On Writing, Thoughts on Writing

Novelists: Create a Gannt Chart to Map Your Milestones

June 10, 2012

Skip this post if you are tech averse – but, if you can tolerate mild techitude, read on and you may be able to create a neat tool that will serve you as a handy “map” on your novel writing jouney.

There are many ways to track how you progress on your novel. In my opinion, creating a Gannt chart to plan and track the evolution of your work in progress, is one of the best ways to provide yourself with helpful metrics.

Here is a sample Milestone Gannt chart schedule I created:

Click on the image for the larger font version.

Software purpose-built to create Gannt charts is pricey. If you have the budget, go for it. However, good old Microsoft Excel allows a great workaround that creates perfectly serviceable Gannt charts. And, thanks to online YouTube tutorials, within an hour or less, you can create your Novel Writing Schedule in nifty Gannt format.

The tutorials I use are created by Eugene O’Loughlin at the National College of Ireland. Here is his tutorial on How to Create a Gannt Chart with Excel 2003. Here is his tutorial on How to Create a Gannt Chart with Excel 2010.

Once you have inputted your milestones and target dates, Excel also allows you to print out a simple Columns-and-Rows Schedule with the same information.

Click on the image for the larger font version.

Here is how the data you need to input looks when it is inputted into Excel.

Click on the image for the larger font version.

You’ll notice that my milestones include “Create Scrivener Index Cards.” For non-Scrivener users, that means, transfer your Beat Sheet action bullet points to where you can begin to expand each bullet point into a Scene. Non-Scrivener users can skip this step – but, Novelists, I highly recommend that if you are not using Scrivener, you make a beeline to the Scrivener Website and try it out. It is superb writing software.

Note: Tweak the milestones on the chart you create to best reflect your writing process. You may add milestones or delete them.  The same goes for the target dates. Each of us writes at a certain pace. The sample writing schedule may seem snail’s pace to some writers, and overly aggressive to others. Again, apply your own preferences in creating your milestones.

The advantage of the Gannt Chart schedule is that it gives you a visual grasp of the time you will need to invest in your work. In addition, it allows you to track your progress and to be honest with yourself.

Also, if you are thrown off track – life does sometimes intrude on our writing schedules – being able to refer to the Gannt Chart makes it easier to pick up where you left off.

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