Gearing up for NaNoWriMo, this article seemed perfect for helping me get more serious. If you're not signed up for Randy's newsletter, it's free, and it's fantastic. The link is at the bottom.
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If you're writing fiction and you intend to ever make money at it, then you're in the writing business. It makes sense to behave like you mean business from the get-go. Part of being in business is to set goals and then achieve them. In my experience, one of the best ways to do that is to keep a business journal.
This doesn't have to be complicated. Here's what I do, and it's been working well for me: At the beginning of this year, I created a document in my word processor called "Business Journal 2012."
Every day that I'm working, the first thing I do is to open the document and scroll down to the end. I type in the date and the day of the week in bold print. Then I spend a couple of minutes freewriting about the things cluttering my brain that I want to get down on paper somewhere. Often these are things I'm worried about or dreams I have for the future. Once they're on paper, my brain can let go of them and focus on the task at hand. I normally freewrite for one or two paragraphs.
If it's the first day of the week, I then make a list of bullet points for each major task I want to get done during the week.
Every day of the week I make a list of bullet points for the tasks I want to get done that day. These are
usually baby steps along the way to getting the major tasks for the week done.
I define what success is for the day by adding a note at the bottom that says something like this: "If I get at least five of these done today, then it's a good day."
Then I just start working. When I finish a task, I append the word "Done" after the bullet point for that task and I highlight it in red. The growing set of red "Dones" gives me a psychological boost as I work. The tasks that aren't done at the end of the day will be easy to copy and paste into tomorrow's list.
At the end of the working day, I type in a few notes about what went well and what went wrong. I might also do another minute or so of freewriting on anything that's cluttered my brain while working.
The entire process normally takes about five minutes, and it keeps my day ordered.
It also gives me a very complete record of what I've been working on all year. If I need to know what I was doing in March, it's easy to scroll to March and read a daily account.
Being productive is partly a matter of keeping focused. And you can't focus if your mind is churning with worries, hopes, fears, dreams. Get those on paper and off your mind. Then focus on the task at hand.
If you're going to keep a daily journal, you need to learn how to specify achievable tasks. An achievable task is one you can plausibly get done in the time you have available today.
"Work on my novel" is pretty vague, so it's hard to know at the end of the day whether you deserve to write "Done" after it.
"Spend 3 hours working on my novel" is a lot clearer. Either you worked on the novel for 3 hours or you didn't. If you didn't, you can't write "Done" in red, but you can make a notation that you worked for 2.5 hours and got interrupted by a phone call from Aunt Sally who's hitchhicking across Siberia and needs money. Again. It's not as good as a "Done" but it's partial credit.
"Maintain industry relationships" is a completely useless task for your list because you'll never know
when you're done. "Call my agent and discuss my questions on the Random House contract" has a clear endpoint. At the end of the day, you either did it or you didn't. When you're in the business of writing, you need to constantly be settting goals and achieving them.
If keeping a business journal sounds like something that will help you do that, then give it a try.
If it doesn't, then don't.
This article is reprinted by permission of the author.
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 32,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit
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Do you keep track of your writing activities? If so, I'd love to know what works for you.