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The last two days I talked about my personal writing calendar—why I started one, how it’s helped me stay on track, and how I’ve managed (so far!) to keep it organized and efficient. Which brings us to the most important question:

What, exactly, should you put in your writing calendar?

What to include:

- Writing goals. I typically break mine up into month goals and week goals. Example: my goal for April was to finish the first draft of Winter, or hit 120K words, whichever comes first. This means that I need to write 12,000 words each week. This gives me some flexibility if I fall behind or get ahead on any particular day.

- Revision/editing tasks: Be sure to write down any deadlines your editor or publisher gives you, and factor in enough time to get through them, with time to spare if possible.

- Publicity and marketing tasks: This will vary per person, and depend largely on where you are in your career. This could include things like “research industry blogs and set up a blog reader account” or “begin drafting text for web site.” As your career progresses, you might start including interviews or guest blog appearances. (Fun!)

- Events. Business lunches, conferences you’d like to attend, read-a-thons, book signings with your favorite authors . . . note them on your calendar as soon as you hear about them and you’ll never miss another bookish event again.

What not to include:

- This could vary if you find yourself being very meticulous, but I don’t include anything I consider a “daily” task. Most days, I attempt to write a blog post, read through my blog subscriptions, go to the gym, and spend an hour or two on pleasure reading. Putting these things on my calendar would only clutter it up. The goal here is to feel less overwhelmed!

Your call:

- Reading goals. I try to read between five and six books a month, but though I do consider this a “writing-related goal,” my reading time is still more about fun and relaxation than work. Therefore, I don’t keep my reading goals or progress on my calendar. However, if you want to read more and need added motivation to do it, writing down some goals and “deadlines” on your calendar might just work for you!

- Personal stuff. It’s your choice whether or not you want to include non-writing tasks and events. Things like birthdays, personal errands, and friendly get-togethers, or even notable events from your “real” job can go on your calendar . . . or you can keep them separate. At first, I’d planned on not including non-writing items on my writing calendar. I was concerned it would clutter it up too much. But after awhile I found myself flipping through too many calendars just to make sure I had everything under control: writing stuff, personal stuff, wedding stuff… I’ve determined it’s easier for me, at this point, to keep it all together, so that I only have one master calendar to check each day and make sure I’m not falling behind in any area of my life. Or if I am—at least I know about it! Use your own discretion.

Additional tips:

- Spread it out! Say you want to: start blogging, start tweeting, start Facebooking, build a web site, and put together a GoodReads profile. That’s great—but it doesn’t have to be done all right away! Spread it out so that you’re doing one task a week, or even over a period of weeks for more complicated tasks. If you try to do it all at once you’ll not only be overwhelmed, but you’ll also find yourself quickly falling behind on writing. You know, that thing that got you into this mess in the first place?

- Have a plan for finishing early. The beauty of spreading out your tasks is that the goal of completing your entire to-do list on any given day is totally doable! (Seem surreal?) Having those day-to-day successes may motivate you to plow ahead and keep the productive momentum going. I like to have a plan for if I finish a day’s tasks. It could include: moving on to the task for the next day, trying to get ahead on my weekly word goal, or rewarding myself with more pleasure reading. Whichever one I choose, it ensures that any extra “work” hours won’t be spent mindlessly watching TV or something that doesn’t pertain to my long-term goals.

And that covers everything I’ve learned so far about the importance of keeping a writing calendar. If you decide to start one now after reading this, please let me know how it goes!


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 25th, 2011 12:14 am (UTC)
You've inspired me to create a writing calendar on iCalendar on my laptop. I typically use Google Calendar for everything and can view my husband's and boss's stuff too and look at it in the monthly view. I think I'll use this in weekly view, mostly for writing goals, and put my social commitments there too so I can really see what time I have for writing to help judge whether my goals are realistic--I have a definite tendency to think I can do things more quickly than I can.
Apr. 25th, 2011 04:39 pm (UTC)
I am the same way! I never think things will take as long as they inevitably do, but I've found the calendar to be really helpful in setting more accomplishable goals. I hope you'll find it as helpful!
Apr. 25th, 2011 01:16 pm (UTC)
Writing Calendar
I recently also started using a calendar to organize myself and it's great. It's one of those large ones, that sits behind my PC, and like you, I also focus on the bigger things. I actually plan each month ahead, writing my goals, and link it in with the days I am in the office for work or not. Totally agree on leaving out the small things. And it helps keep me on track on what I want to achieve that month. Good tool.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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New York Times bestselling author of CINDER and The Lunar Chronicles, in which Cinderella is re-envisioned as a teenage cyborg. I'm represented by Jill Grinberg.

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