Write On 2017! Prioritize Your Writing

Say it with me, writer friends: It’s time to stop clowning around and get serious about my writing! Maybe you’re a new writer hankering to finish your first novel. Or maybe you’ve been in the writing trenches a while and need to take that next BIG STEP. Get an agent. Self-publish. Quit your day job. Regardless of where you’re at in the writing journey, you can increase productivity and improve process through a thoughtful and focused writing plan.

Over the next eight Wednesdays I’ll share proven strategies and exercises to keep you on course and on fire about your writing. In these interactive posts, you’ll learn practical steps to prioritize your creative life, draft a writing plan to hold you accountable, and explore exercises that inspire and affirm. These blog posts are culled from one of my most popular writing workshops: Write On! A Writer’s Guide to Prioritizing, Goal Setting, & Time Management. If you’re a worksheet-y kind of writer, see the Write On Worksheet.

Today’s topic: Prioritize Your Writing Life

If you’re serious about your writing, you must honor it with your time, talent, and treasure. Bonus: When you take your writing seriously, others will too, such as spouses, editors/agents, and readers.

Do you see that little clown above? That’s my youngest daughter. After I first created my writing plan twelve years ago, I told my girls, including that cutey-patooty clown, that I was setting aside time every day to write. If my girls needed something and I was at my writing desk, they would ask me, “Mommy, are you on the clock?” If I said yes, they knew I needed to finish my work. This was a pivotal moment in my writing career. Words and book contracts soon followed.

A few quick tips to prioritize: 

  1. Regular Writing Schedule – Writing is a muscle, and it works best when used regularly. Follow a writing sked that works for you. Write 500 words a day or 5,000 words a weekend. Or write from 5-6 every morning or 9-11 every night. When I’m drafting a book, I write 2,500 words a day, Monday-Friday. Interestingly enough, I became more productive (and less weary) when I decided to take weekends off.
  2. Writing Environment – Create a place to write. Home offices are great, as you can close the door, but don’t get caught up looking for the “perfect writing spot.” I use a desk in my living room. A friend of mine writes at Starbucks every day. If it helps, put up a few inspirational quotes, a vision board with your latest book project, or even a Writer-At-Work sign.
  3. Dollars and Cents – Set aside money for writing conferences and craft books. A solid investment now leads to greater future returns. Even though writing conferences exhaust me, I’m wonderfully productive once I get home. Perhaps it’s all that shared energy and filling of the creative well. 
  4. Writing Groups – Join a writing organization (RWA, Sisters in Crime, ITWSCBWI, etc.), great places for education and motivation. Likewise, critique groups and writing challenges can help boost productivity. Check out the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s Winter Writing Festival for a heaping dose of writing inspiration and productivity challenges.
  5. Writing Plan – Create a writing plan and review it at least quarterly. Check the Ruby blog every Wednesday for the next eight weeks, and I’ll help you craft a simple but effective writing plan for 2017. 
  6. Your Manifesto – Say it. To your family. To your friends. And most importantly, to yourself. “I am a writer…a storyteller…an artist who paints with words, and I shall nurture and honor my creative soul.” This above all else.

Your Assignment

Now it’s your turn. Identify at least one thing you can do to prioritize your writing life. Write it in the comment section below. Then, DO IT!

Shelley Coriell is an award-winning author of mysteries, romantic thrillers, and novels for teens. Her debut thriller was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the Year, and her other novels have been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Best Paperback Original of the Year from the International Thriller Writers, and a Kirkus Recommended Read. A former magazine editor and restaurant reviewer, Shelley lives in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue weimaraner. You can find her at and Twittering @ShelleyCoriell.



28 responses to “Write On 2017! Prioritize Your Writing”

  1. Elizabeth Langston says:

    I should find a new place to write.

    I’ve been using the same chair in my den for “all things laptop.” So this is where I do social media, reading for pleasure, web-surfing, and (oh, yeah) writing. Perhaps it would be better to have a separate location to write stories–as if the change of venue sets my brain into “write mode.”

    • Rita Henuber says:

      This is me. I find moving to different places in the house does help my word count.

      • Elizabeth Langston says:

        I’ll have to experiment. I tend to enjoy being in a dimly-lighted room. So a desk, a comfy chair, and room-darkening shades 🙂

      • Very interesting!!! I bought a chair that is ONLY for writing. I am not allowed to surf the web, check social media, etc, but I like the idea of switching it up, too. I’ll have to try it.

    • YES, me too! I am *craving* my own desk in my own room (I need a room of my own, you know!) to write with focus and purpose like I did before my son was born. The damn stupid coffee shop with terrible wi-fi just won’t cut it anymore. I want to slide into WORK every day and feel like I’ve arrived at a place of business.

      That means I need to build an addition, lol. We live in a 3-bedroom house and we BOTH work from home! The thought of sharing an office gives me dry heaves…

      • Until you get that home reno, Jamie, there are little things you can do to create that “business” environment you crave. How about a small, dedicated desk in the corner of a room? Or how about a dedicated laptop or chair, ala Darynda?! Even something as simple as getting dressed in “work” clothes can help put you in the frame of mind to write. As for distractions, you can sharpen focus with products such as Brain FM. And for the record, once you have a child, your focus on ANYTHING will never be the same. 🙂

        • I found a folding table in the garage and set it up in the playroom. Since my son isn’t home while I write, it works!! Distraction = the foster kitten who lives in the playroom, but she settles down pretty quickly and it’s good for her to have the company.

          I also started using the fragrance I was wearing around the time of my highest productivity. To me, the scent smells like writing!

    • Through my career I have had offices that were nothing but a small folding table that I moved to whichever part of the house I felt was a good place. It would spend months, sometimes longer than a year, in a room -living room, den, bedroom, even the built-in vanity outside by bathroom.

      Then I emptied a 4×6 closet, painted the wall aqua, put white standing shelves on three sides, my desk in front of me and my chair in the middle. I could swivel and reach anything without getting up. I loved that ‘office.’ Eventually two sons were at college and only one at home so I was able to nab that empty bedroom for a real office.

      And then I would sometimes go to Starbucks or the local TexMex to write.

      I guess I need change! But you CAN do it. You CAN find a place to write, under any circumstances. One writer I read about set a card table up in her baby’s room and let the baby/toddler play all around her with toys while she worked.

      Great article, Shelley!

  2. I have this same problem, Beth, and a few years ago I started moving my laptop to the kitchen table for hobby or family stuff. The change in space made a big difference for me. It’s a mindset thing. 🙂

    • Elizabeth Langston says:

      When my girls were little, I had a similar rule to yours. If my hands were on the keyboard, they weren’t supposed to disturb me unless they were bleeding.

      One day, tiny feet padded up to me.

      DD2: Mom?
      ME: Are my hands on the keyboard?
      DD2: Yes
      ME: Are you bleeding?
      DD2: No
      ME: Then you know the rule

      Tiny feet padded away.
      Then they came back again.

      DD2: Mom, does it count if Julie’s bleeding?

      Yeah, I had to remove the rule.

  3. Rita Henuber says:

    Thanks for this Shelley. Even after writing for years I think we all need to take a fresh look at basics.

  4. Dana Nussio says:

    Great blog, Shelley! I’ll be reading the rest of your series. Time to get serious.

  5. Great tips, Shelley. I’ll be looking forward to the next 8 Wednesdays! 😉

  6. I envy those who can write at Starbucks, B&N, and the library. Not me. I’m too noisy and people watch, but at home the TV can be blasting, the grandkids wanting something and I’m ok.

    I tend to write everywhere around my house. I go where the ight is better it seems~solar powered.

    One thing I tried recently was to stand while writing. I put my laptop on kitchen counter and wrote for hours. I couldn’t believe how productive I was the first day and it’s worked for me over and over again. I think on my feet, tend to walk around and come back with great lines. Now if only I could write while actually on a tread mill.

    • This is a good one, Autumn! When I was in corporate America I remember hearing about a number of successful CEOs who used standing desks. And I totally get the need to get up and move while writing. When I’m stuck on something a scene, I’ll pace my living room.

      • Then it might very well for you too. I don’t write standing all the time. I do it seems when I’m determined to make a specific word count goal. So I guess I be staying a lot on=ver the next six weeks, during the sprints. Lol

  7. Great post, Shelley! Just what I needed!

  8. Perrin Birk says:

    I’ve always written at my desk in the living room, but as my first novel (actually, the fifth, but it’s the one dearest to my heart) goes to the betas, I have to dig deep and start its sequel. Maybe the laptop on the dining room table will give me that needed change of scenery and open the cosmic pathways! Thanks, Shelley, for this timely post!

  9. Liz Talley says:

    I will prioritize by making a weekly writing schedule and sticking to it. It’s too hard to expect the same levels of productivity every day but if I set weekly goals for my writing (and other projects) it will be easier to manage.

    Great post! Crack that whip, sister!

    • Excellent point, Liz. WEEKLY goals are great for writers who have day jobs or heavy family commitments. I check in with my critique partner every Monday, and boy is that impetus to get cracking on any goals where I’m slacking.

  10. Vivi Andrews says:

    This is all incredible advice. Brilliant!

  11. Shelly, I like the ideas. Thanks for this article. I look forward to the others.

  12. I need to focus on NUMBER 1–writing at least 500 new words Monday-Friday. Once I get started, I always write a lot more. But sitting down and getting into the groove without getting distracted by e-mail and social media is hard. I have to start getting my 500 words down before I let myself do anything else on the computer.

  13. […] This is Part 2 of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s series, Write On 2017! A Writer’s Guide to Prioritizing, Goal Setting and Time Management. Part 1 here. […]


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