Jan 15, 2011

8 Ways to Prioritise Writing

I've been trying to stick to my writing goals for 2011 (which ironically include me writing less). The number one item on my list was to PRIORITISE (you can see the complete list in 7 Tips for a Writer's Year).

As much as I love writing scenes, the priority this year is for me to edit. Using many books and an online course to guide me, I completed my edits on Dog Show Detective. All I needed to do was type up the revised manuscript. Easy. You would think. I don't think procrastinating will be a new concept to any fellow writers/bloggers, but I made an art of it. Enough! This is the new 2011 productive me, so, last night I sat down and typed up the remaining five chapters. And now it is DONE! Feels good, I can now format the manuscript, and start sending it out.

There are many ways to prioritise your writing, here are some I found:
  1. Lists. I love 'em. Keep them short and not an extensive overview of every task needed before you purchase your novel from a bookstore. Focus on the NOW. For me it was my Dog Show Detective manuscript. Next will be a list of steps for editing either Digging Up Death or The Costume Maker. This will make your goal seem more attainable and hopefully encourage you to hurry up and achieve it. If you struggle with keeping your lists short, then fine, write up a four page itinerary of all the writing tasks ahead of you - but then - you are only allowed to choose a MAXIMUM of 5 tasks for your to-do list. Yep, 5.
  2. Allocate Time. My most productive times have been where I have a set time of 1-2hrs a day which is my 'writing time' I was not allowed to break for tea, snacks or go online during that time. It was time for WORK. I find this hard to keep up as work and family make changes. It's worth a try though.
  3. Be Objective. If you were your boss, would you put up with all your time-wasting? I would have sacked my butt ages ago if I were paying me (ooh, maybe you could pay yourself an hourly rate, and that money is how much you have available for buying books?).
  4. Schedule the Distractions. I'm going to try this one. I'll give my self set times of the day that I'm allowed to blog-hop, twitter, Facebook, etc. And I won't be allowed on any other time.
  5. Prioritise by Urgencia (urgency - see, I'm learning Spanish). It's easy to think there are no deadlines for writing when no urges you. But you can set them. I need my manuscripts ready for a Children and YA Writers Conference I'll be attending later this year, so I can submit them to the attending publishers.
  6. Prioritise by Passion. Maybe there's an unfinished manuscript calling to you while you work on your WIP. Maybe you've lost that loving feeling with your WIP. You could switch for a while, you may be more productive on the one with more appeal. Maybe make this a one time only pass though, or you might keep swapping every time your WIP drags.
  7. Keep a Writing Journal. This is not your ideas notebook, but a journal to record what writing tasks you complete that day. It can be a motivator when you do well and a reminder when you get a few days of 'nothing'.
  8. Use the Pomodoro Technique. This is an very efficient way of forcing productivity. Each project has the steps, planning, tracking, recording, processing and visualising. You work on each task for 25 minutes and then break for 3-5minutes. Then you move to the next task. There is no finishing early, you keep going until your timer sounds 25, and you can not keep working on the same task after 25 minutes. To find out more, you can check out:

or the Pomodoro Technique site for free downloads of worksheets and manuals:

How do you get yourself productive? I know some writers can work on a dozen different projects, write at 3am - 5am or work around the clock until it's done, but sleep rings pretty high on my priority list too. Pinkachu agrees with me:


  1. I've had a chaotic life recently and it's been really hard to get in writing time. I've been squeezing in little chunk here and there, but it's not enough to keep me happy. I'm hoping real life settles in soon :)

  2. I really enjoyed this post! I can relate to the time spent on blogging, twittering and facebook. It does some how creep into my writing time.

    I'm a Virgo and typically a list maker, but it's easy to not prioritise when I don't have a dead line. I'm going to write my list tomorrow so I can work more effectively and use my time wisely.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. These are some great suggestions. I have a questions for you though: You said you use "an online course to guide me" - what is that online course?


  4. Pincachu is wise and so are you. Thanks for this post. Frankly, I'm amazed that you get so much done and still have time to blog.

    I am realizing that procrastination is only one of my problems. I'm easily distracted and employ no structure whatsoever. It boils down to not taking myself seriously. But, your tips are helping. At least I did dust that old manuscript and stared at it for a while, then had a panic attack and left it. But, I think that's progress of sorts.

  5. Does having unscheduled distractions count? :P Great list!

  6. I really like the idea of scheduling distractions. Definitely going to give that one a try and probably the writing journal too. Thanks for the tips!

  7. Jemi - keep slugging away, you'll find your groove.

    Book For Little Hands - You're welcome, and gotta love those lists!

    Mason - Thank you, I think Pinkachu is adorable too - she might be starting to get sick of having her photo taken.

    Clarissa - The online course I took was How To Revise Your Novel by Holly Lisle (there's a link in my sidebar or you can google her, it's a popular course). It really helped me, I felt a little lost with editing.

    Myrna - panicking is the first vital step of editing ;). Take it one step at a time - and there's a lot of things around here I don't get done (but luckily you all can't see my laundry).

    Alleged Author - you should never let unscheduled distractions stop you from... oooh look, squirrel!!

    Janel - I need to get a little better at scheduling my distractions :)

  8. Ugh, I'm horrible about distractions. If it's a shiny new idea or a really exciting, inspired part of the book, I fly. If I hit a harder part or something I need to research or a dead-end - I'm like a fly in molasses. ssssllloooooooowwwww.

    It's great you have a conference to attend - makes for a wonderful deadline!

  9. I'm totally going to do some of these to help me find my balance again. Thanks Charmaine!

  10. YAY for finishing your edit! You and I were running parallel--I just finished a first edit this weekend and have ALSO committed 2011 to an editing year. Yes, I will write, but my OPTIONAL projects will be editing ones.

    Great list of things to try. I defintiely makes lists... typically I read the whole thing making a list of the changes I want to put in, then I stick those changes into an outline form, then I begin my edit at the beginning.

    Rinse, repeat. Then send to first readers.

  11. A long commute on the train works for me.
    Problem is one of my characters is dominating me way more than is healthy ;-)

  12. Great list/tips. I like that image of being our own boss "and sacking our own butts" ages ago. Yep, I deserve to be fired. Making a plan and a list. Those are useful tools.

    Read about your dad and the incredible floods. I was in a flooded town a few years ago. It was a slow rise, a spring flood, and we all got out safely. Both cities on each side of the river! It was crazy. No one was left in town. Sorry for the devastation to your city, the people, the heart ache, the work.