Thursday, February 1, 2018

New Year Planning to Get Your Writing Done This Year

I was talking with my friend, Sherry, recently when she asked me if I make goals for the new year. She's a home-schooling mom with fewer kids to school for the first time in many years and she was planning what she wanted to accomplish with her writing this coming year.

As it happened, I was just thinking along those same lines, so we had a conversation about what I do which seemed helpful, and even fun, for Sherry. So I thought it might be helpful to you too, or at least inspire some new ideas and fun ways to keep your writing goals ever before you this year. (Tweet that!)

New Year Planning

Her original question was: "So do you plan out a writing schedule and what projects you want to complete each year? That's what I'm in the process of doing."

Yes, at the first of the year I plan what I want to accomplish during the year. I don't so much make a schedule, just a to-do list.

Back when I was freelancing more magazine articles, my annual goals looked more like submitting or querying a certain number of magazine articles monthly. But several years ago now as the magazine market began to dry up--at least the paying, print magazines--or shifted to non-paying online markets, my querying and submitting to magazines waned.

That shift led me to more book writing and delving into screenwriting. With bigger projects in the works that take longer to develop and produce, I needed a place to write down which projects I wanted to work on. I needed to ask myself just how much I could accomplish in one year? And of all the half-baked ideas, or half-written projects, which one(s) did I want to focus on this year? Which could I complete? (Tweet that!)

With all the other stuff that gets in our way as writers -- the email and the social media to build our author platform and/or to promote our books or whatevers that are already out there for sale -- plus the correspondence and the workshops we need to prepare to teach and the conferences we're going to attend... Actually accomplishing the writing part of our jobs can get edged out, take a back seat, be put on hold until we have a block of uninterrupted time without all this small niggley stuff nipping at us. (Tweet that!) Time when we can actually concentrate and get some writing done is hard to trap. It's not just me. Or you. For most writers I've talked to, the deeper into this journey we get, the less time and energy to write we have. (Tweet that!)

What helps me: The List. Seeing that list of what I want to work on, and hopefully complete, this year.helps me stay on track.

Usually the list is longer than I can accomplish. But it helps me hone down to what's really important to me to do. And also to focus in on which projects are the most ready to write or to complete.

I Use a Big White Board

Several years ago I purchased a large white board. Originally I used it to map out the first stories I was working to develop. But I learned that didn't work so well for me because I couldn't take the story off to reuse the board again without losing everything I'd worked on! So that white board was out of commission for several years with a story I never completed figuring out and so never wrote.

I finally took a photo of all my work on the white board in order to preserve it to use later if I wanted to, and then I could feel free to erase it all. I won't do that again.

Now that my white board is free again, I've used it for several years to list what I want to do each year. My white board is also 2' x 3'. And if you're going to go buy one, spend a little more money and get one that's magnetic.

Some of the magnates I've found.
Besides being great fun, you can do a lot with magnetic boards. You can buy multi-colored magnates to hold notes. (Sherry said she uses sticky notes but sometimes they stick to the cat and get carried away.) You can also get magnates with clips to hold multiple papers or other items. I even found some magnates that are small cork boards with one pin in each of them. There are all kinds of fun and colorful magnates to use on your white board.

While you're at the store, pick up a multi-pack of different colored dry- or wet-erase markers. As creative people, we like multiple colors. They inspire us. So splurge a little and get whatever inspires you. For the best price, pick these up during the back-to-school season. This year I found a package of "2 in 1" with each of the four markers having two colors, one at each end.

Also get some white board cleaner because even the dry-erase doesn’t come off easily after it’s been there a while.

Here's What I Put On My White Board

I use different colors for different categories. For example, since I want to write both film screenplays and books, I use different colors for each of those categories. I might use blue for screenplays and green for novels. I use a different color, like maroon, for the list of e-books I wish to complete this year.

Pay attention!
On my white board I also note important dates as they become available, such as deadlines for submitting writing projects or entering screenplay contests.

For really important items that I want to be sure I don't miss, I use a bright, alarming color -- such as red -- so that note doesn't blend in with everything else.

Blues and greens and even maroons give me a sense of calm. Red makes me pay attention.

Like my cork boards where I plot out my stories, I do not mount my planning white board to the wall. It can sit on my table or file cabinet, or even the floor, and lean against the wall. I leave it loose so I can lay it down to write on and carry it around to different work spaces when I need a change of space.

Still on my to-do list.
I cannot tell you the great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction it gives me to put a big check mark on my white board when something listed there is finished! Each check-off is truly something to celebrate.

Again, my list usually has more items on it than I can accomplish. But it challenges me to do more than I would if I didn't have those goals and wishes always before me as the seasons and the calendar days tick away.

In the End...

Have you ever heard the saying, "If it's not on the schedule, it won't get done"? (Tweet that!) My white board makes me look at my projects and consider when I'm going to schedule each one and get down to the business of making it happen. It makes me plan. Without it I drift from project to project without ever finishing any, or I daydream days away wondering what I'm supposed to be working on.

At the end of each year, or the beginning of the year, I update my white board. I can celebrate the erasing of all the check marks -- that is, all the projects I completed.

Then I revise the entire board for the new year. I evaluate if the projects left up there, unfinished, are still priorities. If they are, they are no doubt more developed or more ready to write. With the other priority projects finished, these can move up in priority on the list.

Magnates and colors and fun!
Oh my.
Sometimes there are projects that I've lost interest in, or are lower priorities compared to what has happened in the year I just finished.

Sometimes, like with my e-books, the list stays from year to year with me promising myself I'm going to complete them this year for sure! And yet other priorities take over again. But they are still important to me so they stay on the list. Maybe I'll get them done this year. Again. Maybe.

My board also has helped me get a sense of just how much I can get done in a year and what is unreasonable for me to expect of myself. This has been invaluable. (Tweet that!) I do try to write one new screenplay each year. This requires fully developing the story, which takes time too. And I want to write one book a year -- whether nonfiction or fiction. I know I can do this much, plus some other smaller projects. My white board has helped me figure that out.

I hope your new white board can do as much for you.

How do you plan your writing projects for the new year?
What do you hope to accomplish in your writing this year?

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