Writer’s Back-To-School To Do List

I haven’t been a student in a long time, but September still feels like the beginning of the new year. I don’t always treat it as such, but this year I’ve decided I need a fresh start. Last year was a slog of, well, failing to finish a novel and I’m feeling pretty crappy about that. So rather than continuing this lackluster year, I’m declaring it OVER and wiping the slate clean. Just like when I was a kid and September was filled with happy possibilities: new teacher, new classmates, new books to read, and new stories to write.

But now that I’m an independent adult, I don’t have a parent/teacher to set up classes and assignments so that I actually accomplish stuff. I must do that all by myself. Damn. Well, here goes nothing…

Step 1: Review last year’s REPORT CARD

GradeFOuch. I feel like I failed everything. But looking back, it wasn’t so bad. I passed courses in Blogging, Website Creation, Social Media, and Freelance Animation Writing. I flunked Finish A Novel, but learned a whole bunch from the experience and am ready to tackle it again!

Based on that, I decide what classes to enroll in. Obviously, I need to redo Finish A Novel. I’d also like to tackle Speed Blogging because these posts take me waaaaay too long to write. And to expand my screenwriter’s portfolio, I’ll sign myself up for Write A Feature Film and Write A TV Drama Pilot.

Of course, if you don’t want to homeschool yourself or would like some guidance, September is the perfect time to enroll in night classes, online courses, or mentorships.

Step 2: Create Class SCHEDULE

ScheduleI have a writing schedule, but what I write during that time is at the mercy of my fickle mind. No more! I’m in some pretty tough classes this year, and if I don’t go to all of them every week, I’ll soon drop out.

But knowing how much time to allocate is tough. Take this blog, for instance. I thought it would take 3 hours a week. I was so wrong! Just writing it often takes 8 hours. On top of that there’s proofreading other people’s posts, troubleshooting tech problems, tweeting, etc. Now I schedule half an hour every morning for “General Blog Stuff” and five hours on Friday to actually write my post (like I said, I’m trying to get faster).

As for the rest, all I can do is schedule specific time slots for each (Novel, TV, Film, Blog), and adjust accordingly if one needs more than the others.

Though, as Sharon pointed out, I haven’t scheduled Recess! I have a bad habit of forgetting to have fun because my work never feels done. However, if I’m diligent all day, evenings and weekends can be guiltless free time to use however I want, whether that be socializing with friends or continuing to hang out with my novel’s characters.

Step 3: Set Up DESK

MessyDeskWhen I was in elementary school, I would arrive on the first day of school with my binders and pencil case and protractor, and organize it all neatly inside my desk. Of course, it didn’t stay that way the whole year, but if felt good to start September with everything in its place.

So, the final things I need to do before starting this new year are: stock up on pens, paper and ink cartridges, gather the story notes/ideas that are strewn all over my office, and clean and organize my desk.

There you have it. New year, new goals, new schedule, clean desk! Are any of you treating September as a fresh start? How are you getting ready for the new school year?


Next Up from Heather… As Caryn pointed out, I was in this I-still-haven’t-finished-a-novel position last year too. Sigh. So it’s time for me to take another hard look at myself and figure out why. This time I’m sure the reason is ENDINGS. So I must blog about how to write unforgettable endings.

But first a Back To School Writing Craft Refresher – review stuff learned last year to get ready for this year!

Click here for more posts from Heather.


Author: Heather Jackson

Heather is a freelance screenwriter, game writer, and novelist based in Toronto. For more, visit her website at heatherjacksonwrites.com or follow her on Twitter @HeatherJacksonW

2 thoughts on “Writer’s Back-To-School To Do List”

  1. Right on. I have been looking forward to today (first day of school) for the last few weeks. I love that preparing my kids for back-to-school parallels my own preparations to get back on a steady writing schedule. And I ADORE block scheduling my time. It’s the only way I can function. Great post. And very relivent to a lot of “mommy writers” out there. 🙂

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