Category Archives: Organization

Writing Goals and How to Reach Them

by Christine Hennebury

Writing goals can be useful ways of challenging ourselves and getting our work done.  However, words do not write themselves, you need a system.

I used to think that just setting the goal was enough, that I would be magically pulled toward it.  If I decided that I was going to write 15,000 words in a month,  I didn’t do any of the other work involved, I really just hoped for the best.

It didn’t work, of course.

I had to learn to develop a good system for myself.   First, I had to break my big goal into manageable bits – a daily/weekly amount. Then, I had to actually schedule specific  times to do the work. Finally, I had to plan exactly what I was going to write at those times. (Note: That’s what *I* had to do, your plan might be different.)

It is easy to say ‘I’m going to write X number of words this month’ but saying it is not the same as doing it.

You need a solid plan to get your pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Otherwise, you will not reach your goals and you are likely to get discouraged.

Think About Systems, Not Just Goals

The key to reaching your goals is a solid, repeatable system.  A system could be something like:  ‘I am going to sit for 20 minutes each Friday and come up with ideas. Then, every day after breakfast, I will write for 10 minutes.’  That system will get you  far closer to your goals than than just saying… ‘I’m going to write 5000 words this week.’ A system includes a plan for action, not just a hope for a result.

Develop YOUR Writing System

The emphasis in that heading is on the word ‘your’.  You need a system that works for you, not for anyone else. Be honest with yourself about how much time you have. Keep your goals aligned with how much time you have. (If you only have 15 minutes a week, that’s fine. Just don’t put pressure on yourself to produce a novel in six months or anything!)

So, ask yourself: What’s a workable amount of time that you have regularly? Do you have 10 minutes a day? Do you have 60 minutes a week?  What time of the day or the week does that 10 minutes or 60 minutes occur? Schedule your writing time in your calendar.

Check Your Numbers

Once you establish how much time you have, you want to see how much you can accomplish in that time. Set your timer for your planned amount of time and write. Note how many words you were able to write.  

Then, take that word total, multiple it by your planned writing session and use that number as goal guideline.

In my experience, I have had more success with writing for set amounts of time than set amounts of words but you do what works best for you.

Adjust As Needed

Perhaps you wrote 250 words in your 10 minute timer test but what about when you find a topic that’s a bit trickier? Or when you aren’t sure what to write?

That first test was to set a baseline, not to create a final standard. It gave you somewhere to start  but you might need to adjust your goals as time goes on. Word goals need to be flexible because your writing speed will change depending on a lot of factors.

I used to find it very difficult to adjust goals once they had been set. I was very hard on myself about ‘failing’ to do something. Luckily, at some point,  I read someone’s suggestion to add the phrase ‘Or something better’ to every goal statement. Something about that phrasing made me remember that my goals are supposed to serve me, not the other way around. Now, I am quite flexible with my end point and you can be, too.

After all, you can decide what better means for you.  Perhaps, today, it means more words. Later it might mean measuring time spent on specific topics. Sometimes ‘better’ might not involve writing at all. Your ‘something better’ might  research time or time spent with friends. Don’t be hard on yourself while you figure it out.

Check In With Yourself

After you have had some practice with your system, have a good look at it.  Ask yourself questions like – Is this system meeting my needs? What has my experience so far told me about my writing habits? Do I need to tweak or adjust anything? Where do my difficulties arise? What other kind of supports do I need?

I have found, through experimentation, that if I don’t schedule my writing time, I will be struggling late at night to write. I can write late at that time of day but my focus isn’t good and I have trouble staying on topic. It takes me a lot longer to finish my work when I write late at night.

I have also found that I need to build in twice as much editing time as writing time. I am good with blasting out a first draft but the rethinking of the work takes a lot of time for me.

As you go along, you will figure out your own quirks and be able to adjust your system accordingly.

Keep That System Working for YOU

You don’t have to stick to a system just because you developed it. That system is supposed to serve you, not the other way around. Its whole purpose is to get you where you want to go.

If your system is not serving you, change it until it does.

Your goals work the same way. You don’t have to stick with a goal because it seemed like a good idea when you started. You can always adjust it until you end up with that ‘something better.’

Christine Hennebury’s storytelling career began when she was four and her parents didn’t believe her tale about water shooting out of her nose onto the couch – they insisted that she had spilled bubble solution from the empty jar in her  hand. Luckily, her skills have improved since then. Christine makes up stories, shares stories, and coaches other people who are working on stories, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Find out more about her  at  or visit her on Facebook .

Quick Decisive Moves That Will Help You Get Organized


In her book, Organize Your Life and More, Christina Scalise said, “Clutter is the physical manifestation of unmade decisions fueled by procrastination.”

 I totally agree with this. I think that to be organized, one should make decisions, sometimes quickly. Sometimes painfully. To get rid of your clutter, or to get more organized, I suggest you take one of these ten actions.

Quick Decisive Moves That Will Help You Get Organized

Okay, so organizational tips don’t have anything to with writing directly. But we are more than just writers, we are parents, employees, adult children and citizens. Staying organized is good for us.

I'd like to suggest though, that the more organized you are with your stuff, the more time you'll…

Here are 10 decisive moves that will help you get organized:

Make a decision. START The act of starting has power. Even if the idea intimidates you, set a timer for 10 minutes. Even if that’s too much, start with five.

Pick the most obvious thing. Maybe it’s all the trash all over the floor. Maybe it’s the big stock pot that’s been soaking in your kitchen sink for days. Maybe it’s the clothes thrown everywhere. If you work on that one thing for ten minutes, you will see a DRAMATIC difference. Because it was the most obvious thing, and you dealt with it, then it’s gone. You’ll be energized to do more.

Make a tidy list, but don’t make it too long. Say, no more than  five things. Then tackle an area of your house for 5-10 minutes. You will be amazed at what can get done in such a short time.

Divide and conquer. If you have to clean out your garage, for example, the wrong thing to do is think, “THE GARAGE!” You’ll be so discouraged that you won’t make a move to do anything. Instead pick one manageable task in the garage, like gather the recyclables. That’s it. When that’s done, go for the trash. Then stack those bins. I’d even suggest that if you work in the garage for 10-30 minutes a day, you’ll see significant progress and you’ll be motivated to do more.

“You’re the boss of clutter, not the other way around.”
Monika Kristofferson

Think fast. Everything you touch needs to have a decision about it. Don’t pick it up if you don’t know where it goes immediately. Those 2 year old magazines that you never will get the articles from? They go in the recycling big. Let’s be honest, everything you need in life is on the internet. That birthday card your Aunt sent you last summer? Put it in the recycling bin too. The space it’s taking isn’t worth it and your feelings for your aunt won’t change if you throw it out. That broken refrigerator magnet? Throw it out. You don’t need a project.

Simplify your paper. Go paperless as much as you can with bills or other monthly activities. Create only one calendar that the family uses. Cancel those subscriptions you don’t read anyway. Keep a trash can and recycling bin near where you sort the mail, so it can go from your hand to either a to-do basket or the waste. Keep only the most meaningful stuff from your kids’ art projects.

Dispose of what was meant to be disposable. This means empty tape containers, cheap pens, too small pencils. Go through your junk drawer and keep one thing for ever five you throw out. Go through your family’s clothing for the stained and worn out and just throw it away.

“Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.”
Wendell Berry, Farming: a hand book

Be realistic about the future of an item. Let’s say that bag of yarn has been sitting on your living room floor for six months because you think your sister, who lives two states away, would like it. You’ve left it there so long that you feel guilty about doing anything with it except your original intention. Make a decision. Either box it up right now and get it to her, or throw it out. Now you may not have a bag of yarn, but you probably have lots of things sitting around that you intend to give away. Give yourself a half hour and collect as much of this stuff as you can in one place. Give yourself another 10 minutes to make a committed decision — deal with it or pitch it. (Here’s a hint: pitching it in the trash takes less commitment.)

Identify those overstuffed cabinets and cupboards. It’s likely you have too much stuff. You buy more products because you don’t know what you have and you don’t want to run out. What you need to do is purge the old and nearly empty containers. Then you’ll see what you have and what you need to buy. Set a timer for a half hour, put a sticker or a sticky note on those closets, cupboards or cabinets that need a going over. Then, systematically, one day at a time, choose ONE and ONLY ONE cupboard to clean out. Be brutal. Throw out as much as you can. Make a note of what you need to replace. When that one cabinet is done, you’re done. Do one more tomorrow and each day after that until each area is done.

“Clutter is not just physical stuff. It’s old ideas, toxic relationships and bad habits. Clutter is anything that does not support your better self.”
Eleanor Brownn

Delegate your responsibilities. Nothing helps me stay organized better than giving clear, reasonable chores to my family. We’ve worked together to figure out what each of them can manage. They know what is expected of them daily and weekly. I gently hold them accountable. I find this freeing. This is especially helpful when everyone knows that all the stuff has a home. If you can’t put it in it’s home in sixty seconds, it goes in the trash.

Excessive stuff drains you soul. With a little effort, you can stay on top of your stuff.

 I believe that when we choose to be decisive, we can stay on top of our stuff and we save time for what really matters.

Did you like this post?

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Eleven Truths I Learn When I Delegate Responsibility


6 Practical Ways To Plug Time Leaks For More Writing Time

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

Ten Questions To Ask Before Writing An Interesting Scene

In a novel, what is a scene?

A scene is a small increment of the story that progresses the story forward. A novel is full of them. And while this may seem obvious, they ain’t easy to write.

Have you written a scene and not known where to start?

10 Questions To Ask Before Writing An Interesting Scene

Ask yourself these ten questions!

The purpose of a scene is to put the characters in a new situation in which they are either pushed toward or pulled away from their objectives. Your scenes are the necessary steps that the characters take for the advancement of the story. Your characters could be in the scene deliberately, say Betty and Veronica arrived at the coffee shop to meet the woman with the dog for sale. Or they could be in the scene accidentally, say, they were pushed into the back room of the coffee shop by an armed intruder who was taking hostages.

1. Who will be in the scene? At the top of a piece of paper, make a list of characters that are absolutely necessary for this scene and no more.

2. What does each character do? Each character should have an objective in the scene. It may mean they have to keep a secret, deliver a note, or make dinner. They need to be busy with a particular purpose. Betty is there to speak to a dog owner about buying a poodle. Veronica is there because she’d rather help Betty than go home to her deadbeat boyfriend.

3. What are the consequences if the character doesn’t do what they are supposed to? If you write this down now, you can see what options you have for the scene. The more interesting the consequences, the better for this scene. Betty’s wanted a dog for a long time, ever since Foo Foo died, so if this doesn’t work out, she’ll be all the more depressed. If Veronica can’t decide what to do about her bf, Harold, then she’ll have to pay his rent again.

“Every scene should be able to answer three questions: “Who wants what from whom? What happens if they don’t get it? Why now?”
David Mamet

4. What is the emotional temperature of each character? Whatever you do, don’t make them content! They need to irritated, sleepy, hungry, impatient or exasperated. They need to be fearful or stressed or in love. Whatever their state, they have to be in tension. The purpose of the scene is to either increase their tension or decrease it. Betty is on the verge of tears, she misses her old dog so much. Veronica keeps rehashing all of Harold’s sins and gets angry.

5. What do you want the final outcome of the scene to be? Next to every character make a positive + or a negative – sign. For those that will end positively, come up with at least six things that can be done or said that can bring them to the end of the scene with hope. For those that will end negatively, come up with at least six things that can be done or said that will pull them farther away from their goal. This is where their main objectives of the story may change. Betty’s change may be that she no longer wants to buy a poodle off Craig’s List, she just wants to survive. Veronica is so angry with Harold, that she has no trouble standing up to the gunman.

“[T]he success of every novel — if it’s a novel of action — depends on the high spots. The thing to do is to say to yourself, “What are my big scenes?” and then get every drop of juice out of them.”
P.G. Wodehouse

6. What gift are you giving your reader? Each scene’s purpose is to give the reader more information, to have them pulled one way or the other, to reveal more secrets, or to have them grow in empathy for your main characters. If your reader isn’t coming away with a “gift,” or better still, a “surprise” in one of these things, then the scene isn’t necessary. Cut it now not after you’ve been sculpting that 3000 word monster for a month. For example, the gunman IS HAROLD! This infuriates Veronica. She takes the gun from him and forces him to his knees.

7. What is the pacing of the scene? If there is a lot of action, then your sentences should be short and your verbs vibrant and active. If you want a slower, more descriptive or contemplative scene, then choose longer sentences. In the beginning, when Betty is missing her old dog and Veronica is just a bit miffed, the sentences could be longer and reflective, but as the gunman enters and forces everyone to the back room, the action kicks in gear. The sentences are shorter. The dialogue is sharp and to the point. Betty whimpers. Veronica is enraged.

“Structure isn’t anything else but telling the story, starting as late as possible, starting each scene as late as possible. You don’t want to begin with “Once upon a time,” because the audience gets antsy.”
William Goldman

8.How does this scene play with the scenes around it? You should be taking your reader on an interesting ride. This means that the scenes should alternate in action-packed and more passive. The emotionally gripping scenes should have a breather between them in which the main character (and the reader too) can stop and catch their breath. The scene before this one was when Betty finally got dressed and decided that a new pet would get her out of her funk. Or, the scene before this one was when Veronica had chewed out Harold for the millionth time. The scene after? Veronica is at the police station, giving a statement. Betty has snapped out of it, she’s the best attorney in the state!

9.How much attention do you need to the setting? Probably not much, unless it’s critical to the objective of the scene. Go easy on the description. Keep it to only a handful of sensory descriptions. In my example, we don’t need a detailed description of the coffee shop. You could say “hipster” and “reclaimed wood” and “chalkboard menus” and every reader in the world would know what you were talking about. With your setting description, keep it simple too.

10. What would happen if this scene got omitted? Be brutal. Unless the action or the emotion of the scene is critical to the next scene, don’t bother. Without fully knowing all of Betty and Veronica’s saga, we don’t know whether this scene is important or not. If the story is about the true love between Veronica and Harold, then it’s probably important. If the story has to do with Betty’s law career, maybe not. Take a step back and looking at the entire book before deciding.

Answer these questions before you draft!

If can adequately answer them, and then keep your notes with you, the actual drafting should be easier. It could also be that once you answer the questions, the draft takes you on a different tangent altogether — like the poodle seller is a spy, or the coffee shop owner has been in love with Betty for years.

Scene creating is slippery, but perhaps with these questions, you can get a good handle on the creation of them for your novel.

Need more help with scenes? Try these 14 Easy Ways To Bring Your Scenes To Life or What To Do When A Scene Isn’t Working



I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community. 

How To Fit Writing Into Your Time-Crunched Life

We’re all time-crunched.

Fitting writing in is a huge challenge.

If you’re time-crunched you’ll find writing is a tough fit. To write, you squeeze in a few minutes here or there. You may lug your laptop around everywhere you go, or you may have a notebook and a favorite pen in your bag, ready to go at a moments notice. Or you may even have voice to text software and you’re not afraid to look a little silly speaking into your phone when inspiration hits. You are a 10 minute novelist and you are writing the best you can.

Or are you?

Maybe you’re not. Maybe you believe the best place to write is in a secluded cabin. Or maybe you believe that all you really need is a good two hour chunk somewhere and then you’d be productive. Maybe you think you need all the new apps or all the new software to get the job done. Or maybe you think that quitting that day job and living hand to mouth a while will motivate you. Maybe you just don’t know how to fit your writing goals in to your world?

Never fear! A few of us have figured this out. We’re 10 Minute Novelists. We’re time-crunched and busy. We have a lot of commitments. But we’re still finding time to pursue our dreams.

How To Fit Writing Into Your Time-Crunched Life

10 Minute Novelists don’t use ‘time-crunched’ as an excuse not to write.

Sandy Stuckless If you have a day job, write on your lunch break…in your car.
Become nocturnal. Write when the owls are awake to keep you company. Turn off the dang TV! It rots your brain anyway! Headphones, especially the noise canceling ones are your best friend. Even if you’re not listening to anything. People think you are and leave you alone.

10 Minute Novelists look for time leaks and make the most of them.

Mariah Danielle Rhudy I’m currently writing in the car with my laptop, external keyboard, and Dr Pepper while waiting for the kids I babysit to get out of school! The car-rider line is the best place to write!

10 Minute Novelists get up earlier.

Harry Marks I have 2 hours in the morning to write before the workday starts. I get up at 4:30 every morning to make sure this happens. I also write on my lunch break and if the motion sickness doesn’t kill me, on the phone on my train ride home in the evening.

10 Minute Novelists stay up later.

Sophia Ryan I keep a recorder on my nightstand so if a perfect piece of prose or dialog blossoms in my brain while I’m in bed, I can capture it immediately. Otherwise I’ll forget it in the morning. Hubby no longer wakes at hearing me whisper strange things in the dark.

10 Minute Novelists sacrifice something else.

Stephanie Smith Diamond I turn off the wifi on all my devices in order to avoid distractions.

10 Minute Novelists set small and manageable goals.

Mariah E. Wilson  When my kids were small I got in the habit of having a notebook with me at all times. I’d find ten minutes while cooking dinner or when the kids were occupied. It’s easier to find time now that they’re older, but I still have a notebook wherever I go.
Meg Brummer I set my computer in a central location and make a goal to write at least five words every time I walk by. Even when I’m really busy I end up with hundreds of words from “drive-by writing” like this.

10 Minute Novelists have a plan and then work that plan!

Dave Burnham I write during my 30 minute lunch break at my day job. I get up earlier at weekends to try and do more and once every couple of weeks I go to the local Panera with my laptop for a couple of hours. If I’m out for the day  I have a notebook and pencil in the car. I sit and write while my wife’s hitting the outlets (after she’s bribed me with coffee to go there!)

10 Minute Novelists make the most of every opportunity.

Molly Neely I rely heavily on the memo app I installed on my phone. That way, I can write during my breaks & lunches when I’m at work.

Sharon Kathleene I take my pen and paper into the bathroom with me, and I don’t care if it’s gross! It might only be a few minutes here or there, but I’m usually able to bang out a couple hundred words while I have NOTHING ELSE TO DO.

10 Minute Novelists get creative when it comes to their family time.

Shannyn Jordan I unleash the 4 year old on the cats hoping they can distract her long enough for me to write a hundred words.

Laura Salinas If you can give the kids a job that you would normally do quickly but they’ll take 10 minutes to do that will buy you some time something like put the cans away my general rule is will they hurt it or will it hurt them and if neither is true give them more responsibilities those minutes add up and you’re instilling a good work ethic in the short people.

Eric Johnson Send family to the store. Arrange playdates, and tell their spouse they can go to the bar with their friends. Fake your own kidnapping.  Then hide in garage to write. Claim abduction by UFO. Threaten housework., and when family leaves write. 

None of the writers quoted above have a fancy cabin in the woods.

They don’t have four or five hours a day to crank out words. They don’t fit the stereotype that most writers fall into. But all of these time-crunched 10 Minute Novelists have one goal: to write a little bit as often as they can.

10 Minute Novelists believe that momentum and consistency is more important than time allotted or word count.

If you look at your time-crunched life, and squeeze in a little bit of writing here and there you can be a 10 Minute Novelist too!

I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community. 

Top 10 Tricky Things You May Have To Do In Order To Achieve Your Goals

We can’t be the writer we want to be if we keep doing the things we’ve always done.

This is the time self-involved, sensitive writing types, think about how we can make this upcoming year the best ever. Especially if we are participating in Nanowrimo. This is an exciting time of year and it’s also kind of scary.

We’re going to have to make some changes. Sigh.

This week’s list is the Top Ten Tricky Things You May Have To Do In Order To Achieve Your Goals.

Top 10 Tricky Things You May Have To Do To Achieve Your Goals by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

1. You may have to say no to the expectations of others. This is tricky because in the past you may have said yes too much. You may not have been firm with your boundaries. You may not be known for taking time for yourself. If you are a 10 minute writer, then it is very reasonable to request that the people around you allow you that little bit of creative time.  I want to encourage you to love yourself enough to say no. This is an excellent article from PsychCentral about how to reclaim your boundaries and take care of your own needs. 

2. You may have to write down a plan and stick with it. This is tricky because in the past, you may have given up on things too early. You may remember the sting of failure. You may remember the times that having goals did nothing but taunt you because it didn’t work out. But writing down goals and keeping them visible often create a hope in us to keep going. Here’s another list of 10 — 10 Simple Strategies for Sticking to Your Goals. This is good advice.

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”
Louisa May Alcott

3. You may have to go to bed earlier or get up earlier to find time to write. This is tricky because sleep has a way of claiming us. Setting an alarm means we have to take action. Being disciplined often isn’t as much fun as late night television. But your writing goal will cost you. I’d like to remind you that if you can find an extra ten minutes each day to write, and you write 500 words in that 10 minutes, that’s 3500 new words this week. That’s 14,000 new words this month. That’s 168,000 words this year. All you have to do to get those kinds of numbers is set your alarm. Here’s another encouragement to do this from Write To Done.

4. You may have to make writing a priority even though you’ve never treated it as one. This is tricky because this means you may have to face your fears. Some aspiring writers aren’t writing for legitimate reasons, like say, their fingers are broken, or their computer was smashed by an angry toddler. But some non-writing aspiring writers don’t write because they are just afraid to sit down and do it. They fear failure. They fear disappointment. They fear rejection. The difference between a writing aspiring writer who is afraid and a non-writing aspiring writer who is afraid is that the first one is sitting on their butt, putting words down.  All of us are afraid. Write anyway. Find a way around your broken fingers and record your voice instead. Get out a sharpened pencil and notepad while you wait for your computer to get fixed. Despite your fears, write for 10 minutes today. I bet you’ll want to keep going. 

“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.”
Albert Einstein

5. You may have to change your expectations for time spent in other areas, like housekeeping or meals. This is tricky because we have to live. I understand this. There are seven people in my household and they’re under the impression that they should wear clothing and eat occasionally. I believe that all of your required, general life tasks can be made more efficient so that you can find little pockets of time here or there. My favorite ways include doing my errands all on one day, or making meals in my crock pot and rice cooker. I also delegate most of my household chores to my children. Take a day or two to think through exactly how your time is spent and come up with a plan. It’s likely you’ll find pockets of time that will make all the difference.

“A year from now you may wish you had started today.” ― Karen Lamb

6. You may have to apply yourself to learning about craft and then be teachable. This is tricky because beginning writers often have a lot of confidence. Or worse, they have well-meaning relatives who sugar-coat what the aspiring writer. If you’ve never been in a critique group, taken a writing class or workshopped your story, you may not know where you need to improve. If you are serious about pursuing your writing dreams, then you need to be serious about learning. Here’s a list of cheap and not-so-cheap ways to learn to be a better writer. Here’s a list of ways to meet other writers so you can know your work is “good”. And then, of course, a link to the coolest writing group on Facebook. 

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

7. You may have to express your needs to your spouse or significant other. This is tricky because your determination to write will definitely affect your relationships. You may have to communicate your needs. Some spouses and significant others will jump at the chance to help. Others may not be so enthusiastic. Take the time to express how much you need space to work and time to work. Come up with practical solutions that create minimal interference in others’ lives. Make sure that you are reciprocating and supporting them in in their goals too. Jeff Goins has some great stuff to say about this. 

8. You may need to learn a new organizing tool or system in order to reap the benefits. This is tricky because if you’re like me, you’re lazy. If you’re like me, you don’t get excited about learning curves. If you’re like me, you believe that the old ways are good enough. They may be, but if you’re in the habit of losing your work, then you need to find a better system. If you follow 10 Minute Novelists on Pinterest, then you can use our board on apps and software that can make your writing life easier. Good organization is critical for good performance. Don’t let laziness or reluctant learning get in the way of you being your best.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

9. You may have to lower your expectations on social media. This is tricky because everyone tells authors that they need a Facebook page, a blog, an Instagram account and a million other things and they all take time to keep up with. I suggest that you pick 2 or 3 social media platforms that you are the most comfortable with, and get the most excited about, and only do those. I have a blog, I lead a group on Facebook and I try to maximize Twitter and Pinterest. Are you leaning toward Twitter, but you don’t know how to make it work? I can help! 

10. You may have to go easy on yourself in some areas. You may have to kick yourself in the pants in others. This is tricky because every day is a battle. We have to overcome our inner selves to face the tasks in order to achieve the goals. Every day we have to make the little choices that will add up to the big choices. Every writer faces this. You are not alone. I’d like to suggest that the most important step you take in becoming a writer and pursuing your dreams is knowing who you are. Once you know, or at least have a hint, then it will be far easier to make all the changes I listed in steps 1-9.

The creation of words, at times, can be the expression of the inner workings of our soul. The more secure we are on the inside, the more excellent our words will be on the outside. 

You may have some tricky things to do now. 

 Do them anyway. If you fail, keep going.

Your dreams are worth it.

Top 10 Things I Do On A Daily Basis That Make Me More Productive by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

I am NOT perfect. I make a LOT of mistakes, but one of the biggest things I did right was decide that I would make time for my dreams.

(I wrote a book about it too! Look over there on the right!) 

I realized that if I was going to actually write in 10 minute increments, I would have to organize my life. Now, I’ve been doing this 10 Minute Writer/Novelists gig for nine years, so I’ve streamlined my procedures pretty well (and THANK GOD, my kids are older!)

But I still have 10 Things I think about on a daily basis that makes my organization and productivity possible.

Top 10 Things I Think About On A Daily Basis That Make Me More Productive by Katharine Grubb


1. I know where everything is.  I minimize clutter, assign places for everything and have no trouble throwing things away. Need help with this? Check these top ten blogs for organizing! 

2. I have a plan every day. Most of the time I keep it in my head — but I also write lists and keep a calendar. I’ve also discovered that daily schedules have to be flexible, especially as my family’s needs change. Passion Planner has the coolest free stuff for people who want to keep lists too! 

3. I know how long each task should take me. I figured this out when I was devoting my housework to 10 minute increments. Ten minute tasks include: starting a load of laundry, folding one basket of clothes, starting  meal prep, cleaning the bathroom, emptying the dishwasher, emptying all trash bins, vacuuming one floor of the house. Having this information helps my plan my day. I owe one person for this method. I love you, Flylady! 

4. I communicate my time needs to my family. I started training my children when they were young that I would need 10 minute increments to work. Generally speaking, they understood it. Now that they’re older, they have no trouble respecting my need for some alone time. Need a list from a great resource? Try this! 

5. I model good attitudes to my children regarding staying organized. This is the most important item on the list. If I whine and complain about anything I do, my children will, most assuredly echo me. If I want them to be happy cleaner-uppers, then I need to whistle while I work. It’s cheesy, but it works. Need a song? Try these! 

6. I set a lot of timers. Thank you Apple! My iPhone has what I need: alarms, timers, and world clocks to tell me if my friends in the UK are up to talk! Oh, I kid. I’ve now graduated from my microwave timer to my phone, which is better because my microwave didn’t fit in my pocket. How about this one? 

Great gifts for writers
Mug says, “In the time it takes to drink this coffee, you could have written 300 words.”

7. I plan my meals in advance. Generally speaking, I know what we’re going to eat every meal of the week. I also cook the same things every weekend. I love to be creative in the kitchen, but the “old standbys” go faster. I have a couple dozen recipes that I always have ingredients for and I’ve practiced cooking them so often, that I’m pretty fast at it. I also couldn’t function without my crock pot and rice cooker. Wanna go a little crazy? Try once a month cooking! 

8. I don’t waste time shopping or doing other errands. I keep orderly lists and go out as little as possible, combining as many errands as I can. If an item didn’t make the list, then it has to wait a week. It’s brutal, but that’s why we buy four gallons of milk at a time. I use this app to create my lists. 

9. I multitask if possible. I use down time to get stuff done, but I also understand when multi-tasking isn’t such a great plan. Like for all of these reasons. 

10. I delegate household tasks. This is my secret weapon. My kids have always had a lot of responsibility around the house and the older they get, the more jobs are given to them. Some people think having five children is hard work, are you kidding me? Because I do have five, I have an army that cleans the house every Saturday morning, tidies every afternoon and cleans the kitchen twice a day. How do small families do it?


All of these took practice, but none of them were too difficult. If you’re  new to the idea of working in 10 minute increments (and perhaps a little intimidated) pick one of the things on this list and practice it for a few weeks until you gain confidence. Then pick up the other one.

know you can find time to pursue your dreams.  Even in as little as 10 Minutes a Day!

Practical Ways To Find Extra 10 Minutes To Make Your Dreams Come True

I get asked often what my Twitter handle, @10MinNovelist means. If I’m feeling generous, I say, “it means I have to write in the smallest bits of time that I can.”

If I’m feeling a bit snarky, I say, “it means I have five children who like to eat and have clean clothes.”

I call myself @10MinNovelist because I’ve decided my writing dreams were worth finding time for.

I think it’s possible for the busiest of people to carve out a little time daily to do something they love — it just takes vision, creative use of time and space, and discipline, but it can be done.

Help! I Don't Have Time To Write!
Click this graphic to join our Facebook Group! (The nicest bunch of writers you’ll ever meet!)

 Want to join other writers who are finding time to make their dreams come true? Join us on Facebook!

 I also discovered that most domestic chores can be done in less than ten minutes.

 Like the following:

Sort the laundry and start one load.

Fold one basket of clean laundry.

Clean the bathroom.

Vacuum one room in my house.

Dust one room in my house.

Clean out the refrigerator.

Unload the dishwasher and fill it again.

Wipe all the kitchen counters and sweep the floor.

Compile a shopping list.

Start (but not complete) dinner.

This isn’t an exhaustive list.

There are many more tasks around the house that, if broken down in small chunks, can be done every other ten minutes.

If I stay focused on these little tasks, for ten minutes at a time, then I’ve only worked an hour and a half. I have the rest of the day to do what I need to do for myself for my family.

If I have a lengthy list, things like call for dental appointments, or write an article or go to the library, I break it down in to the smallest tasks possible, enlist the help of my children and keep setting my timer.

But there’s even more ways to find time! (It helps if your family is cooperative!)

 1. Delegate Your Responsibilities: You don’t have to do everything! This is exactly why I have a lot of children, so we can share the love that is household chores. It’s only too bad that I didn’t give birth to fully grown tween girls (my girls are the best and work almost as hard as I do!)

2. Reward Yourself After An Unpleasant Task With A Little Writing Time I find that I’m a lot more efficient with my housecleaning when I realize that at the end of it, I get to write. So race yourself. Can you fold that basket of laundry in ten minutes? Can you clean that bathroom in seven? It’s not about quality here, people, it’s about getting the chores done so the creative stuff can take place!

3. Train Your Children To Respect Your Passions Little ones can grasp that Mom needs ten minutes, but they can’t get that Mom needs two hours. Make it manageable for them, and it will pay off big for you later.

4. Be selective in returning calls and answering texts right away. If your friends can’t understand this, perhaps they need to become an unsavory character in your novel.

5. Rethink Television Back when I started my quest for ten minutes a day, the most technology I had at my fingertips was DVR. Now, really, there just isn’t any excuse for claiming that your network TV schedule has interfered with your writing time.

6. Limit Your Internet Time. Be brutal in which blogs you regularly follow in your reader. Spend less time than I do on Facebook. Avoid Pinterest.


7. Make Meal Prep Time Efficient Advance planning, make-ahead cooking, use of crock pots, bread machines and rice cookers – all of this can make you necessary job of eating (and hopefully eating well) less time consuming  and allow you more time for writing.

8. Plan Your Laundry Like death and taxes, there will always be dirty clothes to wash, so create a daily strategy in which to handle it. By having a plan in place, you will save precious minutes. We’re looking to find small bits of time, right? Not to save the world.

9. Have A Plan Before You Sleep If you wake up in the morning with no surprises (or at least a minimum) then you will save time, guaranteed. It’s also helpful to get the necessities out of the way as soon as you can and free up time later.

10. Have All You Need, Right Where You Need It. The more organized you are, the more time you will save.

Granted, I’m a Stay-At-Home Mom, my daily responsibilities are limited to the domestic. But I’d like to suggest that anyone can find ten minutes.

The busiest person CAN find time to meet their writing goals. Ten minutes a day is better than nothing at all.

Got any more ideas? Leave them in a comment below!

Or, better still, join us on Twitter every Thursday night, 9PM EST for a chat. Follow this hashtag  #10MinNovelists  and join the fun!



Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A DayWant more tips on how to make Twitter work for you? CONQUERING TWITTER in 10 MINUTES DAY is available! Specifically written for authors, this book will help you think about yourself, your brand, your books, and your goals on Twitter, create great questions to ask and organize your time in such a way that you can get the most out of every tweet.

Available for $.99! 

I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community. 

How My To-Do List is Often Like a Misbehaving Toddler (And What I Can Do About It!)

My to-do list is long. It taunts me.

As soon as I cross something off, three more things jump on.

The battle I have with my to-do list is like chasing a naked, hungry, willful toddler through the house. I yell and reach. I grab and contain. I wipe, dust, clothe, scold and hug and yet there are more things to do. My list is ever demanding, ever whining, ever messy. 

I asked for this.

I asked for the expanding boundaries and the places of influence. I asked for the blessings and abundance. (And it comes with more responsibility and more tasks?) I asked for more people in my life with whom I run the risk of disappointing. I asked for more opportunities with which I run the risk of missing. I asked for more challenges and I now stare at them,  convinced I won’t rise to meet them.

The one thing I must do today is look at these things, these tasks and these events and call them what they are.

They are symbols of my blessing.

They are connections to people. They are the pathways to my bigger dreams. And I am in control of all of them. They submit to me, not I to them. I will not let their tyranny, their demands nor their temper tantrums control me. 

How should I face my to-do list?

I will tackle each task with grace. I will be calm and discipline in doing them. I will not fear failure. I will anticipate success. I will inhale this truth — that few of these are life and death issues. I will exhale power and confidence. There is no deadline I have written down that owns me. My failure will never materialize if I handle these tasks in my best. And if the worst should happen, if I fail, if I disappoint, if I crumble, my identity is not wrapped up in this list. 

I am more than this. 

These tasks are what I do.

They are not what I am. 

I will do my best today. I will hold my head up high, grap this to-do list by it’s hand and say, “I’m the boss of you. Now let’s get busy.” 

And watch it behave as it dutifully complies. 

Please sign up for my Time Management Boot Camp.

Top Ten Ways You Can Find Time To Write in 2016 by Katharine Grubb

Every Monday, for eight weeks, you’ll get an email from me that gives you specific, step by step tips on how to find more time to write. I’ll address each one of the previous ten points. I’ll give you ideas on how to organize your home. I’ll give you resources like time-saving recipes. I’ll give you vision for training your kids to help you with household tasks. The ultimate goal? More time for you and your writing dreams.

Sign up for Time Management Boot Camp! 8 Weeks of Practical Tips & Encouragement to help you find time to write!

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The first email is coming January 4, 2016! Sign up today! 

I love January. It’s so full of hope and promise. This year, I tell myself, will be the year that I hit all those goals, that I become a better person, that I change for the better.

You can do it too! I believe in you! 

I DID IT! I’M A NANO WINNER! (Now, What My Project Is, And What It Is Not!)

I did it! Despite going away for a week, having no plan, no outline and no idea what I was doing, I put in the necessary 50,000 words required for National Novel Writing Month. So, I won! I’m a winner! WOO-HOO!

Now before I get too excited, I need to realize that word count alone doth not a novel make. Oh my. No. So this little blog entry is to explain what my particular messy 50K word work-in-progress is and is not.

What It is: A long brain spew. This isn’t a bad thing. I really believe that the best books resemble icebergs. What is read in the published form is only the tip. This is a critical part of the story creating process, but not really worth keeping. To use another metaphor and to borrow from Hemingway: first drafts are a load of ca-ca, but I think that there’s a pony underneath it all.

What it is not: Readable.

What it is: Illuminating. One morning, about 35K into it, I was thinking about snails. (I am a homeschooling mother of five, so this topic of conversation comes up far more often than you would think) and a specific kind of snail from Indonesia stuck in my mind. This snail became a metaphor for me personally, then I realized how awesome it would be if my point-of-view character had a fascination with this kind of snail and what that would mean for her personal objectives. How could I use this for a symbol?  I was delighted and wrote hundreds, if not thousands of words about her, snails and what it means in her life. From there I got more ideas for scenes and plot points. I struck gold.

What it is not: Concise. It takes more than a bunch of symbols to make a story. But I’m getting there.

What the characters are: Fuzzy. I’m not too big on physical descriptions. Instead I’m far more interested in motivations and obsessions that drive a person to make the choices that they make. It does help if I have a mental image to go on, but I don’t want my readers to be bogged down on whether or not my romantic lead has a dimple in his chin. The fine-tuning of hair color can come later.

What are the characters are not: Shallow. I never really care what flavor of ice cream they like and I’ll probably never bother with details like that.

What the plot is: Low-concept. I prefer character driven plots, where people change rather than plot-driven stories where something is stolen or something blows up. I do see an accidental shooting of a prize-winning show dog in this story. But overall, my work in progress is far more about people changing for the better or worse.

What the plot is not: Easily organized into scenes. Oh well. Someday.

What the setting is: Very clear. This story is set in the town that my husband grew up, Leominster, Massachusetts. I’m going to have my point-of-view character work in the same family business that my husband’s family worked in. I can get first hand knowledge of the goings-on, the potential for conflict and culture. I’m really excited about it.

What the setting is not: Done to death in other books. I hope.

What the next step is: To wait. I’m planning on letting this little 50K project simmer in a drawer for a while. I’ve got other projects to attend to. I’m moving house. I’m celebrating Advent and Christmas. Life is getting in the way. If this is really a good story, then it can wait until I can give it my full attention. I’m not worried.

What the next step is not (and never, ever should be after Nanowrimo): Sending it in an attachment to every agent on the planet.

So, what about you? Did you write 50K in November? What is it? What is it not?


Jessica White Explains Scrivener! A Guest Post

A few weeks ago 10 Minute Novelist Jessica White hosted a Facebook chat where she explained the ins and outs of Scrivener.  Scrivener is a fantastic app that allows novelists to stay organized while they are drafting. But it’s complicated. These are Jessica’s notes for that chat. Hope it helps you as you struggle to master Scrivener!

Jessica White Explains Scrivener

The hardest part about learning to use Scrivener is the learning curve on what things are called and where to find them not using them.

You can download the cheat sheet for your version of Scrivener here.

First you need to understand there are three parts to the main screen:

Jessica White Explains Scrivener

The BINDER on the left keeps track of all your work and lets you rearrange and organize it. 

The EDITOR in the middle is where you will do all your writing.

The INSPECTOR on the right lets you shortcut to several other features, like the notecards, research, keywords, and snapshot (at the bottom of it you’ll see the little notepad, books, key, etc).

In Scrivener you will do 90% of your work in the main Editor panel.  There are three VIEWS and each has a function that you need as a writer.

In DOCUMENT view you do your writing.  It looks pretty much like Word or Pages.

Jessica White Explains Scrivener

In CORKBOARD view you do your plotting. Think of it as an index card or sticky note you put on the front of each section. You can use them to summarize plot points or to layout scenes. You can also label and mark them (more about this in P8) to keep track of things like point of view, what draft you’re on, timelines, etc.

In DOCUMENT view you do your writing.  It looks pretty much like Word or Pages.

In OUTLINE view you see all the big picture stuff like organization, status, word count, how far you are on your target word count, and lots more.

In DOCUMENT view you do your writing.  It looks pretty much like Word or Pages.

If you’ve never written a book in Scrivener I highly recommend you download KM Weiland’s template.  You can delete what you don’t use to simplify the look, but she really does give you all the pieces and parts, making it a great way to learn what Scrivener can do and how to set up a binder.

If you want to start from scratch that’s fine too.  Use the basic novel template Scrivener offers, and then use the BINDER feature and create a basic set up just like you would an outline using the ADD button at the top.

Two options I’d suggest:

Folders for Beginning, Middle, End (Acts 1, 2, 3) and text files for chapters (if you are a plotter this works well)


Folders for Chapters and then use the text files for scenes (this allows you pantsers to write scenes and move them around before committing to a chapter and stringing them all together).

How to take a SNAPSHOT.

  You ever have a scene where you felt it needed a rework, spent an hour doing the rework only to decide that you liked the original better?  This is where snapshot comes in. 

You can either go up to Documents—Snapshots—Take Snapshot OR there is a little camera down in the lower right corner of the inspector.

Take a snapshot of your text before you start editing, and if you decide to revert all you have to do is go up to Documents—Snapshot—Show Snapshots to see the original in the Inspector.  You can then see them side by side and ROLL BACK to a prior version or you can copy/paste parts of it.



Under Project—Project Targets, you can set up both the full document targets and the session target (useful if you want to write a minimum words/day). 

Scrivener automatically tracks word count for every text file and each folder.  You can see it down at the bottom of the screen. 

You can also go to the OUTLINE view and go up to View—Outliner Column—and add Total Word Count, then you can see all the totals for any folder (or the binder) on one page.  This allows you to make sure your chapters are fairly balanced and to see where you need to focus your effort.

LABELS and STATUS feature is on the right hand side in the middle of the Inspector under GENERAL META-DATA. 

You can use them for almost anything.  Keep track of what phase of writing you are in (rough/final).  Keep track of POV, timeline, etc.  You can color code your folders and files, the corkboard index cards and also have it show up in SYNOPSIS on the right hand side (which is the index card in miniature).

Go to View—Use Label Color In— and you can add to any screen. 
To change the colors and label names go to Project—Metadata Settings and double click the name to change.



SPLIT VIEW can be found in the upper right of the editor box.  You can split vertically or horizontally and have side by side screens so you can see two things at once.  This is really useful when you want to see your research and your chapter at the same time.


FULLSCREEN is the black button with the arrows on the toolbar.  This lets you block out everything but the scene or chapter you are working on.  You can even add a background to help you stay in scene.


RESEARCH- Did you know you can download webpages (including videos), upload pictures, and PDF’s right into Scrivener so you don’t have to go back and forth between programs?  Just use the ADD button pulldown menu and look toward the bottom. You can add webpages or files. 


This website goes into great detail about how to make the most of Scrivener’s ability to put multiple forms of media together.

IMPORT/EXPORT– There is so much to say about these two features.  If you to go to Youtube and enter the formats you are trying to import/export, there will be step by step instructions for any combination. Whether you are importing a PDF and want to turn it to text or you want to export text files to mobi.  Scrivener lets you make ebooks, html, pdf, text and so many more formats and import them too.

I will mention one trick. Before uploading a WIP putting a # in front of chapters allows you to create a text file for each chapter. Just make sure you use the option IMPORT and SPLIT.

MORE GREAT RESOURCES: (this has a playlist feature there are dozens of videos pick one each day to listen to and play around in Scrivener with to learn).





Tricks How to change the default font:
10 Little Secrets

You can buy Scrivener here:


Jessica White
Jessica White

Jessica White is an admin for the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group. Her book Surviving the Stillness came out last year. She blogs at She lives with her family in the Dallas, Texas metro area.

The Writers’ Guide To Time Thieves A Guest Post by Elaine Bayless

As 10 Minute Novelists, we live life in the margins. Ten minutes here, ten minutes there, a few word sprints, and boom we have a novel! So it makes sense that we would be excellent managers of time, right?

Ah yes, I can hear some of you laughing right now. Managing time is like nailing Jell-o to a wall. And to complicate matters further, we must contend with Time Thieves.

What are time thieves? Those sneaky critters that sneak into our daily calendar and steal away our precious 10 minute writing increments! Fortunately, you don’t have to be a victim. Here are four of the most common time thieves and how to combat them.

Writers' Guide To Time Thieves by Elaine Bayless
Writers’ Guide To Time Thieves by Elaine Bayless
1. The Squeaky Wheel: It’s true that the squeaky wheel gets the grease!

Emergencies pop up, accidents happen, and sometimes we run up against a deadline and must neglect some tasks to complete others.

We do need to attend to those squeaky wheels, but we also need to give attention to the other three wheels. Patching one flat tire does no good if the other three tires have worn away their tread. The worst thing about this time thief is that it is totally valid. Emergencies do have to be addressed and deadlines must be met. But as writers, we have a shared dream that we know is equally valid. Make your writing a squeaky wheel.

– Enlist your community in your writing goals: Kids, spouses, roommates and friends all need to know what you’re up to. When they understand your priority, they can be enlisted to handle some of the squeaky wheels in daily life.

– Set an alarm. For extra fun, make it the sound of a squeaky wheel. Whenever the alarm goes off, do a word sprint.

2. TV Streaming services: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, get behind me, you time thieves!

You innocently sit down and think, “Hmmm, maybe I’ll check out this Parks and Rec show that everyone is talking about.” Three hours later you look up in a daze and wonder where the time went! Save the marathons for special times – like pregnancy bed rest, surgery recovery, a sick day, or a very special date night. Otherwise, decide BEFORE you turn it on exactly how many episodes you’ll watch.

Expert tip: half hour shows are typically only 22 minutes long and hour shows are only 44 minutes. That means if you decide to sit down and watch 2 half hour episodes, you have 16 minutes you can use to write. Yes, I’m serious! Open your WIP, set a timer for 8 – 16 minutes and write. Then reward yourself with the TV show of your choice.

3. The Shoulds: These are the external expectations that steal time from your day.

You should get to work on time. You should work late more than once a week. You should cook. You should have a clean house all the time. You should get up early to exercise/meditate/read the paper. You should look sexy/confident/put-together every day. You should volunteer at your kid’s school. You should respond thoughtfully to every Facebook post you read. You should make every blog post a miniature work of art that Elizabeth Gilbert (or Danielle Steele, or Truman Capote) would weep over. These “shoulds” work their way into our unconscious mind and leap out whenever we have 10 minutes to spare. So instead of writing our novel, we wipe down the kitchen counters, or trim our nose and ear hair. Whenever you hear yourself say the word “should,” take notice and pause. Ask yourself WHY the task in question “should” be done. You may find that many such tasks are completely optional. Or, if they aren’t optional, they may just be less important that using that time to write.

How can I get my family to leave me alone?
I mean, pretty please, with sugar on it?
4. Smart Phones/Tablets: Oh my goodness, these are tempting, aren’t they?

We check the weather and then glance at our Twitter newsfeed. We find a super fun game and suddenly we’re addicted. We look up one simple fact on Wikipedia and get lost clicking through from one related link to another. As with TV streaming, decided in advance how much time you’re going to give to this toy. Then set the timer on the phone and put it down as soon as the timer goes off. If you’re using the Internet for research, still set a timer. If you don’t find the answer before the timer goes off you can always add more time. Alternatively, disconnect from the wi-fi while writing (and put the phone is airplane mode), and just jot down anything you need to research. Then later, when you’re NOT writing, do the research.

Elaine Bayless is a member of the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group. She wrote Birds, Bees and Church Trailier Thieves and is the mother of a lively toddler. 

The SMART Way To Set Goals For The New Year A Guest Post By Rebecca Laffar-Smith

Rebecca Laffar-Smith is one of the great writers in the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group.
Rebecca Laffar-Smith is one of the great writers in the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group.

The last twelve months are swiftly disappearing in our rear vision mirror.

That means it’s that time of year when we reflect on what the past year has brought into our lives and start to think about the year to come. We look back at those New Year’s Resolutions we made many months ago and wonder how our good intentions to lose 15 pounds turned into the extra 5 pounds now sitting on our hips. And, as writers, we look at our aspirations to write more (more poetry, more short stories, more books, more screenplays), and wonder what happened to those good intentions to get more finished.

The truth is, New Year’s Resolutions aren’t really goals.

Their “what ifs” that we fool ourselves with when we’re railing ourselves for the shortcomings of the year just gone. Real goals can be made at any time of year. Real goals look at truly measurable outcomes based in motivations we can put our whole hearts into. Real goals, are made in incremental milestones with deadlines and data.

So, let’s look at some of the goal setting we can do as writers that truly will increase your productivity and move your business in a positive direction.

How Will You Know When You Are

Word Count vs. Time Quota Targets

One of the first goals writers should get into the habit of setting comes down to Word Count or Time Quota (and sometimes both). I’ve noticed there tends to be balls of court here, some writers love to track and plan their progress by the number of words they write or aim to write each day. Others prefer to commit themselves to a specific ratio of time and consider the butt-in-chair aspect the testament to progress regardless of the number of words accomplished day-to-day.

Both of these techniques are effective and I recommend both. In fact, fellow self-publishing author, Johnny B. Truant of the Self Publishing Podcast crew does both at the same time! Each day he has his scheduled writing block put aside. It’s roughly around the same time each day although sometimes he alters the hours, waking earlier to finish earlier or if he has a tight project deadline (stay tuned to learn about those) and needs to achieve more words than an average day. But he also knows what he can generally expect from his word count within that time-frame and aims to at least match it, or even surpass it, so that he’s constantly striving to increase his writing speed and do more with less.

But the truth is, combining the techniques might not work for you. So try one for a week, try the other for a week, try both for a week, and then listen to what you’re instinctively finding improves your productivity.

The important thing is to make that goal, decide what you feel you can expect from yourself each writing day, and develop the habit of accomplishing that milestone regularly.

How can I get my family to leave me alone?
I mean, pretty please, with sugar on it?

Other Author Milestones

Speaking of author Milestones, there are a few others you might want to consider. After all, while writers spend a lot of time writing, it’s not all that we need to do to build a successful business as authors. Yes, we need to write and finish new works, but we also need to get those works out into the world and do our part to ensure the world can find them.

1. Agent/Editor Submissions & Query Letters
If you’re going the traditional route, you might want to consider setting goals for approaching agents and publishers. Make a note of the works you have available to circulate, make a list for each of those of the agents and/or publishers who might be interested, and then set yourself a goal to send out a set number of query letters each week or month. Or, if that feels a bit too overwhelming, start smaller, start by setting yourself a goal to make a list of your available works by the end of this week, and a goal to make a list for the agents/publishers for the title at the top of that list by the end of next week. The important thing is to continue making small incremental steps. Focus on the things you have the power to accomplish. You can send out 5 queries, but you can’t control the outcomes of those queries, so make sure your goals are always within your power. Set the goal to send the query, rather than setting a goal to get an acceptance.

2. Author Talks, Workshops & Book Signings
Regardless of the traditional or self-published path you might take, an effective way of building your business and brand as an author is with in-person events. When you’ve got published works in the world, it’s time to look at possibilities for giving presentations. Set yourself a goal to contact your local libraries, bookshops, and schools to offer personal appearances. Don’t be afraid to state the appearance fee you expect for your time, you’re a pro and these businesses do business all the time with other professionals like you so they won’t be shocked if you ask to be paid for your time. The point is, you’re spreading the word to let people know that you’re available to give presentations. In this case, you can probably safely assume that you’ll be able to find enough people interested in having you to line up one every three months, or every month, or every week depending on your profile, expertise, and presentation skills. Set a goal to schedule accordingly.

Posting, Promotional, and Production Schedules

Speaking of schedules, goals go hand in hand with calendars and dates. It’s one thing to have some sort of ethereal aspiration to someday write the greatest literary novel in the world, but it’s much more empowering (and ultimately more likely to be accomplished) if you give yourself a specific project and set deadlines. I know, deadlines, they’re those cool things that make that “whooshing sound” as they fly by. But if you’re not Douglas Adams then it probably makes more sense to stick to your deadlines. This is especially true if you’re working with others, (agents, publishers, or freelancers,) because meeting deadlines is one of the best ways to show your respect for other people and for yourself. It’s the sign of a professional, and in every way you want to appear a professional in the writing industry. Professional writers plan and schedule the growth of their author business.

Posting Schedule
If you have a blog or periodical release like a newsletter, consider developing a posting schedule. Will you post at least once a week? Every other day? Or perhaps only once a month? Regardless of the frequency of your schedule, having one improves your odds of getting those updates written and of growing your blog or mailing list’s audience and engagement.

Promotional Schedule
The same can be said for all of your promotional efforts. How regularly will you engage your readers on social media? On which social media streams will you focus your energy? Will you contribute guest posts or interviews to bloggers and print media? How often, and how many press releases and queries will you send out to ensure the interest keeps your schedule filled?

Production Schedule
I told you we’d get to this. A production schedule looks at the body of works you’d like to produce in the coming months or years. What projects do you have lined up for the months ahead? Are you working on a book right now? When do you plan to have the first draft finished? How long will you take in your edits? When can you expect to start on your next project and do you already have next projects in mind? If you working on more than one project have you given each it’s own target deadline? If you’re self publishing, what is your release calendar like? Is it going to coincide with real-world events that can improve your sales?

Woah! Slow Down!

Okay, so I’ve overwhelmed you. I’m sorry. The truth is, these are all important questions, but they’re also advanced author business questions. They’re the sort of questions you begin to understand and answer over time, by starting with one small goal today. You build your system, your business plan, and you build these goals into that plan over time because it’s all too much to try to do every single one of them right now.

The important thing is that you do begin to set those targets. Focus on goals that are S.M.A.R.T!

The SMART Way To Set Goals For The New Year

S = Specific:
Make sure you’ve narrowed down your goal to one solid, specific achievement. If you need to, make multiple milestone goals toward your bigger goals so that you always have a firm sense of the next step.

M = Measurable:
Make sure it’s something you can track because if you can’t measure it, how will you know you succeeded in accomplishing it?

A = Attainable:
It has to be something you have power over accomplishing and that you honestly believe, based on your past experience of your abilities, that you can achieve. Don’t set a goal to run a marathon tomorrow if you’re only just learning to walk today and don’t set a goal to have a best seller because you can’t control your buyers, you can only control yourself!

R = Relevant:
It has to be something that matters to you right now. Something you truly do want to accomplish. Why bother setting a goal to learn to play the violin if you’d rather play the piano? Make sure your heart is engaged in your dreams!

T = Time-Bound:
Remember, deadlines! It matters. That distant someday will always remain distant unless you give yourself a time-frame within which to work.

With that in mind, what one goal are you going to set yourself right now? And while I gave you a pretty scary list of goals to think about into the future, what other milestones and goals do you think would benefit a writer’s business and branding?

Rebecca Laffar-Smith is a West Australian science fiction and fantasy novelist. In 2010, she gave up a successful 12 year freelance career to focus on her three loves; family, community, and fiction. Now, she coordinates on committees supporting local writers and bringing industry events and awareness into the local community. She launched her debut novel, The Flight of Torque, in November 2014, and her production schedule is packed full of the upcoming titles she’ll be releasing in 2015. Subscribe to her author list to find out what she’s working on next and where you can catch her in person.

Three Tricks I Used Around My House That Gave Me More Time To Write

Back in the early days of my original blog, my computer was in my kitchen. It was easy for me to go back and forth between Mommy responsibilities and my writing passions. But I was always looking for ways to make the have-tos more time efficient.  Keep in mind, these all come from a Stay-At-Home Homeschooling Mother of Five point of view. I fully understand that everyone doesn’t live their life like mine (poor you!) but perhaps my ideas will stimulate some of yours!

Here are the first three tricks I used to train my family that gave me more time to write!

Three tricks I used around my house that gave me more time to write #timemanagement #writing #novel #fiction

 #1: Delegate!

If you’re a mom, start giving kids simple things to do, gradually adding more as they get older. (Nobody really wants more responsibility, but it’s a part of life, right?) I’ve noticed that my kids can handle light chores at about age 4 1/2 ( a little later for the boys).  If I can delegate setting the table, clearing the table, washing the high chair and sweeping the floor, I’ve already added ten minutes to my life to do what I want. Of course, I must gently teach them how to do it and reward them for a job well done.  I also make it clear that this is their daily job, not mine. It also doesn’t kill them to earn their TV, DVD, iPad or computer time.

So, take an honest look at your daily to-do list. What items can you relinquish control over?  What chores can be someone else’s responsibility instead of yours? Where can you find those ten minutes?

#2 Blood, Vomit and Fire (Or the Only Reasons To Interrupt Mommy!)

#3: Reward Yourself! (Or What To Do After You Clean the Bathroom)

On Saturdays, cleaning the bathroom is a must do.  Oh, how I would much rather be writing. (Hey, I’d much rather be doing anything!) So, I decided that I would clean that room first, get it over with, work as hard as I could on it for ten minutes and reward myself with writing!

What job do you have to do today that is yucky?  What have you been putting off? Can you reward yourself by tackling it a few minutes at a time.  Can you work hard on it for ten minutes and then go sit at your computer (or even with pen and paper) and write for a while as your reward?

If we are to be real writers, (the kind that get paid and published) then we must be disciplined.  If it weren’t for my little ten minute method, I would never have a clean bathroom, clean clothes, clean dishes and DSS would be knocking on my door. Perhaps these three tips can help you too!

Take these little steps. Ten minutes at a time.  You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish.