Make Your Holiday Writing Plan

cornucopiaNo getting around it — the holiday season has officially arrived. Is it just me, or does it seem to come earlier every year? I’m never ready when it arrives.

I’ve noticed the holiday season can lead to frustration when we’re trying to juggle work and family with the increased demands the holidays put on our time. For writers, the time available for your writing dwindles and you start to feel behind and get stressed that you’re not meeting your goals or deadlines.

So I propose that today, or this week, you take a few quiet moments to make yourself a Holiday Plan. Let’s face this time of year head-on with a strategy that will take us through to January 2nd with the least amount of stress possible.

What should your Holiday Plan include?

First, take a look at the next month on the calendar and try to accurately assess about how much time you’ll have for your personal writing pursuits. Then, divide that in half, and assume that’s how much time you’ll realistically have.

Next, set reasonable goals for this time period. Is it a word count? Is it simply to have a certain amount of time each week to enjoy writing, without having an expectation of results? Keep in mind that a good goal for some people is “I will put away my WIP until January 2nd, at which time I will come at it with fresh eyes and a renewed sense of energy.” The key is to set goals that are completely attainable given your life circumstance.

After you’ve set your goals, make a plan of action for how you’ll meet them. Schedule the writing time on your calendar, or put Post-It notes on your desk or bathroom mirror reminding yourself of your writing hiatus.

If you’re contracted for a book and you have deadlines during the holidays or immediately after, then your Holiday Plan is even more important. You may need to cut back on some activities, or delegate more of your usual holiday tasks—cooking, cleaning, decorating, shopping. Most importantly, don’t go into this season simply assuming that “somehow” you’ll get it all done. Make a plan!

I also find it crucial to fit exercise in at this time of the year — you’ll feel so much better if you do. I’ve created the Twitter hashtag #30minaday for people to log their exercise and get encouragement from others. Follow the hashtag and try to get 3 to 4 hours a week of exercise!

Let’s go into the holiday season with realistic expectations about what we can accomplish. The holidays are stressful enough without adding to it with impractical goals!

Tell us about your Holiday Plan. How will you handle the balance between your work and your life? What are your goals? Put your plans in writing and share them here!

  1. Zune and iPod: Most people compare the Zune to the Touch, but after seeing how slim and surprisingly small and light it is, I consider it to be a rather unique hybrid that combines qualities of both the Touch and the Nano. It’s very colorful and lovely OLED screen is slightly smaller than the touch screen, but the player itself feels quite a bit smaller and lighter. It weighs about 2/3 as much, and is noticeably smaller in width and height, while being just a hair thicker.

  2. This is EXACTLY what I needed today. Thank you!!

  3. Peter DeHaan says:

    My main holiday plan is not to eat too much and gain weight. Seriously.

    If I achieve that goal, everything else will fall into place — or be too inconsequential to matter.

  4. Charlee Vale says:

    I’m currently in revisions, and I’m hoping to finish up the first pass this coming week. I’m on break for Thanksgiving from my Graduate program, so it will be the perfect time.


  5. You’re so right. Every year I think I’ll have more time to write (Working as a teacher, you get the extra weeks off), but it never works out. The demands of the holidays and family being off robs you that desired creative time.

    I’m going to do this. Actually sit down and plan (try to) some goals. And I will cut in half any time I’ll allot for writing. It never fails. Someone or something will crop up that needs your attention. Besides, I have all those crafty gift ideas I want to do.

    *rolling eyes here.* I know, I know. If it wasn’t started before Halloween, the likelihood of getting it done now is about as good as actually getting Santa to give me a ride in his sleigh this year.
    Happy Holiday writing, ya’ll.

  6. Stephanie McKibben says:

    This is the time I actually do get to “do it all”. The four-day weekend gives me extra time to write, exercise, ride horses and see my family. It’s always been a productive time for me. Live in the moment and your days will never pass by you again!

  7. leisuretime says:

    Excellent advice, especially the “cut it in half” line! Always best to underestimate and then pat yourself on the back for overaccomplishing 🙂 Thanks for the reality reminder of what the next month holds!

  8. otin says:

    I am so frustrated lately because I’m within sight of the end of my novel and I’m having trouble finding the time to work on it. I’m a morning writer. Night time for me is no good for some reason. Too bad I work days. 🙁

    On a positive note, I got an agent for my other novel! 🙂

  9. Mary Jo says:

    This is a hectic time and yet I’m forcing myself to write. I am working full-time, in a choir with a holiday concert, and have other commitments. But like exercise, I don’t think it’s a good idea to take a break, even during the holidays. If I can’t get to it during the week, I write during the weekend. That means saying no to a lot of things and annoying people. I also have my netbook plugged in behind the living room couch so I can pick it up anytime and write.

  10. Realistic expectations are the key here. I only see certain of my loved ones at Christmas, and used to beat myself up when doing so prevented me from getting my word count done. Once I reassessed my priorities and modified my goals, though, I did a lot better because the pressure was lessened. It’s a good idea!

  11. I write from 4:30am to 6:00am and so besides Christmas, Christmas Eve, and New Years Eve. The holidays don’t really effect me. Although I suppose they would if I actually went to parties and stayed up past my 9:00 bedtime. But I’m boring and don’t so…no worries!

  12. I so completely need a plan!!!!!! My first ever set of edits are due right smack dab in the middle of December. It is NOT helping that school is out this week… and that Thanksgiving is at MY house this year, and that two extra Dr appointments were thrown in there that I wasn’t planning on. Oy. Yes, a plan. That is what I need!!!!!

  13. Voni Harris says:

    For those of us homeschooling writers (or is it writing homeschoolers, I get mixed up :)) I think the advice to automatically halve the amount of writing time you think you have applies throughout the year.


  14. Ann Bracken says:

    At the beginning of November I started NaNoWriMo and my husband looked at me like I was insane. After pointing out all of my commitments, he convinced me not to stress over writing, but just use it as a relaxation technique for the stress of getting family/work/church obligations fulfilled. Your words really mirror his. Thanks for the reminder not to stress.

  15. Great tips, Rachelle! I love how you’re encouraging others to exercise with your Twitter hashtag. Very cool idea.

  16. Charise says:

    This was a great post. Thank you. I realized that by doing some early Christmas shopping, I alleviated part of what makes me feel so hectic. So that is a retro-active part of my yet to be formed plan. I am going to write like crazy through Nov 30 and then see where I am at and what I can commit to through December.

  17. TC Avey says:

    Thanks for the advice, time management is very difficult this time of year. I plan on keeping God first and letting him direct my steps.

  18. Great idea, Rachelle! I’m a planner to the very core!

  19. Bret Draven says:

    Since I write on a daily basis, my only other plan is to survive the holidays with an intact liver!

  20. Wonderful idea, Rachelle. I’m using Nanowrimo to finish a first draft sequel to my WIP, but I usually use the time between Thanksgiving and New Years to get organized, go over the writing market books, and plan my next year’s strategies for writing and submitting.

    (It’s not a super-productive writing time for me, but it is a great time for organization and planning.)

  21. Funny you should post this today. I was just thinking about how I could manage my writing time for the next month and a half.

    I try to keep a bit of extra spare time in December by finishing my Christmas shopping in November.

    Thanks for the reminder about exercise too!

  22. Jana Dean says:

    The Holidays provide more non-working days as possibilities for larger chunks of writing time. PLAN: jump start the next project– sequel to book number 1–which is under review by reader/writer friends–one of whom called me last week with the coveted, “I couldn’t put it down” comment– woohoo! Happy TG everybody…

  23. David Todd says:

    In previous years I’ve found that generating new material is difficult, mainly because I tend to write in blocks of time measured by several hours, and those sized blocks rarely are available during the holidays.

    So my plan is:
    – complete two magazine columns (500-600 words each) for which I’m under contract between now and the end of the year. They are concerning my profession they should go quickly; one is already 2/3 written.
    – re-read my recently completed novel, looking for plot lines to tidy-up and typos to fix.
    – re-read my older novel, on the shelf for a couple of year, prior to e-self-publishing it.
    – finish reading the book I’m working through now on character development.
    – if time allows, submit two or three articles (600-800 words) to content sites. These will be mostly re-dos of other articles.

  24. I have been avoiding the next big step in my latest project. I am blaming it on not having ink in my printer. So, my goal is to buy some ink and then print out my drafts and edited versions and do lots of scribbling and writing and editing. When I get to this step in the process I like old fashioned paper and typed font with my trusty blue pen.

  25. Aanna Greer says:

    I think that 30 minutes a day will be a good goal for both my writing and exercise during the next two months. Thanks for the tips!

  26. Nice post, Rachelle. People can stress out to crazy. I like the idea of keeping it simple and humble. Less is definitely more. Try not to do too much. Spend less. We visit the other half of the family in the morning on Thanksgiving. Then we have dinner with my mom in law. We have a nice quiet meal and try not to fuss too much. I keep most of my gift giving to the children. I design and produce my own Christmas card. For as large of a family that I come from it is my tradition as a way to give something to them. It turns out, to brag a little bit, my cards are saved and treasured. Giving thanks here, I’m thankful for your post. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  27. My plan was pretty much to let the writing deadlines take care of themselves, but being proactive seems like a better idea, especially since I’ll spend a month abroad. Thanks for the tips!

  28. Sarah Thomas says:

    My plan is to continue polishing book two at a reasonable pace (3-5 hours/week) while I keep up with blogging. I typically have a chance to take a chunk of time off right around Christmas and that translates into writing time for me. Once the holiday is actually HERE, most of the craziness of church stuff–party stuff–family stuff eases up.

    I know you’re currently closed to queries, but would you say that November/December is NOT a good time to query in general? I’m guessing editors and agents are extra bogged down this time of year, too.

  29. Thanks for this post. It could not have come at a better time as I’m looking at some major changes ahead to my writing schedule, to say nothing of the holiday craziness.

    I think my writing plan is on par with the diet advice you hear this time of year. That is, don’t set yourself up to lose 20 pounds, just aim for maintenance. To that end, my goal is to at the very least maintain my current momentum and step it up in January 2012.

    Thanks again for the encouragement.


  30. Great blog – I needed it. 2011 has been the first year I am writing “for real” and have deadlines; so this was something I had not had to consider in years past. And, I started kickboxing 2 weeks ago! It is killing me but so glad I am doing it. Thanks for reminding us to be healthy. Blessings & happy Thanksgiving!

  31. Maribeth says:

    I am looking forward to editing and finalizing my YA novel during the holidays so I can start sending it out on submission the beginning of the new year.

    I would like to get back in to Yoga, my goals are attainable I just have to follow through.

  32. Abigail Stokes Palsma says:

    Thanks for your graciousness, Rachelle. This is a helpful post.

  33. Eric C. says:

    Great advice! I linked to it on my blog and added some commentary that is probably too long to include here.

    I’m a big fan of your blog–tons of great tips every time I check in.

  34. Jan Morrill says:

    Great information, Rachelle! I’ve got my calendar and post-its ready!! Happy Thanksgiving!

  35. Joe Pote says:

    Good advice, Rachelle!

    I had already decided, over the last couple of weeks, to stop stressing over book sales and WIP, and to focus on my blog ministry for a while.

    However, even for my blog, I have made a conscious decision to focus less on number of posts and number of hits, and more on producing just one really good post out each week.

    I also plan to spend some time, during December, working on better defining my niche, and updating my website accordingly.

    This writing gig is still a part-time hobby/ministry for me, and probably always will be. However, it has become important enough to merit a little time better defining goals.


  36. My plan is to skip the holidays by leaving the country. 🙂 My husband, 3 girls, and I will be in Cambodia and Thailand from December 11 to January 13. My writing goals are to fill my entire journal with thoughts/feelings/details from our trip and use it in future writing projects.

  37. Lanita says:

    I make a list of everything I want to accomplish. Then I get a large piece of butcher paper (or the back of an old poster) and draw in my own calendar. I figure out when I can do what in order to have it done in time.

    That really works for me. Looking at the list is overwhelming, but looking at the daily plan is workable. I also shelve any writing except my blog during the holidays.

  38. Susan Bourgeois says:

    I’m going to continue juggling all that I normally do in my usual manner.

    I don’t intend to stop writing until after the new year because I haven’t finished my first draft.

    I do plan on checking out the details of the holiday season in a new way because I will need these details for chapters in my book. I will be taking notes during the holiday season.

    I’m glad you brought this subject up. You made me realize I need to take advantage of the holiday season in a way that will assist me in the future.

    I do plan on exercising right through the holidays because I know it is important to do so for numerous reasons.

    Even though there will be all types of obstacles during the holidays, I feel it can still be a time of moving forward with my writing.

    I might also carry my recorder around more during the holiday season to capture the feel of the holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving.

    Thanks for the great reminders!

  39. Usually, my problem is stepping away from the computer during the holiday. When this becomes “your career” or ‘business’ that you do from home and not at an away office, it’s much harder to give yourself a complete break from it – and I mean, complete. Where you don’t do ANY kind of work relating to this writing life. Lawd.

    Of course, it’s still the best job I’ve ever had 😀

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

  40. I’m doing an editing challenge this month so I doubled the word count these past 3 weekends so I can relax over the Thanksgiving. I’ll only have to worry about a few thousand words. I’ll do the same in December when I start plotting/writing my next novel.

    Planning ahead is always a great idea! And sticking to the plan is even better. 😉

  41. Grateful for this post today! I’m signing off social media, no twitter or blogging except for my newspaper column through Christmas, and focusing on exercise (running a 5K with the whole family on Thanksgiving Day!) and finishing my NaNo WriMo goal–even if it takes me until January 1. Ahhhhhhhh . . .

  42. I can’t tell you how this made me smile right now. I have two extra reasons why this advice is particularly applicable this year: one, I have to do book publicity for a book about balancing secular commitments with sacred observance during Advent–and two, I’m having a baby in three weeks!

    And yes, I really do need to make a plan based on reality!

  43. What I am concentrating on right now is the exercise. Husband and my cardiologist have been encouraging this. I did manage a couple of 20 min days last week.

  44. Oh boy. I don’t have a plan but think I’ll be needing one. This has been one hectic and difficult autumn/winter. Thanks for the tips!

  45. carol brill says:

    The “cut the writing time in half” approach works best for me. I learned over the years to accept that Nov/Dec are less productive writing times. Setting my expectations lower makes it feel like a gift when I find extra time to write.

  46. Heidi Chiavaroli says:

    Thanks for this post, Rachelle!

    I made a promise to myself to finish the edits on my WIP before December so that my critique group could read it next month. I’m going to make it–I’m forcing myself, but it’s not without stress during this busy time of year. I plan to take your advice next year. 🙂

    Oh, love the advice about the exercise. A run in the morning makes such a huge difference!

  47. Great advice Rachelle. And I really must do some exercise. With visitors coming for five weeks soon I need to chill out but get the writing in still somewhere.

  48. Julia says:

    Perfect timing! I started today, clearing the dining room table where I’ve been editing the draft of my WIP. My piles of reference materials were carefully piled where I could find them….but with Thanksgiving & college kids coming home (yay!!!), I had to put everything into a big file box in folders so I could still find things easily — with the working manuscript in front. Now my task is to get out the calendar and carve in the time I can…then my organization should make it easier to get into the writing zone. I honestly think these steps will help me after the holidays too! (p.s. thanks for the divide time in half idea; I’ll definitely do that to avoid disappointment–great idea!)

  49. Sharon B says:

    Have I been reading your mind? This is exactly what I was doing earlier today. Planning what I can realistically write between now and January 1. I have tried to be conservative in my estimate to avoid panic and disappointment. Already I feel stress dissipating. Your blog post has made me even more committed.

  50. Jodi Aman says:

    I already have a list of topics for my blog through December and research done. I will set goals but will also go easy on myself. I will make sure I work out and hug my kids every chance I get. Mostly I believe everything will get done, because I believe in myself.
    Jodi Aman

  51. The Holidays are a pastor’s busiest time of year. More services, everyone’s party, and, in my case, a daughter coming home from Boston. I hope to write a paragraph because crazy hectic is my sentence! I love this hobby, though, and have great admiration for you pros. Go get ’em!

  52. BK Jackson says:

    It’s the opposite for me–the holiday period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is when I can accomplish more writing, not less. In my day job, during the holidays people are finally finding OTHER things to occupy their time besides drive me nuts, which means I don’t go home as completely chewed up as I do all the rest of the year–which makes it easier for my creative side to come out and play. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

  53. For years my holiday goals fell into the impossible-given-my-life-circumstance realm. Then one year a health crisis took everything out of my control and I had to stop trying to be a perfectionist. Since then I’ve I adopted my hubby’s A-B-C approach: in the A column list things that absolutely can’t wait; the B column is for things that need to get done sometime but not necessarily now; and the C column includes things we might like to get done but the world won’t stop turning if we never do.)

    My holiday plan involves shifting the usual B and C things to some other month so I can comfortably accomplish the few truly important A ones. I write every day, and making time for that is never a problem. (I’ll choose writing over housework any day!) To have extra time for what makes the holidays special, I accept that my house doesn’t need to be cleaner for the holidays than any other days; I simplify the decorating, bake less (double batches of fewer recipes), and take a December hiatus from attending regular groups so I can enjoy attending seasonal festivities.

    We’ve missed the point of Christmas if we reach twelfth night exhausted and cranky or sick. Instead of the holidays being busier, I’ll be doing my best to cut back on activities so I can relax and enjoy the special times with family and friends. At least, that’s the Plan.

    • Lanita says:

      I love the ABC idea! I sketch out plans on a calendar, but yours is a great way to prioritize instead of putting everything I HOPE to do on there. I think I’ll put the B and C items in lighter colors on my calendar to take off the pressure of doing everything.

  54. Olivia Newport says:

    I made the decision a couple of weeks ago to put aside my WIP until January. I have several galley and manuscript due dates between now and January 1. I wanted to get the story out of my head before setting it on the shelf for a while, but a body can only do so much. After the decision, I feel much better about achieving some balance in my life that allows me to progress on publishing goals but still have some time left to chase joy.

  55. Komal says:

    This is such a great idea, Rachelle. I plan on finishing my first draft by the end of December, so I think I will put it away until January 2 and then look at it with fresh eyes.

    I’ve been getting my daily one hour of exercise done, so I’m proud of myself.

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