Showing posts with label organization. Show all posts
Showing posts with label organization. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Benefits of Using a Content Planner for Your Novel


 Contributed by Christina Queen

Raise your hand if your writing is unorganized!

Sometimes unorganized writing happens, and that is ok. The good news is you can learn from it, don’t worry, I have a plan.
I began my novel, please don’t judge, a few years ago, and I’m still working on it. The sad part is that I have it finished in my head, but I can’t submit my thoughts.
A couple of months ago, I realized I needed to do something. I needed to create a plan.
During my day job, I am a freelance writer, and of course, like any writer, I contribute to my blog.
I have a content calendar and planning guide to keep me organized and on top of what I need to do.
Which got me thinking.
Why do I not have a content planning calendar for my novel?
After mentally slapping myself, I immediately went to the interwebs and tried to research this. After all, my job is to research, but I found nothing: Nit, rein, zero. I found template after template that I could download for nine different things, such as character profiles, story planners, etc.
This inspired me, the self-proclaimed queen of researching and spreadsheets, to create a spreadsheet for my novel.
And guess what?
I am now two weeks away from finishing my novel.
What the heck did I include in that novel content planner?
1.     Goals
My very first page was to outline my goals. I needed my goals in a place where I could see them daily and hold myself accountable.
There are no unique formulas for this page, so don’t flip out! I only created two columns, one for the title and topic and the other for a short description of my goals.
2.     Weekly Planner
Now what kind of newly founded organized writer would I be if I didn’t have a weekly planner. While this may seem much, the weekly planner holds me accountable for my tasks. For instance, I plan out time for my Mind Mapping, planning ideas for each scene or chapter. I block out specific times for this to feel relaxed and not stressed about finding the time or completing other things.
3.     Story Structure
This tab is a little more detailed. But this is the fun, creative part! Here are the questions I include that help me to put the plot together.
•      A plot point is the worst thing to happen to the story and characters. Your characters’ desires, loves, and fears should drive and dictate your plot.
•      What does your character want the most, and why can’t they have it? What is the external goal of the character?
•      Who/what do they love most? What do they have to lose?
•      What is their fatal character flaw?
•      Ally?
•      What are they afraid of?
•      What is the best thing that could happen to them?
•      Relative to the answers above, what is the worst thing that could happen?
•      Ending
When I mapped out my story like this, I organically discovered the antagonist and enemy. The book practically built itself-ok that may be stretching the truth a little.
4.     Character cheat sheets and backstories.
I love love this part of writing. I love creating backstories and building a character. Having all this in a spreadsheet makes it convenient and helps me see what I need to call upon instantly and not dig through my memory.
The best part of having this spreadsheet “workbook” is the ease of having everything in one place, ready for me to reference.
But the other best reason I feel these spreadsheets are helpful is they give me the organization and efficient time management I desperately needed to get this monster of a novel out.

Christina is the Friends-obsessed creative behind Christina Q Writes. As a full-time freelance writer, she helps clients in need of fantastic content. Christina Q Writes is where she shares tips and advice on freelance writing, blogging, and creative entrepreneurship to help people just like you pursue your dreams of working from home!
LinkedIn: Christina-Queen-Writes


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Sunday, June 16, 2013

All Those Little Ideas

This last week I made the decision to "spring clean" my office, even though, in Arizona we are well into the summer already. Clutter be gone, I'd decided. Which meant it was an opportunity to review and organize everything. I always think this effort will take a few hours and then I open one drawer in my desk. We'll call it my idea drawer. It's where I keep the short stories I've written, but never rewritten, the snippets of conversations I've overheard at the store, the coffee shop or the park I've jotted down on receipts, napkins and envelopes. And suddenly, the moments turn to hours as I realize the wealth of  wonderful material I've squirreled away.

As a beginner, I remember experienced writers telling me not to throw any of my writing away. They told me to carry a notebook and pen and write down the ideas. Even after decades of writing stuff, I still have challenges remembering to write the thoughts down. I'm not always consistent. In fact, just the other day I came across an article in a journal. I read it in between some work I needed to get done. Now sitting here, I can't for the life of me remember what it was I'd read, and worse yet, what my amazing idea for a novel was.

Here are some tips to keeping and organizing your ideas:

1. Carry paper and pens, use the recorder in your phone, or find a really great electronic notebook to use to put your thoughts down.

2. Organize your thoughts into folders. Your files might be titled conversations, metaphors, and ideas for pieces.

3. Keep these files at your fingertips for ease of retrieval, whether it be in electronic format or paper.

4. Review whenever you find yourself stuck. You might not find what you are looking for, but you just might realize how creative you are and that might push you through.


D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and a co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, Flight from the Water Planet, Book 1 of The Exodus Series was written with coauthor, Austine Etcheverry.

D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth – where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole and, Perception. The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.  

She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at

You can also follower her at or on Facebook

Sunday, April 15, 2012

"How to Set Writing Goals with a Family," by Mayra Calvani

“Nothing has a stronger influence
psychologically on their environ-
ment and especially on their children
than the unlived life of the parent.”
--C. G. Jung

You want to start your career as a writer, and you have young kids at home. How do you find the time to write and actually produce something while your children ask you for sandwiches, demand you play with them, or refuse to take a nap. Writing with kids at home isn’t easy, but it can be done.

The following are 7 tips to setting writing goals with a family:

Be realistic

If you set your goals too high, you’ll crash and you’ll be left with feelings of failure, frustration and bitterness. This will have a strong impact on the way you feel about yourself as a mom and wife, and will affect the time you spend with your loved ones. Face it, unless you have a nanny, you won’t have a lot of free time until your kids are old enough to go to pre-school. If you’re not able to set your writing goal to one hour a day, or even half an hour, what about 15 minutes? Start small. Take baby steps. Persistence is vital: If you stick to it, a lot can be accomplished in just 15 minutes a day over a long period of time. In 15 minutes, you can plot a scene, profile or interview a character, write dialogue, do research on a specific topic for your book, etc. Everybody can set aside 15 minutes of writing time.

Get organized

This is the key to succeed! Buy a planner or calendar and schedule your week in advance every Sunday. This way, come Monday morning, you’ll know what to do. What’s the best time to set aside those 15 minutes? Does your child take a morning or afternoon nap? Do you have the type of child who would be happy playing in a playpen by himself while you write? Could you hire a teenager to look after your child twice a week for an hour, while you write in the next room? Perhaps you know other moms who are in a similar situation and who would be interested in taking turns taking care of the kids? Brainstorm various possibilities. When there’s a will, there’s a way.

Stay flexible

You might not always be able to follow your daily writing goals. You know what? That’s perfectly fine. Life often gets in the way. In fact, it feels as if life always gets in the way when you have a family, doesn’t it? The planner is there to keep you motivated, focused, and steered in the right direction. But those words aren’t set in stone. If you can’t meet your writing goal for that day, just try to get back in track the next. Pat yourself on the back and tell yourself, “I tried my best.” It’s like with a diet. You don’t have to quit the whole diet just because you broke it one day by eating pizza.

Be consistent

Books are made of words, sentences, paragraphs. Depending on how fast a writer or how inspired you are, you can write words, sentences and even a whole paragraph or paragraphs in 15 minutes. The key here is to keep doing it regularly over a long period of time. You have heard it many times: write a page a day, and one year later you have a 365-page book.

Stop procrastinating

If only I had more time!
I’ll write when my kids start school.
I’m always so busy!
When I’ll retire, that’s when I’ll write that book.

Blah, blah, blah. Listen: there’s never a perfect or right time to write. You just have to stop whining and you have to do it. Why leave for later what you can start doing now? Life is short and unpredictable. You have no control over the future. But you have control over the now.

Love yourself

You work hard. You’re always there for your children, husband, parents, relatives and friends. Why is it that you so often forget about yourself? Treat yourself like a precious jewel. And I’m not talking about being selfish—though being a little selfish is often the best thing you can do to be able to give yourself to others. Reward your accomplishments, however small. When you love yourself, you’ll find the time to set aside those writing times because you know your goals and dreams are important. When you do what’s important to you, you feel accomplished and fulfilled emotionally and intellectually. When this happens, you’re able to give yourself to your family without reservations. Mostly importantly, the quality of those family moments will increase because you won’t resent them.

Set Your Priorities

How badly to do want to become an established author? Can you live with your home not being spotless or dust-free at all times? Or with letting the laundry accumulate once in a while? Because this is exactly what will happen once you’ve made your decision of becoming an author. You’ll face times when you’ll have to choose between writing or doing the laundry. I’m not saying you should neglect your family and put your writing first. What I’m saying is you don’t have to be a ‘super’ mom at all times.

You have the potential to make your dreams come true. But you have to believe in them and you have to follow a plan. You also have to make them a priority in your life. Keeping these tips in mind will help you achieve your dreams and become a happier writer. As I always say, a happy writer is a happy mama.

© Copyright 2011 Mayra Calvani.

 Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults.  Her nonfiction work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing was a ForeWord Best Book of the Year Award winner. She’s had over 300 stories, articles, interviews and reviews published. Visit her website at For her children’s books, visit

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Get Organized For Less Stress!

 One of my writing friends likes to say, "The dirty dishes never seem so important as when I am struggling to write." I know what she means -- when facing the blank page or empty Word document, or when I'm 200 words into my writing for the day and already feeling as empty as my car's gasoline tank, it seems like anything else would be more appealing than staying there in front of my computer screen typing or pressing my pen again and again to the notebook page. When that time comes, and the dirty dishes call, it is best to ignore them. Stay put. Butt-in-chair. Keep writing. In the writing manual Ron Carlson Writes a Story, he urges that this is when the magic happens -- when you push through the distractions and stay there in the story.

But, after my writing time is over for the day, I'm going to attack those dirty dishes. When I get home, instead of collapsing immediately on the couch, I'm going to take ten seconds to hang up my jacket, put away all the groceries, place my keys in that little dish by the door so I can find them the next day. This year, I am going to get -- and stay -- organized. That is the gift I am giving myself to cut back on stress, to make an already busy semester less hectic than it needs to be.

When my surroundings are neat and free of clutter, my mind feels less cluttered, too. I feel calmer. And the funny thing is, once you get organized, it is easier to stay organized -- it just takes a few minutes every day to keep that way. And really, how much harder is it for me to file that important paper away in my file cabinet than to set it on the kitchen table, where it will continue to take up my mental space before getting lost or buried underneath other stuff, alluding me when I am frantically looking for it weeks later? Answer: actually a heck of a lot easier to just file it away from the get-go.

Today, in between working on my novel, going to the gym, and preparing my lesson plans for the week, I am going to take half an hour to clean out my backpack and purse. I am going to sort through the papers scattered on my desk and kitchen table. I am going to make a list for the grocery store instead of winging it and forgetting something I need.

I am going to get organized, and stay that way! Will you join me?

Dallas Woodburn is the author of two award-winning collections of short stories and editor of Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today's best youth writing. Her short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize three years in a row and her nonfiction has appeared in a variety of national publications including Family Circle, Writer's Digest, The Writer, and The Los Angeles Times. She is the founder of Write On! For Literacy and Write On! Books Youth Publishing Company and is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Fiction Writing at Purdue University, where she teaches undergraduate writing courses and serves as Assistant Fiction Editor of Sycamore Review.

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