How to Prioritize Your Writing Tasks


Do you ever feel overwhelmed at the endless “should do” book/blog tasks swirling through your brain? It frequently happens to me! One minute I’m thinking “I need to journal what happened yesterday before I forget, and the next I’m debating whether I should continue sending out query letters to literary agents for Smashing Castles; how a young autistic woman discovers her authentic self. That title’s way too long!

I honestly believe we writers smash our heads against cement with all our internal wrangling over which writing task to perform next! Do we really need these emotional toxins floating through our minds like dust-bunnies with fangs? A scary visual image with Halloween so near!

The saying “Prioritize according to deadline” works great if you’re working for a company, but it’s way more difficult when you’re self-employed in the literary arts because you’re in charge of yourself. Quite a burden, to say the least!

You probably don’t want to hear this — I know I don’t, and I’m writing it! — but ORGANIZATION is the answer to success in prioritizing your writing tasks. Some writers like to dictate their book/blog tasks into their phone. To me, that’s just dumping “stuff” at random into a tiny vessel. Other writers like to list by date their tasks in a single spiral notebook; the trick is to keep that notebook close by at all times.

As a former special education teacher, I’ve found the organizational technique that works best for me: color coding. I write all my writing tasks on one page in my spiral notebook, in no particular order.Then I create a rating scale by color: A red check mark in front of that task means it MUST be done ASAP. Tasks like sending a book synopsis out to a literary agent who requested it receives a red check mark.

Editing twenty pages of Market for Murder, my upcoming — in the next millenium — fifth suspense novel, receives a green check mark because although I luv, luv, luv editing, it’s not imperative to work on the task this second unless an agent or publisher has requested it.

A new book idea I want to explore receives a purple check mark; purple signifies “passion” to me. Or maybe I already started fleshing out a short story and don’t yet know where it’s going. That gets purple and blue checkmarks because I’ve already begun to shape my story.

As I complete each task, and these tasks might take several days, I cross off that particular checkmark and indicate the date it was completed. Really reduces the stress! Maybe you’d prefer to put an additional check mark next to an item for each day you’ve been working on that item.  It’s all up to you, as are the colors you choose! You might prefer highlighting the writing task in a particular color instead of solely putting a colored check mark in front of the item.

When it comes to organizing your writing tasks, as with all tasks, there is no “one size fits all.” If you would like to share a technique that DOES work for you, please let me know! For now, keep exploring!