Even if you lean toward being a pantser rather than a planner, or are a hybrid of the two, getting yourself even a little organized makes a huge difference for the productivity of your writing.
I’ve learned this over years of first turning my writing hobby into something more serious while balancing work commitments and trying to keep up with the demands of being a published author while maintaining everything life throws at you.
If that sounds like something you want to do, The Organized Writer Toolkit is a great place to start. With this kit, you can be as detailed or as loose as you want, just as long as you’re working toward a goal of consistency. The aim is to get into the habit of working on your words regularly, as slowly or as fast as you can.
The Organized Writer Toolkit
You will need some basics for your toolkit, and once you have these, add anything else that you know will work for you.
- A Calendar
- Pens and Highlighters
- A Whiteboard
This can be digital or old school, you just need a place where you can mark things down over the weeks/months.
How to use it: this isn’t about filling each day with something writing-related and feeling bad when you miss a few in a row, a week or two, and then a couple of months. It’s about keeping track of when you have the time to write and staying on track by knowing what you’re doing/have done when you are writing.
Years ago, I used to just write whenever I felt inspired, which, as you can imagine, meant I didn’t make a lot of progress. One day, I started marking down in a Word calendar any writing that I did. It’s not detailed, just “Chapter 3 of WIP” or “Research,” but seeing a calendar with a note of what was worked on fill up day after day makes your progress visual. How many days can you mark off in a week? How many weeks in a row did you get something on the page? It keeps you accountable, and it inspires you to keep going.
And these are notebooks you will write in (sorry), so don’t buy pretty ones you don’t want to spoil!
How to use it: these books are for notes and to use when you’re working on your WIP. Try to have one for each project (i.e. WIP, blogs, short stories, etc) and make it the only place you write your notes down. If that can’t always happen, transfer anything typed on your phone or scribbled on a scrap of paper so everything is in one place.
You can also keep your notes on your computer in Word or Scrivener if you prefer. I have Scrivener projects full of notes for my books, but I also have a notebook for each WIP that I make notes in as I edit. The ease of having a notebook on hand to write a thought down as you’re typing your way through chapters keeps you organized, so get yourself notebooks galore!
All The Pens And Highlighters
If you want an excuse to buy pens and highlighters—here it is!
How to use it: obviously the pens will help you write your notes on your physical calendar and put everything in your notebooks. To give them an extra organized feel, use different colors for different things. Black or blue could be used for general notes, red pen for edits, or give each task a different rainbow hue to make them stand out.
I know highlighters are usually used for highlighting important notes, but I like to use them in my notebook to tick off what I’ve done. If I’ve been editing an MS and have written a lot of notes like “Check for overuse of the word that” or “Remove unnecessary detail in chapter five to cut out confusion,” I will highlight these notes in my notebook so I know I’ve done them.
A whiteboard is such an easy addition to your desk and really helps to sort the chaos.
How to use it: if you’ve been following me on Instagram, you may have noticed a whiteboard sneaking into my weekly posts that lists everything I’m aiming to work on that week. Having tasks laid out where you can see them helps remind you what you need to do (which is important when the mental load of work/life/kids/family/responsibilities is overwhelming) and gives you an at-a-glance-look for your writing sessions.
When you’ve completed a task, cross or wipe it off, and bask in the glow of feeling accomplished. If you don’t get through everything, write what’s left in your notebook to add to the next whiteboard to-do list. It’s that simple—and that fun!
Once you start using this toolkit with your writing routine, you should find that any precious chance to sit down and write is more organized and gives you the best chance to make genuine progress, no matter the time limit you’re on.
Tracking your progress this way also keeps you super motivated. That’s how it works for me, and I hope that’s how it works for you too.
— K.M. Allan