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Friday, February 24, 2012

An Organized Schedule Leads to Success

As many of you know, I've had a couple of really productive years in and a lot of you have asked how I accomplished it all. I did it because I was willing to follow a schedule - it was my way of eating an elephant one bite at a time. I learned how to break large tasks into smaller ones. here are some of my suggestions.

It doesn't matter whether you write as a calling, a hobby or a business. We all perform better when we have expectations and a way to judge results. For those of you just starting out, here are some suggestions. 
  • Set small, measurable goals. A lot of people defeat themselves right here. They get confused about the difference between a goal and a dream. A goal is something you have control over. For example, my goal is to write five hours a day, five days a week or twenty-five hours per week. I generally can control my schedule so this is a reasonable goal. I’d also like to be a New York Time’s bestselling author. I can put in the hours writing and learning my craft, but becoming a bestseller isn’t something I have control over. 
  • Under estimate the time you’ll be able to put in. Yes, you read that right. I tend to be a perfectionist and when I fail, I get discouraged and quit. So if I think I can post five articles a week on my blog, I commit to three or four so I have room to succeed. I do the same thing when I set deadlines. If I have a project due on a Thursday, I’ll put it on my schedule as due on Tuesday. Why? Because life happens, and I can’t always control the things thrown my way. 
  • Adjust your goal setting to a weekly mode, rather than daily. Like my goal of writing five hours a day, five days a week, I want to leave a day or two to make up any time I may have missed. Like this week, our middle son is having hand surgery. If I only look at the writing five hours a day, the day he has surgery I’m going to fail. But by working a few extra hours each day, I can still make my weekly goal.

Along those lines, here are some attainable, weekly goal setting ideas. 
  • Weekly Word Count Goal. One of the things I've found most helpful when setting word count goals is to set my goal for the week rather than the day. I still have one teenager in and out of the house, so sometimes life interrupts life. To combat this, I set a weekly word count goal for my fiction endeavors. Then, I break it down into daily totals. If I miss a day's goal, I can make it up later in the week and I don't wind up feeling like I've failed. 
  • Weekly Project Goal. You may normally work on smaller projects, like articles or devotions. If that's the case, try to set a goal of one devotion or article a week. 
  • Revolving Weekly Goal. You might want to try something I call a revolving weekly goal. This is where you have a different goal every week for 3 weeks and then it starts over. The first week you might complete a small project. The next week, you look for markets where you can sell it. The third week you might spend learning about the craft of writing. Then you begin the cycle again.

Whatever method works for you is the BEST method.

Just remember, that no matter how early or how far along you are on your writing journey we all need to spend time studying the craft of writing. That can be done through reading books, attending a seminar or conference, or reading blogs and websites.

All of these are necessary for us as writers to improve our craft.

So what have you found works best for you? Share your insights with the rest of us - please!

Edie Melson is a freelance writer and editor with years of experience in the publishing industry. In keeping up with the leading edge of all things digital Edie has become known as one of the go-to experts on Twitter, Facebook, and social media for writers wanting to learn how to plug in. Her bestselling eBook on this subject, Social Media Marketing for Writersis available on Kindle and Nook.
Fighting Fear, Winning the War at Home, is Edie’s latest project. This devotional book for those with family members in the military debuted on Veterans Day, 2011. Married 30 years to her high school sweetheart, Kirk, they have raised three sons.


  1. I need accountability to achieve my goals. It is a sad truth, but someone has to hold my feet to the fire or else I flounder. That is probably not a good thing, given the fact that writers have to be disciplined in order to accomplish their goals and dreams. :)

  2. The weekly goals thing has done wonders for me this year and my approach is similar to what you describe. I set a goal of 3,990 words a week, arrived at because I think it's reasonable in my life to do 570 words a day. I won't win any races with that number of words but I also know that in addition to the fact there will be days 570 words is tough to do, there will also be a number of days throughout the course of the year when I can write MORE than 570.

    Which is good because my other goal, to complete 4 first draft manuscripts this year, will push me to my limits. Two MS are partially underway from previous years. Two are new.

    But I've also dangled the enticement of a really nice vacation as the reward if I achieve that goal, so I have good motivation.

    At least here in February, so far so good. 8-)

  3. For me, writing has to be a habit. I sleep better at night if I've shut up some of those chattering voices. I have an hour or two after the kids are in bed to sit and write. I write however much I can, or edit, or outline, depending on what stage I'm on. But it has to be a habit for me. Otherwise all the goals in the world get sidestepped in favor of extra sleep. :-p

  4. Accountability raises output even accountability to a schedule/plan. Your thoughts concerning organization rings true on many levels.

  5. As a busy teacher, finding time to write always makes me feel slightly guilty, because I could always be putting time into lesson planning or some other aspect of my day job. However, if I ignore the writing, then writing thoughts and ideas invade my brain in the middle of teaching science or math!
    I definitely adhere to the "underestimating" idea. I tend to set my schedule by projects rather than word count--because with word count, I'll just spill out rubbish to make the count.
    My current goal is one short story a month, two blog posts a week, and consistent work on editing my novel manuscript every night (even if it's just outlining or research).
    So far, so good.


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