Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Organized Writer

So I'm often referred to as anal retentive and no where is that more helpful than when I'm writing!  I'm just like anyone else though: if it's too complicated, I'm not going to keep up with it.  So here are the things I'm currently using and some tips to go along.

1. Spreadsheets.  I love excel and making spreadsheets.  So neat and organized and lined.  I use a spreadsheet with lots of tabs for tracking my writing ideas as well as my (meager) writing income from ads, Today's Mama (pay per click), Amazon Associates and Kindle subscriptions.  But the first tab is for post ideas.  This way, as soon as I have an idea, I add it to the list and I'm not wracking my brains later for a topic.  I have lately been sidetracked by graphic design but normally, I like to regularly post on each of my three blogs.  I label each idea with which blog it will go on, what type of post it will be (in order to keep my overall blog subjects focused, I have a list of post types for each of my blogs) and where else I can blurb or advertise that post.  I also note any contacts in relation to a post or article.  I ALSO color code my entries.  They are yellow until I write the post.  I change the color to green if I have written and posted it but still need to put that post somewhere else or need to notify someone that the post is up.  I remove all color so it's white when I am completely done with the post.  

2. Calendar....OK, which I made with excel.  This way if I have a strangely open hour or two and I write feverishly, I can spread out my posts.  I also mark the pub dates of all the books I get from so I know what order to read them in (oldest pub dates first).  Really, this can be so helpful to see at a glance which days you've schedule posts.  I highly recommend it.

3.  Daily schedule.  I have an atrocious habit of doing things as they strike me, so scared am I of forgetting to do something.  I try to work against it by giving myself certain days for writing to certain blogs.  I also designate certain days for cleaning, laundry and grocery shopping.  It helps me to focus on the task at hand---I can tell myself "Yes, there's laundry to do, but laundry day is Monday, today is Saturday, so let's finish up this post."  Sometimes, things get away from me and I find myself not writing in order to do dishes that have been sitting for a few hours, but really (truly!) I get MORE done by following a schedule.  Otherwise, I'm doing dishes, then wiping down counters, then stopping to run something to its rightful place upstairs, then pausing to wipe at that spot on the mirror, etc etc and basically doing everything but BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keys).  In other words, for me, a general routine helps me to write instead of spin my wheels.  It also means I can work on posts in the morning and my novel in the afternoon. (which I haven't been doing lately!)  Also helpful: I've realized now what is reasonable and what is unreasonable in terms of expectations for my daily time with kids, their nap times and running errands.  For example, I will probably not be writing for Technorati anymore, nor will I be copying and pasting my blog posts into Bloggy Moms---there isn't enough time in my week!

 All in all, you need to do what works for you, what is easiest and what dovetails with your natural inclinations/habits/lifestyle.  But overall, I highly recommend some kind of organizational system, especially if you are a freelancer.


Please also see Kim Harrison's character grid (which is excellent!) and Fiction Writer's Character Chart.  
What do you do to keep organized?  


  1. Very tidy way to stay organized. I'll check out those links, too. Thanks.

  2. Hmm. Where are the links again? I apparently overlooked it in the resources, etc. at the bottom of the page. Thanks.

  3. No problem Stacy! Always like to put helpful info out there! :)

  4. Hey Stacy! I updated the last line to inlcude the links! Sorry for the confusion! :)

  5. Great post, although it does make me wonder how it is that I remain such a "Pen & Ink" dinosaur. My husband, and even kids, are forever attempting to insist that it's time to file my piles of notebooks away and jump into the modern age of spreadsheets and other computer marvels. Looking over your rather tidy and impressively convenient collection above really has me thinking that I need to step-up my game and make life easier. Maybe...just maybe it's time to file away my prehistoric tendencies and make the change.

  6. Lara, you are my new heroine even if this intimidates the hell out of me. But I've definitely found that keeping at least a handwritten list of tasks helps me stay focused and accomplish more than when I just wing it. I'm sending my writer boyfriend over to read this as we were just discussing time management.

  7. My dear, you have totally inspired me! Thanks for the post!

  8. Neat post! I've been using one not to categorize all of my notes for things. Windows live sky drive allows me to share notebooks with my partner as well. I've shared spreadsheets on google docs too. The neat thing about google docs is that if two people are editing a file at the same time you can see where the other person is, down to the cell they are typing in. I've tried using drop box with shared folders but it makes conflicted copies if 2 people are in the same file at the same time.

    One of my organization tools is a database with tons of logins and other data. It's like a spreadsheet but can be filtered and have tabs and custom forms, etc. All of this data can tie to different sources. Multiple people can be logged into it at the same time.

    My partner is actually working on a desktop based app that will be a more polished version of our access database. It would be interesting to show this to him, as maybe it would be a cool thing to turn into an actual application that would save time with formatting and such.

    In my onenote I have stars and little labels I can put on things, but it's much less organized than your spreadsheet. It does however allow multiple tabs, which are collapsible.

    Ha for some reason skydrive is having problems today. I tried to upload some files for freebies and it wasn't working, as my notebook sync status. First time I've had this happen. Anywhoo, here's a screenshot of onenote:

    OneNote Screenshot

  9. When I was running Linux full time, I couldn't run Microsoft apps or anything that required the .Net framework natively. I used Zoho for a while but couldn't get my partner to collaborate on that platform. It has some really cool geeky features, lol. It has a notebook app too and allows you to embed spreadsheets inside notebooks. You can tie pop mail to it as well, just like using outlook or thunderbird.

    One thing of note though, the "add text page" feature in this app is REALLY bad!! It's so bad I couldn't use it, like ALPHA. All of the other features work great though. You can add writer pages that actually embed a "word" type of web based app like google apps or gmail's docs. I really would have preferred this over google docs but most people use gmail these days.

    Check out this screenshot, it's pretty darn nifty!!

    Zoho Writer & Custom Configured Apps Dashboard

    Ok I'll take off my nerdy geek glasses for now. I can't talk about this sort of thing with just anyone you know! Gotta express that geekyness somehow. Thanks for listening. ::grins::

  10. Ok one more, last pic - this is the collapsed view: Zoho Apps

    The toolbars on the left side collapse to provide more screen real estate.


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