Thursday, April 2, 2009

How to Organize your Writing like you Organize your Taxes

Yikes! Did that title just say writing is like taxes? Can that be true? Yes!

When we think of the word taxes, or filling out fax forms, some of us may get itchy, or maybe even downright sweaty. Then let’s think of writing. Ahh. Writing. Just the word alone soothes the senses.

What could possibly be similar between writing a novel and sending out taxes? It comes down to one word: organization. Keeping tax information easily available helps you complete a tax return each April 15, right? Well, having a good system for organizing writing tools helps you to prepare a manuscript for submission. And the payoff is big. A good tax return could send you to a tropical island for a week, but submitting a manuscript could land your name on the cover of a book!

Can you imagine? Your name on the cover of a book. Take a second to think about that before reading on. It does the soul good.

Just like paying taxes throughout the year in the form of property, mortgage, and everyday purchases, you give bits to your writing all the time in order to complete a story. These bits come in different forms: actual writing, critique groups, writing classes, writing group meetings, etc. Organizing all of these bits puts you that much closer to achieving your goal.

Here’s a few ways to help you get organized and get your name on that cover.

Keep receipts. Like a receipt folder, keep a notebook of how many words you put in. Daily. Weekly. Monthly. It’s up to you. A receipt is like a badge of honor; each one brings you a little closer to your goal. If you’re like me, you like to watch your progress unfold. Find a small (but pretty, of course!) notebook. Enter the date and the number of words written. For me, it works the best if I have a pre-determined number of pages I want to get done that day. Others may want to log the word count. And still for others, simply writing “I wrote today” works. Whichever method you choose brings you closer to the payoff.

Keep track of statements. Instead of a financial statement at the end of the year, you can keep a log of where you’ve submitted manuscripts and queries. You can create this log using any word processing software, such as Microsoft Word. In a table format, include headings such as Where Sent, Date, Date Returned, Contract Info, Comments. This simple log allows you to keep track of all your writing submissions, including novels, short stories, etc. Don’t forget to add one more column, Date you got the Call (you need to add that one with a smile).

Estimate your return. Just like you can estimate your tax return, if you organize your writing plan around the time you feel most creative, you’ll be able to estimate your payoff (how many words/pages you can write in a specific timeframe). For example, if you feel stronger and more creative in the morning hours, try to work your schedule so the bulk of your writing time is during those hours. For a few weeks, make a mental note of how you feel when you sit down to write. Do you feel full of creativity? Or do you feel so-so? You can keep track using the 1 to 5 method. At a 1 level, you couldn’t write “Hi Mom” on the paper without struggling. At a 5 level, you can tackle the topic of World Peace, then write three chapters. For me, mid-morning is when the juice really flows. Since the evening hours are a level 1 to 2, I try to do some editing or planning the next day’s chapter. Whatever time you decide on, go for it and get the most from your return!

Find a good accountant. In a nutshell, an accountant keeps track of your tax liabilities and encourages you to make good investments for a healthy financial future. The same goes with writing. Find someone who supports your passion for writing. This could be a critique partner, writing mentor, family member, or someone in your local writing group. Take advantage of your local RWA chapter to see if they have a list of available critique partners. Or find a writing buddy to have lunch or coffee with once in a while. Finding a support system can energize every ounce of your writing.

Enjoy your Return. Like a tax return, you get writing rewards back a hundred fold. Maybe not in a lump check, but in ways like a wonderful critique session, a good chat online with other authors, or a contest win. All of these “wins” help on your road to publication. The bottom line? If your tax return isn’t big enough to send you to Hawaii for the week, you can always use that time to start a new manuscript. Keep writing!


Emma Lai said...

Great post!

Mary Ricksen said...

Good suggestions for those of us now filing after publishing.
If we make any money! (grin)

Christine Clemetson said...

Thanks Emma Lai. Thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you enjoyed it....

Christine Clemetson said...

Hi Mary. LOL. You're right!

Thanks for coming by!

Jesspoirvivant said...

Ok, I'm sitting here in stupefication. Why? Glad you asked, LOL. Because you said to picture your name on the cover of a book. Hmmm. :D Thanks for the tools sensai, you're the best!

Christine Clemetson said...

Cool, Jessica! I'm glad you enjoyed it! LOL.

Kathy A said...

Hi Christine
I loved seeing your name on the cover!! Now will be the time to earn all the rewards which isn't always money!!!!
Love Kathy A

Christine Clemetson said...

Hi Kathy! Thanks for stopping by & your support!