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Keep Juggling – Using a Chart to Track Writing Goals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 Responses to “Keep Juggling – Using a Chart to Track Writing Goals”

  1. Patty Wysong

    Thank you! I’ve been wondering about this aspect of writing. (not that I’m there yet, by any stretch of the imagination. LOL)

  2. Cara Putman

    Brilliant! I’ll have to develop this…you’d think I’d already have a chart since I use Excel for EVERYTHING. But the longer I write, the more I see gaps where I need to get a wee bit more organized!

  3. Ane Mulligan

    I’m the same way, Sarah, and this is a good chart. What I like is that it’s not a calendar, so you can choose when you do each item, but know what month it needs to be done in. I’ll adopt it … once I get a contract. 😮

  4. Richard Mabry

    Sarah, Great post and fantastic way to keep track of all those balls. I’ll be adopting this one ASAP.

  5. jude

    Sarah, I love seeing things all at a glance like this. Will play with this idea! Thanks.
    Jude Urbanski

  6. Sarah Sundin

    Thanks, everyone! I’m glad it helped. The fun part is personalizing it to meet your needs, wherever you’re at.

  7. Regina Jennings

    Thanks for sharing. I waste a lot of time because I don’t have the next task right in from of me. This is a great idea.

  8. cbalmony

    Thanks! Printing this now. I’m a visual learner as well, so this will come in handy.

  9. Stephanie Morrill

    Oh, Sarah, this is excellent! I love the idea of having a monthly review of what needs to happen and when. Thank you SO much for sharing. I’m going to make my own. Hopefully that’ll help me balance my time a bit better.

    And I’m going to be linking to this from my Go Teen Writers site. (By the way, don’t see your August Go Teen Writers appearance on your publicity column!)