Overcome Writing Failure With a Personalized Writing Plan

by Joel Friedlander on December 4, 2013 · 48 comments

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by Lorraine Reguly (@lorrainereguly)

Well, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) has come and gone for another year. That means there are likely to be thousands of authors with new drafts or manuscripts. But maybe you didn’t participate, or maybe you tried to complete the challenge but just couldn’t get it done. Well, don’t despair, help is here. Today teacher and author Lorraine Reguly shows you how you can incorporate a personal writing plan into your work to make sure you meet your writing goals.


Writing. Authors love it. Writers do it. Dreamers want it done. Being published doesn’t just happen. It takes planning. Do you have a writing plan? A monthly plan? A five-year plan?

Do you even have a plan? If you do, do you follow it?

As a certified English teacher who participated in NaNoWriWee (National Novella Writing Week) during a weekend in late January 2013, I attempted and failed to write a novella. Since NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) recently ended, many of you may be feeling a bit negative, especially if you had goals that you attempted to but were unable to meet (for whatever reason) in November.

I am actually quite thrilled with the fact that I failed.

Instead of doing nothing and being in the same spot I was three days earlier, I ended up with a notebook of characters, a plot, and a mystery that I’d love to read! I even wrote a few chapters, but didn’t like what I wrote. I didn’t have a plan, and because I didn’t have a plan in place, I didn’t do what I set out to do. However, I did write the blurb for the back cover, which is often the hardest part for writers to do (or so I hear) and each time I read it, all of my thoughts come rushing back. In my head, the book is planned. All I have to do now is find the time to write it!

When NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) rolled around this past November, I knew in my heart that I would simply not have the time to dedicate myself to writing this novel (or even a novella), since I had many other things on my plate. (None of them included turkey, either, since I am Canadian and celebrated Thanksgiving in October.)

Also, opportunities arose and many things seemed to happen at once. I began the month offering editing tips to bloggers and then wrote another guest post for the launch of 20 Blog Post Must-Haves. I worked on a few chapters of my memoirs (another of my writing projects), outed my rapist while accepting an award, reviewed a few books for authors I interviewed and featured on my blog, hosted a couple of book giveaways, created additional blog posts, and spent time connecting with others on social media.

Because I didn’t enter the NaNoWriMo event, I also didn’t have to deal with failing again. But I did develop an attainable plan I could follow on a weekly basis, using my personal experiences to do so. My hope is to help you learn from me and to give you some ideas so you can create your own personalized writing plan.

I had formed good writing habits as a result of my participation in a 30-Day Writing Challenge this year, making a commitment to write for 10 minutes per day, every day, for the month of April. I found that my optimal writing time had changed. No longer was it in the evenings, as it had previously been. The best time for me to write (type) is now as soon as I turn on my laptop!

Imagine my surprise! I tend to get carried away with cleaning out my email inbox and reading blog posts from the blogs I follow and lose track of time while doing these things (sound familiar?) and so, by recognizing this, I have developed a plan that I can follow each day I choose to go online.

Since I perform this simple action five or six (and sometimes seven!) days a week, I now get a lot of writing done and am more productive. I also created a weekly plan for managing my time.

Do you have a weekly writing plan yet? Do you follow it? A plan is not good to have if you don’t actually use it, you know. (Duh!)

WEEKLY PLAN

Dos and Don’ts to Consider When Devising your Writing Plan

DO write at your optimal time and use batching strategies and techniques. 20 Tips for Batching to Save Time and Cut Stress is a great article that explains what “batching” is and that will help you get started on your own writing plan.

DO strike a work-life balance that works for YOU.

Don’t think you are going to be able to play “catch up” because you never will, regardless of how many times you tell yourself that you will just “write for one extra hour tomorrow” (or whatever deal you make with yourself). By accepting this reality, you will learn to make each moment count and avoid feelings of guilt when you don’t meet your personal goals. Instead, create deadlines that work for you, and stick to them!

DO use a calendar to help you. Make note of holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and other annual events. Prioritize and plan your writing tasks around them. You know you aren’t going to be writing on those occasions!

Don’t use your sleep time for tasks other than sleeping! Sleep deprivation is detrimental to your health. This is a proven fact.

DO be accountable to someone other than yourself to ensure success. Another proven fact is that you will be more productive if you write your goals down, in ink, on paper, and then tell someone about them. This is done best if you find an accountability partner with whom you can share your successes – and failures!

DO allow for flexibility. As writers, we often set lofty goals for ourselves and, in our minds, we somehow think we will be able to attain them. But life overtakes us, situations we were not prepared for arise, and we get sidetracked. New seasons of our favourite TV shows start, we learn of events we want to attend, family emergencies require our attention, something in our homes breaks and we have to fix it, and everything seems to happen all at once, overwhelming us and diverting from our writing projects. Before we know it, a lot of time has passed and we seem to be moving further away from our goals instead of closer to them! If you devise a personal plan that works for YOU, you’ll be able to meet your goals, even if it takes you a bit longer to do so.

Don’t forget to give yourself some down time! Give yourself a day or two off each week. You need time to recharge and regroup. You’re not a super-robot; you’re human with limitations!

DO reward yourself often. Celebrate your victories, regardless of their size! This will help motivate you to continue reaching your goals.

Don’t beat yourself up if you fail every now and then. Forgive yourself and move on. Since you allowed for flexibility, this should be easy!

DO use some type of planner, whether it’s a digital one or not. There are ton of free digital and printable ones on the web! Search using the terms yearly planner or yearly planner for teachers (even if you’re not one!) to find one you like. If you want to use a weekly planner, this one looks great and has a lot of features.

If you get started now, you’ll be prepared for 2014. Make it a resolution to get more serious and productive with your writing projects. I am.

What methods do you use to keep your writing on track to reach your goals? Let me know in the comments.

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Lorraine Reguly is writer, teacher, editor, poet and blogger who loves connecting with others as much as she loves writing. Join her each week on her blog, Wording Well, for her True Tales Tuesdays and Featured Fridays posts.

Photo: bigstockphoto.com

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    { 37 comments… read them below or add one }

    donnajeanmcdunn January 9, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    Great advice Lorraine, I have had an established writing plan for a long time now and it has helped me a lot, but it’s always good to be reminded. I’ve also had to learn when to say no, which is hard for someone who feels like she needs to take care of everything. I have to let my email wait until I’m ready to read them, which is why it has taken me so long to get to this one. Now I know you’ll understand.

    Reply

    Lorraine Reguly January 9, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    Donna Jean, I’m so happy you decided to read this and take the time to comment. Of course I understand. ;)

    I feel like I need to be super-woman, too, and am finally learning to say “no” to unnecessary things. Good to hear you are, too! :)

    Reply

    Bindu January 6, 2014 at 8:11 am

    Very useful post Lorraine. I was very busy working during the holidays and now I have few days to do nothing. That is when I visited your blog and came to know about this post.
    Nice work. Hope, you will be writing more in January.

    Reply

    Lorraine Reguly January 8, 2014 at 7:20 am

    Thanks for visiting, Bindu!

    I’ll never stop writing! LOL

    Good to see you taking some time to wind down from all of your hard work. :) See you soon!

    Reply

    Lorraine Reguly January 4, 2014 at 2:41 am

    My gift to all of you: a free PDF planner that you can adapt to suit your needs!

    Find it at: http://lorrainemariereguly.wordpress.com/2014/01/03/posting-planning-publishing-productivity-and-a-pdf-planner-for-free-for-you/

    Reply

    maxwell ivey January 3, 2014 at 6:23 am

    hi lorraine; I am so sorry i missed this post. You have been a good friend to me so helpful with my own blog that i wouldn’t think of not supporting you. You wrote an excellent post here with lots of good suggestions. and i guess its true what they say about great minds thinking alike because i just finished gretchen ruben’s book about her happiness project where she talked about all she learned about herself from taking a 30 day writing challenge. although i don’t think it was part of the challenge you mentioned. so now that you have it all mapped out i am looking forward to telling people i know a best selling mystery author. smile rock the new year my friend. take care, max

    Reply

    Lorraine Reguly January 4, 2014 at 2:39 am

    Max, thanks for your comment. I have to set you straight, though; I’m not a mystery writer but a writer who loves mysteries! I’m currently working on my memoir/autobiography book. I’m also finishing up some edits on an ebook of short stories. I have plans of publishing a collection of letters I wrote to my son, too.

    As far as support goes, you have been great to me ever since we first met through another of my guest posts (the one on editing blog posts on Ashley’s/Mad Lemmings’ blog) and you continue to amaze me, Max. I cannot imagine being blind and blogging at the same time. How you do it all is astonishing. Honestly. I think you’re the one to be admired and supported here!

    I have not read Gretchen’s book, but I do read some of her posts as she is someone I follow on LinkedIn.

    Writing challenges are pretty cool, regardless of what kind they are. The whole point of them is to stretch yourself and venture out of your comfort zone. What you learn about yourself in the process or by the end of the process when you do some self-reflection is also beneficial. I’ve learned a lot about myself, and keep learning the more that I write.

    Take care and enjoy your blogging journey this year, too, Max!

    Reply

    Jeri December 11, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    The thing about the writing process is that it varies so much from person to person. I think it’s great that you’re finding what does and doesn’t work for you when it comes to finding time to get the writing done. I’ve been going through some of the very same issues. Part of the coaching sessions I’ve been doing has been to look at how I use my time to accomplish tasks. Needless to say, moving my cell phone from my night stand was the first step I took in developing the habit to get my major writing tasks done first thing in the morning. I’m still only halfway to where I want to be with the schedule I’ve developed, but at least I’ve identified my main sources of frustration. I get sooooo grumpy if I have to be on the computer after dinner. Oh wait, here I am at 10:40… Thanks for all of the great tips :)

    Reply

    Lorraine Reguly December 11, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    Jeri, I hear you!

    I feel dread sometimes when I know I have to turn my laptop on and get to work. Work feels like work instead of something fulfilling, which is how I want it to feel.
    It sounds like you already know your optimal writing time, too! Awesome!

    I have a hard time setting limits for getting OFF the computer, too. I’m working on that, as well.

    Thanks so much for your comment; it means a lot to me that you took the time to read this post.

    Have a good evening, Jeri.

    Reply

    Elaine C Pereira December 8, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    Hi Lorraine,

    From what I can tell, you and most of the responders so far are very regular if not full time writers: books, blogs, guest posts, contributions in other genres etc. Collectively or taken individually any one of these pursuits can gobble up time and energy quickly. We all enjoy moments of flawless inspiration where we can’t write or talk fast enough to keep up with our brilliant ideas. But, honestly, even a blast of creative genius needs punctuation and editing; it’s who we are!

    Two of your points in particular resonate with me Lorraine: 1. Making a plan and 2. Avoiding counterproductive sleep deprivation.

    All nighters are overrated! Maintaining a predictable schedule isn’t just for toddlers; it applies to everyone. Erratic bedtimes, pushing beyond the limits, skipping meals and other inconsistencies take a significant toll over time on anyone’s neurological system. This IS a proven fact, as you referenced, and as an Occupational Therapist with a strong background in neurology, I concur.

    Planning, whether meticulously detailed or just sketched loosely in your head, is tantamount to success no matter what you’re trying to achieve. For some of us, juggling the multi-tasking balls comes easy (like me actually). For others, staying the course and focusing on one goal as a time works best. But at the core of accomplishing anything is a plan, whether it’s making cookies, painting a room or writing a book. Creative, artistic expression might appear to be haphazard, like the proverbial “bolt of lightning” that suddenly sparks productivity, but if you don’t act on it (which by the way is a plan!) it fizzles. Essentially, that’s Ron’s system. For others, it’s more transparent.

    My writing circumstances are somewhat unique in that I had endless chunks of time when I wrote my first book I Will Never Forget (www.IWillNeverForgetBook.com). In brief, my mother’s was a story that needed to be told! She was a kind, brilliant woman all of her life until Alzheimer’s took hold leaving an agitated, bewildered and compromised person in its wake. My memoir practically wrote itself, corralling the real raw emotions of her journey and weaving them together with delightful vignettes of my childhood to create a loving tribute to a beautiful mother, inside and out.

    To advance research, I donate from each book sold to Alzheimer’s research and also in part so that my daughter’s don’t have to write a book about me one day.

    Reply

    Lorraine Reguly December 9, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    Elaine,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to this post. I’m truly honored. I’m doubly honoured because I have had the good fortune to read your electrifying tribute to your mother. It touched me in ways I couldn’t have imagined – and I don’t know anyone with this disease!
    It also provided inspiration for me to collect the letters I have written to my son over the years and hopefully publish them in a book all of its own. This new project has now been added to my growing list of writing projects for 2014.

    I’m a pretty good multi-tasker but only to a point. With 50 different things to juggle, planning has become essential. With only five or six items to handle, I’m fine and don’t get stressed.

    Thanks for adding to this discussion. I look forward to publishing our interview on my blog on the 20th of this month and hope some of the readers here bookmark that date on their calendar so they can PLAN on checking it out! ;)

    Being retired doesn’t always equate to having tons of time, either; even though you say your book “practically wrote itself,” I’m sure that some of your time was spent with your family and enjoying your grandchildren, wasn’t it?

    Reply

    Geoff Hughes December 7, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    ‘Me’ time is very important. Just to get away from the computer and recharge. I find it’s the recharge moments that really do refuel your ‘ideas tank’ when it’s running on empty. I’ve had some of the best breakthroughs on my own fiction projects when I’ve just put it all away and done something I love unrelated to writing. We all do need to schedule though. We’ve all got the same 24 hours. It’s a fact that some people use there time more productively then others. I believe you can wring very productive drops out of your own 24 hour cycle with effective scheduling so your article resonated with me. New writers need to do this. Life does get in then way, but when we schedule and block and devote time to write each and every day, the projects do get completed. Great post Lorraine!

    Reply

    Lorraine Reguly December 7, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    Geoff, I’m thrilled that you enjoyed this post! Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know!

    You make a good point about us all having the same 24 hours. What we choose to do with our time is exactly that – a choice. I used to live my life on a schedule for years, but then I was in an accident and I seemed to have all the time in the world, because it took me so long to heal. I now realize that I actually frittered my time away; I could have been doing so much more with my life!

    I now know that getting back into a schedule will help me achieve my personal goals, and wrote this article so that others who may be floundering could possibly be helped out of their rut by using my experiences and advice to learn from and grow.

    In retrospect, this article actually relates to two different concepts: having a writing plan (a plan for your writing) AND having a time-management plan. However, these two often intersect. Whichever way you look at it, the key is to make a plan and stick to it!

    I agree that new writers should try planning it instead of simply “winging it” and hopefully any new writers reading this will realize that their time is important and having a plan will help them reach their goals.

    With a new year on the way, what better time to make a plan than the present?

    Recharging by engaging in other activities is extremely important, too. As soon as I feel overwhelmed, I know I need to take a break and get away from it all for a while. Excellent point, Geoff!

    Do you have anything else to add as advice for new writers? I’d love to hear it!

    Reply

    Harleena Singh December 6, 2013 at 10:12 am

    Hi Lorraine,

    Wonderful post indeed, and thank you so much for linking my sleep deprivation posts here – much appreciated :)

    I couldn’t agree more with all that you’ve written. I’ve honestly never participated in any challenges of the kind or perhaps I am forever writing, so don’t need them as such, or perhaps they take me away from my work for too long. But they are good for those who want to get back into the habit of writing daily.

    A well planned day always helps, and I think you can cover a great deal in the early morning hours. I guess that too depends from one person to another. For some the night hours work better, so one can’t really say. One does need to take care of having a little bit of exercise, adequate rest, sleep, and follow a good diet as well. Simple things that we writers tend to ignore because of the sedentary lifestyle we all lead, and unknowingly it leads to health issues that we sit and regret later.

    I do wish to take out more of a ‘me time’, which seems like ages since I last did. Even the weekends at times are gone because you are busy catching up with the blog work. My comments really reach great numbers, so replying to those, and returning the visits IS time consuming. Nevertheless, I enjoy the interaction too and remain grateful to my readers for taking the time to stop by.

    I think at the end of the day, we all need to make the choices in life that suit us, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing. Have a nice weekend :)

    Reply

    Lorraine Reguly December 7, 2013 at 12:58 am

    Hi, Harleena!

    I have found many of your articles to be informative.

    Blogging is time-consuming; there’s no doubt about that. I have seen your numbers and they are impressive. :) I like that you are always willing to reply to your readers, too. That demonstrates a huge commitment and speaks to the quality person you are. I’m thrilled that I met you on Adrienne Smith’s blog a while back, even though our interaction has been somewhat limited due to simple time constraints!

    Yes, personal decisions to utilize our time in the best way possible are sometimes tough to make, especially if they involve opting to refrain from commenting on each and every post or reciprocating comments.

    I appreciate your visit here, Harleena, and for taking the time to add your opinion!

    Have a great weekend, too!

    Reply

    Ashley December 4, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Hey Lorraine
    Great guest post. So glad to see you over here.
    It is super important to have a plan and a schedule. I find it makes things so much smoother when you have multiple tasks to handle in a day. Otherwise it’s all a bit of a mess and nothing seems to get done.
    Glad you have some great ideas for a book now.
    Can’t wait to see the results.
    Ashley

    Reply

    Lorraine Reguly December 4, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Thanks for showing your support of me, Ashley, by reading this and taking an interest. I appreciate your input. I’m getting it together, for sure and have big plans (and little plans) for the upcoming new year.

    I’m excited to be teamed up with you for our upcoming contest, too, next week. I’ll need some of that down time I mentioned by the time the holidays roll around!

    My flexible schedule will permit it!

    Reply

    Lorraine Reguly December 4, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Hi Frances!

    I’m glad you enjoyed this; I think if we can all learn from one another, it will be a better world. As a teacher, I’m happy if I help just one person; helping many is a bonus.

    I’m making it my resolution to buckle down and get some actual “work” done. I searched for a great planner. This is the one I am going to use, by the way. I’m glad you like it.

    I hear you with that red pen. I’m the same way. Do you click your’s too?

    Reply

    Frances Caballo December 5, 2013 at 6:34 am

    No, I don’t click with a red pen; it’s an actual red pen that I only use for marking my manuscripts. We try for perfection, don’t we, but it’s elusive. So in the end, I do the best I can. Great post, Lorraine. Where else do you usually blog?

    Reply

    Lorraine Reguly December 5, 2013 at 6:52 am

    Frances,

    I guess I was not clear; I meant that I click my pen with my thumb at the end of it, activating and deactivating the tip at the other end, while I read through something of my own that I’m editing (yes, on paper). Fidgeting, I guess? Anyway, I was just trying to be cute with that comment. :)

    I generally blog over at Lorraine Reguly’s Life. (Yes, my blog is named after me.) I have guest posted on several other blogs and websites. A complete list is available on my my Hire Me page on my blog. (No, I’m not trying to promote myself here; I’m simply answering your question.)

    I’d advise reading my Welcome page and my About page if you want to know more about me – but be warned. I’m brutally honest and revealing about my sordid past.

    Reply

    Frances Caballo December 5, 2013 at 7:07 am

    Oh, sorry for the misunderstanding. Yes, I’ll be checking out your blog.I’m glad we’ve connected!

    Reply

    Lorraine Reguly December 5, 2013 at 7:14 am

    LOL That’s okay! It’s a habit of mine, annoying as it may be to anyone within hearing distance…

    I’m glad we connected, too. See you over on my blog! There is a link on this page in the author bio, for your convenience.
    (I would have posted a link for you but I don’t like to post links in comments and be considered as a spammer; etiquette is important on the internet!)

    Frances Caballo December 4, 2013 at 11:18 am

    This was a fun piece to read. I’m good at getting short-term writing projects done. When I have a deadline, I start writing first thing in the morning, M-F, before checking email or social media. Sometimes, if I feel that I’m behind, I’ll lease a window-less office in a nice building and spend 4 – 5 hours there. Once my editor has reviewed my manuscript, I typically review the edits first thing in the morning. Before sending my manuscript off for publishing, I print the pages of my book, grab a red pen, and go to a coffee shop. It’s quite a process, eh? Thanks, Lorraine, for the link to the 2014 planner. Very cool to have!

    Reply

    Lorraine Reguly December 5, 2013 at 3:15 am

    Hi Frances!

    I’m glad you enjoyed this; I think if we can all learn from one another, it will be a better world. As a teacher, I’m happy if I help just one person; helping many is a bonus.

    I’m making it my resolution to buckle down and get some actual “work” done. I searched for a great planner. This is the one I am going to use, by the way. I’m glad you like it.

    I hear you with that red pen. I’m the same way. Do you click your’s too?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 4, 2013 at 10:46 am

    I think I need a plan also, Lorraine, since I’ve got 2 books half done, and not making much progress on either one. With a plan at least I’d have a way to keep moving forward. Thanks for the ideas.

    Reply

    Lorraine Reguly December 4, 2013 at 10:52 am

    You’re most welcome, Joel. Start by identifying your optimal writing period, then work your schedule around that, if you are able to.

    Unfinished books are my specialty. ;)
    I have two currently on the go. One is written but needs to be improved and edited; the other is my memoirs. I have written four or five chapters already.

    I’m happy to help!

    Reply

    Sue Mitchell December 4, 2013 at 8:51 am

    Lorraine, this is a very helpful post. Love your do’s and don’ts, especially the one about flexibility and not beating yourself up if you don’t follow through 100% of the time.

    Writers and other creative people need Structure (it’s one of the 6 essentials to creative productivity that I teach my coaching clients), but at the same time, they often resist being pinned down. Without flexibility, a plan can feel like a straitjacket.

    Although Ron doesn’t like plans, he clearly has a writing habit in place. For those who don’t have a habit yet, planning ahead about when they will write can help them develop one. Once the habit is there, they can build in more flexibility.

    Reply

    Lorraine Reguly December 4, 2013 at 10:09 am

    Sue, I think you hit the nail on the head by saying some people need structure. Some do; some don’t. The ones who do are those who have loft goals but get sidetracked easily by outside influences, like email, social media, etc. I like how your approach build in flexibility once a plan has been put in place.

    The rigidity of the plan is personalized depending on the individual.

    Thanks for contributing, Sue!

    Reply

    Lorraine Reguly December 4, 2013 at 7:38 am

    Thanks for your comment, Ron.

    Yes, this is more like a work schedule, and not everyone will enjoy it, but if you want to meet deadlines, it may help. Planning is not for everyone, and there are different types of writing plans that are available.

    I think I neglected to mention that my current projects involve blogging, writing, guest posting, working on my memoirs and editing an ebook. I’m someone who definitely needs to have things planned, for time management, especially when I freelance on the side!

    This may not work for everyone; especially writers of fiction!
    Non-fiction writers may have a different opinion. ;)

    Reply

    Jennifer Mattern December 4, 2013 at 7:35 am

    Great post Lorraine. :)

    I wouldn’t be able to earn a good full-time income writing if it wasn’t for solid planning. I can be a bit of a planning and organization junkie. But between novels, nonfiction work, managing several websites & blogs, and taking on client writing, there’s no other way to do it and stay sane in the process.

    For me, a weekly plan is helpful, but I do that in more of a to-do list style than a rigid schedule. It gives me a bit more flexibility, and I can move from one project to another depending on where my head is at any given moment. And when I need a little extra motivation, I tackle something small. Nothing is more motivating for me than putting a little tick next to something on my list. :)

    With my publishing projects, I actually have a multi-year publishing plan / schedule to keep me on track with big projects. Then I break things down into monthly deadlines, a weekly semi-public accountability to-do list in a writing community I’m a part of, and daily to-do lists. It’s been working well for me for years (with the accountability threads introduced this year).

    I took part in NaNoWriMo for the first time this year, mostly as an experiment to document on my site for writers. It went well. I wrote anywhere from 1000 – 3500 words per day on the days I worked. I went the rebel route, picking up a novel-in-progress and two shorter manuscripts instead of starting a new novel from scratch. But I hit my 50k words of fiction, and I did so before the holiday which was nice.

    While I didn’t insist on writing the same time every day, I did learn some things about myself. I’m a morning person. I work from 5am – noon on a typical work day. And when I was drafting my first nonfiction manuscript, I got up and wrote 2500 words every work day before doing anything else. It was an incredibly productive way to work — no email, no client projects, no blogs, no social media, etc. until that writing was finished for the day. With the novel during NaNoWriMo I actually had a more difficult time with that. I found that I connected with the story better in the evening most days. I’m hoping I can change that out of habit, as I’m usually strict about not working evenings. But I guess I’ll have to see what happens this month.

    Overall, I don’t spend more than 15 minutes each week updating my white boards, calendar, and to-do lists. So it isn’t much of a time suck. And I’ve found that with planning and outlining, nothing is too rigid as long as you allow yourself some flexibility. They’re tools to help with the process; not templates that have to be followed exactly as-is.

    Again, great post. I work with a lot of writers, from independent authors to freelancers, and a lack of a solid plan is what holds so many back. I’ll be sure to share your post. :)

    Reply

    Lorraine Reguly December 4, 2013 at 7:54 am

    Jennifer,

    I am so happy for you that you reached – actually, surpassed – your NaNoWriMo goal. Congratulations!

    I have learned that planning is the best way for me to approach my writing. In fact, I’m experimenting with a couple of things even as we speak. My biggest problem is my short attention span. I tire easily due to health issues and so always have ten or twenty things that I’m doing in one sitting. I’m still adjusting to that.

    I’m not sure what sleep is anymore, and know that I need to focus on my health first, writing second. However, I also know that if I don’t force myself to do things, they will never get done!

    Thanks for sharing your personal experiences and planning strategies with me. It’s nice to meet you (Thanks, Joel!) and I am appreciative that you have shared this post.

    Out of curiosity, when you say you “manage” several websites and blogs, how many are you referring to? Are you the sole contributor on all of them? Which sites are you speaking of? (Joel may know, but I don’t.) Enlighten me, please!

    Reply

    Jennifer Mattern December 4, 2013 at 8:29 am

    I’m sorry you’ve been dealing with health issues. I know how much they can affect work, dealing with them off-and-on all this year as well. But you’re pushing through, and that’s what matters. :)

    The websites I manage vary frequently. I’m a professional blogger and business writer in addition to more recently pursuing fiction, so I run several blogs. Right now I own around 55 sites hosted on WP, but I’d say only a half dozen or so are active blogs being updated. The rest are either projects in development or sites that are now static and earning ad revenue from their old content. My main site is AllIndieWriters.com (launched in October by merging three of my much older sites for writers). My small business blog is still updated regularly (sometimes by me, sometimes by other contributors). And there are a few others. The hardest part is managing comments, spam, and updates on all of the installations whether they get fresh content or not, but again it comes down to planning. I have a system in place that lets me take care of it in 10-15 minutes each work day thankfully. :)

    Experimenting is so important. It’s easy to get comfortable in a routine and stop looking for better options that would let us get more done in less time. Back around 2008, I changed my work schedule drastically. I went from working 60+ hour weeks as the norm to working only 28 hours per week (4 days per week). I get more done. I make more money. I never thought that would happen at the time. It all came down to experimenting, finding better ways to do things, and improving my productivity. Because of that, I have more time to rest and do the things I enjoy, and that makes me even more productive and “present” when I’m working. I can’t say the new schedule works out all the time (like working evenings during NaNoWriMo), but I’d say 80-90% of the time I stick to it, and I wouldn’t go back. But that’s the thing with experimenting. You learn new things about yourself, and you find out what works best for you. :)

    I’m looking forward to more experiments in the New Year. My husband is a software developer, so we’re having a business meeting this week to go over requirements for some new software that will help me plan publishing and writing schedules every month similarly to during NaNoWriMo. I’m looking forward to that. :)

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    Lorraine Reguly December 4, 2013 at 8:44 am

    Jennifer, I think you need to reveal your productivity secrets! I’d love to be able to learn your system and find time for everything!

    Good for you!

    Reply

    Jennifer Mattern December 4, 2013 at 10:06 am

    I’ve shared a lot of my tips and favorite tools for improving my productivity over on my writing site (should be linked from my name in the comment here). :)

    Beyond that it mostly comes down to being willing to experiment and fail in the name of learning. That, and being stubborn as a mule. :)

    Ron Herron December 4, 2013 at 7:12 am

    A planner for my writing? Sounds more like a work schedule than something I’d enjoy. I admit, we need to make time for our writing, but when you’ve been around (and writing) as long as I have, you learn life throws too many punches of its own to worry about what time of day I can use to write.

    Oh, and I don’t use an outline, either. I’ve tried it. But when I do that my writing sounds like I went from A to B to C and filled in the blanks. I much prefer using a ‘what if’ question, posing it to one of the characters, and seeing what happens. When I’m surprised, I can almost be sure my reader will be, too.

    I’m not trying to be snide about it. If it works for you, that’s GREAT. But it doesn’t work well for me. I write when the idea happens, or shortly thereafter, and it seems to work. I routinely turn out an average of 1,000 words a day.

    Reply

    Lorraine Reguly December 4, 2013 at 7:43 am

    I replied to you in another comment, but it is not showing up below yours.

    I also wanted to add that if you routinely average 1000 words a day on your novel, that’s great!!!

    I don’t know what my output is – counting emails, blog comments, etc., I’m sure it’s quite a lot!

    I didn’t think you were being snide, either, just offering your opinion, which I appreciate. Thank you for getting the ball rolling with the comments, Ron.

    Reply

    Lorraine Reguly December 4, 2013 at 3:45 am

    Thanks for the lovely introduction, Joel. I’m happy to be here to help your readers, and am available to answer ALL comments!

    PS…I’ve worked it into my daily plan! *wink wink* ;)

    Reply

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