Being organised sounds boring, doesn’t it?
Especially if you find spontaneity so much fun!
Unfortunately, when you have a lot of responsibilities—and the older you get, the more responsibilities you’ll have—spontaneity just isn’t practical.
If you want to get shit done, you need to be organised.
If you don’t, things are likely to get missed or neglected and you just won’t make the most of the precious time that you have.
I used to begrudge being organised.
It was so boring.
I didn’t plan my novels; I didn’t plan how I spent my day; I relied solely on memory for everything from the shopping list to when I had to take Nan to hospital appointments. I dabbled with using a FiloFax, but I regularly forgot to update it. I don’t think I’ve used it since 2013 or 2014. I don’t even know where it is!
I have an appalling short-term memory due to long-term stress and other health problems. There’s every chance I’ll forget what you said to me five minutes ago.
The worse my memory became, the more I realised being organised was a necessary evil.
That way I wouldn’t neglect what was important to me, or my loved ones.
I still have times when I’m not as organised as I’d like to be—usually when the monsters in my head get the better of me—but for the most part, I’m fairly organised.
How to be organised when you hate the idea of being organised
How many times have you forgotten something recently? Neglected something? Not done something as swiftly as you could’ve?
If you can’t think of anything, that doesn’t mean that you’re perfect, it simply means a) you have a memory as bad as mine, or b) you’ve not done much recently. It does not mean you can’t benefit from being more organised.
Got a great idea for a scene but not at your computer/notebook?
Make a note!
Most smartphones these days have a note-taking app. If you’re not keen on it, there are lots of others on the market, such as EverNote. I’m not a fan of EverNote myself, but it is popular with a lot of marketers. My personal preference is Apple’s Notes, as I can sync it with all of my devices.
If you don’t have a smartphone, carry a small notebook around with you, or use Post-it Notes.cWrite down as much as you can
The less you carry in your mind, the clearer it will be. The clearer it is, the easier it is to write.The less you carry in your mind, the clearer it will be. The clearer it is, the easier it is to write. Click To Tweet
Pencil it in
Remember I mentioned earlier about forgetting Nan’s hospital appointments?
I can’t do that anymore. They’re all added in to my calendar.
Everything from dentist appointments to holidays to trips to the cinema is scheduled into our shared family calendar. That way we know where people are and when we can’t get hold of them. We also don’t miss things (like birthdays!) because everything is synced up.
Reminders on mobile phones are one of the best inventions ever.
I have them to remind me to take tablets, pick up prescriptions, post birthday cards, and anything else I’m likely to forget.
You can set recurring reminders, or have one-off reminders.
I use Apple’s Reminders all to create my to do lists, and if it’s something that needs to be done for a set deadline, I add a notification. That way I have no excuse to forget, because even if I don’t hear my phone go off, there’ll be a notification the next time I check the screen.
How to be organised in your writing
Don’t use a generic word processing program
I am very, very against using Microsoft Word for writing fiction. I still use it for poetry and the odd email draft, but I haven’t used it for fiction since early last year.
Not only does Microsoft Word still have no idea about grammar (it may have fixed its issue with its/it’s, but it now confuses there/they’re/their and your/you’re. I don’t trust it), but it can be difficult to follow where you’re at with your novel if you have a disorganised mind.
There are an increasing number of programs aimed specifically at writers that help to increase productivity and allow you to shuffle chapters around to your heart’s content (as I so regularly do). My favourite is Scrivener (now available on iOS). There’s also Novlr.
Scrivener allows you to sort your writing into folders, keep all your notes together, and not have one gigantic 100,000 word document staring you in the face. Instead, you can focus on just a scene or a chapter. 3,000 words or fewer is considerably less intimidating when you need to concentrate.
If you don’t write chronologically (like me), programs like this are great because they mean you can piece your novel together like a jigsaw once the main scenes are in place.
Plot your story/character arcs
There are few things I used to hate more than plotting out my novel.
Fast forward just two years, and I would never write a novel without plotting it first.
When you write in a random order, having a plot to refer back to—so you know where gaps need to be filled—is imperative.
It means you always have something to refer back to when you get lost, wherever you’re at in your work in progress.
You don’t have to plan it in depth. A plan can be as simple as a handful of buzz words.
Make a list
This is a to-do list with a spin. Rather than just being about what you have to do, it’s about each stage of the writing process. For example:
- Bio for Hollie
- Fayth’s character arc
- Chapter structure
- First draft
- Second draft
- Rewrite airport scene
You get the idea. Break your project into as many chunks as you can. The smaller, the better. This makes the whole project less intimidating. Not only that, but you get a lovely, satisfied feeling every time you tick something off!
Extra points if you set yourself deadlines for completing each item.
How to be organised in your editing
Give it time
Take some time to separate yourself from your project.
This is something I wish I’d done more of with What Happens in New York, and is something I’m definitely going to do for What Happens in London. The greater the gap you give yourself, the more you’ll be able to edit it with a clear head. You’ll be surprised how often you look back on your work in progress and wonder what you were on when you wrote it.
There’s no reason this downtime should go to waste, though—use it to work on a side project, or if you’re working on a series, the sequel. It’s always useful to know what happens next in future books. You can then foreshadow later events in the series. You could even throw in a red herring about what doesn’t happen.
How to be organised in your author marketing
I love automation.
Every post you see on this blog has been scheduled to go up at a certain time (Thursdays at 6am GMT, FYI).
Doing so means that whether I’m ill, on holiday, or otherwise unable to get to my laptop, a post will go live on this blog no matter what. (Except when the server is down, but let’s not discuss that one; it’s unlikely.)
You can not only automate the posting to your blog, but also your social media marketing.
Know someone who’s better at SEO than you? Why not get them to help out with the SEO on your website?
Know someone who’s better at Twitter than you? Why not get them onboard to help with your Twitter marketing?
Play to your strengths, and play to the strengths of those around you. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Doing so only ensures that you’ll never get anything done.Don't try to do everything yourself: you'll never get anything done. Click To Tweet
Over to You
What are your favourite organisational tips? I’d love to hear yours!
This post was originally published in August 2016.