Get Your Writing Organized in the New Year

Monday, January 24, 2011

One of your New Year’s resolutions may be to get organized. Some people clean out files at the beginning of the year; others go through their closets to make room for holiday gifts received. Many writers take advantage of after-Christmas sales to stock up on much needed supplies such as paper, printer ribbon and pens. Whatever your method, everyone can use some organization tips to get 2011 started in the right way and make it your most lucrative year yet.

Get a Calendar
In order to set goals, meet deadlines, and plan your writing days, you need a calendar—a calendar with lines and large spaces to record all your writing goals and plans each day.

My calendar is big, and I can see one week at a time. Each day, I write down different tasks I need to accomplish such as write a book review column, send out my YA novel to an agent, and work on my blog. If I have a deadline for that day, I highlight it to draw attention to the deadline. However, the deadline does not appear on my calendar just when the article is due. A few days before it’s due, I’ll make a note to double check that I’ve been working on it and am going to make my deadline.

I take my daily tasks on my calendar as seriously as if they were doctors’ appointments or lunch dates. If I don’t accomplish one of my tasks, then I highlight it and work on it the next day or move it to another date to finish. A calendar will keep you organized, on track for deadlines, and give you a plan for each writing day. If you have a plan, you will get more accomplished. If you get more accomplished, you will see more cash flow. If you. . .you get the picture.

Stock Up and Organize Supplies
One way to stay organized throughout the year is to have plenty of supplies available at your home and to keep them handy and easy to find. Some supplies you will want to keep on hand are:

  • Printer paper
  • Ink pens
  • Pencils
  • Highlighters
  • Stamps
  • Envelopes (business size and manila)
  • File Folders
  • Printer cartridges
  • Paper clips
  • Staples
  • White out
  • Post-it-notes
  • Notebook (for writing notes)

Even though many submissions are done over e-mail today, there are still publications, editors, and agents who only accept snail mail. Make sure you have the supplies you need readily available, so it is easy to send in a submission to a publisher you are interested in working with. Don’t spend time looking for a pen that works or a scrap of paper to take notes. Keep all supplies ready and organized.

One way to keep office supplies neat (if you don’t have a lot of room in your home or office) is to purchase a hanging shoe organizer that can fit over the door. You can use the shoe pouches to hold office supplies, which also makes them easier to find when you need them.

Work Space
With the above shoe holder suggestion, your work space will be neater. If possible, it is important to have your own work space at home. Many writers have found success with the kitchen table as their desk, knowing they have to move off at meal times. This does work. But it’s not ideal. If possible, it is nice to have your own space where you can keep notes, office supplies, your laptop and printer, and even some writing manuals. You feel like a professional when you have an office—especially one that is organized. For some tips on organizing your workspace and making it neat, you should check out these two excellent articles from WOW!

Allena Tapia shows how she redid her office in the photo essay, “Office-ally Fed Up! One Writers Home Office Makeover.” Use some of her tips to set up your office and make it easy to work in.

If you are interested in Feng Shui and getting your creative juices flowing, then you might find some tips to decorate and organize your work space in the article, “Feng Shui for Writers: How to Create a Space You Love.”

Keep Track of Submissions
If you do nothing else to get your writing life organized in 2011 but keeping track of your submissions, then you are off to a great start. This is one of the most important things you can do as a writer. As I tell my students in the Writing for Children class I teach through WOW!, you should record everything you send out and include the name of the person you sent it to, wait time for response, what rights the publication buys, how much an acceptance should pay, if simultaneous submissions are accepted, and whether or not the publication pays on acceptance or publication. You can keep track by using Excel worksheets or using a three-ring binder with notebook paper. It doesn’t matter how you organize your submissions, as long as you pick a method that works for you; and you actually use it!

Every week or two weeks, go through your submissions to check if you need to contact an editor or agent about your submission. Usually, I wait until a month after the usual response time, just to give the editor a little extra time in case they are swamped or have been sick, etc.

Being organized is important. Using the above tips will keep you on the right path and help bring you success. But even the most organized writer will not get published if you don’t ABC. . .apply butt to chair.

article by Margo L. Dill,

photo by EvelynGiggles


Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--Thanks for writing this post; it came at the perfect time, as I am in the midst of de-cluttering our spare bedroom to create an office. The two links were also helpful.

Home Organization said...

Thanks for the great information! Very helpful!

Margo Dill said...

Glad I can help! :)


Donna Volkenannt said...

Hi Margo,
Great post. Thanks for the tips.
donna v.

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