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Develop a Writing Plan

Updated on December 11, 2012

If you work at home as a writer, you face hazards that many professions do not. You are alone all day, with nothing but a blank piece of paper. Oh wait, that isn't true. You have laundry, dishes, your blog, the phone, animals, kids, and the Internet to distract you. There is no boss to breathe down your neck, no conference meetings, or deadlines (except the ones you self-impose). Just you, your paper, and your distractions. And one more thing...a loud inner critic.

If you have any hopes of making it in the writing world, you must develop a writing plan.

This is what happens when you don't develop a writing plan. You waste your time making stupid pictures with PicMonkey.
This is what happens when you don't develop a writing plan. You waste your time making stupid pictures with PicMonkey. | Source

What kind of writer are you?

Are you a copywriter, professional blogger, article writer, journalist, poet, author, or all of the above? Many writers have multiple projects going on at once; one type of writing isn't enough to bring home the bacon.

Why is it important to categorize your writing?
Well for one, certain types of writing use the left side of the brain and some- the right. Sitting down to write poetry requires inspiration, creativity, and free thinking. Copywriting an article about the latest set of rubbermaid uses a completely different set of skills (think left brain sprinkled with a lot of bullshit).

Then there are bloggers and article writers. This type of writing includes sharing on social media, interacting with readers, and researching the trending topics on the Internet to hit those search engine optimized keywords.

What about authors? They usually have long-term projects that require focus and concentration. Reworking chapter 21 out of 50 requires you to plot details, outline, and use that inner critic to flesh out a story.

If your to-do list includes all of those things in one day, your brain might just short-circuit. Here's how to wear all those hats without losing your mind.

What time of day is best?

If you've been writing for awhile, you should have some clues into your writing habits and productivity. You need to take a good hard look at the time of day where you are most focused and productive. Developing your writing plan around this natural rhythm is crucial.

Time of Day
Typical Writer
Right Brained Night Owl
Procrastination Station
Early morning (4am-8am)
Bursts of inspiration propel you out of bed to write.
You never went to bed, so you are still working.
Sleep
Morning (8am-12pm)
Productive, energetic, focused.
Sleep.
Checking social media. Blogging.
Lunchtime (12pm-1pm)
Still productive, a little less focused.
Sleep.
A few articles, nothing big.
Early afternoon (1pm-3pm)
Only projects that require a little bit of skill. You are tired.
Up and at em. Focused and ready.
Time for lunch!
Late afternoon (3pm-5pm)
Coffee and a nap are all that happens.
Productive
Gotta check Twitter!
Dinnertime (5pm-7pm)
Food, chores, life.
Coffee and a nap.
Chores, chores, chores
Early evening (7pm-9pm)
A brief second wind but it's short.
Finishing up the day's chores.
Time to work on my novel.
Late evening (9pm-4am)
Sleeping.
Time to get writing again!
Gosh I'm tired. I'll do it tomorrow.

You should identify two or three times a day that are your best chunks. For me, it is early morning (4am-8am) and morning (9am-12pm). After that, I'm only at 50% capacity.

During a typical five day work week, that means I have ten optimal writing times. Then I have an additional ten half-productive writing times, and five early evening sessions (if I'm lucky). That's 25 blocks of time.

If you looked at your chart and realized that you were the procrastination station, well you'll want to try to move into one of the two other schedules. Also, part-time writers will have to adjust their schedule to fit in other jobs and responsibilities.

Plan the week

It is Sunday night and your week is about to begin. You know you have several random copywritng jobs that clients are waiting for, you want to work on your book, pimp out your blog, and of course, write some articles that bring in money! Then there is that query letter you want to write, and some networking you need to do with other bloggers. The stress mounts. How can I get it all done?

Identify your deadlines
If you've promised articles to clients, those should be the first on your list. Slate them for your most productive time on Monday. If you have "soft" goals (like you want to write three hubs), then scatter them throughout the week.

Don't mix your writings
If you are working on copywriting on Monday, save your novel for Tuesday. Don't try to seamlessly transition from one to the other- it'll hurt your brain. This is why categorizing writing by day can help tremendously. If you have to transition in the middle of the day, it is easier to go from creative writing to technical writing then the other way around. Here is a sample schedule. Notice on the days that I work on my novel and articles, the novel is done first.

Sample schedule for a work at home writer

Time of Day
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Early Morning
Sleep
Sleep
Sleep
Novel inspiration!
Sleep
Morning
Copywriting, Hub
Novel editing
Copywriting
Copywriting
Novel writing
Lunchtime
Research more jobs
Novel editing
Blog
Hub
Query Letter
Early Afternoon
Personal blog
Hub
Hub
Blog, Social Media
Hub
Late Afternoon
Kids
Kids
Kids
Kids
Kids
Dinnertime
Food, kids
Food, kids
Food, kids
Food, kids
Food, kids
Early Evening
Social Media, blog
Social Media, blog
Social Media, research more jobs
Social Media, blog
Social Media, blog
Late Evening
Sleep
Sleep
Sleep
Sleep
Sleep

Social media: friend and foe

As a blogger, social media is a necessary part of pulling in work. When you post a blog or article, it is natural to share it across platforms. The trick is to continue working, without checking the comments or traffic stats every few minutes!

If you post a blog in the morning, check the comments at lunchtime. Don't stop writing the article for just a "quick look." It's never quick right?

When you are neck deep in creative writing, turn off your Wi-fi. You may think, Oh I don't need to do that. I'll just not look. Trust me, unhooking yourself will help. For some people, closing the computer and writing on a notepad helps the creative juices to flow.

I save all my commenting on other's work for the evening. It is easy to do while I'm watching television or doing other tasks. It doesn't take a lot of energy, and I can continue to network and foster my relationships with other writers.

Using dead time
I try to tell myself that using those random minutes of time are important. Rather then spending an hour of my morning on Facebook, why not check it while I'm waiting for the bus, in line at the bank, or cooking dinner? There are always pockets of 5 or 10 minutes- a perfect amount for sending a tweet or posting a comment.

Breaking down big tasks

As a writer, I am sometimes tempted to put off the big projects because the smaller ones are so satisfying. I write an article, I post it, I make money! The novel takes months of writing, editing, revising, querying, etc. The investment is long-term.

So how do you break down that writing into manageable chunks?
The standard novel is around 80,000 words. You want to have a general outline (if you are an outline person, this will be a big project all in itself). But 80,000 words can be completed in three short months if you write 1000 words a day. 1000 words is about two pages (depending on the formatting). You can write two pages a day right?

With a novel outline, you can break your book down into scenes. If you are humming along at 1000 words a day and you get stuck- no big deal. Just write a different scene. 1000 words a day is all you need. No revising, no editing, no inner critic.

Find themes
For example, this week I had to write several articles about online education and learning. These were copywriting jobs so I did my research and wrote those SEO friendly articles. After I was done, I wanted to write a hub. Why not stick to the same theme? I had already done the research. All I had to do was come up with a unique angle from the previous articles (no spinning allowed!)

I saved so much time simply because I used the research knowledge I had already acquired to write my hub article. (Are you a writer reading this and wondering what all this "hubbing" is about? Join Hubpages and you can publish articles like this one and make money doing it!)

Try writing on paper if you are stuck in your novel.
Try writing on paper if you are stuck in your novel. | Source

Categorize jobs

I have alluded to this in other hubs, but it is important to make good use of your time. If you are using the google adwords tool to research keywords, go ahead and do it for all the articles you have to write for the week. The same goes for your copywriting articles. Do the brainstorming first for all the articles on your list. If you work for Textbroker, you'll have more success writing quickly if you stick to one or two topics along the same line.

Don't wait for inspiration

A burst of energy and inspiration is addicting. Writing during these moments feels incredible. Unfortunately, it is a tad unpredictable. Sometimes you just have to put your hands to the keyboard and type. It doesn't matter if it is hogwash, you can deal with that later.

There have been times where I have had tremendous anxiety about sitting down to write my book. All sorts of self-doubt and negative thoughts cloud my thinking. In that moment I have to say, I am opening up the damn document and I am typing. I may not know what I'm going to say at this minute, but I will.

More often than not, the words eventually do make it to the page.

This is why developing a writing plan is so important. You have to be deliberate, otherwise the little and big distractions of life will pull you away. Even if you feel like your day wasn't productive, you've taken one more step closer to realizing your dream.

Source

About the author

Julie DeNeen is a freelance writer and mom of three. She is a chronic blogger, full-fledged social media addict, and aspiring author. She has taken the writing career by storm, putting to use all her organizational type A skills to get things done.

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    • HoneyBB profile image

      Honey Halley 4 years ago from Illinois

      This is great advice which I can imagine will help me to be a more productive writer when I actually write my plan out and stick to it. On another note, I would love to read a hub from you outlining what it entails to set up a profile with a site like oDesk and what basic info writers might put in their profile and how the whole thing works. If you should ever write this, I will read it. Thanks for sharing.

    • carter06 profile image

      Mary 4 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      Thanks Julie as always your hubs are excellent & so very useful...voted UUAI shared, pinned & tweeted

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Great article, Julie, and perhaps it will nudge me to develop a more organized approach to my own writing, which is haphazard at best. Thanks!

      Jaye

    • joanveronica profile image

      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Fantastic article! Voted up, awesome and interesting, I will probably come back to share later on. In the meantime, saving it for future reference! Thank you so much for this help. I do need these ideas!

    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 4 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      Intensely useful article...

      " Hub of the Day for me" today... I am saving a pdf copy of this hub for help in writing....

      You have encompassed all the aspects of writing ... abstract and real with fine detail and crafted an excellent hub....

      PS: For me... the wee hours of the night are the best... :)

      Great great hub

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 4 years ago from Iowa

      Great tips. And this is my favorite description of copywriting ever: "left brain sprinkled with a lot of bullshit." : )

    • annerivendell profile image

      annerivendell 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Another great and useful Hub. Voted up.

    • LupitaRonquillo profile image

      LupitaRonquillo 4 years ago

      Thank you for a very helpful article.

    • KoraleeP profile image

      Koralee Phillips 4 years ago from Vernon British Columbia Canada

      Thanks for the tips. I really liked the categorize jobs idea. Thanks!

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image

      Melissa Flagg 4 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      This is a great article. I've been trying to come up with a writing plan, but I'm just so horrible at sticking with it. For me, it seems like trying to put a "theme" to each day just doesn't work. My ADHD kicks in and I end up all over the place. Although I get a lot accomplished, it's never what I planned.

      I'll have to try planning my week again. I enjoy the planning stage, it's just the sticking with it that's difficult, but your article has renewed my motivation. We'll see how long it lasts lol

    • cygnetbrown profile image

      Donna Brown 4 years ago from Alton, Missouri

      I so agree that waiting for inspiration is a waste of time. So why do I do it all the time?

    • Phil Plasma profile image

      Phil Plasma 4 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Great idea for getting organized. I get maybe one or two blocks of writing time a week that are not at my optimal writing time. Oh well. Voted up and useful!

    • CBM1987 profile image

      CBM1987 4 years ago

      Very detailed, I enjoyed the read. I've always had one issue with writing, that's when I get up and walk away. Once I come back and continue a piece it always feels as if a different person is writing the next segment. Drives me insane, trying to figure out why it just wont flow the same as before =p thanks for the read

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Wow great info Julie! I'm fairly new to the writing market so this is awesome for me.

      I'm just now learning to try to sort some Od it out and make a better schedule. It feels like stuff sort of is falling apart for me right now. I can't keep up! Wah...this helps me though so there's hope!

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 4 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Great job Julie! I could not have read this article at a better time. My first week of freelance writing is over, and what a week it's been! I thought I planned my days right, but I ended up each day wondering where the hours went. And I don't have kids! Your hub is going to help me tremendously and I think next week is going to go a lot better. I'll start with planning articles and hubs for next week as you mentioned - looking for keywords and trying to find topics sometimes seem to take too long.

      Thanks for this! Voted up - interesting - awesome - useful!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dead time? What the hell is that? LOL Great suggestions Julie! I pretty much follow your suggestions....the one I don't follow....not mixing writings....doesn't affect me or my output.

    • Sinea Pies profile image

      Sinea Pies 4 years ago from Northeastern United States

      Julie, you're talking right where I live now. My day job left me so I considered it opportunity knocking at my door. But family, pets, a reconstruction project in my home, decluttering that was long overdue, yada yada and I have been less productive as a writer than I was when I had a day job! I'm back in the groove now. Thanks for the great advice!

      ...Voted up and useful and tweeted!

    • profile image

      kelleyward 4 years ago

      I'm an early morning typical writer. I'm dead around 6 pm :). Thanks for the great ideas. I'm starting to look for copywriting jobs. Voted up and shared! Kelley

    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Great ideas! I'm definitely the night owl writer. My best writing comes between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. Left side of brain seems to be the one that lost the brain cells in the late 60's and early 70's. Scheduling table is of interest, too! Like always, another Great Job! Up & Useful & Interesting!

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Julie, I couldn't agree more with the essence of your article that as a writer it is so very important to have a writing plan. I have to tell you that the more I am writing the more I am coming to the realization that this is so key and integral, because no matter what I am a wife and a mother too and have a ton on my plate, so I do have to multi-task and having a plan for my writing does help, because I truly can't do it all the time. Have of course voted, shared and tweeted too :)

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