Let’s face it. There are those who are organized—and um—those who are not. I fall into the organized category most of the time. I think it comes from being a Virgo, although sometimes that Libra thing happens. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when I don’t keep track of something or fail to find that piece of information that’s just beyond my scope of remembering where I put it.
Right now my organization skills are being put to the test as I’m in the process of moving houses after 19 years. I’m sure it’s no shock that I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff in that time period. Throw in a couple of kids and bam! It’s a bit overwhelming so it’s a good thing I meticulously went room to room and labeled each box clearly. Yes, I even labeled one “Important papers from the office.” Believe me, I needed something in that box while it was stacked in the garage before moving day and found it immediately.
Anyway, I’ve found as a writer that being organized helps, especially when I’m under a deadline, which, now that I’m with Harlequin, is almost all the time. But I’m not complaining. I’m too busy finding ways to get even more organized to streamline my process even more.
So how can you incorporate organizational skills into your writing? Easily. How many times have you had to reread your manuscript to remember the neighbor’s husband’s name? Or what outfit our heroine was wearing last time we saw her? Or what type of stores lined your town’s main street?
I keep several detailed excel spreadsheets for each manuscript I write.
1). Character Charts
I do one for each character, giving characteristics, quirks, mannerisms, etc and a photograph of what they look like. I find them at places like Fotolio or istock, etc.
2) Character names
No matter how brief they appear, I include them and how they relate to our main characters. I keep track of them because it saves time when I have to refer back to them. It’s all in one convenient place and I don’t have to scroll back through the manuscript.
3) Town Businesses and their owners.
I keep track of local businesses and who owns them as they appear in the story. Since I plan on doing more stories in this fictitious town I’ve created for my latest release, Home Sweet Home, this will only help in the next book.
4) Chapter Outlines
I keep a time line and an outline for each chapter along with page numbers and chapter lengths so I can get a feel for how long each chapter is and what has happened should I need to refer back to something.
Since Home Sweet Home dealt with renovating an old Victorian house, I kept a chart on each room in the house and the progress of the renovations as they occurred. So each time I needed to refer back to something, it was easier to page through spreadsheets than the actual manuscript. I also created an ancestry line for my heroine to keep track of marriage, birth and death dates, which coincided with the building of the original house.
I have a goals worksheet to keep track of how many words I write during each given day to make sure I’m on time with my deadlines.
I also keep spreadsheets for my taxes throughout the year too so at tax time, gathering everything together is a snap and doesn’t take up an entire weekend to get everything done for my tax guy. I just walk in his office with copies of the sheets instead of boxes full of receipts.
1) An auto log of mileage. Starting mileage, ending mileage, actual mileage driven, place and reason.
2) Income/Expense worksheet. I record my advances and royalties and of course my expenses throughout the year. This sheet came in handy when I applied for a mortgage and had to submit a profit/loss statement to the lender. After I record the receipt, I place it in a manila folder labeled recorded expenses. I also have another envelope labeled unrecorded expenses if I haven’t done them yet.
3) Personal Expenses. This is for all that lovely personal stuff like doctor and dentist visits, charitable contributions, church tithing etc. Anything that has a place on my tax return goes in this sheet and totaled at the end of the year in their various categories.
Since time is a premium for me, having everything I need at my fingertips make me more productive with the minutes I have to write. I work full-time, have two elementary school kids and managed to write Home Sweet Home in under three months. Call me anal, but it works for me. It might just work for you, too.
Kim Watters writes for Love Inspired. Her most recent book Home Sweet Home is out now. You can read more about her books on her website http://www.kimwatters.com/