Tag: goals

How to Start a Writing Bullet Journal

How to start a bullet journal for writers

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of bullet journaling. My writing bullet journal is my number one tool for achieving my writing goals.

Also, I love the smell of a fresh notebook and an excuse to play with markers.

 

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I hear from a lot of people who want to start a bullet journal but feel too overwhelmed to start. It doesn’t have to be hard, but looking at the art-installation-worthy Instagram posts can sure make it seem that way.

So today, I’m sharing how I set up my bullet journal – step-by-step so you can follow along. Though I’m setting mine up for the new year, you can start yours anytime you like. There’s no reason to wait!

If you don’t know what a bullet journal is, my introductory guide to bullet journaling is a good place to start.

Bullet Journaling for Writers: Part 1 The Basics

Ready to make your bullet journal? Let’s do it!

 

Step 1: Gather Supplies

First off, gather your supplies.

Notebook. Really, any notebook will do. My first time, I used a spare composition notebook to make a planner (before I had even heard of bullet journaling).

My first bullet journal
My first-ever bullet journal

But you’ll be using this thing for a while, so I think it’s worth splurging on something that will hold up to being tossed around in a bag for months.

This year’s model is a little Clairefontaine notebook. It has silky smooth pages, and it’s slim, so I won’t be dragging around unused pages all year.

My 2020 Writing bullet journal
This year’s writing bullet journal

I’ve used a lot of different notebooks over the years. Last year I used a Rhodia Goalbook, the year before that I used a Moleskine.

Whatever you get, I do recommend looking for something with either dot grid or graph paper inside. It makes it a lot easier to draw boxes, shapes, and get nice layouts.

Things to write with. Like notebooks, any writing utensil will do. I used a cheap Bic when I started out with my composition notebook.

Pens and Markers for bullet journaling
The pens and markers I use in my bullet journal.

Now I prefer a gel rollerball or a fountain pen. They cost more upfront (mine ranging from $9 to $50), but they last for years, and the ink refills are cheap.

You may also want to add some color to your toolkit – I like fineliners, but I’ve also used cheap highlighters and markers picked up at back-to-school sales.

That’s it. A notebook and something to write with is all that’s required. Sure, you can add extras: stickers, stencils, washi tape, markers that cost more than my fancy latte, and the like. If those make you happy and fit in your budget, great!

Otherwise, skip it. I usually do. Even after this many years as a bullet journal evangelist, my supply kit is still pretty small.

So let’s jump right in and get started.

Step 2: Let go of perfection.

Do you have empty notebook syndrome? It’s ok. Lots of other writers also have beautiful notebooks sitting on their shelf unused because they are too precious to use.

But an unused notebook is an unloved notebook. They’re much nicer when they’re used. Yes, my old notebooks look ragged – they’re worn from being drug to coffeeshop writing sessions. They’ve probably got stains from the coffee, too. And they’re full of Big Audacious Plans and, more importantly, the checkboxes and scribbles that let me make those big audacious plans into reality.

Past Bullet Journals
Some of my past bullet journal. The oldest ones at the bottom and newer ones at the top. All show wear and stains from being well-loved.

My old bullet journals are a physical manifestation of work, accomplishment, and creation. None of which would happen if I was too scared to actually use them.

So. Let’s start on the right foot.

Open up the cover and write your name big and large. I recommend adding a phone number and email address. I also usually put in a note that I’ll give a reward for a lost bullet journal.

Write neatly, but don’t aim for an artistic masterpiece. The point is to start with being yourself – imperfect handwriting and all. It’ll make it easier when you inevitably make a mistake later.

Bullet Journal with my name in it

Congrats! This isn’t just a notebook – now it’s a bullet journal. It’s a little bit less perfect, and that’s great.

 

Step 3: Number the Pages

Not exactly scintillating, but it’s really necessary. Put on a podcast or your favorite streaming show. You’ll be done long before the podcast is over.

Numbered pages in my Bullet journal

(Or you can buy a notebook with prenumbered pages.)

 

Step 4: Index

The very first pages of your notebook are dedicated to your index. Three page spreads are usually enough. You can get fancy with headers. Or not.

Indexes in bullet journals

My 2020 Clairefontaine notebook comes with a table of contents preprinted. In the past, I’ve made the index myself. You can also print and tape in the index in my free printable bullet journal pages.

Free Printable Bullet Journal for Writers

Right now, your index will be empty, but it will soon fill up like the old one shown above. Then it becomes a handy reference for finding things in your bullet journal.

 

Step 5: Future Log

Create a place to park future dates and to-dos. I like a simple design – each spread shows six months, so it takes two spreads to cover the year. That’s the layout I used in my free printable bullet journal pages.

Future Log in my Bullet Journal
My Future log looks a little empty right now – it will fill up as the year goes on.

Go ahead and add any dates that you already know – like a conference you want to attend or the dates of your critique group meetings. You can also use this as a place to put reminders of future tasks – like remembering to contact bloggers about a blog tour in September. You’ll be adding more to this as the year goes.

And don’t forget to add the future log to your index so you can find it later!

 

Step 6: Calendex

If you don’t know what a calendex is, check it out on my earlier blog post on collections.

Strictly speaking, a calendex is optional. Lots of people do a normal monthly calendar instead. But I’ve found that the calendex helps me get a handle on my workflow.

It can take a little while to set up, so now’s a good time to put that podcast back on.

Drawing calendex and listening to podcasts

How to draw a calendex: This is probably the most complex layout I use, but it’s not that hard to do.

  1. Number the days starting at the bottom. So start with 31 at the bottom, left corner of the page, and count down as you move rows up the page. This way, leftover space is at the top, which looks nicer, in my opinion.
  2. Divide into columns. If you’re using dot grid or graph pages, count the number of dots on your page and divide by 3 (for 5ish-inch width notebooks) or 6 (for full-page notebooks). If you’re using blank or lined paper, you’ll have to get that ruler and measure to divide it up. I suggest doing this after the numbers so you can have the lines begin at the top of the numbers, leaving space for a header.
  3. Mark off extra days on months. Your numbers go all the way to 31, but some months have fewer days. Cross those out.
  4. Grab a calendar and mark off weeks. Not everyone does this, but I find it very handy. I put a line in between Sundays and Mondays.
  5. Add a header!

Bonus tip: If you mess up (August doesn’t have 29 days, even in a leap year), washi tape is your friend.

 

Calendex with a mistake

Much better.

Calendex in my bullet journal

I usually add a colorful paperclip to this page since I know I’ll be coming back to this one often.

 

Step 7: Goals and Plans

Ok, we got the boring stuff out of the way. Now we get to the good stuff. **rubs hands together**

Every year I go through a process of reflecting on the previous year and drafting goals for the upcoming year. I usually do this at the end of the previous bullet journal – it’s an excellent way to complete the year and close out my bullet journal.

2020 writing goals

Then I write my new goals Big and Bold right at the beginning of my new bullet journal. All year long, as I plan my work, I keep those goals in mind. That intentionality is what translates goals into accomplishments.

Walking through a goal-setting process could easily be a whole blog series, so I’ll limit it to just a few tidbits of advice here:

  1. Definitely do some goal setting.
  2. Choose a small number of goals to start with. (I’ve been doing this a long time, and my goals have grown with me.)
  3. Make SMART goals so you’ll achieve them.
  4. Review your goals periodically and make adjustments if you need to.

 

Step 8: Collections

I’ve written a whole post on collections you might want to add to your writing bullet journal.

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

This is where you start to personalize your bullet journal so that it matches your needs and goals. Design your bullet journal to support your goals.

Want to read 20 novels this year? Create a collection with space to list all 20 books.

Want to write that novel this year? Or to write 12 new picture book manuscripts? A collection where you can check of chapters or manuscripts may be just the thing.

Want to finally attend a writing conference? Make a collection to keep track of all the bits and bobs of information – list conferences you could attend, create a budget, jot down the name of potential roommates, packing lists – whatever you need to make that goal happen.

Whatever your goals, making a collection for it is setting an intention to meet your goal and making a way to keep track of your progress.

Here’s what goes into my bullet journal right at the beginning of the year. Since these are useful to most writers, I made templates in my free printable bullet journal inserts.

  • Accomplishments – this is where I track all the small steps that add up to big achievements throughout the year.
  • Ideas – any random scraps of ideas get noted here. That way, they don’t get lost.
  • Blogging – I list blog ideas and write out what I blog on each month
  • Critique group – I keep a collection for each critique group. (I have three!) Each one lists pertinent information like meeting schedule and format. Each month I note what I submit and the critiques I have to do. I check them off as I complete them.
  • Listing of manuscripts – Writing 8-12 picture books each of the last few years means I need a way to keep track!
  • Newsletter – this one is new this year. I send it out quarterly and need a place to park ideas and track progress.

I make sure to go back and add these things to my index.

Bullet journal index filled in

And now I can add them to the Calendex, too.

Calendex filled out

Step 9: Use your New Bullet Journal!

Set up is done, and I can now use my new journal. Yay!

At the beginning of each month, I make my magical monthly spread for the upcoming month.

Bullet Journaling for Writers Part 2: The Magical Monthly Spread

Here’s my January 2020 spread all ready to go.

January monthly bujo spread

Throughout the year, I’ll work on filling in the collections I set up at the beginning. Since they’re tied to my goals, that also means I’m making progress on those.

I make new collections as I need them. I’ve signed up for the StoryStorm challenge, so I made a spread for that.

And I’ll keep updating my future log and calendex through the year to help me keep track of important dates and information.

Calendex filled out

The calendex is also a useful planning tool. Looking at my calendex, I can instantly see that I have a lot of deadlines clustered in the middle of each month. (All those critique groups….) So I decided to shift my monthly blog posts and quarterly newsletters to the beginning and end of months to spread out the workload.

I can also see that I’ll be extra busy with writing challenges some months (Storystorm in January, ReFoReMo in March, …), so I know that those aren’t the months to start working through a new craft book or schedule a meaty blog series.

It becomes even more critical when I’m scheduling work contracts and large projects. I put those in as big blocks like I do the writing challenges so I can instantly see that the month is looking full. Looking at my calendex lets me instantly know when I’m unavailable (or when I need to shift things to make

 

2020 bullet journal
My 2020 bullet journal all ready to go!

That’s it! If you’ve followed along, you should have a brand new Bullet Journal all ready to go.

 

 

 

 

 

My 2020 Word: Metamorphosis

My 2020 Word: Metamorphosis

 

I was slow to jump on the word-of-the-year bandwagon. A lot of my friends love the idea but setting concrete goals and plans has always worked well for me – I didn’t see the point.

Last year I gave it a whirl just to see what the fuss is about. That’s when I realized that the yearly word has a different role to play than goals.

My yearly word helps me make sense of things – like an analogy to help me navigate the year. So as I look forward to the coming year, I’ve been reflecting on what’s coming and how to make sense of it.

My word for 2020 is METAMORPHOSIS.

Let me explain.

This fall we raised some butterflies from caterpillars. I learned a lot of things through the process:

  • start with eggs because of parasitic flies (do NOT google that unless you have a strong stomach)
  • monarchs’ migration is timed by daylight length (we actually learned this at a really interesting talk on the effects of light pollution while traveling through Glacier National park earlier this fall.)
  • be sure to secure your habitat from curious kitties
  • AND metamorphosis works completely different than I thought.


If you’re like me, you learned the butterfly life cycle as a kid.

-> Egg hatches to larva (caterpillar).

-> Larva grows and turns into a pupa (chrysalis).

-> Pupa hatches out as a butterfly.

Ok but HOW EXACTLY does the caterpillar turn into a butterfly? As a kid, it was obvious that a butterfly’s body looked like a caterpillar’s body. So I assumed that inside that chrysalis, the caterpillar sprouted wings and maybe molted skin to reveal a new color. Done.

Basically, I imagined that the caterpillar just got a costume change but stayed pretty much the same.

Wrong.

Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar dissolves back into primordial goo. Then it reforms into a whole new creature from the goo.

This may not be the most scientifically accurate description, but it’s not too far off. According to Scientific American

“To become a butterfly, a caterpillar first digests itself. But certain groups of cells survive, turning the soup into eyes, wings, antennae and other adult structures.”

Whether you use scientific words like “digest” and “soup” or my less scientific terms like goo, the point is that this is not a simple or small process. It is a complete transformation.

 


So what does this have to do with my life?

Like the pupa inside the chrysalis, I’m at a point of major change. Don’t worry, I’m not giving up kidlit writing. (Never!) But a lot of other things in my life are radically transforming – for starters my long term contract projects are coming to an end and I’m looking for my next challenge.

In modern business buzzwords: I’m pivoting to a new career trajectory.

In my butterfly analogy: I’ve turned into goo and I’m rebuilding myself. And the process feels horribly messy and uncertain – much as I expect a butterfly feels. So like the butterfly, I’m having faith in the process.

By 2021, I expect to emerge as a butterfly. Probably I’ll be a little shaky and uncertain at first. But once I’ve had a chance to get used to my new form, I think it’ll be worthwhile. That’s important to remember right now as I slog through goo.

 

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!

2018 Successes – And Why Writers Sometimes Need to Brag

Right now I’m participating in the 12 Days of Christmas Challenge for Writers. Each day there’s a small reflection.

Yesterday I shared the Day 2 reflection on Instagram.


 

Today is Day 3 when we share our writing successes for the year. All of them. In public. GULP.

Although it makes me feel like a Braggy McBraggypants, I decided to bite the bullet and submit to my blog. Not because I want others to pat me on the back, but because acknowledging my successes is important for me personally.

Writing can be an emotional roller coaster, and most (all?) writers struggle to keep up their confidence and resolve in the face of constant rejection. Having the courage to openly acknowledge our accomplishments helps us see ourselves as successful and capable – things we need to keep going in this pursuit.

A lot of my successes this year happened because I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone. So **deep breath** let’s do it again and list it all out in public. In no particular order:

  1. Published my second kid’s book!
  2. Did my first author visits and readings. (I have anxiety about public speaking, so this was big for me.)
  3. Wrote FOUR Work For Hire picture books which is double my previous yearly total. I have two more due in 2019.
  4. Got to be a visiting scholar! I spent 4 days teaching college classes, giving an invited talk, and joining in on lab meetings. My first career was in academia, so I had a blast!
  5. Blogged book reviews (almost) every month!
  6. Tripled my newsletter subscription. (Which sounds impressive until you see the numbers. Lol.)
  7. Got 52 rejections! (That includes agents, editors, mentorship programs, awards, etc.) Here’s why getting a lot of rejections is a good thing for writers.
  8. Submitted to award and mentorship programs for the first time.
  9. In Pitchwars, I got two requests and a champagne rejection for my middle grade novel.
  10. Did a major overhaul of my author website.
  11. Did a blog tour for my new book.
  12. Completely revised my middle grade novel. (Like, burned it down and rebuilt from ashes. It was intense.)
  13. Wrote 13 new picture book drafts as part of 12×12.
  14. Finished Renee LaTullipe’s Lyrical Language Lab course which was excellent.
  15. Attended one online conference, one workshop, and one regional conference.
  16. Plotted out a new novel and did research for it. (Haven’t had time to write yet because of my book launch and work for hire books.)
  17. Kept up with THREE critique groups. Phew.
  18. Supported KidlitNation so they could host free monthly webinars and award scholarships so POC could attend a regional SCBWI conference.
  19. Did a webinar on KidlitNation.
  20. Blogged consistently! (Big accomplishment for me, lol.)
  21. Had my middle grade novel beta read for the first time and got good feedback. I’m rounding up more Beta readers for after the holidays.
  22. Was invited to be part of a writing coach’s new coaching group for women. She’s been coaching one-on-one for a while but we’re her beta session for doing it as a group, so I get to do it for free. Yay! And she reached out to me because I’m “a committed writer who is actively working on her craft”. Which was a nice compliment. 🙂
  23. Read 275 books this year! Usually, I hit higher numbers (500 in 2017) but after many years of focusing on picture books I made a conscious effort to read more MG this year since I write that as well. I’m currently at 73 books that are MG or longer and around 200 picture books. So the overall number is down, but I’m really happy with it.
  24. I won Storystorm in 2018!
  25. Ran an online accountability and support group and participated in another.

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

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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 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.

Why Some Resolutions are Doomed to Fail and How to Set Goals That Work

Why Some Resolutions are Doomed to Fail and how to Set Goals that Work

Many people set New Years Resolutions. When you set resolutions the right way, you can push yourself to achieve big things. But there’s one trap we all fall into when setting resolutions and goals.

Let me give you an example.

My biggest 2017 goal was to get a literary agent. An agent will help me achieve my larger career goals by giving me more guidance, helping me produce the best possible work, and opening more doors.

So throughout 2017, I did all the things you’re supposed to do to get a golden ticket to the land of agented writers. I wrote a lot; I improved my writing through classes, webinars, and conferences; I read copious numbers of books; and I submitted widely but wisely.

I did all the right things. No agent.

Why? Because it’s true what agents say: sometimes the time isn’t right or the fit isn’t right or the stars just do not align in my favor. I came close, but it just wasn’t right.

I “failed” my goal despite having the most productive writing year of my life, despite getting a new book under contract, despite reading a bunch of wonderful books, and improving my writing craft.

Someone rightly pointed out that my goal was doomed from the beginning because it was a goal that was out of my control.

I can’t make an agent fall in love with my book. I can’t make the industry change to suit my writing style. I can’t demand that an agent with a full client list, make room for little ol’ me. All I can do is make myself the best possible writer and be ready when the stars do finally align in my favor.

So I flipped the perspective.

Instead of goals we can’t control:

  • I will get an agent
  • I will get a promotion at work
  • I will get a book deal

I’m dedicating myself to the type of goals I can control:

  • I will write, read, learn, and submit
  • I will exceed all deliverable goals at work
  • I will write daily

In the end, these things often amount to the same thing. Doing your best on the things you can control often leads to the outcomes you can’t control. I didn’t set a goal to have the most productive writing year of my life, but it happened because I aimed to write daily.

I didn’t get an agent this year. But I did set the groundwork to be the best writer I can be. In time, that will attract an agent. I just have to remember to keep doing the work and have faith.

When my stars align, I will be ready.

 

Check out this post to learn more about setting wise resolutions.

DOs and DON'Ts for New Year's Resolutions You'll Actually Keep

DOs and DON’Ts for New Year’s Resolutions You’ll Actually Keep

DOs and DON'Ts for New Year's Resolutions You'll Actually Keep

Two years ago I had only one resolution: submit a manuscript to an editor before the year was up.

Any manuscript.

Any editor.

I didn’t expect it to lead to anything. I just needed to get over my fear and do it. That turned into my first book contract. (To be published next year!) None of which would have happened if I hadn’t made that one small resolution.

New Year’s resolutions are one way to help yourself achieve a larger goal.

Most of us have failed at meeting our resolutions. Science says resolutions can work when done right.

To help with that, here are my DOs and DON’Ts for setting your 2016 resolutions.

DON’T: Make large, unachievable resolutions. “Become a best-selling author” is probably not achievable. At least not in the space of one year.

DO: Make resolutions that are hard but doable. “Finish novel first draft” is realistic but challenging.

DON’T: Pick vague resolutions. “Exercise more” is a common resolution. How much is “more”? If you normally stay glued to your couch, does walking the extra 3 feet to the recliner count as “more exercise”?

DO: Pick specific resolutions. “Train for and run a 5K” is specific. You know exactly what you must do to meet this goal. Programs even exist to help you.

DON’T: Forget to set a deadline. “Pay off debt” is doable and specific but without a deadline you might not get around to it.

DO: Set doable deadlines. “Pay off debt by June” gives you a deadline. Now you can start budgeting for the next 6 months.

DON’T: Set too many resolutions at once. “Train for a 5K and finish novel first draft and volunteer at the kids’ schools every week and……” This is just another way of making your resolutions unachievable.

DO: Focus on the most important goals. For most of us, one or two hard but doable resolution will be about right.

DON’T: Make a resolution and forget about it. That’s a sure-fire way to fail your resolutions.

DO: Share your resolutions with supportive friends and family. They’ll keep you on track and support you along the way. Why not start in the comments below?

 

What are your 2016 resolutions?