Category: Bullet Journaling

Bullet Journaling for Writers: Part 4 Writing a Novel

 

Bullet Journaling for writers: Part 4. Writing a novel

I’ve been wanting to write this blog post for a long time to share how I use bullet journaling to help me write my middle grade novels. I’m in the middle of writing a new novel right now, so it’s the perfect time for me share.

It’s also nearly NaNoWriMo time! If you’re not familiar with National Novel Writing month, you should go check it out. People all over the globe are busily preparing to write a novel in the month of November.

This post is for anyone who is writing a novel. Whether you are:

  • doing NaNoWriMo and writing a novel in a month
  • taking your time the rest of the year (or years)
  • plotting it all out beforehand
  • or pantsing your way through to THE END,

every novelist will benefit from having a bullet journal.

What is a novel bullet journal?

Wait, what’s a bullet journal?

Bullet Journaling for Writers: Part 1 The Basics

In the first part of my bullet journaling for writers series, I talk about the basics of bullet journaling. In case you forgot the details, here’s the short verison:

  • Bullet journaling is a system for tracking information that can be done in any notebook.
  • Set aside pages for an index and add entries as you make them (so you can find things later)
  • Use a future log (to track things that are off in the future)
  • Make daily, weekly, or monthly logs to track information as it comes up – like a day planner crossed with a to-do list on steroids.
  • Collections to keep track of ideas, items, lists, etc.

The earlier series shared how I have modified this system specifically for writers. Instead of a regular daily or weekly log, I use my magical-monthly log. Another post shares a list of helpful collections just for writers.

 

A novel bullet journal is different from a regular bullet journal

Bullet Journaling for Writers: Planning bujo vs. novel bujo
My silver planning bullet journal on the left vs. the teal bullet journal for my most recent work in progress on the right.

Everything I shared before was from my planning bullet journal. My 2019 planning bujo is a silver Rhodia goalbook. I use it for bringing together all the aspects of my writing career: planning for multiple manuscripts, critique groups, blogging, marketing, lists of books to read and review, etc.

I’ve found that I drop fewer balls when all the planning information is in one place, so all the planning and prioritizing go into my regular bullet journal.

A novel Bullet journal has a different purpose: to hold all the details about your novel. It has an index and a lot of collections. It doesn’t have any planning (so no logs). It’s focused so that you can focus on your novel. The bujo for my current work in progress is a teal Scribbles That Matter notebook.

 

Yes, I use a separate notebook.

Bullet Journaling for writers: the stack of my novel bullet journals
The bullet journals for my novels.

Ok, yes, it is possible to put all the novel information into your regular bullet journal in between your ideas for blog posts and daily planning. But that can make it hard to find information – especially when it spills over into a new notebook.

I start a new planning bullet journal every year. If I put my novel information into my regular journal, all that information would be spread across two or three (or more) years of bullet journals.

Instead, for each novel, I buy a separate journal. All the information for that novel goes into that journal. If I want to look up a fact from my first novel, it will definitely be in the sky-blue notebook. If I need to check a detail for the current novel, it’s in the grape purple notebook.

So for me, I keep a planning bullet journal each year plus a separate bullet journal for each novel.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, consider this: we writers love to buy notebooks and I just gave you an excuse!

 

Hopefully, I have now sold you on having a bullet journal to help you write a novel.  So let’s take a look at some of the things that can go into your novel bullet journal

 

Collections for inspiration and planning

A new novel usually starts here: with inspiration and early planning.

Inspiration or mood board

Bullet Journal for writers: my inspiration page
The inspiration page for my most-recent novel.

 

A lot of writers find it helpful to create a mood board or inspiration board for their writing. If you put those things in your bullet journal, you have a mood board that can travel to the coffee shop with you.

Consider including:

  • pictures that inspire you
  • stickers
  • phrases
  • poems
  • quotes
Quote by Anne Lamott: "Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something - anything - down on paper. What Ive learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head."
This quote by Anne Lamott is a good reminder to myself as I’m writing my first draft. In the spirit of it, I decided to let the spacing and scratched out bits go. **twitches**

Protip: adding large things in your journal is easy with a piece of washi tape. Plus, now you have a reason to buy pretty washi tape. The video below shows how I added some pictures and diagrams to my bullet journal for easy reference.


Brainstorming:

Brainstorming is a great way to get the creative juices rolling. I end up doing quick brainstorms throughout my writing process. I usually set aside a collection just for brainstorming. Whenever I need to think up, say, a funny name for a character’s pet chicken, I’ll flip to the brainstorming collection and make a list. When the pages fill up with these lists, I start another.

Consider:

  • character names
  • character motivations
  • setting
  • plot twists
  • backstory
  • endings
  • clues (for mysteries)
  • magical items (for fantasy)
  • literally whatever you need

Mindmapping:

Another form of brainstorming – One exercise I did with my current novel was to create a mindmap. I wrote out all the character names and settings in circles, then drew lines to show the relationships between them. It was really helpful so I could see which characters and subplots clustered together neatly and which… did not. That made it easy to target subplots to cut from an already over-stuffed plot.

Writing Exercises: 

Many books have you work through a set of exercises to help you discover plot, character motivation, or voice. I do these in my Bullet Journal so I can look back at them later. You can check out my 16 favorite writing books here.

16+ Best Books for Writers: Books for Every Writer

Collections to hold onto important information

This is where you get to the core of your novel: character, plot, setting, etc. If you’re a plotter, you’ll probably be developing all of this before your first draft. For us pantsers, you’ll be tracking this information as you write or after the first draft.

 

Character sheets

A Character sheet page from one of my novel bullet journals
A Character sheet page from one of my novel bullet journals. Many books have exercises to help you get to know your character, Story Genius is one of my favorites

There are a million names for this idea – character sheet, character bible, character interview, … Whatever you call it, it’s a place to write down all the pertinent information about your character. Creating your character sheet is a great way to get to know your character.

There are some very long lists of information to track about your character and even some templates you can print and tape into your bullet journal. Personally, I find that more information is not necessarily better – it just tempts me into including too many details that bog down the story, especially at first. For myself, I like to keep it minimal when I start:

  • Name
  • Age (especially important for kidlit writers)
  • Appearance (keep it brief: are they an elephant or a child or a pterodactyl with eczema?)
  • Internal problem/arc* (what is driving them?)
  • External problem/arc* (what is the outwardly visible problem in their lives?)

Sometimes these details change and I always learn a lot about my characters while writing. So I end up rewriting my character sheets with the new information:

  • Speech or body language tics
  • Likes and dislikes
  • Backstory
  • Personality
  • People in their lives – friends, family, pets, …
  • All the idiosyncratic details that help them feel real.
  • ….

*If you’re not sure what I mean by internal and external problems and arcs, I recommend reading a book on story structure like Wired for Story by Lisa Cron. You can get a taste from her TedTalk here.

 

Plot

Diagrams of 3-act structure in a bullet journal.

Diagram of 3-act structure in a bullet journal from Page Flutter. I lean toward the pantsing side of the plotter-pantser spectrum. So I often go into a novel with just a rough overview of the plot. When I’m first thinking about the plot of a novel, I will usually freewrite long-hand to work out my ideas.

At some point in revision, I will use diagrams and charts full of plot points and all the things that plotters love.

I like to do my plotting on a whiteboard with sticky notes so I can move plot points around until I’m satisfied with them – or identify holes that need to be filled…

Close up of my plotting whiteboard showing a post-it note with the text "{hilarity ensues}"

But when I’m done, I copy it down in my bullet journal for easy reference while writing. (Also: I have too many cats and kids for sticky notes to last through the entire drafting or revision process.)

 

Family tree/character mindmap

Bullet journaling for writers: a family tree and a mindmap of character relationships
A family tree and mind map I made for just a few characters from Harry Potter.

If you’ve got a big cast of characters, it can be helpful to have a visual to see how they all connect. A family tree is helpful for big families.

A mindmap that shows characters and how they’re related can also help you keep track of tangled social webs. For instance, look at the web I made for just a few of the Harry Potter characters.

 

Setting

Bullet Journal spread: novel setting
One of the settings for one of my novels. Check out the video above to show how I attach the pictures.

This is a place to park all the information about a setting in your novel. You can snag photos from the internet. I often draw diagrams (they don’t have to be museum-worthy – just so I keep my layout of buildings and towns consistent) or I look up building diagrams online and tape in printouts. Maps may also be helpful – either hand-drawn or printed off of google maps

 

Timeline

If your story starts in spring but 5 months go by before the end, you can’t have them picking daffodils in a spring shower in the last scene. (Unless you are on an alternate planet or reality where time and natural cycles work differently. You can make a collection for that, too.)

A timeline helps you to track the progression of time both so it’s believable and so you can nail those details that bring a novel to life: are the characters meeting while shivering under cover of night or sweating in the blazing sun of mid-afternoon summer? You can write it out by hand, but I like to type it into a spreadsheet which I print out and tape it into my bullet journal for reference.

 

Genre-specific information

  • Fantasy – world building details like cultures, languages, governance structures.
  • Sci-fi – technological details and world building
  • Mystery or thriller – Clues, villains, and red herrings.
  • Magical realism/fantasy – how does the magic “work”
  • Historical – all that research about your time/setting/characters
  • Humor – list of running jokes/callbacks
  • …………

 

Tools to help you write

 

Trackers

Bullet journal word count tracker for a novel
The title of my tracking page was inspired by the Anne Lamott quote above.

“Tracker” is the shorthand in the bullet journaling community for any type of collection that lets you track information over time. Consider:

  • word count (as you write)
  • chapters revised (as you revise)
  • number of chocolate bars eaten trying to sort out a plot hole (I don’t judge)

I like to use a simple word count tracker. Filling a page up with sparkly stickers is very satisfying.

If you’re trying to write a novel for NaNoWriMo, it can be helpful to track daily word count.  Here is the official NaNoWriMo wordcount tracker for 2019.

 

Lists and Notes:

Simple but necessary. There’s a lot to keep track of so make a collection and give it a place to live where it can be easily found later (unlike that used napkin…)

Some collections I have used to hold notes and lists:

  • list of changes to make in the next draft (“Side character names are all boring – fix this.”)
  • questions that need answering (“Why does my character hate the villain so much? Need to work out backstory.”)
  • ideas for revision (“If I change the location of the earlier scene, readers will already know the location before getting to the pivotal scene later.”)
  • people to thank in acknowledgment – I keep this running list. It gets long very quickly.

 

References and writing helpers

Wheel of emotion words
Wheel of emotion words. Larger version here.

If you find yourself looking up, say, an emotional thesaurus frequently, print it out and taping it in your bullet journal. That way it’s always handy – even when the internet goes down. (The horror…)

Consider:

  • emotion wheel/thesaurus
  • 3 act structure diagram
  • hero’s journey diagram
  • list of words to cut from your writing
  • anything you find useful

 

Literally anything else that will fit in a notebook

What do you need to keep track of?

 

How to Win Nanowrimo with a bullet journal

 

Happy New year! Goodbye 2018, Hello 2019

New Year 2019

It’s nearly the end of 2018, folks. It’s been a great year for me writing-wise.

 

Looking Back at 2018

 

2018 in Writing

I published my second board book, I Pray Today, and I had my first-ever blog tour.

Book "I Pray Today" on a white background with flowers  Blog tour for "I PRAY TODAY"

I revised my novel and got two new work for hire picture book contracts – six books total. I’m finishing up the fourth now and the other two will ring in the new year.

I officially won the 12×12 challenge for the second year running by writing 13 new picture book drafts.

 

2018 in Reading

2018 Goodreads reading challenge - 267 books of 500

I didn’t quite hit my goal to read 500 books again this year, but I’m still really happy with my total. In the past, I hit those high numbers because I read a lot of picture books, but this year I shifted my focus to more middle grade. I hit my goal of reading 75 middle grade or longer works.

 

2018 Author visits and more 

I got to teach classes at Purdue University on my favorite subject: writing for kids!

My Kidlit Karma project to blog reviews of books each month went really well! I reviewed or hosted reviews nearly every month.

 

Looking Ahead to 2019

2019 is already starting to fill up! My 2019 is likely to be just as busy as 2018 was. I have two more work for hire picture books to finish by the end of February, I was invited to join a small writers’ group for the first few months, and I’ll be finishing up my novel and begin querying it.

It’s likely to be another roller coaster!

 

Right now I’m working on setting my goals for 2019. If you’re doing the same, you might want to check out these posts on setting resolutions and goals.

Why Some Resolutions are Doomed to Fail and how to Set Goals that Work  DOs and DON'Ts for New Year's Resolutions You'll Actually Keep

 

And if you’re a writer or a planner, make sure to sign up for my mailing list so you can get my free bullet journal printable.

Free Printable Bullet Journal for Writers

Not sure what a bullet journal is or how it will help you meet your goals? I have a whole blog series that covers the basics of bullet journaling, my magical monthly spread, and collections just for writers.

 

Happy New Year, everyone!

Bullet Journaling for Writers: Part 3 Collections

Bullet Journaling for Writers: Part 3 Collections to organize your writing

Today I excited to share the third part of my series on bullet journaling: collections to add to your writing bullet journal.

But before we jump in, if you aren’t familiar with Bullet Journaling read part 1. I’ll wait.

Bullet Journaling for Writers: Part 1 The Basics

Ok, ready to rock your bullet journal? Here we go!

 

What is a Collection?

Just in case you skipped over the intro to bullet journaling (tsk tsk) – a collection is a place in your journal where you can gather together information around a theme — usually a page or a spread of pages dedicated to a particular topic.

I’ve gathered together collection ideas for all kinds of writer needs:

  • Must have collections for every writer
  • Collections to organizing your writing
  • Collections for events and projects
  • Collections to help your writing grow
  • Useful Collections

This post covers collections to organize your writing life. I have free printables of many of these collections in my Free Printable Bullet Journal Inserts.

 

Must-Have Collections

1. Goals and Habits

At the very front of my bullet journal, right after the Index and Calendex, is a spread dedicated to goals and the habits I want to form. That’s because I want to state up front what my intentions are for my writing life this year. I start there so that through the year, those intentions will keep me on the path to my goals.

Bullet Journal Collections: Goals and Plans for 2019
Bullet Journal Collections: My Goals and Plans for 2019

Some tips for goal setting:

  1. Be SMAART: If you’ve been a New Year Resolution drop out in years past (guilty), take heart. Research says if you set SMAART goals you’ll be much more successful. Check out these tips for setting goals.
  2. Take Control (when you can): Keep your goals firmly centered on the things you can control. You can’t force an editor to give you a book contract, but you can work your hardest to produce a book that will tempt them.
  3. Form Habits of Excellence: Big goals are accomplished by forming small habits. Books are not written in one day – the habit of regular writing is what gets you to THE END. The same applies to most other goals you might want to achieve. So think of what daily habits you can build to launch you to your dreams.

 

2. Accomplishments

Let’s face it: writing is hard. You spend years writing a book, then revising, querying, and more revising before you get the joy of holding it in your hands. That’s a long time to work for proof of your progress.

Bullet Journal Collections: Accomplishments
Bullet Journal Collections: My Accomplishments collection ready and waiting for 2019

Marking the small accomplishments along the way will show you the progress you’re making (especially when you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere). I always create a collection to record small (but significant!) accomplishments like:

  • Writing a rough draft (for a picture book)
  • Writing a chapter (for a novel)
  • Giving critiques
  • Receiving critiques
  • Writing blog posts
  • Reading a craft book
  • Completing a writing class
  • Watching a free webinar
  • Attending a conference or workshop
  • Giving a talk/author visit
  • Submitting a manuscript to an agent or editor
  • Entering a contest
  • etc.

Even if you’re early in your writing journey, you can still find a fair number of these to add to your list. There are a wealth of free webinars and other resources online to help you develop your writing muscles. You’ll be surprised at how long your list gets by the end of the year.

 

3. Ideas

I think every writer has had this experience: you’re trying to fall asleep or sitting at a red light and an amazing idea springs into your head. It’s so amazing that you’re sure you could never forget. Think again.

Bullet Journal Collections: Ideas
Bullet Journal Collections: Ideas

I’ve been known to jot ideas on scraps of paper, in my phone notes app, or even send it to my husband as a voice-to-speech text — anything to get the idea down before it leaks out of my brain. But it’s easy to lose tracks of those ideas even when they’re written down, so later (when I’m not driving or trying to sleep) I move them to this collection.

At the end of the year, I migrate these to Evernote to make them easier to find later.

 

4. Business Collections

If you take your writing seriously (and you should), then you need to treat it like a business.

These are collections you will want to have somewhere. I prefer to keep them in Google Docs or Evernote (mostly because I dislike copying over lots of data), but they could easily be collections in your bujo.

  • business income and expenses
  • manuscript submissions (it can be easy to lose track of submissions!)

 

Collections to Organize Your Writing

5. List of Manuscripts

In early 2018, I was struggling with finding a way to keep track of all my manuscripts. I wrote 8 picture book drafts in 2016 and 12 in 2017,  plus I had a novel and a middle grade nonfiction book in the works. I was drowning in my own work!

 

Bullet Journal Collection: My 2018 list of manuscripts
Bullet Journal Collection: My 2018 list of manuscripts

 

I came up with this simple list to track them. I list each manuscript with a status – work in progress, draft, done, or retired. In my post on my magical monthly spread, I discuss the writing process I use to keep track of projects. But not every project makes it to that list. This collection is where I track EVERY manuscript – even the ones that get tossed in a (metaphorical) drawer as soon as the rough draft is done.

On retiring manuscripts: some manuscripts don’t work. One of my goals is to write 12 picture book manuscripts a year – not to produce 12 query-ready pieces. Only a few turn out to be gold nuggets, but ALL of my writing improves for the practice.

At the end of the year, I migrate this list to Evernote for permanent storage. So I start the year with just the manuscripts I will be working on and add new manuscripts as I complete the first draft.

 

6. Blogging

If you have a blog, you can use your bujo for managing your blog. I keep a simple list of blog post ideas and use my blogging platform for everything else.

Bullet Journal Collections: My 2019 Blogging Collection
Bullet Journal Collections: My 2019 Blogging Collection

Some bloggers prefer to use their bujo more heavily in blog planning.

You could consider adding collections for:

  • blog topic ideas
  • tags you use
  • posting schedule
  • a table of all blog posts
  • page view statistics
  • post sharing to social media

Need inspiration? Tiny Ray of Sunshine has an excellent post on organizing a blog with a bullet journal.

 

7. Your Work In Progress

There is a lot of information to track when you’re writing a manuscript: characters, settings, research, mentor texts, etc.

In a later post, I will cover this topic in more detail but remember that you can always make a collection to hold all the information about your WIP. Or a collection for a particular type of information about your WIP – like a character sheet or scene list.

 

Collections for Events and Projects

8. Book launch and marketing

Publishing a book is a big event in the life of a writer! It’s also a lot of work. There are a ton of things to do before and after.

Bullet Journal Collection: Book Publication and Branding
Bullet Journal Collection: Book Publication and Branding

Even though I Pray Today didn’t come out until September of 2018, I was already working on marketing in January. I made this collection to hold onto all the information about the book release – including these notes from a meeting with my lovely editor and marketing director.

It also housed the list all the things I wanted to do before the book released: a website overhaul, setting up a blog tour, etc.

Bullet Journal Collections: Blog tour Collection for I Pray Today
Bullet Journal Collections: Blog tour Collection for I Pray Today

Later, the blog tour got its own collection where I kept track of dates, topics, and posts. As I cleared details with my hosts, I checked them off: when we agreed on a date, when we agreed on a topic, when the blog post was finished and sent off. A blog tour is a lot of work!

 

9. Conferences and Workshops

When I plan to attend a conference or workshop, I make a collection to track all the pieces of information relevant to it: date, time, location, reminders, to do lists, etc.

Bullet Journal Collections: Conference or event collection
Bullet Journal Collections: This Collection is a place to gather information about the Wild Wild Midwest conference that I plan to attend.

I’ve already got a spread for SCBWI’s Wild, Wild Midwest 2019 with the date, location, and registration date listed. (our regional conferences fill up FAST.) Later I will add more information I need to keep track of: the sessions I register for, the hotel I’m staying at, dinner dates with friends, etc.

 

10. Author Events

Like a conference collection, this is a place to park all the relevant information: time, date, schedule of events, contact person, payment, etc. In October of 2018, I got to be a visiting scholar at Purdue University for four days. I used this collection a lot that week!

Bullet Journal Collections: An Author Visit collections from my 2018 bullet journal
Bullet Journal Collections: An Author Visit collections from my 2018 bullet journal

 

11. Project management

I’ve been writing a work-for-hire picture book series with the folks at Purdue University since 2016. Right now I’m in the middle of writing a second batch of books for the series. This deadline cheat sheet was so helpful for writing the first book that I copied it over into my 2019 bujo to keep it handy as I finish the next two.

Bullet Journal Collections: Project Management
Bullet Journal Collections: This spread is my cheatsheet of deadlines for my current work for hire contract

 

12. Meeting notes

When I have meetings about my books (like the marketing meeting notes for I Pray Today above) or my contract work, I keep all the notes in my bullet journal.

When the meeting is scheduled, I make it a collection so I can jot down all the relevant information (time, date, location, etc.) On meeting day, it becomes a place to jot down notes.

 

Collections to Help Your Writing Grow

13. Books you Read/Want to Read

Most writers are also avid readers. If you aren’t, you should consider picking up the reading habit since it will improve your writing.

Many bullet journalers track the books they read or plan to read in their bullet journals.

I prefer to use Goodreads since it’s less time consuming to keep track of the 300 or so books I read a year.

If you have time fitting in reading, check out these six tips to squeeze more reading into your busy schedule.

 

14. Critique groups

A critique group is a fabulous thing! As a writer, getting critical feedback from fellow writers is one of the best things you can do for improving your writing.

Bullet Journal Collections for Writers: A Critique Group Collection from my 2018 Bujo
Bullet Journal Collections for Writers: A Critique Group Collection from my 2018 Bujo

I’m currently in three critique groups. That’s a LOT, and I need a way to keep track of it all. I give each group its own collection. In the header, I list the names of the members and the meeting schedule.

Each month, I jot down what I submit and list each member who submits. As I do critiques, I underline or cross off the names so I can easily see which critiques I still need to do.

 

15. Writing Challenges

I love writing challenges! They aren’t for every writer, but for me, they give me a push to achieve my goals.

I give each writing a challenge its own collection. Here I can write any relevant information like deadlines, websites, etc. And since writing challenges often require writing, I put that here, too.

Bullet Journal Collections: My 2019 collection for the 12x12 challenge
Bullet Journal Collections: My 2019 collection for the 12×12 challenge. It’s immensely satisfying to see that all filled in at the end of the year.

There are a ton of writing challenges out there – you could easily spend all your time on challenges and never do any writing, so be choosy. Pick the challenges that bring you joy and help you achieve your goals.

I devised this spread last year to track my monthly progress in the 12×12 writing challenge. I write down the working title of each manuscript I write or revise as I complete them. When I watch a webinar and use one of the special submission opportunities, I check the box. It’s immensely satisfying to get to the end of the year and see this page all filled out.

I have a free printable bullet journal spread just for my fellow 12x12ers.

12x12 Bullet Journal Spread
Free printable bullet journal spread for 12x12ers

 

More Useful Collections

16. Social Media

Facebook groups, posting schedules, etc. If you need to track it, you can make a collection for it. There are some lovely examples like this one from Journal Tea.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Hello there on this beautiful Friday! I hope you’re all having a great day so far Thank you for all your comments and messages regarding my last post! My weekend will be filled with Friends visiting us with their dog, rainy weather, planning the next week and Netflix I can’t wait Also if you haven’t seen it yet, go over to my blog (link is in the description-box) and you can read my post on planning Social Media posts and what tools and apps I love to use when it comes to Instagram ✨ If you have other tools or apps you can recommend let me know Wish you all a lovely Friday and a great weekend!! . . . #bulletjournaldecoration #bulletjournaldoodles #bulletjournaldeutschland #bujodoodles #doodleartist #bulletjournaladdicted #bulletjournalweekly #bulletjournalsetup #bujosetup #bujoweek #bujoweekly #bujoweeklyspread #weekly #newweek #bulletjournal #bulletjournaling #bulletjournalist #bulletjournalcollection #bulletjournalingcommunity #bulletjournalsetup #bulletjournalgermany #bulletjournalaustria #bulletjournaljunkies #bulletjournaladdicted #bulletjournaljunkie #bulletjournalinspiration #bulletjournal2017 #bulletjournalspread #bulletjournalsystem #bulletjournallove #leuchtturm1917

A post shared by (@thejournaltea) on


She explains the spread in a blog post on managing social media with a bullet journal.

 

17. Books to Review

In 2018 I started reviewing books every month. As I was reading through the year, when I came across a book I loved I would add it to the list. I never had trouble coming up with topics!

 

18. Pen Test Page

It’s super annoying to write one page only to realize it bled through the page and now the backside is unreadable. Grr. You can prevent this by testing each new pen or marker before using it in your bullet journal. Bonus: if you fall in love with a pen or ink, you have all the information to buy it again.

Here’s the pen test page in one of my bullet journals.

Bullet Journal Collections: Pen Test
Bullet Journal Collections:
Pen Test

When you flip it over, you can see how much bleed through and ghosting you get from your pen.

Bullet Journal Collections: Back side of the Pen test page
Bullet Journal Collections: Back side of the Pen test page

Note: Learn from my mistake. Don’t use the very last page, because when you flip it over, it’s against the dark cover, so it’s harder to tell how much ghosting you will get when it’s against a page. This year I’m using the second to last page.

 


Now that you know how to use Collections in your bullet journal, you can download my free printable. It has many collections pre-made for you!

Next time I’ll be sharing how I use a bullet journal to help me organize novel writing.

Free Printable Bullet Journal for Writers

18+ Bullet Journal Collections for Writers

 

Bullet Journaling for Writers: Part 2. The Magical Monthly Spread

Bullet Journaling for Writers Part 2: The Magical Monthly Spread

Today I excited to share the second part of my series on bullet journaling: the monthly log that is the magic to the whole system.

But before we jump in, if you aren’t familiar with Bullet Journaling read part 1. I’ll wait.

Bullet Journaling for Writers: Part 1 The Basics

 

Back? Great.

Now let me tell you how I got here.

 

How Success Led to Chaos

In late 2016 after a few years of working to build my writing career, I was finally getting somewhere. In September 2016 my first book, Goodnight Jesus, was published. That fall I also got to write my first Work for Hire picture books, the Little Elephants’ Big Adventures. Hurrah!

But that also meant I had a lot to keep track of: marketing a new book, managing contract work, writing my own manuscripts, querying, seeking additional contract work, and on and on and on.

I had also increased my writing output, but I was struggling to balance multiple projects.

Which projects is still out to query? Which should I send to my critique group this month? And I had a great idea for a new manuscript – where did I put that?

I couldn’t focus, and I wasn’t getting anything done.

In short: I was swamped.

I grabbed my bullet journal and made a monthly spread. I divided up all my tasks into different categories like marketing, submission, and writing.

I also listed out every manuscript I was working on. All of them. And I categorized them based on where they were in the writing process.

Suddenly, I could clearly see all the different moving part. I could zero in on the most important tasks and make plans for the future. And that paralyzing anxiety of too-much-to-do went away.

Magic!

Over time, I’ve refined this system, but the basics are the same. I divide tasks into categories and have a framework for managing multiple writing projects.

Monthly spread of my bullet journal
Monthly spread of my bullet journal

 

Schedule

At the top of the left-hand page, I list out my schedule and deadlines for the month. I love the Calendex, but I like having this right there, so I don’t forget things. Copying it over first, also means that I have a good handle on the month before I start making decisions on what to tackle.

 

Task Categories

The rest of the left page is broken into sections based on the major categories of writing tasks I want to accomplish each month:

  • Business and Marketing: Writing is a business, and there are tasks associated with that: seeking new Work for Hire contracts, seeking speaking engagements, website work, and blogging. When I have a new book on the horizon, this section beefs up with all the marketing work involved.
  • Submissions: Every month I submit to agents, editors, awards, etc. Here is where I can list what I plan to do for the month.
  • Craft: I’m a big believer in continually learning and improving my writing. I aim to do some craft development each month. That could be something big like going to a conference or completing an online class. Or it could be small – reading a craft-focused book or watching a free webinar.

MAKING THE TASK CATEGORY LISTS:

Most months, I tackle items in each category. That means I’m continually moving forward on many fronts. Over time that adds up to a lot of progress.

As I create this spread, I’m making many small decisions that help me set and achieve goals.

For instance, in Business and Marketing this month I have blog posts to write (like this one!), I need to gather up the last of my tax documents, and (time permitting) put together a page on my website about Author Visits.

I also want to submit to Work For Hire publishing houses to drum up more contract work for the future. However, it’s not pressing (I’m booked out through February). Also, a peek at the Schedule at the top lets me know that I don’t have time this month. I could decide this goal isn’t worth pursuing and cross it off. Instead, I decided it’s still something I want to do… just not this month. The arrow signifies that I’m bumping it down the road to the next month.

Similarly, this month I don’t have any Submissions listed. Although I try to submit each month, I know December submissions tend to languish while everyone is busy with holidays. So I decided to put my efforts towards other endeavors this month and hit the ground running after the new year.

These small decisions stack up over time. I’m setting goals and intentions every single month. By the end of the year, it amounts to a substantial amount of work all of which is aligned with my goals.

 

Project Status

Most of the right page is used for what I call a Project Status. This is my lifeline for managing multiple projects. It’s an overview of all the manuscripts I’m currently working on, sorted by their present stage in the writing process.

The Writing Process
The Writing Process

The process reads from bottom to top:

  • Simmer: I always write down story ideas when they come to me. I have long lists elsewhere in my bullet journal. The most promising get put here. I let these stew in my brain for weeks or months. That simmering time helps lets the idea-fragments coalesce into a fully-formed idea. Plus, after a bit of stewing, I can usually tell which are worth pursuing and which are… not. When ideas languish on this list for a long time, I know they aren’t worth pursuing.
  • Write: These are the things I am planning to write this month. I pluck them from the simmer list, contracted work, or a new idea that’s too exciting to wait. I try to push a piece all the way through to a complete first draft before I set it aside. Then it moves to the Draft list.
  • Resting Drafts: This is the where I place all the manuscripts that are written but not done. Resting is a vital step in the writing process. A bit of distance helps you critically evaluate your manuscripts.
  • Revise:  Most months I choose a piece from the Draft list for revision. I try to take it through a complete revision before setting it aside. I work over the whole manuscript focusing on just one aspect of revision. Usually, it ends up right back in the Draft list to rest before another round of revision. Very rarely do pieces graduate to the Done pile.
  • Done: Every step up to here has resulted in manuscripts being culled. Some never make it through the idea simmering stage. Others I may revise multiple times before I realize they’re not workable – at least not right now. But those that make it through the process end up here. These are the manuscripts I consider to be as complete and polished as I am capable of making them. They’re the ones I’m currently querying (that’s the Q designation). Even still, I will occasionally decide that a manuscript is just not publishable right now. Then I drop them off the list. Once in a while I will review a retired manuscript I find a new angle for it.

MAKING A PROJECT STATUS LIST:  Each month, I’m considering and critically evaluating the manuscripts on this list.

  1. Done: I start with the previous month’s list. I copy over anything that is Done. Occasionally, I decide that a manuscript needs to be retired. Usually, this is after I’ve queried it and not gotten any bites. Since these are the pool of manuscripts I’m currently submitting I made a simple designation to show what’s been queried ( -> Q) and what has been subbed elsewhere (like to awards and grant programs).
  2. Revise: I look at the list of Resting Drafts from the previous month and decide which is most promising to Revise this month. I try to keep this list short – one or maybe two picture books a month is about what I can handle. This month is a little longer because my novel is with a Beta reader.  I’m not doing active work on it, but it’s not exactly sitting in a metaphorical drawer either, so I listed it here with a note that it’s out to a Beta reader. 
  3. Resting Drafts: I copy over the rest of the items that are in the Resting Draft stage. As I do, I consider if these are workable or if they need to be retired, too. Sometimes I will include a note about a manuscript. I have one draft that I think may be better suited as a poem than a picture book.
  4. Write: I consider the ideas on my Simmer list from the previous month. I look at the list of story ideas and choose the most promising to write into a new draft. Again, I try to keep this list short. This month I have one picture book listed. I’ve also started listing blog posts or other non-book writing here. I don’t put my non-book writing through this full process, but it’s a reminder so I don’t bite off more than I can chew.
  5. Simmer: Lastly, I copy over any ideas that didn’t make the cut for writing this month. I consider if each idea is worth pursuing or not. If not, I leave them off. If

This whole process takes me just a few minutes. But as I go I’m making small evaluations (Would this work better as a poem? Is this idea worth pursuing? Which draft do I want to make each month?) And those small decisions mean that I am setting goals (like what I will write) and critically evaluating my work.

This month I have a work for hire picture book due and another one to begin. With blog posts, that’s more than enough for a busy holiday-filled month.

Starting with the Done and Revise manuscripts means that I’m focusing on pushing manuscripts toward the finish line. (Instead of continually producing new drafts that don’t get anywhere.

 

Top Priorities

The last thing I do is to make a quick list of the month’s top priorities. By this time, I’ve made all my decisions about what to work on. I like having a handy list where I pull those top tasks from the different parts of the monthly spread.

—–

Now that you know how to use my Magical Monthly spread, you can download your own copy here. In the next post on Bullet Journaling for writers, I’ll be going over collections just for writers.

Free Printable Bullet Journal for Writers

 

 

 

FREE: 12×12 Bullet Journal Printable.

I’m wrapping up my third year as a member of the 12×12 picture book writing challenge – the yearly challenge to write 12 picture book manuscripts in a year. 2018 is my second year winning 12×12 (i.e. writing 12 picture book manuscripts in a year).

I gotta say, 12x12ers are some of the best people on the planet. Their support has been invaluable.

So while I’m busy prepping for bullet journal for next year, I thought I’d give a little something back.

Last year I shared this spread from my bullet journal:

 

This year I’ve gone one step further by making a printable version you can download. You can print it out to use on its own, or cut and paste into a bullet journal.

12x12 Bullet Journal Spread

Each month, jot down the names of the manuscripts you write and revise. Add in the webinars you watch and (if you’re going for gold) the submissions you make.

There’s not much more satisfying than seeing this all filled in at the end of the year.

 

Get the 12×12 Bullet Journal Spread

 

You might also like:

Free Printable Bullet Journal for Writers  Bullet Journaling for Writers: Part 1 The Basics

 

Bullet Journaling For Writers: Part 1 The Basics

Bullet Journaling for Writers: Part 1 The Basics

I’m a bullet journal and planning junkie. Working out the exact right system for maximum joy and productivity is 1000% my jam.

Over the last few years, I’ve worked out a system that helps me make the most of my writing time, keep track of multiple projects, and meet my goals.

Today I’m really excited to launch a blog series on Bullet journaling for writers. Read this blog series to learn my (not so) secret system for organizing your writing life to reduce stress and maximize joy.

Not only that, you can get a printable version for free when you sign up for my mailing list. 

Free Printable Bullet Journal for Writers

Today I’m going to take you for a tour through my bullet journal.

In later posts, I will take you through my magical monthly spread and share ideas for collections for every writer’s bullet journal.

I hope this peek into my bullet journal helps you find more writing joy in your writing life.

 

Stack of My Writing Bullet Journals
My Writing Bullet journals. From top to bottom: Dark Teal 2018 writing Bullet journal, Silver 2019 Writing Bullet Journal, Turquoise Novel Bullet Journal, Purple New Novel Bullet Journal

 

What is Bullet Journaling?

First off, if you don’t know what bullet journaling is, you should hop over to the official Bullet Journal website and watch the introductory video. I’ll wait.

Back? Great.

The thing about bullet journaling is that it’s not just about the journal. The magic is in the process.

  • As you create the journal you’re reflecting on the tasks you want to accomplish =  setting goals and make plans accordingly.
  • Afterward, you analyze the un-done tasks and unmet goals before making new plans =  reevaluating your goals and resetting your intentions.

It’s a process with goal-setting and intentionality built in that just so happens to fit in a notebook.

Once you get the basics down, you can customize it to your heart’s desire. Your bullet journal will not be exactly like mine, because you don’t work in exactly the same way I do.

 

My Bullet Journal

You can start a bullet journal any time and keep going until it’s full. I prefer to set up one for each year. I’ve been doing this for a few years, so I know that one journal is just about right for a year.

For 2019, I’m using a Silver Rhodia goal book. It has good quality paper (which I need for fountain pens) and it has some pages pre-formatted in useful ways.

My 2019 Writing Bullet Journal with a few of my favorite tools
My 2019 Writing Bullet Journal with a few of my favorite tools

 

It’s looking great – crisp and untarnished by, you know, actual use. Great for inspiration but empty pages don’t really show you how to use a journal.

So I’m also going to share some pictures from my 2018 journal – a softcover Moleskin. This one has that lived-in look that I’ve come to cherish. Which is to say, it’s messy. No matter how good my intentions, at some point I get a bit slapdash. So don’t despair if your journal isn’t a work of art like the ones you see on Instagram – I’m right there with you.

 

Index

The first thing you need is an index. You’ll be adding things to your bullet journal over time. When you do, put an entry in the index with the page number so you can easily find the entry later.

2019 Writing Bullet Journal - Index
2019 Writing Bullet Journal – Index Looking a Little Empty

My 2019 journal already comes with pages formatted for a table of contents and all the pages numbered.

Previously I set aside a few pages for the index and numbered the pages by hand. It’s tedious, but not hard.

2018 Writing Bullet Journal - Index
2018 Writing Bullet Journal – Index full from a year of use

 

Collections

A collection is simply a two-page spread of information you want to keep together. Find a blank page and list all the information together.

Here’s one from my 2019 Bullet Journal. I try to blog on the first and fifteenth of each month. In my 2019 writing bullet journal, I went to the next open page (26) and made a collection to hold all the information about blog posts. I noted that in the index.

2019 Writing Bullet Journal - Blogging Collection
2019 Writing Bullet Journal – Blogging Collection

It’s looking a little empty right now, but it will fill up through the year as I jot down ideas and track what I post.

There are a ton of collections that can be useful for writers. I have another blog post with collection ideas for writers. Make sure to hop over and check that out.

 

Future Log

The future log is a special kind of collection. It’s a place to track future events and tasks.

2019 Writing Bullet Journal - Future Log
2019 Writing Bullet Journal – Future Log

Last year, I didn’t really use a future log. My Rhodia has these pages preformatted with the months, so I’m going try using them as a future log this year. You can see I’ve already jotted down some deadlines and tasks for January and February.

 

Calendex

I discovered this last year and it. is. brilliant. It’s a combination of a calendar and an index. The Calendex originated here and this post has a really nice overview.

2019 Writing Bullet Journal - Calendex
2019 Writing Bullet Journal – Calendex

The Rhodia comes with spreads I can use for this. Previously I drew it out by hand.

 

2018 Writing Bullet Journal - Calendex
2018 Writing Bullet Journal – Calendex

SETTING UP A CALENDEX: Each column represents a month. Each row represents a day. I drew lines across to show breaks between weeks. (I use a Monday-Sunday week for planning so the weekend isn’t split up.)

USING THE CALENDEX:  Earlier I showed you the collection I made for Blogging information on page 26.

In my Calendex, I wrote in the page number (26) on the first and fifteenth of each month.

2019 Writing Bullet Journal - Calendex
2019 Writing Bullet Journal – Calendex

Now when I look at the calendex, I can instantly see that I’ve got a deadline that day (like a calendar) and I can easily trace it back to all the relevant information on page 26 (like an index).

Brilliant.

You can make this even more useful with color coding. I use green to signify critique group meetings and deadlines, blue for writing deadlines (like blog posts), red for writing challenges, and purple for events. The little stars indicate holidays, birthdays, and the like.

USING THE CALENDEX FOR PLANNING: I love the Calendex because I can instantly see how busy I’m going to be. For instance, in January 2019 I can see that I’ll be working on writing new books for the Little Elephant’s series all month long. I also have a writing challenge I want to participate in. It’s looking busy already and I don’t even have any of my critique group meetings listed yet. (I’m in 3 critique groups. It’s a lot.)

This is useful for planning: I know January is not the month to start writing that new novel or to take on more contract work.

 

Monthly Log

My monthly log is by far the most important piece for keeping me organized. I’m dedicating a whole blog post to this one. So make sure you check that out. I’ll give you a taste of it here.

In a traditional Monthly log, at the beginning of the month, you would make a spread for the month. Copy over all upcoming events and tasks for the month from your future log. Then add anything else you need to get done for the month.

My December 2018 Monthly log
My December 2018 Monthly log

MY MONTHLY SPREAD: Over time, I’ve devised my own monthly spread for my writing bullet journal. It’s designed to meet my needs:

  • I needed a system to keep track of a variety of writing tasks: writing, craft development, business and marketing, submissions, etc.
  • I needed a way to manage multiple manuscripts at the same time.

The whole thing serves as a dashboard – a place to gather the most important information so I can tell, at a glance, what my priorities are and what tasks I need to accomplish to meet my goals.

 

Daily (ish) Logs

Daily log from December 2018
Daily log from December 2018

The daily log is your list of events and tasks for the day. Though you can get fancy, mine is essentially a to-do list. After writing it out, I sometimes number them by priority.

It’s daily-ish because I don’t write one out every day. In a few days when the list is no longer relevant, I make a new one.

 

Putting it Together

Those are all the basic components of a Bullet Journal. You’ll find all of them in my free Bullet Journaling for Writers Printable.

Make sure to read my next post on my custom monthly logging system to learn more.

FREE: Printable Bullet Journal Inserts for Writers

Free Printable Bullet Journal for Writers

2018 has been a great year for me – for starters, I published my second board book: I Pray Today!

I’ve been wanting to share a little love for all the writers who have helped me along in this journey. So today I’m sharing a free printable version of my Bullet Journal spreads.

I’ve developed this system over time to help me meet my goals with more joy and less stress. 

Getting it is easy: sign up for my mailing list, and I’ll send it along as my way of saying THANK YOU!

 

GET THE PRINTABLE