Organizing your writing life for 2014

Usually I spend most of December talking about setting goals for the new year, but this year I want to focus more on getting organized so you can achieve those goals. There are some key steps you can take now to make your writing run more smoothly in 2014. The simpler you make it to achieve your goals, the more likely you are to go through with it.

This simplification process doesn’t mean lowering your goals, unless you’ve realized that you severely overshot when you set out on the adventure of 2013. Instead it means preparing yourself for 2014, similar to preparing yourself for Nanowrimo in October, but more intense. Some of these steps can and should be taken right now, and others will have to wait until you’ve chosen your goals for the year, but these are the steps I plan on taking this December to make next year’s writing smoother:

1. Organize your computer– go through your computer and get organized! Put all files related to the same story in a folder for that story, delete any unwanted programs on your computer, run some system scans and defragment it too. You want maximum efficiency for a new year of writing, and it’s good to clean your computer up regularly anyway. You’ll probably also want to delete your cookies and browsing history and make sure your browser hasn’t collected any useless plug ins so it runs smoothly too. Note that this is also a really great time to back up your computer, so you won’t lose any of your important projects even if your computer fries tomorrow.

2. Organize your papers– this is the time to make sure all your paper files are straightened out in a way that makes sense. Are your notes always a mess all over whatever desk or table or even couch you’re working on? It’s time to create a sensible organization system for your papers. All your notes for every story should be in one folder or binder dedicated to that story.

If you’re in need of some organizational tools like more file folders, sticky notes, highlighters, or binder dividers, go out and get some now. You can do it while you’re doing the unpleasant Christmas shopping that’s mandatory at this time of year. This is also a great time to throw away any unnecessary papers and dead pens–because you never want to get up from your desk to throw out a dead pen. Make your writing space feel fresh for the new year.

3. Redecorate your space– it might also be time to update your writing space with a new look. Create or commission some new art for your walls to inspire your work, paint the space with more inviting colours, do whatever you feel will make writing in the space easier. You might not be able to get a new space or have your own complete office, but you can always make changes to your environment to make it feel at least a little bit different.

4. Organize your goals by month– you probably already have a pretty decent idea of what your goals for 2014 will be, so organize them even more concretely. Do you want to write ten short stories next year, edit them, and get them out on submission? Well then devote one month to writing them, another month to editing them, and another to researching markets so you can send them out on their rounds. Do you want to write thirty guest posts? Spend one month finding places to submit to, one month creating pitches and sending them out, and another month writing the posts.

This approach lets you know what you’ll be working on for each part of the year, and what you’ll need in order to complete each goal. If you prefer to edit by printing up copies of your stories and attacking them with a red pen, you know you’ll need to stock up on pens and paper for the months you’ll be spending on edits. This year I’m even going to plan out each month’s posts here at the Dabbler, so in 2014 I don’t have to think about it as hard and I can focus more on my book length projects.

5. Gather supplies– odds are you’re going to take a few days off during the holidays before you get into the new projects you have planned for next year, so make sure you’re prepared to dive right back into writing when you return. Make sure you have plenty of pens and paper and dividers for your binder or folders where you can keep new story ideas so you don’t have to go out for them any time soon. Odds are you ran through quite a few pens and a lot of paper in November, so it’s time to replenish your stores.

This is all part of making it easier for you to write when you get home at the end of a long day. When life gets hard, it’s easy to drop your writing, but that will only make you feel worse, so make it easier to write. If everything you need is on hand right when you come into the house, you’re much more likely to write a substantial amount.

6. Get into your writing schedule– if one of your goals is to write for an hour every day or something to that effect, you might as well get into the schedule now. Every day you come to the computer or notebook ready to write, it will get easier. Starting now means you can already be in the routine when you start 2014, making the year a much less bumpy ride.

Remember that a writing schedule should be a challenge at first but should become easy over time. Don’t plan to devote every moment away from your regular job to writing, because you will burn out if you do nothing but write and work. Create a plan which works for you, and which you can actually commit to. My personal goal is to write for at least an hour (between 8-9PM usually) six days a week in the new year, two hours once I’m officially finished school. Your own plan should be something realistic for you.

Organizing your writing life may not land you a dream publishing deal, but it will help you get closer to your end goal, whatever that may be. Without organization and the determination to keep working at it, you’ll never get that publishing deal anyway. So take some initiative and prepare yourself for a productive year in 2014.

What steps are you taking to prepare for 2014?