My writing targets for 2014 (and how I plan to hit them!)

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Anyone who knows me well is aware that I have “To Do” lists I refer to on a daily basis.

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I’ve used everything from notebooks, to pads with printed numbers, to journals, to pages I created and printed to put into a binder, to random lists, to sticky notes. I frequently read books on being better organized.

Some years ago, I realized Excel files were the most flexible format for keeping my To Do’s current and useful, and I’ve run my life by them ever since. (*See footnote below.)

The Key is being flexible. Unlike writing something on paper, using an Excel file makes changing the day to do the task very, very easy. Even though I try to live by the rule that everything will take at least 3 to 4 times longer to do than I think it will, I still tend to consistently underestimate how much times things will take, so I change those dates way too often!

So, given that I’m likely being over-optimistic, these are the things I’d really, really, REALLY like to get done this year.

Because I also know that just having goals without having concrete plans leads to goals often not being hit, I will also write down my plan (to date) to hit each goal.


A.  Complete my 3rd Mystery

During November 2012 and 2013, and April 2013, I used NaNoWriMo to write roughly 120,000 words of my third mystery, which is currently titled Opaque Rays. Which means, I almost have a first draft completed. So my most urgent goal is to complete the first draft, and then get the second draft written.

(By the way, I’ve recently republished my first two mysteries as J. A. Menzies, so you can see them at my J. A. Menzies site.)

My plan (which is actually being finalized this week, so these dates are tentative):
  1. Finish 1st draft by Jan 31. Write every morning from 9:30 to 12:30. Add more hours if needed during the last week or two.
  2. Finish 2nd draft by Feb 28. Edit every morning as above.
  3. Have my substantive readers go through it the first week of March.
  4. Make changes.
  5. Send ms to an editor for revisions mid-March.
  6. Complete the final draft by April 30.
  7. Get the book formatted by May 7.
  8. Send the book to the proofreader on May 7.
  9. Get the book published by June 1.
B. Finish writing my memoir

For the past couple of years I’ve been slowly working on a memoir, which has the working title LoveChild: Life Lessons from a former “ugly duckling.”

If you’d like to catch a glimpse of what LoveChild will be like, you can read my award-winning true story, “The Diamond Ring”,” which is published in the anthology Hot Apple Cider.

My plan:
  1. Work on it for one hour each day during the week.
  2. Work on it exclusively during July and August.
  3. Publish it in serial format beginning September, 2014. Maybe sooner.
C. Finish my fantasy for children

A few years ago, at a grandchild’s urging, I wrote a children’s fantasy, which should be roughly 50,000 words when completed. It’s working title is The Misadventures and Tribulations of Princess Persnickety and Stefan the Stableboy. I need to finish editing it and get it published. (You can see the first draft of my opening here.)

My plan:
  1. Work on the final edits during the 1st week of March and continue to work on it during the proofreading, etc. of the mystery.
  2. Have it in print by September.
D. Create more videos and e-books for writers

I have a ton of materials for writers that I’ve taught over the years, at writers’ conferences, all-day workshops, and classes at Redeemer College and Tyndale University. I’ve begun posting a few things, but I have so much more that could be made available.

(By the way, I have a whole site for writers –

My plan:
  1. I hope to be able to post at least a few of my workshops this year. I still have to figure out how to make that happen. My guess is I’ll take a break of a week here and there and spend a few days getting the material into shape and then tape the video on Friday and have someone else edit it.
  2. My goal is to do 4, one every 3 months.


A. Get the Discussion Guide for Hot Apple Cider in print (POD) and e-book

I’m working with Marguerite Cummings to get the Discussion Guide for Hot Apple Cider edited and published in both print and e-book formats. The deadline is the end of January. The Discussion Guide is intended to be used by book clubs or small groups who are reading Hot Apple Cider.

My plan:
  1. Marguerite is currently going over the last edit
  2. Make changes as needed
  3. Proofreading done
  4. Finish edited and get both the e-book and print layouts ready
  5. Do a small print run
B. Get my 5 Coming-of-age novels republished as ebooks

Some years ago, I wrote and published five coming-of-age books. One of my most urgent goals is to get them updated and published both as e-books and with new covers as print books. These books include the Young Adult Circle of Friends series and the New Adult standalone In Time of Trouble.

My plan:
  1. Read each book and edit as needed
  2. Have 5 beta-readers read each book and send me suggestions
  3. Format the books for print and  e-format
  4. Get new covers
  5. Make them available by June

And then, of course, there are all the blogs I want/need to write, and the reviews I’ve promised a few people, and—well—if you’re a writer, you know how it is. Plus, none of my writing goals here actually talk about marketing, which of course is a whole other ball game!


* In case you’ve never thought of using an Excel file to track your to do list, here are the headers on mine:

By the way, in order to enable sorting, I use numbers whenever possible.

  • Area# number)
  • Area (overall name – e.g. write memoir, write mystery, clean kitchen, etc.)
  • Urgency (number)
  • Month (number) For next year, use 13, 14, etc.
  • Day (Mon, Tues, etc.)
  • Date (number)
  • Type (Kind of activity if there is need for a second sort other than area – e.g. I sort writing into writing (1), publishing (2), marketing (3)
  • Time (in my case, i divide my day into morning (1), afternoon (2), and evening (3)
  • Order (numbers)
  • Task (description)
  • Who (only if it involves someone other than me)

To determine by jobs for each day, I sort by: Area#; Month; Date; Time; Order; Urgency (for things not yet given a date)

However, I can also sort by area, urgency, and so forth.

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