Getting Organized

Writers are usually pictured in two different ways: very messy because they’re more interested in the creative process than keeping their work area clean; or, extremely neat and tidy where everything is organized and in its place.

I fall somewhere in the middle, leaning a little to the messy side. I prefer the neat and orderly, but with the little work space I have, and the increasing amounts of paperwork I go through and the research materials I accumulate, I find it difficult to keep myself as organized as I’d like. This summer, though, I need to make it a priority to GET ORGANIZED.

Here’s is the list of what I intend to do:

1) Go through, sort, and file paperwork at least twice a week. In fact, I need to mark it on my calendar so it gets locked into my schedule.

2) Make backup files of all my projects. I have followed the example of one of my writer friends to send a file copy of that particular project to another e-mail address. In case of a computer breakdown on my end, my data will be stored in another system. I need to be more consistent on doing this, particularly as I work on rewrites.

3) Buy a new desk. I have my eyes on a corner desk that I’ve been wanting to purchase that will keep my area (hopefully) a bit more organized. It comes with some storage space that will eliminate a few of my files. My old desk will go into the boys’ room to use for their computer.

4) Reorganize my bedroom. My “office”, which is really a very small corner of my living room, can’t handle a whole lot without making the rest of the room look messy; so my bedroom has become an overflow room for my research materials. I need to revamp that area, seriously go through books and get rid of the ones I don’t need (a sad affair as a book lover, but necessary), and figure out the best filing system for the items I will need to reuse for various projects.

5) Don’t procrastinate. Make time, even if its thirty minutes a day, to reorganize.

Will I become the super neat and organized writer with everything in its place? I doubt it, but most importantly I will feel better about how things look. Now where did I put that story idea I wanted to work on…?

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Writing Exercise #3

Take note of someone you see today, someone you don’t know. Create a character based on that person: give him/her a name, an occupation, a place to live. Does she/he have a pet? Is she/he married?

Now give this person a conflict: a lost driver’s license; a flat tire; a need to meet a sibling at the hospital, but your character has car trouble.

Write a 2 page story based on your character, his conflict, and the ultimate resolution.

Time for Rewards

A writer friend of mine likes to give herself rewards when she finishes long writing projects. I had never considered that myself since I thought just being able to finish a project and send it off to the editor or publisher was reward enough. But as I thought about it, I started liking the idea.

I’ve bought myself address labels and new business cards and other writing related treats. This time I decided to splurge a bit and buy the newest Nancy Drew computer game.

I’m in my mid-forties, the mother of four, so why am I buying essentially a teenager’s game (well, technically, for 10 year olds and older)? Because I love mysteries. I love trying to solve strategic puzzles and searching for elusive clues. I especially love how this game challenges my mind and keeps me digging in the depths of my imagination for ways to figure out the answers.

I always work on the Senior Detective level since it’s more difficult than the Junior Detective level. I get less helps this way, forcing me to think and rethink the situations. What a fun way to keep my mind active!

It’s good to reward ourselves now and again for hard work and successful efforts. It can be something small like a colorful set of sticky notes, or something bigger like a computer game or even a laptop. The point is to acknowledge that our dedication to and our completion of projects are important and need to be validated, if even only to ourselves.

I’m working on a big book proposal right now. I wonder what I should do to reward myself this time?

Dealing With Deadlines

Deadlines are a crucial part of writing. Articles, proposals, rewrites, craft projects, short stories, etc. will need to be in the hands of your editor or publisher by certain dates. It’s rare for an editor to tell you, “Oh…take your time.” In the publishing industry, time is money. If you’re serious about writing, you will need to be on top of your deadlines.

As long as you constantly work on your piece, you don’t have to worry a lot about single projects. But it becomes challenging when you have two, three, or even four deadlines looming in the future.

The secret to meeting due dates is time management. You must plot out each project, making sure you give yourself enough time to tackle research, rough drafts, and rewrites. Say, for example, you have a book proposal that is due in three months. Print out monthly calendars for that time frame and calculate approximately how many days/weeks you need to find resources and research the information. Mark the calendar with those dates.

Next, figure out how many days/weeks you need to outline and then write up a rough draft, again allowing time for additional research. Also allow for editing the roughs and compiling a final draft. Mark everything onto the calendar. You can schedule other projects, too, like a magazine article or a chapter for a fiction novel, color-coding them so you can see at a glance if you’re on track.

Set up your weekly schedule to include research and writing time each day, allowing for appointments and other commitments. Give yourself breaks throughout so you won’t suffer from burnout.

Managing your time effectively is the key to dealing with deadlines. Make sure you plan appropriately so you can meet with success.