Wednesday, June 30, 2010

With 74 books published, Margaret Daley has won multiple awards for her work: the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the Year, the Holt Medallion, the Golden Quill, Winter Rose, and the Barclay Gold. Prior to retiring 2 years ago, she was a teacher of students with special needs for 27 years and volunteered with Special Olympics as a coach. She is serving as the ACFW Volunteer Officer and has taught numerous classes for online groups, ACFW and RWA chapters. She enjoys mentoring other authors.

Organizing My Writing

When I was considering what I wanted to write about for this blog, I started to write about setting goals, which I think is important, but then I began to wonder what would help writers make their goals. Organization came to mind immediately.

Now I know there are writers who are not organized and manage to write what they set out to accomplish, but over the thirty years I’ve been writing with twenty-three of those years working a full-time job as a teacher as well as raising a family, I have found that if I wasn’t organized I would never have been able to write over seventy books.

What do I mean by organization for a writer? Let’s start with your work area—whether it is a corner of a room, the dining room table or an office. When I let my office go—when I’m on a tight deadline—I begin to fill overwhelmed—like my office looks. I have a hard time finding items I need, which means I spend more time looking for them when I should be writing and meeting that goal.

Odds and ends having to do with the writing business (promoting, doing line edits and reading your galleys) need to be dealt with. Sometimes they seem to be all I do instead of writing. What I try to do is organize them in a list and rank them in importance. When I do that and start with the most important task and work my way down the list, I feel I’m accomplishing what I need to and I have a visual list where I can see my those completed jobs marked off. I particularly feel good when I reach the bottom of that “to do” list.

I have a file case where I keep folders for research, promotion, story ideas, books I’m working on, articles I’ve written, materials for classes I teach. If I keep things filed and not stacking up they are easier for me to put my hands on them when I need to. Time is precious and I hate wasting it searching for a paper I need.

Like my file case, I also like to keep my files on my computer in folders, detailed enough that it is easy to find what I want. Periodically I go through my bookmarks on my computer and delete the ones I don’t use anymore, put the ones I go to more often at the top. I also go through my saved emails every once and a while and make sure I only keep the ones I need.

But the most important thing I have to keep organized is my writing and the story I’m working on. I often use charts to keep track of my characters and plots in my stories. I have one chart that tracks the hero/heroine’s goals, motivations and conflicts scene by scene. It breaks down the conflict between internal and external. It also keeps track of the faith element, secondary characters, suspense/mystery storyline and love development between hero and heroine. I write romance and romantic suspense so I’ve adapted the charts to fit my needs as a writer. It isn’t hard to set up through Excel.

Another way I keep track of my story and its elements—major and minor ones—is I keep a notepad with the information about the story on it. There are so many details to keep straight—a description of a house, a person, minor characters who aren’t in the story much, pets, character tags--and I found this helps me.

I had a reader once write me to tell me I had changed the name of the heroine’s deceased husband’s first name in a series from book one to book three. He was only mentioned once or twice in the first book but was talked about quite a bit in the third one. I never caught the mistake until the reader wrote me.

So a writer needs to track what goes on in a series from book to book. Keeping a notebook about the series will help. If you are setting it in one town, you might want to draw a map of the town or the important places that pertain to your series. If this is all in one place, it is much easier to look up something you forgot from book one to book two or three. You don’t have to spend a lot of time digging through papers or rereading the book to find the answer you need.

It is important to set writing goals and trying to keep them, but in order to keep them, it might help to get organized—on your computer, in your office and in your writing.

Ten years ago Jordan Masterson left her hometown heartbroken--and pregnant. Now, yearning for a connection with her family, the single mother returns to Tallgrass, Oklahoma. But she's shocked to find her son's father--unaware he has a child--a vital part of the community. Zachary Rutgers owns the ranch that the local homeschoolers use for riding and recreation. Which means little Nicholas, Jordan and Zachary will be spending a lot of time together. Jordan must tell Zachary the truth about their son--and ask for answers herself. Hoping the heart of her cowboy will still be hers for the taking.

Leave a comment and be entered in a drawing for Heart of a Cowboy.


Patty said...

Hi Margaret,
Thanks for your useful article. I've been working on this aspect of my writing life, made more difficult because we're living in a small apartment. For the moment, I'm writing out of a canvas bag and traveling to the library to work.

We're buying a house and I've been going back and forth about having my own office. But after seeing your office, we might have to look into that option.

Thanks again,
Patty Smith Hall

David N Alderman said...

Great post. I have been working on my organization skills as of late as well. I make a task list the night before and try to list things in priority order. I also break my tasks down into categories - Marketing, Writing and Reading - that way I can get a good spectrum of things done each day.

Carrie Turansky said...

These were wonderful suggestions. Thanks, Margaret! I enjoyed seeing a photo of your office. : )

karenk said...

a wonderful posting...would enjoy reading your novel margaret...thanks for the chance :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Linda Strawn said...

I really appreciate this article. Getting organized is something I'm constantly trying to perfect, but never seem to achieve. You gave some really great advice that I will implement. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us.

Cindy W. said...

This was a wonderful post Margaret with a lot of very helpful information. Charting your characters and plots, as well as, drawing a picture of your town or even a house is something I can really use. Thank you so much.

Many blessings,
Cindy W.


Edwina said...


Thanks for the great organizational tips - very helpful. I would love to see your charts that help you keep track of the details!


barbjan10 said...

Thank you, Margaret, for the great tips. I have had a yen to write for years, and I am struggling as to whether I really know how. Every little bit of advice helps and I appreciate what you wrote in this blog. I feel if I keep following authors blogs and on Facebook, etc., that I can gain knowledge as to what is expected of a writer. Every little bit helps.

Blessed Be in Christ,
Barb Shelton

PS: I love and enjoy the Love Ispired stories!!

Margaret Daley said...

Thank you all for stopping by and I hope the tips help you. They have helped me in a constantly busy life of writing.