Organization for Writers

writing success writing tips Oct 06, 2023
author organization

I publish a new novel every 45 days. Just reading that aloud frightens me.

Independent writers recognize the challenges inherent with a rapid publishing schedule: ordering and evaluating cover designs, writing descriptions for book covers and Amazon’s product pages, editing and proofreading, sending advance copies to the beta reading team…

And so on.

I couldn’t accomplish these tasks without extreme organization. So I’ll tell you how I keep track of what I need to do each day to meet my ambitious publishing schedule.

The Holy Grail: The To-Do List

I swear by to-do lists. No, seriously, they’re like my second Bible. Every evening before I wind down, I jot down the tasks for the next day in a bullet journal. Old school, I know, but there’s something about writing it down manually that makes it feel like a commitment, a promise to future me. If you’re more of a tech aficionado, apps like Todoist or Trello work wonders, too.

Break it Down, Really Down

You wouldn’t swallow a whole burger in one go, would you? So why would you tackle a massive project without breaking it down into digestible tasks? Writing a novel isn’t just “writing”; it’s research, outlining, writing, editing, revising… you get the picture. Every big task gets dissected into smaller, doable chunks. I usually write them down as sub-tasks beneath the main task in my to-do list. Trust me; your future self will thank you for this clarity.

Time Blocks Are Your Best Friend

Time management is the bread and butter of publishing frequently. I divide my day into time blocks designated for specific tasks. For instance, mornings are for writing — no distractions, no email checking, nada. Afternoons might be for editing or dealing with cover designs and other administrative work. Time blocks create a sort of mental accountability. If you know you’ve only got two hours to edit three chapters, you’ll be less likely to wander into the black hole of social media.

Spreadsheets: Not Just for Accountants

Oh, don’t roll your eyes at me; spreadsheets are a godsend. I maintain a detailed Excel sheet where I log in various stages of each project. Think of it like a project management tool tailored just for you. A simple Google Sheets can help you share real-time updates with your beta reading team, editors, or cover designers. Every time something gets done — tick! A satisfying green color fills the cell, indicating progress.

The Almighty Calendar

Physical or digital, doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have one and refer to it religiously. Plug in deadlines, set reminders, mark milestones. Calendars give you a macro view of your schedule and help avoid any nasty surprises. I often set reminders two or three days before an important deadline as my personal ‘you better get this done’ nudge.

Delegate, Don’t Abdicate

Listen, we all like to think of ourselves as lone wolves, conquering the literary world one book at a time. But even wolves run in packs for a reason. If you can afford it, don’t hesitate to delegate tasks like social media management, book formatting, or even some rounds of editing. The key here is to oversee the process, so the final product still has your personal touch.

Once you find a system that works, stick to it but don’t hesitate to tweak it for improvements. Our life situations and workloads are ever-changing, and our organization methods should be flexible enough to adapt.

Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

Last but definitely not least, cut yourself some slack. Even the most organized of us have off days, and that’s perfectly okay. If you don’t manage to tick off every single item on your to-do list, the world won’t end. Be kind to yourself, and remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Your mental well-being is just as important as your productivity. After all, a happy, healthy author is a prolific author! Take breaks, stay hydrated, and don’t forget to celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. You’ve got this! 💪📘✨

Thanks to Chris Fox

Credit to Chris Fox for this tip. In Lifelong Writing Habit, a book I highly recommend to fellow authors, Chris encouraged writers to install a project management or organization tool on their smart phones. He named several options, some free, and some paid.

My favorite is the Things app, available for a onetime purchase of $9.99. On the surface, Things appears similar to Google Calendar. But while a normal calendar reminds you to purchase a gift for your spouse before your anniversary, or call Mom on her birthday, Things goes much deeper, allowing you to plan entire projects.

Another reason I prefer Things over normal planners is it’s on my phone and in my face all day, every day. 

I schedule a recurring daily task to write. Things reminds me of my task every day, and I take great satisfaction in checking off that task upon completion.

While I write my current novel, I’m already ordering cover concepts for the sequel. I tell Things when I need to name the new novel and send it to my cover designer. Here, I’m scheduling this task for December 14. The new covers are due on January 15, and I want my designer to have a minimum of one month to design the concepts. I don’t need to remember. Things will remind me on December 14.

I schedule pre-order uploads, editing, when I’m hitting my mailing list, everything. 

Things is the best $9.99 I ever spent. I haven’t missed a writing day since early spring, and I’ve never been this productive…or earned this much as an author.

Stop making yourself crazy and missing deadlines. Get organized now and boost your productivity for the coming year.

So there you have it, folks! Keeping track of your multitude of tasks isn’t as daunting as it seems. With the right combination of old-school jotting down and new-school tech, you can stay on top of your game and meet any ambitious publishing schedule you set for yourself. Keep writing and keep organizing! 📚🗂️

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