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Write From Home
Kim Wilson
P.O. Box 4145
Hamilton, NJ 08610

E-mail: kim @ writefromhome.com

The Shy Writer

Organization—How Do You Do It?
by C. Hope Clark, author of The Shy Writer

As owner of FundsforWriters, fulltime freelance writer, and recent author of the book The Shy Writer, I am asked often, "What is your secret to doing all you do?" Frankly, I had to stop and look around me, analyze what I consciously did (and didn't do) to be productive. It's been a long road and I still don't see the end in sight (thank-goodness) but I believe some habits of mine might count as good and rewarding toward being an efficient writer.

E-mail is a time saver or a time waster, depending on how you manage it. E-mail saves me time in many ways.

  • Subscriptions bring me research information I use in FundsforWriters and my writing, which decreases surfing time. I have contests, jobs, grants and markets come to me in droves, and I pick and choose what is pertinent to the FundsforWriters reader. When I initiated FFW, I had to search for each and every one.
  • E-mail decreases phone time. So much time is wasted trying to connect with people, making small talk beforehand, and closing the conversation. A twenty-minute phone call can take place in two minutes online.
  • E-mail opens doors. People can read a hundred e-mails in the time it takes to make 10 phone calls. People are more available via e-mail, and I've made more connections that way than via phone and snail mail.
  • Most of my day's informational and research work comes laid out for instant review. I can open all personal messages first, then open all the sales related information, then the subscriptions, then whatever category I choose next. Having all my mail laid out before me with subject headers allows me to prioritize and better coordinate my work.

E-mail can be a time waster, too.

  • Chain letters, jokes and cartoons waste a lot of time if you receive too many. Be selective, and don't be tempted to read and redistribute all that you receive. I often delete them unopened.
  • Take a moment and use your spam filter, giving it the proper direction to do what you want it to do to better screen your messages.
  • Check your spam-filtered messages daily and adjust your address book accordingly to allow those you need to read.

Desk environment
Have a place for everything. I can sit in a swivel chair and reach my address labels, stapler, scanner, printer, USB ports, bookshelves, mail and files. My chair is ergonomic so that I can last as long as possible without back, shoulder or wrist problems. My mouse is wireless and ergonomic. My calendar is in plain view with deadlines and appointments. Postage sits ready to use. A thick coaster keeps my drink from weeping onto papers. My phone sits within reach and has a speaker attachment to save my neck.

In other words, streamline. Remember the movie Men in Black where the alien was in MIB headquarters with multiple arms performing multiple receptionist duties? That's about how I like my desk to feel—so I can do anything when I need to without wasted motion.

Time schedule
Now you need to designate when you do what. Most importantly, when is the best time of day for you to write? Carve that out, schedule it and adhere to it. Make your family and friends respect it. I write best in the evening and into the night. And I love writing all Sunday when I can because that's the day of lowest e-mail volume. I almost feel deprived and hungry when I do not get my writing time done on a daily basis.

Second most important schedule is your marketing time. Carve that time out as well. It might be 15 minutes a day or one evening a week, but do it. I market FundsforWriters in everything I write—each query, each newsletter and each e-mail. And now I'm making at least three promotional connections for my new book The Shy Writer, each and every day with the efforts marked on a spreadsheet. I do that type of work earlier in the day since it is more left-brain type work leaving my right-brain rested for the evening writing.

Third, you need to rejuvenate with other writers or mentors. That's an easy time to skip when time schedules run amuck, but these connections recharge your batteries. Once a month, once a week, in person, in a chat, whatever. I have a breakfast buddy who edits and writes. We meet monthly for about three hours and solve the writing world's problems. And I have a friendly chat room I enjoy every couple of weeks.

It's so easy to set big grandiose goals for New Years and never meet them. I keep 13 in play, which means I keep at least 13 queries live at all times. When I get a rejection, I submit something else. I actually keep closer to 18 now that it's a habit. I've followed this plan for three years and it now raises a sense of urgency in me when I see the numbers drop.

Write 1,000 words a week, a chapter a week, or 2,500 words a month or whatever suits your fancy. If you miss it or fall short, do not kick yourself or try to double up the next time. Just regain your footing and keep focused. Making up for lost time only tires you out and frustrates you.

Many people fall short here. I like to know what I've done, plus the organization of queries, income, expenses, marketing and submissions saves time in the long run. My taxes come together more easily. I know what type of article fairs better with what publications. I can identify trends, and I can control my spending when my marketing zeal goes too far. Actually, I have to rein myself in here or I'd do more organizing than writing, but the writing can't evolve and produce unless you know what direction to take it. Without organization of your efforts, your energies go helter-skelter and suddenly you're disenchanted and throwing up your hands.

When to do the organization, you ask? When you submit an article, log it in right then. When you sell a book, log in the sale right then. I have two main spreadsheet files with multiple pages on each. As I work throughout the day, I keep these two files minimized on my screen. When I put the stamp on that query envelope, I flip up the screen and note the publisher, date and estimated response time. When that time arrives I either query the editor again or submit the piece to someone else. But I know who, what, when and where about my work.

And when I receive payment, I mark it off pending and add it to the collected category. I tally that one often because it's fun to watch—most of the time. I know what my average monthly income is supposed to be, and I see when I'm ahead or behind my goals. Plus, I know when to ask for a payment that might appear a little tardy.

Organization might be a dirty word in the writer's vocabulary, but doing the necessary duties gives him more time to relish in that world of words he so enjoys. Taking a little bit of time here and there makes a writing career much more fun, efficient and even financially productive.

C. Hope Clark is founder of FundsforWriters.com and just released a new book, The Shy Writer.










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