5 Tips for Authors to Keep Writing-Related Tasks Straight

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Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days now available. See details below.

I’ll share what I do to keep the writing, marketing, financial, pay-it-forward, and event tasks straight. I hope other authors will share what they do. Now that I have eight books in different stages of publishing, I’d welcome more suggestions.

Tip 1: Make Separate Marketing Mailboxes for Each Book on Email.

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Since you’ll use these mailboxes every day, place them at the front of your mailboxes so you’re not constantly scrolling. Put them alphabetically by a title word or title’s initials.

Add sub-mailboxes that work for you. My sub-mailboxes are:

  • Ads
  • Announcements
  • Books in Store (where I keep all my purchased Kindle gift-book emails ready to forward for giveaways, contests, reviews, etc.)
  • Contests
  • Endorsers
  • Events (online and physical)
  • Guest Blogs
  • Influencers
  • Materials (bookmarks, postcards, business cards, posters, etc.)
  • Reviews
  • Winners

Drag pertinent emails into these mailboxes. When you have a question about what a blogger wants from you as a guest, you can find it quickly in the Guest Blogs emails for that book. Don’t forget to store your sent emails too so you know what you’ve submitted or agreed to.

Tip 2: Keep Logs for Certain Responsibilities.

I agreed to be the treasurer for a state chapter of an international writers’ group to pay forward help I’ve received. I’m responsible for special and yearend reports. So I keep a log in a word processor table (could use a spreadsheet) of each action I perform. Just a brief action, who, and a date. For special, monthly, or yearend reports, I don’t have to remember or hunt for what I did.

This would be good for keeping track of what you’ve done or assigned to others for a large launch party. 

Tip 3: Have Frequently Used Documents Quickly Accessible.


My husband John takes care of much of the marketing, financial, and KDP publishing tasks. We have a shared folder on Dropbox with subfolders and sub-subfolders: 

  • for each book 
    • final edited manuscript
    • long and short blurbs and bios, 
    • interview content
    • marketing documents (ad and tweet content)
    • memes
  • one for all books 
    • headshot
    • financial spreadsheets
    • all final book covers 
    • newsletter content
    • general marketing

I can quickly find the items hosts ask me to attach for my guest posts, newspaper interviews, and events. 

Tip 4: Make the Best Use of a Calendar.

Most writers put events and due dates on their calendars. Try jotting a note on the dates you’ll write a guest post, interview, or workshop. Enter a note on the date you’ll polish and send it and one on the date it goes live and you’ll promote it. Also, I enter dates I expect my guests to have sent their guest posts to me.

I live by a weekly schedule sheet I developed. When I create my schedule for the next week, my calendar helps make my job easy. I know what stages of projects I need to schedule. I don’t worry about ending up in a crunch.

Tip 5: Use Checklists for Repeated Tasks.

Writers usually have blogging or other tasks they do each week or month. I developed a checklist for putting my blog content on WordPress and promoting it. Then I don’t forget to add links, select a featured image, add tags, or who I’ve promoted it to after it’s published. 

What tips do you have to keep all your tasks straight?

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Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

10 Essentials I’d Pack for a Three-Week Writing Retreat

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Suppose you were offered a three-week stay at a comfortable hideaway to write a book. What ten things would you take? Here’s my list of essentials and why I’d need them.

1. Rules of engagement.

I’ll post these rules in a visible spot:

  1. Nix thoughts about problems or upcoming events. Bring a taser to punish infringements.
  2. Lock my cell in my car or rental. Use for emergencies only. Running out of underwear is not an emergency.
  3. Eat out only once a week. Fast food only.
  4. Forget social media exists. Check emails only twice a day.

2. My two laptops, portable printer, chargers, and a ream of paper.

  • Free-Photos

    If one laptop gets overheated, I can open my manuscript on the other from Dropbox.
  • I can look at research on one laptop while I type on the other.
  • Sometimes I need to have a printed version to highlight items or put check marks on. It’s a feel-good thing.

3. Hero’s Journey Outline and Description.

I use this tool to roughly plot my entire story quickly. I’ll write the story by the seat of my pants from the this outline.

4. Printed blank calendar.

  • I’ll print the month sheets for the time period covered in my novel.
  • Using my Hero’s Journey outline, I’ll jot story events in the calendar boxes in pencil. The calendar helps me avoid contradictory, awkward, or impossible timing of events.
  • I’ll tack the sheets to the wall to easily see the layout of events as I progress my story.

5. Scrivener.

  • Scrivener is my writing software. I use a fraction of its functions, but I like the ease of creating a manuscript.
  • The sidebar shows me all my named scenes so I can quickly find the scene I want to check or edit.
  • Getting word count for manuscript, chapters, or scenes is a snap. So is moving scenes from one chapter to another.
  • I can copy research into named folders under the research folder.

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6. Dictionary and Thesaurus.

  • I use my Mac dashboard, Microsoft Word, and Scrivener dictionaries and thesauruses. It seems like I check every other word’s definition and hunt constantly for synonyms.
  • I want my hard copies of The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (my editor uses this one) and some specialized dictionaries.


7. My writing grammar books and manuals.

I can never remember some grammar rules and style preferences, and new grammar questions arise.

8. Google and Research Notes.

I do look-ups on google for how, when, where, who, why, and what of things from pigs to names of tie knots.

9. My “Love” Playlist.

I need silence when I write. But I write romances, so sometimes I like to listen to my favorite love songs while I write those romantic scenes.

10. My editing checklist. 

I have a comprehensive checklist, which will be published in my upcoming book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days. It’s designed so writers can customize the checklist to their problem areas and where they need reminders.

Bonus: A local pizza delivery telephone number.

I’m sure I’ll get tired of soups and snacks.

Ten essentials I’d take on a three-week writers retreat.  Click to tweet.

What would you take on your three-week writing retreat?

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Candace Parks lives a passionless life in Richmond, Virginia. The computer programmer returns to the empty family home in the Blue Ridge Mountains to evaluate her job, faith, and boyfriend. Her high school crush, star football player and prom king Trigg Alderman, is in Twisty Creek visiting his grandmother who lives next door to Candace’s family home. He doesn’t recognize her at first and remembers little about her. He’s not alone. Candace’s rekindled attraction to Trigg adds unexpected complications to finding her passions. Sorting her life out? How about nothing of the sort!