Getting organised: Trello

Yesterday I realised I’d not done any writing in almost two weeks – not ANY writing at all …

… well, I lied. I *did* actually write the structure for a book proposal on 29 June, complete with outline ideas for a further 14 potential non-fiction books.

Obviously, I’m not going to be able to write 15 new non-fiction books any time soon. And many of the ideas may be rejected anyway. But I can do the book proposal for book one and include two books on the same broad topic as the three-book-option.  If the publisher likes all three, then he’ll give me the go ahead. If he only likes one or two, he’ll come up with suggestions for book(s) two and three himself.

And, of course, he could just hate the first proposal and it’ll be back to the drawing board. It’s good to know, though, that there are already 12 more waiting in the sidelines.

But it’s a start, and that’s the main thing.

Getting organised
After tidying up my diary and sorting out my workload yesterday, I did two more things:

  1. I updated my online T-card system
  2. I started a new think/query/write/submit

Because I’m very behind on the think/query/write/submit system, I’m coming up with ideas for all four: Feb 18/Jan 18/Dec 17/Nov 17.

Fave short story market is already looking for stories for October and November. I have one November short story that’s already doing the rounds. But if I can come up with new short stories very quickly that would be suitable for November publication, or if I can slant one I’m already working on to October or November (or December), then I’m halfway there.

For everything else, I have to start again from scratch.

Trello
And that brings me on to my online T-card system.

Because I *do* juggle so many different ideas and projects at a time (I get bored and need the variety), I tasked the poet with finding me some kind of online project management system.

The first one he came up with was a Gantt-type chart. I tried it, but it was too big and complicated for what I needed. Then I asked him to find some kind of T-card system instead. And he found Trello.

Does anyone remember using T-cards? I’ve used them in loads of jobs and find them very useful.

I use the free version, but there is a premium version too. This is what my main Trello board looks like:

The picture’s a bit small, but you might be able to see that I can “star” or “favourite” however many boards I want to. And I can share the boards with other people, or they can share their boards with me. Then I can copy T-cards from one board to another.

I’d like to be able to update just one card and it automatically update all other copies elsewhere. I don’t know yet if Trello does that or if it’s in the premium version. But if it does, then that would also be very useful for me.

I have a board for each of my editing and proofreading clients, I have a board for my own books, I have a board for my short material, and I have a master board for all the books I’m working on. This master board used to include short material too, but it just went on and on and on for ever…

Here is my own book board:

As you can see, there are a few books on there. The cut-off column to the right is books still in planning stages.

I choose to change the background colour of each of my boards. I can also colour-code the labels and I have a key to remind me. These coloured labels show me at a glance how far I’ve progressed for each project.

I’d like to be able to move short card-sections to beneath existing columns. At the moment each new list starts a new column so there’s wasted space beneath shorter sections. Again, that may be possible, but I haven’t found it yet.

Here is my short material board:

This has ALL of my short material on – short stories, articles, RTEs (reader’s true experience), fillers, reader’s letters, etc. At every stage of production. The “in progress” section goes below the screen area, but you can scroll down to view them all.

Again, the labels are colour coded.

Even the cards themselves can be edited to suit. You can add pictures, comments, details such as targeted word-count, target market, target fee, actual fee, and a to-do list, which I really, really like. You can also attach files…

Here is a close-up of a T-card for a short story that’s currently with a market:

(They’ve asked for a slight re-write, so I need to crack on with that this week.)

I’m not using it to its full capability, but this is enough for me. I can tell at a glance how far along in the production process it is.

The beauty of Trello, for me, is that I can access it and update it from anywhere online, even via the mobile phone. So as I’m in the habit of packing a notepad and pen and writing something wherever I end up, I can easily update how far along I am. I can see which of my short pieces is next on the to-do list (and I’ve probably taken a previous draft or any notes with me), and I can mark off whichever task or chore I’ve done.

If you fancy giving Trello a go, it’s free and you can do so by following this link. Let me know if you do and how you get along with it.

Do you have any online organisation tools you like to use?

New beginnings (*** list alert ***)

The news that yet another short story magazine has closed its doors to all but a privileged few has knocked me sideways somewhat this past week. It’s not a market I’ve had a lot of success with, but it’s a good market to target anyway and at least the result is a completed short story at the end of it.

I had such plans, though. I’d bought a new diary that starts in January and finishes in December instead of sticking with my usual academic diary, and I’d insisted on getting one with appointments so I can stick to my individual time-slots. I’d written out a schedule of work for various drafts of various short stories, to ensure I completed something. And I’d bought recent copies of all of the short story magazines you can buy on any newsstand in the UK.

My short stories generally “do the rounds”. I write them with a specific market in mind and then, if they’re rejected, I’ll work on them to make them suitable for the next market on the list. That list has got shorter and shorter until now there are only three. One favourite market had already temporarily closed its doors before Christmas, and then this other one slammed them shut over the Christmas period.

So I took a step back and spent my first official day back in the office (aka yesterday) having a rethink.

Fortunately, my diary is always written in pencil – apart from anniversaries, birthdays and other un-moveable events. So I can rethink the schedule, rub them out and start all over again.

Fortunately, there are other markets for short stories – I just have to work harder to find them and build up a new routine.

Fortunately, I am not averse to self-publishing collections of my own short stories, and it is these anthologies that have actually worked the hardest for me out of all of my self-published books. (In case you’re interested, you can find all of my current books here.)

I’ve renewed my previously expired subscription to Duotrope. I’m going to buy a writing magazine each month and try and target at least one competition or call for submissions. And I’m following several websites that list opportunities for writers.

Words Worth Writing is also having a bit of a facelift for the new year:

  • Diary of a Freelance Writer  will be updated to the end of 2016 and then it will be finished. A lot of readers do say they enjoy it, but – really – there is only so much that changes from week-to-week that it can get quite … stale. I’m working on a collection of the previous Diary of a Scaredy Cat and this will be followed by a collection for Diary of a Freelance Writer. Both will include extra exercises for readers to try at the end of each section or chapter, and there may be further insights discovered since they were originally written. I was going to complete two volumes of Diary of a Freelance Writer, but I’ve decided now that one should be sufficient.
  • At least once a month I’ll be interviewing writers of all levels about their work and especially if they have books coming out. Please let me know if you’d like to take part, with thanks to those who already have.
  • There will be more “nuts and bolts” posts, ranging from (*** dirty word alert ***) money, including how to set your own minimum rate and how and when to chase payments that are overdue, to working as a freelance writer and all the things that involves.
  • I’m going to try and read, review and attempt the exercises in a writers’ guide each week – 52 Books in 52 Weeks. If you have any suggestions, or any writers’ guides of your own coming out, again let me know, but do bear in mind these MUST include practical exercises that lead to a finished piece. I’m simply incapable of doing writing exercises for exercise-sake.
  • Because it’s been requested, I’ll do an ideas masterclass at least once a month.
  • And there will still always be homework suggestions.

Tales From Baggins Bottom will be changing too. I’ll still have My Fat Year and a walk or a day out as often as we do them. But new features will include Tales From the Farm and the long overdue Wormy’s Kitchen.

Behind the scenes I’ll be working on quite a few things too:

  • I want to get back into feature writing, so will be doing the whole ideas-to-finished-piece myself (watch out for a new book on this …).
  • I’ll still be writing short stories, but they’ll be more market-orientated and will automatically go forward into the self-published anthologies in case they don’t do well elsewhere.
  • I’m finishing Diary of a Scaredy Cat. Watch out for this soon too.
  • I have Catch the Rainbow to fine-tune and polish. I want that to be doing the rounds by mid-year.
  • I’m starting The Beast Within, which is the next Marcie Craig mystery.
  • I’ll be collating Diary of a Freelance Writer and adding in those extra exercises and insights.
  • There should be at least two more volumes of Tales From Baggins Bottom in the pipeline this year.

As a point of note, everything – everything – I write is with a view to it earning its keep and/or getting it published, either via the traditional route or myself. This is the way I roll.

I hope you enjoy the new features. Here is today’s homework:

  1. Spend some quiet time thinking about where you want to go next. What has changed recently to make you rethink plans or your way of work? Jot these thoughts down.
  2. Challenge yourself to come up with at least one thing you’re going to do differently – more if you have them. Give yourself a deadline to do this by. Then do it.
  3. Choose a writers’ guide. Read it from cover to cover. Go back and do the exercises with a view to sending the finished product(s) out. Polish it, find a market, adapt it to suit, and then send it out. Spend the next 6 months looking for another market for each item, in case the market you sent it to doesn’t use it (although they will usually come back quicker than that now if they are going to use it).
  4. Challenge yourself to try something you’ve never tried before – a reader’s letter, a filler, a poem, a short story, a puzzle, a nostalgic article or RTE (Reader’s True Experience). Find a market and send it out in its entirety. Each of these will go out in its own entirety rather than as a query. Do this at least once a month.
  5. If you don’t already, buy at least one writing magazine per month. Read it from cover to cover and look for potential markets to send your work.

Let me know how you get on!