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Introducing… The Writer’s Process Planner!

There is a goal-setting guide that will help you figure out what step to do next and set a good goal related to it (spoiler alert: use a number).

Happy New Year! I am excited to share my latest project, a day planner just for writers.

Around mid-November I became obsessed with bullet journals. Have you seen these? The basic idea is that you customize a day planner to suit your needs. There are some basic rules that many people follow to stay productive (like copying over tasks that still need to be done each week), but thanks to the handwriting trend, bullet journals have morphed into elaborate, beautiful, creative works of art.

A smattering of the images on my #bulletjournal Pinterest board.

I love this handwritten, fun, flexible style of planning projects and scheduling tasks, but I don’t have the time to design a new “spread” each week and month (I tried!). So, I decided to design a planner that I could print out that would look a bit like a bullet journal and work for my writing-related goals (like finishing another draft and updating my website).

The Writer’s Process Planner was born!

A sneak peek

Just like in many bullet journals, there are weekly spreads. I included space for you to write down your goals and lots of space to fill in tasks you need to get done during the day.

But what really sets this planner apart–the magic that makes it an affirmative, uplifting cheerleader and not just a super handy planner–are the trackers!

So. many. trackers!

Keep track of your word count…your sales…your submissions to publications large and small.

These trackers are the most important part of my process–the thing that has gotten me publications, an agent, and *most importantly* confidence in my work as a writer.

How it works

I have been using the process behind The Writer’s Process Planner for years. It has helped me achieve lots of writing goals, like finishing my first book-length manuscript, signing with my agent, and getting my first short story published.

In a nutshell, my process is:

  • Figure out what to do next: write more, revise something, submit something…
  • Make a goal related to that thing (and include a number)
  • Keep track of your progress toward your goal
  • Celebrate any success at all

It’s simple, but it works.

For example, when I was looking for an agent for my nonfiction manuscript, I knew I needed to send out query letters. So, my goal was to send 3 query letters a month.

This meant researching potential agents,  reading their guidelines, tweaking my query letter, and actually sending off the letters–most months, I sent out just one letter, and one month I got to two. I also participated in Twitter agent-finding events a few times. Eventually, I found my agent through #PitchMadness on Twitter.

It took months–ten, to be exact. But I stuck with it. Why? Because I was keeping track of my work! I could see what box needed to be filled in next, and each time a rejection came in, I could check off one step and go onto the next one.

I didn’t initially plan to participate in #PitchMadness, but when the opportunity came along, I had lots of material to draw from to tweet my pitch and a query letter ready to go when (after a few tries) I got a manuscript request. I also learned from each time I participated in #PitchMadness–reading others’ tweets and writing and rewriting my own improved my pitch.

This story is a good example of the type of progress lots of writers make on the path to publication. You aim for a result and try a lot of things. These things, whether you realize it or not, help you to reach your goals.

But it can be hard to keep going! Before I queried my manuscript, I sent out a few queries for another book proposal. I didn’t keep track of these very closely. I sent queries to maybe three or four agents–I even got some positive feedback!–and then I ran out of steam. Why? Because nice No’s are still No’s.

It all worked out in the end, but only after I embraced all the rejection and started believing in the process of submitting my work and trying new things.

Why it works

Writing for others and all that entails–finding your readers, honing your craft, finishing your work–isn’t easy, and it isn’t always straightforward. Many times I’ve wondered what to do next–do I write more, revise again? Do something “market-y”?

Several years into this game, I’ve figured out that it doesn’t matter exactly what you choose, as long as you choose something and stick to it. Keep your eye on the prize–a complete draft, an agent, a publication, a number of sales–and try consistently to meet it.

So, this planner will help you to do the things that I have worked at since my MFA days:

  • It shows you what step to do next, depending on your ultimate publication goals (self-publication or a traditional book deal) and genre (fiction or nonfiction).
  • It shows you your progress, through (pretty) trackers and tables where you can write down the action you take and the results you get.
  • It offers you outside validation–you can pick up the planner when you are feeling low and see how far you’ve come by reading through your progress each week.
  • It helps you to feel like a writer.

And, as a bonus, I can attest that this system has helped me to feel the pain of rejection every so slightly less.

Want to be the first to know when The Writer’s Process Planner is available? Sign up below!


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The DIY Series is *FREE* on Amazon! 10/10 – 10/14

Hi friends!

To celebrate the wonderful month of October…and my birthday, I’m giving away DIY Writing Retreat and DIY Chick Lit for free on Amazon 10/10 – 10/14.

Both are *excellent* for preparing for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and both are super fun. They are only currently available as Kindle ebooks, but you can read them on a computer, tablet, or phone if you don’t have a Kindle!

About DIY Writing Retreat:

DIY Writing Retreat - free all weekendDIY Writing Retreat: A Guide to Getting Away is a guide to making time and space for you to do exactly one thing: write. With step-by-step instructions to planning and running your own escape, DIY Writing Retreat will show you how to schedule time for your retreat, find a cabin or cabin-equivalent to stay in, and separate yourself from the rest of the world. Then, it will guide you through the entire retreat, from writing prompts to relaxing activities.

Written by the acclaimed author of DIY Chick Lit, this fun guide is sure to motivate writers at every stage, from aspiring authors to experienced novelists. Time to write alternates with fun activities that will energize you and keep you going. A worksheet guides you to reflect on your writing process and set goals for when you return home. There are even (super easy) recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Download it now!


About DIY Chick Lit:

a pink cover with a cupcake in the center, title: DIY Chick Lit/A Writing GuideDIY Chick Lit: A Writing Guide is a beginner’s guide to writing funny, snappy, sucks-you-into-the-story prose about modern women, life and love. Designed for the aspiring novelist, it’s full of tips and techniques, prompts and pep talks that will spark your imagination and inspire you to put pen to paper.

Originally published in 2013 as The Chick Lit Cookbook, this fun, cupcake-themed writer’s road map has been updated as part of acclaimed writing teacher Alicia de los Reyes’ DIY writing series.

DIY Chick Lit will take you from start to finish of your first draft in just 13 chapters, each with a short exercise that will get you writing now. Whether you’ve been wishing for years that you could write chick lit or are a brand-new fan of Bridget Jones and Becky Bloomwood, you owe it to yourself to pick up this guide.

DIY Chick Lit will prove to you that writing a novel can be fun and easy—it’s just like baking cupcakes!

Download it here!

Ends Saturday, October 14! Get them while you can!

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Four ways a day job can help your writing

Last week, I talked with Erin Lane of Holy Hellions about money and her ministry for a post I’m working on for Patheos. Erin is an author, speaker, and blogger, and she splits her time between working with a nonprofit that runs retreats and her own freelance projects.

Erin said something that really made me think: that without her work in ministry (at the nonprofit), her creative life would feel like it didn’t have enough depth, and without her creative work, her ministry would miss out on an element of playfulness.

Often, I think writers feel pulled in two directions: to find a way to make money and support themselves, and to find a way to pursue the projects they care most about. Should you pitch that boring trade publication that promises to pay or work on your passion project? Should you make writing your career or your hobby?

And then there’s the guilt that comes with not being able to find time to write because a living needs to be made. “I’ll write tomorrow,” you think. Or on the weekend. Or over vacation. Or when I retire.

But Erin’s point of view was so positive–it reminded me that writing and the other things we do can actually help each other.

In the spirit of positivity–frankly, it’s difficult for me not to be happy on this potentially 80-degree day (SUN!)–here are four ways your day job/side gig/family responsibilities can help your writing.

1. It gives your life structure. Some of the most stressful periods of my life have been when I was totally unfettered from jobs, school, and family commitments and had time to write. When I was between jobs, I stressed out about the job hunt. When I was working on my thesis, I agonized over how to spend my free time. In both cases, I found ways to add structure to my life by volunteering and making a schedule for myself. This allowed me to feel free to write in the time I made for it.

2. Work allows you to enjoy concrete progress. If you work at a company, you get periodic check-ins with your boss to chart your progress. Maybe you can even see the progress of your work: you plan a project and execute it. Or you watch your pay go up over time. You see your child learn to talk; you help her learn to get dressed on her own.

In writing, the progress can sometimes feel like no movement at all. You might spend days working on a chapter that you end up scrapping. You might send out six pitches in a week and be rejected six times. Even though these experiences might help your writing improve, writing doesn’t have as many clear milestones, and there might be an epic wait in between each one. Having a bit of job satisfaction can keep you from tearing out your hair.

3. People appreciate your work. These past few months, I’ve been working with few small businesses and nonprofits to write their company newsletters. And you know what they do at the end of each month? They thank me.

I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed people appreciating my work until I fell into a rut of writing rejection. Reading an email from a happy client was a great reminder that I’m helpful and productive.

No matter what your job is, the thank you’s you get–from your spouse, your parents, your boss, your coworkers–are a great pick-me-up when you’re not getting any feedback from the writing world.

4. You have the freedom to pursue riskier creative projects. This was really Erin’s point–she talked about the balance between flexibility and stability. A day job lets you make a living (or a partial living) outside of your writing. Contributing to your family allows you to have self-worth apart from how many publications you have. These things are vital to making you feel safe and bold enough to take on creative risks. If you have to make your living solely from writing, you’re more likely to have to take on projects that you don’t love (and that even suck you dry, creatively). Erin talked about how having some stability actually makes you more confident in the flexible part of your work–writing. It’s totally true; if I have to make all my money, I’m limited in where I can pitch and what I can write about.


Thinking this way really helped me get perspective on my own situation, splitting time between writing and tutoring/writing newsletters for small businesses. It’s difficult juggling so many things, but ultimately, I think it’s the best set up for my writing right now.

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How to make an e-course (using MailChimp)

I just launched an e-course version of DIY Writing Retreat–Your DIY Writing Retreat–and it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve taught before and I’ve taken online ecourses before–both emailed and not–so I had a pretty good idea of what I should make it look like. But actually making this course took longer than expected.How to Make an Ecourse in Mailchimp - Alicia de los Reyes

I thought I’d share a quick guide to how to make an e-course using MailChimp, my automated email service of choice.

If you follow these steps and add your own content, you’ll have an e-course that works like this:

  • People sign up to take your e-course on a MailChimp sign-up form (in other words, by joining a MailChimp list).
  • They receive an email that starts the course. Emails = lessons.
  • By clicking or waiting a certain amount of time, they get another email lesson.
  • The course sends automatically whenever someone joins the list.

If you’ve ever signed up to get a free mini-course from someone’s website, this is likely what you got–automated emails in a sequence that makes sense.

Here’s how to do it:

Step 1. Outline your e-course by breaking up an idea or a lesson into roughly half-page-long chunks. If you’ve ever planned out a syllabus or a lesson plan unit, this is a lot like that. Think of each email as a lesson that gives the reader one thing to take away. For example, when I was working on Your DIY Writing Retreat, I made one day “Pick a date” and focused on how to find time to get away.

How to Make an Ecourse in Mailchimp - Alicia de los ReyesStep 2. Add assignments to each day. For each day of Your DIY Writing Retreat, I wanted there to be a clear takeaway. The best way to do this is make that takeaway into a concrete task. So, for example, on the “Go shopping” day of Your DIY Writing Retreat, I made a printable grocery shopping list and gave the reader the assignment of printing it out and buying the supplies on it.

Step 3. If you have a free MailChimp account, upgrade it. You only need to sign up for the cheapest level of service ($10/month) to get access to “Automation,” or the ability to make emails that send themselves.

Step 4. Make a MailChimp List for your e-course. You don’t want everyone on your regular email list (if you have one) How to Make an Ecourse in Mailchimp - Alicia de los Reyesto get your course–just the few who sign up (unless you’re making an intro-to-you course–then this list can be your newsletter list!). So, make a separate list for these folks and design a sign-up form.

Step 5. In MailChimp, go to “Automation” and click on the “Create Automation Workflow” button. Set it to send to the list you just created and choose the type of workflow that you want to send–I used “Educate Subscribers.” Your list should be empty, so this won’t actually send to anyone–yet.

Step 6. Design your first email, then click “Add new email” and design the next one. Repeat.

Step 7. Making any printables? Create them in the program of your choice and save them as PDFs. Then, upload to Dropbox (another free service–isn’t the Internet great?) and click on the “Share” button to get a link you can put in your emails/lessons.

Step 8. Decide on the trigger for each email. If you want the emails to send automatically (so that once someone signs up, they get one email per day or one email per week), then change the settings for each email so that it sends periodically after the last email has been sent (or opened). If you want the e-course to be self-paced (so that the reader controls when to get the next email), change the settings for each email so that it sends after the last email Capturehas been clicked. (You get to choose what they click–I made a button for each of mine that sent them to a page on my website that just says “Thanks for clicking! Your next lesson is on its way.”)

Step 9. Test the e-course! Add yourself to the list you made and make sure everything works: links, downloads, triggers. Look for typos. Have someone else try it out and ask them for feedback.

Step 10. Confirm! Add start sharing the sign-up form on your website. (Like this: Are you interested in running Your DIY Writing Retreat? Buy the course here!) If you want to offer it for sale, keep the link hidden and send the code to customers who buy it–if you buy my course, you’ll get the link in a spiffy PDF so you can sign up and take the course at your leisure.

Have you thought about making an e-course? Please share in the comments what’s stopping you if you have!