Saturday, January 12, 2008


Every January I put together my writing plan for the year and fill out my desk planner. I start by marking off birthdays, holidays, friends visiting, family plans and personal stuff. They have nothing to do with writing, but they still come first.

Contracted work comes next, and I block off an appropriate amount of time for writing and editing each book I've sold. Work not under contract but that I'm fairly sure I will sell and have to write this year (such as future novels for my active series) gets the next chunk of my time.

From that point, the remainder of the year is open for on-spec work, checking on open subs, writing freebies and special or private projects that may or may not involve enriching uranium. In some cases this is easy to schedule, like the free stories I want to post during the lag time between releases, or finishing projects related to particular dates or holidays, like the virtual workshops I have over the summer.

Once all that is penciled onto the planner, I look at the year and start shifting things that conflict or collide with family stuff, deadlines, release dates and that vaguely familiar concept I think I used to do called my annual vacation. Occasionally when I've stacked the schedule too heavily I'll cross out the non-paying projects to give myself a little breathing room.

The planner then goes in my office, where it sits open to the current date on my desk and waits for me to check it every morning when I write my private journal entries, letters, pay bills, etc. It also comes in handy when someone from New York calls and asks, "Can you do this by this date?"

I've only misplaced my planner once, during a household move, but after witnessing my reaction my guy and the kids searched ceaselessly until they found it. My guy then offered to chain it to my wrist or nail it to the top of my desk. All that because I shrieked a few times, tore out a little hair and kicked a few boxes into orbit. What can I say? I'm very attached to that planner.

Planning an entire writing year in advance won't work for everyone, especially writers who need more spontaneity to be creative, but it keeps me happy and I feel better knowing what my workload is. After January 1st most book stores have 2008 calendars and planners marked down 50-75%, so if you'd like to do something similar you can get a nice one for a couple of bucks.

One more plannering secret: if you can manage it, leave a few days to one week blank every quarter to create some space for the unexpected. I always end up needing the extra time for something, and if it's there already, I can add in a job or project without piling up more demands on my prescheduled time.


  1. Thanks, Lynn. That's a really good idea. I think I need a little structure in my life -- my self discipline is almost none. Maybe it'll even help my school work when the new college semester starts soon.

  2. Anonymous2:41 AM

    I live by my planner. I got into the habit in a big way when i worked graveyard shift ( what day is it again) and now in school, I LIVE by the planner.

    Over the break, i wrote in week by week the reading/topics/ that are covered in that week's lectures and labs. Mark in the midterms, exams. Write down the prof's contact info.

    I'd be so doomed without it. I just have too much going on and if it isn't written down, i'm certain to forget it.

    Each week i block in the lectures/labs so that at a glance i can see what time i have open as well.

    Somewhere in there, i fit in writing, once an week.

    Major project deadlines for life, and other things go in, along with when major bills are due.

    All hail the planner!

  3. Anonymous8:26 AM

    I'm in awe. I couldn't be that organized if my life depended on it.

    Even the WORD organized gives me hives.... shudder...

  4. You've got some great ideas. I always write in all the birthdays myself as well.

    Should I...when I get farther in my writing life I'll need to be even more organized with my paperwork in particular.

    Thanks for your ideas and secrets.

  5. Anonymous12:43 PM

    De-lurking for a moment...

    I am also a planner believer. About a year ago I incorporated everything into Outlook tasks and calendar so that I have all my big projects, little goals, birthdays, errands, appointments, phone calls, etc. in one place.

    Then I back it all up about five different ways. I depend on it so completely, I would be one traumatized individual if I ever lost it.

  6. Planners don't work for me. I never open them, lol.

  7. Anonymous5:08 PM

    Hi all, Tom here. I moderate comments for Lynn when she's out of her office as she is today.

    While rejecting a group of nuisance spam that posted, I accidentally deleted this real comment:

    catslady has left a new comment on your post "Plannering":

    plannering - is that a little like strategery lol? I'm with Shiloh!

    Catslady, I'm sorry. Your comment shouldn't have been rejected at all. I will slow down on the rejects so that this doesn't happen again.

  8. This is the kind of thing I love -- seeing how to make the most of your time, especially if you work from home. And it's even better to see it from full-time writers.

    Not to be too prying, but is there any way you could post a visual of what this looks like? A mock-up dayplanner page or something?

    Thanks for posting this!

  9. Anonymous12:58 PM

    I would love, just love to see a page or two from your planner. Not the current one, but one from, say, last year, with all the tidbits blacked out for safety sake.

    I am writing, seriously, now and I also homeschool, and since my husband is in the Army, I am virtually a single mom.

    I have a planner and I am trying to use it, but I just can't get it organized properly.

    Do you write by the hour, word count or due date?


  10. I'd have to agree with the importance of "plannering" (I love that word, by the way), but I guess it shouldn't surprise me to see "creative types" (hate that word, though) balk at the idea. In my day job, I'm a graphic designer, which is another creative job, but it's also a business -- which means juggling projects and meeting deadlines. As a writer, I find I'll dabble in too many projects or waste too much time on other things if I don't get organized and impose a little order on my workload. After all, even though writing is FUN, it's still a JOB.

    BUT, everyone's gotta find their own method. Tricky, indeed...

  11. "...leave a few days to one week blank every quarter to create some space for the unexpected."

    For some reason I first read that as "...leave a few days to one week blank every quarter to create some spice for the unexpected."

    I guess that works too, huh?


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