How to Organize Your Writing Life: Maximizing Your Calendar

Espresso Shot (1)When you're a writer, the struggle to stay organized is real. Different drafts. Different books. Different projects. Release days. Blog posts. Facebook parties. No matter the stage of your career, we all have responsibilities pulling us in different directions. Organization is key to making sure that everything gets done when it should without leaving you feeling completely overwhelmed.

Every Wednesday throughout the month of May, I'm sharing some of the tips and tricks that I used to keep my writing life in order starting with the basics: your calendar.
Keeping Your Calendar
I shouldn't have to say this, but I suspect that it's necessary. If you're going to take your writing career seriously, you're going to need a dedicated calendar. Just like you have to keep track of deadlines in a day job, you've got to keep things straight when it comes to your writing.
I use separate calendars for my writing, day job, and life events. They're loaded into my iCal that syncs to my phone and Mac. I do this because I'm never without my phone, and I can always keep it updated on the fly. I color code my writing calendar in blue so that it's easy to find at a glance, and I can uncheck the other calendars to isolate it when I need a writing overview.
Whether these are set by your publisher or by you, you need to take your deadlines seriously. You're a professional. You wouldn't blow off a big presentation at work. Your manuscript isn't any different. But even when you take those dreaded deadlines seriously, sometimes they get away from us, making them a whole lot scarier when you finally remember them. If you use it correctly, your calendar can minimize the changes of that happening.
Here's what I consider a deadline in my own writing calendar:
  • Each draft of my book. For my latest indie release, One Week in Hawaii, that meant my first, second, and third drafts. Then, once copy edits came back, my final draft. I was working with anthology partners so I also included the dates I had to get them back first and second draft critiques back. If you're working with a traditional publisher, you want to note the dates that you need to get all of your various edits back.
  • Blurbs and cover copy
  • Updates to back matter
  • Cover art and formatting if I'm publishing independently
  • Marketing rollout
  • Cover reveal
  • Release date
  • Blog posts, articles, and other things I owe other people. This includes publisher blog obligations as well as blog tours and the occasional Facebook party.
I input each of these things into my calendar in all caps as soon as I find out about them. This means that I'm positive I have the most up to date information about what I owe who and when. If there is a change of date, the first thing I do when I find out about it is update my deadline in my calendar. My apartment could be on fire, and I probably would still stop to make a calendar adjustment. If I don't, there's  a 25% chance I will forget.
Writing Life
Your writing life is everything else that takes up your time or you need a reminder about. Some people block out time on their calendars for their daily word count to make sure that they know that's a permanent appointment. These are their office hours.
Since I have a day job and I write when and where I can, I don't keep office hours. I do, however, write down just about everything else I do related to my writing career. Here are some of them:
  • Conferences
  • Workshops and signings
  • Articles for my blog
  • Website updates
  • Teasers, excerpts, and other materials for any upcoming releases
  • Swag/business card order reminders
  • RWA chapter meetings
  • Writing dates with other authors
  • Broadcast dates for First Draught, the writing talk show I co-host
I use my writing life calendar in conjunction with my to do list which includes emails I owe people, social media post reminders, maintenance on sites like Goodreads and Amazon's author page, and little day-to-day things that need to get done. Just like I mentioned in deadlines, the moment something comes up that will require my attention it goes on the calendar and possibly the to do list too.
Using Your Calendar
Writing all of this down is just half the battle. Now you actually have to put that beautiful (possibly color-coded) calendar to good use. I open mine every day and look at two views: the daily view and the monthly view. I'm looking for any red flag, deadlines, or projects that may have slipped my mind. I also try to do a three month look ahead once a week so I know that I'm looking ahead to. This helps minimize deadlines creeping up on me (especially blog posts I've promised to other people as those have a nasty habit of lurking in the shadows of my calendar).
Hopefully this gives you some jumping off ideas about how you might start managing your writing calendar to make it work harder for you. Now it's your turn to share. What advice can you give to writings looking to optimize their calendars and stay organized?