Kelly Maher

Sweet, sweet organization – #GetItTogetherHop

Today I’m participating in the #GetItTogetherHop along with today’s other attendees: Jennifer Lohmann, Alexis Anne, Erin Satie, Sandy Williams, and Ophelia London. You can find the list for the participants during the rest of the week on Alexandra Haughton’s or Lindsay Emory’s blogs. This may did turn into a treatise as I have many ideas on organization (and maybe a wee fetish for office supplies), but as with all of my advice, this is what works for me. If you’re a writer, I hope you get some ideas. If you’re a reader, I hope you enjoy this look into my life as a writer. Experiment, take what works for you, and discard the rest. If you get to the bottom of the post, there’s a special surprise including a contribution from moi!


This is where I’m most fluid. I love notebooks. Adore them. And I like playing with pens. My mother was the one who told me I had to try Stabilo’s fine (point 88) marker pens. I come by my love affair honestly. As you can see, I’ve got a collection of notebooks, some filled with notes on writing and other things that catch my attention, and some waiting to be populated.

As you can see, some of the notebooks are dedicated to certain sets of ideas, like the brown one for the Sweet Heat Collections (join my newsletter to be notified when they release!). That included project planning notes, marketing ideas, listings of which stories should be included in which volume, and more. The RWA 2015 notebook didn’t get as many notes written in it as I thought it would, but I’ll be bringing it to chapter meetings and may jot notes into it as I listen to the recordings.

Picture of 11 notebooks that are part of my notebook collection. They include a black Moleskine notebook, two other Moleskine-brand notebooks, customized notebooks from May Designs, a Yoobi notebook from Target, and two blank notebooks with pretty, travel-related covers that I got at Staples.

I’m a big believer in paper planning for myself for the sheer fact that my memory seems to be keyed to muscle movement and space. If I forget something, I retrace what I was physically doing when I had the thought to jog my memory, and it often works. I buy paper calendars every year because while they do lie fallow for some months, there are other months where they save my butt. I’m continuously experimenting with various systems to sort out one that works best for me. My number one finding: it depends on my mood. As with pretty much everything else in my life like reading, eating, and knitting πŸ˜€

I’ve recently started planning a trilogy of books to go on submission with to an agent, and hopefully publishers. In order to keep physical things I come across in relation to the planning together, I got this really cool accordion file from Staples. It’s part of a special designer line from Cynthia Rowley, and I couldn’t resist the design:

Accordian folder from the Cynthia Rowley design line for Staples. Floral motif on a black background.

Which is really the key to finding a system that helps you keep your idea organized: it’s fun for you. I’m going to use this accordion file because I enjoy looking at the pattern. I’m going to use the notebooks in ways where I can play with pens, but also help me visualize what’s stuck in my head when it comes to the story. In order to make sure I don’t miss any highlights that I need to hit when writing the first book, this is the planning tool I’ve come up with in the series notebook, followed by the hero/heroine worksheet for the trilogy:

Two-page layout plotting chart. Each page is divided into quarters with one column dedicated to the romance plot and one column dedicated to the suspense plot. Each row is dedicated to a chunk of 10,000 words.
Two-page layout in a notebook divided into three rows, one for each book in a trilogy, and two columns (one column per page) for the hero and heroine. This is to be used to sketch out initial details and ideas on the lead characters of each book.

Notice, I haven’t even gotten into the digital side of things. Alter ego is the queen of Pinterest when it comes to this body (she’s got multiple boards dedicated to Food). I would probably use it more, but the way Pinterest is set up, it’s not easy to switch between accounts the way it is with Twitter and alter ego demands access to her recipes on a regular basis.


This is a harder nut to crack as I live in a studio apartment. I have to appropriately divide up my space between my office, my living area, my workout area, my supplementary cooking/food prep area (because my kitchen is too freaking small), my storage area, and my sleeping area. I would offer up more pictures, but I’m not the neatest person on the planet. What I have been doing recently is purging as much non-essential, and non-used stuff as I can. It’s not going as quickly as I would hope. However, I have transformed one of my smaller bookshelves into Kelly Support Central. It’s where I house office supplies like paper (I still print out manuscripts for at least one editing round), receipts and financials, research books, and promo materials. I’m liking the way it’s turned out!

View of the 3-shelf bookcase with my writing-related materials. The top shelf has 3 woven paper bins filled with office supplies side-by-side. The middle shelf has my research books, author copies of the anthologies I have been published in, and my notebook collection. The bottom shelf is split between a two-shelf plastic holder filled with reams of office paper (with a box of snack baggies sitting on top of those) and containers filled with promotional materials.


Organizing my time is a vital part of my mental health process. For example, I began drafting this post over a week before its posting date because this particular week is an insane one schedule-wise for alter ego and she would probably be laughing hysterically if the post was still waiting to be written last night.

The biggest challenge to me is carving out time to write. For my last semester of high school, I managed to work out my last semester’s schedule so periods 1-3 were my year-long classes, periods 4 & 5 were gym classes (yes, two gym classes my senior year), period 6 was a class that I aced with little thought, period 7 was lunch, and period 8 was study hall. At my school, juniors and seniors were able to leave early if they had eighth period study hall, and if you were lucky enough to have seventh period lunch, you got to leave even earlier! Which means, I mentally checked out every day after 3rd period. I believe in being an efficient slacker. Oxymoronic maybe, but it’s how I work best. I’ve managed to get myself to the point where I am able to draft at least 10,000 words in a day. My high point was a little over 12,000 words. This is a full day of work. I have a day job, which means that this schedule is only possible on weekends or when I have a day off of work. However, if I schedule myself to write 10,000 words each day on the weekend, I can have an 80,000-word first draft (and boy, is it ever a dirty draft) in 4 weekends.

Efficient slackerhood.

This allows me to loaf off after work on weekdays when I need to or work on administrative stuff if I have energy. Being able to write this much in one day required me to train up the way you would a marathon. Which meant a couple of years slowly increasing my output level, getting comfortable in my process, and building up my stamina for multiple hours of writing while avoiding burn out. This schedule can fluctuate depending on the project, but knowing what my writing pace is and can be is invaluable in allowing me to figure out my writing schedule around my day job life and my personal life. I need to have a balance between the three, and, for now, this is what works for me.

I can, and have, gone months between writing the first drafts of projects, let alone edits. This is okay. Some people work best by writing every single day. Good for them. Do that if that’s your process! It’s not mine. The last time I tried to work that way, I went into a depressive episode. I need spans of time when I’m not writing even when I’m working on the first draft of a project. It helps me to refill the energy well.

The biggest take away I’ve learned this summer is that I need to be kind to myself. When it comes to organization, that means I need to stick with what is working for me and abandoning things when they don’t jibe with my style. One organization method working fabulously for someone does not mean that it will work for me or for you.

My tip: organize your life around what makes you happy even if that means not being organized πŸ™‚

Because this turned into a treatise and I barely scratched the surface of my thoughts on the topic, I’ve decided to turn it into a series of posts. I’ll link all of the posts from this one if you want to bookmark it and check back πŸ™‚

Part 2 – The Emotional Impact of Organization



A number of the #GetItTogetherHop participants have contributed items to a set of group giveaways. If you’re interested in entering, follow the Rafflecopter instructions. I am contributing signed copies of Best Erotic Romance 2014 and The Sexy Librarian’s Big Book of Erotica and a mini swag bag filled with a stylus pen (I’d take a picture, but they’re currently in mailroom limbo) and an “I β™₯ Uppercase Hotties” button. Good luck!

Button with a picture of a guy showing off his 8-pack abs and reads "I <3 UPPERCASE HOTTIES" below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

One comment to “Sweet, sweet organization – #GetItTogetherHop”

  1. Mina Lobo
    September 4th, 2015 at 10:21 pm · Link

    Hi, Kelly! I’ve read about other writers going at it (writing) religiously every day, even getting up at Godforsaken hours to hit their daily word count goals–and I’ve just found it all so demoralizing, as I just don’t have it in me. I’m more like you in that I want longer stretches of writing time at my own pace. But reading your words about your 20K-word weekends yielding an 80K-word 1st draft in roughly a month was really eye-opening for me. I mean, right now, I think I’d need two months to achieve the same goal, but even that’s more of a game-plan than I’ve been working with for quite some time. Thanks so much, and see you around the Interwebz. πŸ™‚

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