Thursday, August 16, 2018

Tips to Organize Your Writing Life

I don’t care if you’re a freelance writer, nonfiction writer, novelists or something of a hybrid. The truth is that you have to wear a lot of hats to find publishing success. You have to be able to write on a deadline, plan marketing campaigns, utilize social media, and of course, write.
The increase pressure to do it all has led to frustration and burnout in a lot of writers I come into contact with. But even with the downside, there are those of us to whom writing is like breathing. Without it, we’ll die.

We have come to a point the mad juggling skills are a requirement for today’s writers. But don’t give up hope. There are some things you can do, some ways to organize your time, that will help you accomplish more than you thought. Beyond that, you can make a conscious decision to give yourself a pass on some things.

Tips that keep me sane:

1. Make a list. Now I have to confess, I’m not a rabid list maker. I’m just the opposite. Lists make me feel pressured—at least they used to. But I have learned that lists can be my best friend. Because truthfully, I just cannot keep up with everything in my head. Not every list is a to-do list. Many of them are reference lists. Here are some ongoing lists I keep:
  • Blog post schedules. I write a lot of blog posts for my site, and also for other sites. I have a second Tuesday here, and a fourth Friday there, mixed in with a first Sunday on another site. Believe me, the list goes on. I have developed an ongoing list of the due date of every blog post I owe someone—including myself. 
  • Due date list. This can be due dates for articles, books, edits, even my own self-imposed goals.
  • Submission list. If you do a good bit of freelance writing, this one’s a must. It’s also important if you’re submitting queries or proposals to agents, looking for representation.
  • Special events list. Each event gets its own list. If I have a book signing, or a book launch, or I’m promoting a conference, I have a list for that. I include a goal of what I’d like to accomplish. Then I map out things I want to do to help me achieve that goal.
  • Social media list. I keep an ongoing list of websites and blogs that I check regularly for possible social media updates. This is where I get a lot of the Tweets and FB posts that I share.
  • Idea lists. Yes lists. I keep ongoing tickler files on blog post ideas, article ideas, book ideas, book launch ideas, etc. 
2. Set goals. I’ve learned that I don’t get very far down the road when I don’t know where I’m going. So I have goals. I know where I want to be in 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 5 years, etc. These incremental goals are mandatory for me. Even if I don’t have an official contract with a deadline, I work better when I have a plan.

3. Take a Sabbath—if you’ll forgive the pun—religiously. I’ve learned, the hard way, that I’m no good to anyone if I don’t get a regular, weekly time off.

4. Look at the year ahead. This is one that has helped me a lot. I look at the things I know I have upcoming—about a year in advance—and use that to plan ahead. If I have a book releasing in September, then I know August, September, October and November are going to be heavy marketing months. I co-direct the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in May of each year, so I do my best not to take any out-of-town speaking engagements or deadlines that month. Sometimes it doesn’t work that way, but I try to control what I can. 

5. Ask for prayer support. I was messaging back and forth with a writer today who is on an almost impossible deadline. She was asking for suggestions that would help her succeed. One of the first things I told her to do was to call in the prayer support. Ladies and gentlemen, we are on the front lines in today’s society. Words have power and when we wield that power for good, we can expect to encounter resistance. So often writers tell me they’re hesitant to ask non-writer friends for prayer support. They feel like their writing is unimportant. I say POPPYCOCK! I also recommend you have a group or team that prays regularly for you.

6. Be accountable. This is another biggie for me. If I don’t have someone who is expecting me to report back to them, I can let things slide. I have someone I exchange texts with daily, for prayer and accountability. I also have a group of writers online that I’m accountable to, as well as a couple of local writers I meet with regularly.

7. Ask for help. I have an ongoing agreement with several writers. We can borrow blog posts from each other without first asking permission. This means that at 2am, when I wake up in a cold sweat because I forgot to write a blog post, I can visit one of their sites and voilĂ  a guest post. I always link back to the site where I got the post, and include a bio. Believe me, this arrangement has saved several us on several occasions.

These are the things that I do to juggle the things necessary to succeed. What would you add to the list? Be sure to leave your tips in the comments section below.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!


  1. AMEN! Thanks for some great reminders Ms. Edie. We all get wrapped around the axles more often than we should. God's blessings ma'am.

  2. I am always making lists and setting goals. Life still gets in the way but it helps me get focus.
    Great tips as usual.

  3. Thanks for the advice. I have been feeling so overwhelmed with both personal and writing demands. I do take Sundays off from all required writing and write just for fun.

  4. Thank you. Sometimes, in the past, I felt like I pushed at cement walls. I knew what I wanted to accomplish and what I felt I must do, but others around me didn't take it all serious. Saying no to watching grandchildren became the hardest thing to do in past years, so I'd write at night. (At least summers are no longer filled with changing diapers!) While sitting in a school line, I'd write in a notebook or do some reading. Did that today...but now I dread the day it ends! :) My youngest grandchild doesn't need me to watch him anymore, so this year I just drop him off at home after school. He's a good kid, and his parents arrive home shortly after I leave. School hours have changed, but reworking my schedule seems difficult. After many years of picking up five children at three different schools and entertaining little ones every afternoon, or taking them camping during the summers, it's hard to believe I'm not fighting for free moments. So, why do I still feel more "settled" when writing at night, instead of writing during the day? :) Yes, it's around one in the morning right now, but I will be getting up a little past six. Habits are hard to break,even when you are trying to make new ones! And ... I must now change my habits and do better at writing. My excuses have grown up!!

  5. Great post! While I already use a planner for life in general, I realized I need to keep a separate planner just for writing. (And wow, would that ever leave me more space to acually write in my personal planner!)

  6. These are things I need to re-establish in my life. Thank you for the reminders.