Organizing a Disorganized Writer

“An organized writer is a productive writer” –Synova Cantrell

I travel all over the Ozarks, speaking to various writing groups spanning all genres. I hear one complaint throughout every group. “I can’t get very much accomplished. I don’t have enough time. What am I doing wrong?” The answer lies in your organization. Here are a few tips to make the most of your time.

“Don’t mistake a busy day with productivity. You may have done a lot but was it in the right direction, and something worthwhile?” – Jim Rohn.

I: Organize your Time:

Everyone wants to be their own boss, but this freedom has its setbacks. Housework, yard work, and procrastination can hinder your work ethic if you let them. Schedule time to write and let others know you are ‘at work.’ Create a “writer at work” sign and post it on your door if needed.

Plan what you will do during your writing time the day before. This way, you won’t spend half of your time deciding what you need to do. Make a list of five things that you need to do and list them in order of importance. 

Jim Rohn suggests that every night before you go to bed, you do this planning procedure for your next day, whether it be organizing your housework, organizing your to-do list for your day job, or in my case, organizing my writing time.


II: Organize your papers:

Go as paperless as possible. I know it’s hard for those of us who were raised in the 1980s. We love the color-coordinated notebooks, the fluorescent sticky notes, and the highlighter pens, but it’s 2020. Most of those things can be stored on your computer’s hard drive or an online cloud storage service. Save yourself a headache and save a few trees. Try to go as paperless as possible. There are a ton of online organizational tools available. 

Google Docs allows you to upload all of your word documents onto the google cloud and automatically saves your progress. That means no more losing your work when your computer crashes.

The Google Playstore on your android phone has several document scanning apps. These apps will allow you to take a photo of your documents and save them to your choice of locations. Iphones offer their own renditions of scanning apps.


III:  Implement a note-taking system or journal:

After going on my rant about being paperless, I suggest that you implement a note-taking system or a journal. Now there are plenty of online tools available for you if you would like to keep your journaling paperless. You can use Google Docs with the talk-to-text option, or you can use Evernote. 

 However, if you are like me, I still have a hardcover notebook that I carry around with me for my journaling exercises. Why do you need a journal? It is simple. What happens when you are in the middle of something important, and you get a million-dollar idea for your book? Do you grab a scrap of paper and try to scribble it down before you forget? Or do you simply rely on your memory?

 We get distracted easily, or at least I do. I lose little scraps of paper, and I hate digging through piles of paper, trying to find the one corner that had my note on it. Instead of doing that, I have a beautiful gold foiled notebook that I carry around with me. I write down all my ideas and all my thoughts, whether they’re good or bad. Then when it’s full, I put it on my bookshelf with my other books. I can always refer back to that notebook to see how far I have progressed in my business and to get good ideas I may have forgotten to implement.

However you decide to accomplish this, I recommend that you start gathering all of your ideas in one place, whether online or in a notebook. I love the beautiful foiled notebooks and journals from Flame Tree Books


IV: Keep Track of Your Work Hours:

Keep track of your work hours. Why would you do this? For one, the biggest excuse I hear is, “I don’t have enough time to write.” There are thousands of articles online about time management. I even have a video about time management on YouTube. In reality, time management is impossible. We all have 24 hours in a day. That’s all. We need to manage our to-do list. We can’t manage the time, but we can control how we spend it.

 What happens if you have an hour to work on your writing? If you’re like most, you will sit down at your computer, laptop, or phone and promptly get distracted by social media, research, or a call. By the time you are done, you have written for about 15 minutes, and 45 minutes was wasted.

If you keep track of your work hours, this will let you see patterns in your schedule. Perhaps every Tuesday, there is too much going on, but you could write for an hour uninterrupted on Fridays. Keep track of your hours for a couple of weeks and then go back and see if you notice any patterns. I use Excel spreadsheets for this, but Google has a free option called Google Sheets. 


V: Keep A Word Count Log:

 I tell my author coaching clients to keep a word count log. This idea might seem like just one more spreadsheet wasting space on your hard drive, but I assure you it is essential.

You can’t reach a goal if you never set the goal in the first place. So many people I meet want to write a book, but they never set a goal and lay out a plan to accomplish it. I suggest you set a goal of writing your book within 12 months. Do some research and find out how many words your book should have according to your genre.

 Then take that word count total and divide it by 52. This quick math problem will give you the word count total that you need to accomplish every week. Divide that number by the hours you have to spend each week on writing time. Then create your spreadsheet and write down your word count as you go. This process will let you know if you are on target to reach your goals. If you fall behind, perhaps you could carve out more time to write, or you could use your time more wisely.

If you are consistently falling short of your goal, then perhaps you need to extend you’re in plan and finish your book in 18 months. I have designed a free word tracker for you to use if you would prefer to print it out. 

Synova’s word tracker


VI: Schedule posts ahead of time:

I currently run both sides of Synova Ink Publishing, the true-crime side, and the author coaching side mostly by myself. I also have become an administrator for the National Crime Syndicate, an elite group of crime writers. 

My weekly schedule includes writing and editing blog posts, coordinating a team of guest bloggers, conducting author coaching calls, recording at least two LIVE videos a week, editing and creating 1-3 YouTube videos a week, and writing my books. If that wasn’t enough, I’m now starting to find sponsors for a possible true-crime television show. 

 I have found in this chaos; if I can schedule my posts ahead of time, it makes my life a lot easier. This concept applies to both blog posts and social media posts. If I schedule out all of my social media posts in advance, it also eliminates the opportunity to get distracted by Facebook.


VII: Schedule Research time:

 I know this may sound crazy, but I suggest you schedule your research time. For those who don’t follow the true-crime side of my business, I research cold cases that have been forgotten by traditional media. I have to dig through old case files, newspaper archives and spend hours online searching the internet. This process can take up so much time that I never start writing. Not only have I started to schedule my research time, but I have also brought on a couple of eager associates who love the research part of my business. They will help me research the cases and send me all the information. Then I can write from their research. Why do I do this? Well, I find that research is also an awful lot like social media distractions. It is easy to get swept away and never get to the actual writing process. 

VIII: Outsource What You Can:

 I am learning to do this as we speak. I have built Synova Ink Publishing into the empire it is by myself. Now it is getting big enough that I need help. It is hard to hand over the reins to something I have worked so hard for, but I find it is impossible to maintain and build my business without help. 

I recently brought in a team of guest bloggers to help maintain my true-crime blog as I am working on other things. I also have a couple of researchers who help research the cold cases for my blog. I also have a few social media people helping to share my posts across all of my platforms. Eventually, I will hire a virtual assistant to help with these things and free up my time a little more. To grow, sometimes you have to let go.

Next time you are tempted to say you don’t have enough time to write, think about these things. Is the problem really time, or is it task management?

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