Keep Juggling - Using a Chart to Track Writing Goals

One of the biggest surprises of being published was the juggling act. Before publication, I'd get a story idea, research it, plot it, write it, and edit it. Then I'd start my next project. After my first contract, that all changed. I'm usually doing publicity for one book, working on my publisher's edits for another, writing a third, and plotting a fourth. There are multiple projects and multiple deadlines. Real deadlines.

Afraid I'd drop one of the balls and miss a crucial deadline, I started a simple goal chart to keep me on target. Also, after I saw the pattern of arrival dates for my publisher's projects, I added them to my chart for future books so I wouldn't be shocked when the project arrived.

My chart extends through the end of my next contract, but here's a sample for the next three months. To orient you, Revell is my publisher. Blue Skies Tomorrow, the third book in the Wings of Glory series, releases August 1, so the publicity column is pretty full - I deleted stuff too. Book 1 in the next series, tentatively titled Wings of the Nightingale, is due September 1, and I'm plotting out Book 2. Revell's title & cover questionnaire tends to arrive 6 months before the catalog date - in this case, September.

Even for a technophobe, this is really easy. In Microsoft Word, go to "insert" then to "table." Choose how many columns you want (I have seven), and how many rows. Then under "Table Tools" and "Layout," click on "Autofit" and choose "Autofit to contents." This lets your cells expand to accommodate the text. You can play with colors or highlighting. I use red for deadlines, green for events, and light blue for "life" events that will impact my writing - a vacation or conference or child's graduation. Using an Excel spreadsheet also works well, especially for a writer with multiple publishers or numerous speaking engagements. I don't show it here, but I leave empty space in each month to write in new tasks as they come up.

At the end of the month, I highlight all the completed goals for that month, update my chart - shoving incomplete goals down (hate that!) and adding new commitments. Then I "cut" the completed month and place it under "completed goals" at the end of the document. This helps me track the ideal versus the real in my goal setting.

I print my goals each month and tack them on the bulletin board above my computer to keep me focused (see in the picture?). Each week I look at the chart and write out daily goals. Those go on my bulletin board too. I use colored highlighters to mark off completed tasks. Because it's fun.

I love to learn from others - how do you keep track of your goals? How do you keep those juggling balls in the air?

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