involved.  These things can greatly increase or decrease the time you need to take to complete your project.

However, there are standard tasks involved when writing any nonfiction book, regardless of  subject matter. As an example, for a 200-page book of approximately 75,000 words, you can expect your tasks to include:

  • Information gathering which includes subject research as needed, conducting interviews, and research on competing material:  100 to 400 hours
  • Outlining the book/planning of all chapters:  8 to 15 hours
  • Writing your book:  175 to 300 hours
  • Self-editing and editing based on peer feedback:  90 to 175 hours
  • Proofreading and detail work such as captions, credits, and cleaning up citations:  10 to 30 hours
  • Other potential tasks include soliciting feedback from topic experts, getting a celebrity to write your forward, market research, and pitching to publishers:  10 to 30 hours

Added up, that’s 393 to 950 hours to complete your book. If you plan to finish your book in a year, you will need to allocate an average of 7 and 18 hours a week.

Step 2: Plan and Outline Your Book Project

While an outline doesn’t sound very creative or fun, it is crucial to organizing your book project. 

Creating this detailed outline helps you take a topic and break it down into smaller chunks of information so you know what you need to write about to cover your topic in a thorough way. It ensures you won’t leave out important information and will give you better understanding of the tasks you need to complete and how to schedule them into your calendar.  

An outline also assists you to identify:

  • the appropriate formatting of your book
  • how best to break your subject up
  • the estimated length of your book
  • the number and estimated length of required chapters
  • sub-topics or subheads/chapters within each chapter

Outlines can be done in a paragraph summary format or a list form. Whichever you choose, always take the main topic and break it down into smaller topics for your chapters. Then, break each chapter topic down further into smaller sections using subheadings. Include notes on what you need to cover in each section.

If outlining a large book project seems overwhelming,, Dotxes, and Sample Templates have some great samples that can help.

Step 3: Create your schedule

By now you now will have a realistic expectation of how many hours you need to spend to complete your project. Next, review your personal schedule and start mapping out how much time you can devote to this project and where you can expect to be from week to week, month to month based on your actual schedule.

Once you know when you want to complete your project and how many hours you can devote to it, along with the hours needed to finish each task, you are ready to actually schedule your project.

The most practical way to do this is by starting your schedule at your completion date. Then work backwards, week-by-week, based on the tasks and time for each you identified in Step 1. Doing this helps you set achievable milestones while helping you see if the schedule you are creating is realistic within the project and your life.

What’s the best tool to create your schedule? Whatever works for you! A regular hardcopy or online calendar works just as well or better than expensive scheduling programs. You can check out some sample project scheduling templates to get you started.

Step 4: Keep focused and achieve your goal

Once you have followed the earlier steps and done all of the planning, the writing should be easy, right?

Well, not always.

If you find yourself losing focus or procrastinating on the writing, create a list of ways to keep yourself motivated and on task. Give yourself little rewards whenever you finish a section of your project or reach a milestone on your schedule. These rewards don’t have to be big, but make them something that inspires you to keep moving forward.

You can also find a large reward for yourself for the completion of the whole book. Hawaii anyone?

Finding an accountability partner also can help. Ask a friend or family member to check in with you once or twice a week to see how you’re progressing. When you have someone to “answer to,” you are more likely to complete your project.

Things to Keep in Mind When Creating Your Book Project’s Schedule

  • Don’t just “wing it.” Take the time to clearly plan out a detailed schedule for your project.
  • Give yourself the proper amount of time to complete each necessary task. This means, don’t underestimate your time to do what needs to be done. Oftentimes, it takes a person twice as long to complete a task than they originally thought it would.
  • Don’t rush through or skip critical tasks to save time.
  • Allow for flexibility in your project’s schedule for the unexpected.
  • Don’t throw out the whole schedule if you lose focus or get off track. Learn to revise as needed to get on with your plan. Remember, it’s a roadmap that can change paths to the same destination.
  • Realize that writing a book is a long and challenging project. If you don’t have the time, focus, or skill, consider allocating the project or parts of the project to someone who can help. There are professional ghostwriters, editors, researchers, and proofreaders you can hire to take a lot of the work and hours off your hands.

Final Word

Great writers such as Hemingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner, and Shakespeare have made being a writer seem prestigious and easy. Their works have a way of romanticizing the idea of being a published author, bringing to mind images of sitting down at a typewriter with a glass of wine and just letting the words flow onto paper.

In reality, though, writing a book takes a lot of time, energy, and skill. Often people go into it with unrealistic expectations, and end up quitting when they realize it is not all sunshine and roses.

However, if you take the time to plan and create a clear schedule for your book project (and stick with it!), you can be one of the few that succeeds!

Shelly Spencer 
Shelly Spencer has been a professional writer for the past 25 years with a specialized focus on grant and RFP proposal writing. She has written for small start-up and mid-sized businesses as well as numerous non-profit organizations and also worked at a daily newspaper editing and proofreading display advertisements and real estate articles. Shelly has experience in writing for a variety of industries in all types of copy, including articles, blog posts, e-books, websites, proposals, brochures, press releases, newsletters, and more. Choosing not to go the traditional route, Shelly gained her skills through hands-on experience and by studying direct mail, B2B, and SEO copywriting through various American Writers and Artists Inc. (AWAI) programs. She is an AWAI verified direct response copywriter having completed their Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting and the Master's Program for Six-Figure Copywriting. She has also completed the Secrets to Writing High Performance B2B Copy by Steve Slaunwhite and Dan Kennedy's Writing for Info Marketers, both through AWAI, and The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program by Great Escape Publishing. Shelly is a member of the Professional Writer’s Association (PWA) and the International Travel Writers and Photographers Association (ITWPA).

Related Content

  • 0 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *