Tag Archives: planners

How a Writing Planner Saved Me Last Year by Loren Rhoads

Image by Semisvetik04 from Pixabay

I am a planner junkie. For years I kept searching for a system that would help me organize all the information I need, track all my submissions, make space for my to-do lists, and keep my calendar. I would hear one of my writer friends rave about a system they were excited to try or see an ad that promised to get me organized and snatch it up. I ended up with a cupboard full of half-used planners.

I am also an inveterate list-maker. Often, when I sit down with my notebook for a day’s writing, I begin with a to-do list to clear my head. I had to-dos in my in-box, my notebook, my diary, on scraps of paper on my desk, in my unanswered emails. I had folders full of notes from conferences, tear sheets from writer’s magazines, articles I’d printed out from the internet. The weight of everything I thought I should do made me freeze.

Last year, when all my anchors were suddenly gone — no more writing in the cafe after dropping my kid off at school, no more writing in the car before I picked her up in the afternoon — I really struggled to focus and get anything done. What saved me was my planner stash. I took the planners apart and pulled out all my favorite charts: what were my goals for the year? What writing projects had I started and drifted away from? What markets did I want to pitch articles to? When were my favorite magazines open for story submissions?

Armed with that information, I made a master to-do list. Everything went on it, no matter how big or small. Which social media did I enjoy using and what was my theory behind my presence there? What were my goals for my newsletter and how could I better connect with my readers there? Since I couldn’t attend the conventions I’d looked forward to, how else could I get my books into the hands of readers?

Once I finally had EVERYTHING noted down, I could see that it was clearly too much for one person to accomplish RIGHT NOW. I used my planner sheets to pull out the little things that I could finish easily. Once I crossed those off my list, I got a jolt of pride that carried me forward to tackle bigger projects.

I made writing dates with friends over Zoom. A writer I knew set up a Tuesday morning chat for her writer friends. I joined Shut Up & Write sessions. I organized Happy Hours and went to writer’s group meetings online. Slowly, my weeks took on some structure. I needed a calendar to keep track of when everything was happening.

I’d published a novel in February (then saw all the conventions I’d planned to attend get postponed or canceled), so with my planner’s help, I managed to put together a blog tour and list of reviewers. After I attended the Bram Stoker Awards online, I was inspired to assemble a collection of my short stories, using what I’d learned from the first blog tour to promote it. Cross that goal off my list!

Inspired by my planner, I also did some major reorganization projects in my office, emptying all my file drawers and consolidating my research. I (finally!) assembled a binder of all the contracts I’d signed over my writing career. I made another binder of unfinished stories, so I could see the work ahead of me.

Having projects waiting for my attention made it much easier to deal with the discovery that the nonfiction book I’d been researching didn’t match the book the publisher wanted, one I was unable to write because of a previous contractual obligation. In another time, I would have been spun by the rejection. I would have been lost for months. Instead, because I’d been doing all this work on goals, I quickly shifted gears and began work on what became the third book I published last year. It’s no exaggeration to say that my cobbled-together planner was a lifesaver.

The upshot of this is: there are many planners for writers out there. Some focus on logging your daily word count. Others track the business aspects of being a writer: your income and expenses. Still others concentrate on calculating your available writing time and how to make best use of it. Some combine inspiration with goal-setting. Finding the right planner for yourself may take a couple of tries, but if you find a planner that supports the kind of writer you are and the work you want to do, it can change your life. It is definitely worth the effort.


Author Loren RhoadsLoren Rhoads is the author of a space opera trilogy, a succubus/angel duet, and a collection of stories called Unsafe Words. She’s the co-author of the brand-new Spooky Writer’s Planner, an undated 13-month planner designed to inspire and support writers of dark fantasy, paranormal romance, horror, and morbid nonfiction with weekly calendars, goal tracking, submission logs, and more. It’s available as a digital download on ETSY and as a paperback on AMAZON.  The book trailer is available on YOUTUBE.

Bullet Journal Guidelines for Writing Goals

Every year, I create a new annual bullet Journal to help me plan out my writing schedule. There I set out my yearly goals and I keep a running todo list of tasks for each day. In the past, I would set up a simple monthly tracking section at the start of each calendar month and then write in my daily todo list each day, setting up the spacing and size on an on-going basis. I also set up outlined spaces at regular intervals in my bullet journal to practice zentangle sketching. I followed this format for five years. I created organic looking, illustrated bullet journals that I found pleasing to look at.

While this system worked for many years, last year I discovered that I was not keeping up with all the illustrated spaces and the constant changing of daily headings, spacing, and other artsy things was slowing me down. I found that other than the monthly heading, I did not fill in any tasks at all during December.

Something had to change. I am writing more than ever these days, articles for my blog and Medium, poetry, short stories, and more than one novel per year. I also have a robust social media system in place. My old artsy bullet journal simply was not keeping up with my day to day planning.

PLANNING GOALS

I wanted to set up yearly goals, but I also wanted to set quarterly goals for myself so that I could track my progress through the three novels I wanted to complete and set aside time for two writing challenges that I participate in annually.

I wanted a way to track not only my daily word count, but when I used dictation vs a keyboard, how often I spent in revision/outlining and how many days I spent in writing poetry.

I wanted a system where my daily task days were already set up so I spent less time in creating the spaces in my journal and more time in writing content. I also wanted to remove the art from my journal. Instead, I would set up a separate art journal for my various art projects.

My chosen notebook had to be fountain pen friendly since I wanted to continue to use my favorite Platinum Procyon fountain pen as my main writer. My ink of choice is Noodler’s Black. My new journal needed to play well with these. My choice this year is the Seven Seas Dot Grid with 68 gms Tomoe River Paper. It has a sturdy black cover and lays flat when open.

SYSTEM

As part of my new streamlined concept, I did not place an index in my bullet journal. I find that since I tend to keep things organized by month, it is easy for me to thumb back in my journals and discover the information I need. However, I did number my journal before starting so I had those as a reference. So I started with a simple title page that has my name and the year and a Future Log where I could write in future events such as conferences, speaking events or science fiction conventions.

I have a page to write in my yearly writing goals for the year. Here I list how many books I want to write, and general writing goals I wish to meet. I keep the goals loose and try to not pile on too many. I wish to keep my yearly goals to be obtainable.

This year, I also created a page with quarterly goals. I broke down the projects in the yearly goal page and assigned them to a quarter of the year to work on. This gave me a general idea of when to set launch dates for novels, start and stop dates for projects, etc.

Another year spread in my bullet journal is a yearly tracker for word count by day, if I’m writing via dictation or if I’m writing via keyboard, days that I’m either outlining or researching and finally a place to track if I wrote poetry or not.  I wanted to keep better track of when I was actually creating new poems.

Next, I move into the month sections. This area will be for the rest of the notebook. Between the yearly section and the monthly one, I leave several extra pages in case I decide I want to add something new mid-year.

I start each month with a simple title page that I place the name of the month. I used to turn this into an art project, but this year I settled for writing the month with large brush letters and placing a circle around it.

I have a couple of trackers that I start each month. The first one is my writing log. I write the numbers of the month in a vertical column in the center of the page. For each day of the month, I write down what writing projects I worked on that day to the left and events on the right. It gives me an at-a-glance look at my production of the month. I don’t keep word counts here. That goes into the yearly tracker at the front of the bullet journal.

My last tracker is more for fun. I write down what television series I’m watching, movies I saw, or books I’m reading. I also keep a list of writing-related items I’ve purchased. It is a handy place to write down my monthly goals to remind myself where I am. I find these goals by referring to the quarterly goals I wrote at the front of the bullet journal and assign tasks from there to the month.

Once the monthly trackers are in, I set up spaces for my daily todo lists. I create seven-day spreads on two facing sheets of paper. This gives me plenty of space for lists, notes or whatever I need to write down to be accountable for my day. I make an effort to not get artistic with it. The key this year is to spend more time on writing projects and less time on getting fancy with my planner. I am finding that setting up this space at the start of the month instead of doing it as I go has saved me much time.

Planning via a bullet journal is a powerful tool for any writer or poet. Being able to stay focused on your writing goals, track your progress on a quarterly and monthly basis, are all key elements in getting your work done. By keeping all your information in a single book throughout the year, you can easily see where you are and where you are going.

Philofaxy Reader Under the Spotlight – Interview of Wendy Van Camp

Crimson Filofax Malden Binder

I’d like to thank Steve Morton of Philofaxy fame for making me the latest “Reader Under the Spotlight” at his blog. He interviewed me about my filofax organizers, what I use them for, which ones I prefer in the various ranges offered, and other Filofax related questions. I hope you’ll stop by and take a look at the interview.

If you’d like to read more about how I use my Filofax for writing or my views on paper vs. technology, you can read the following blog posts here at No Wasted Ink:

Filofax Writing Journal
Paper-Phobia and the Modern Writer