One of the best ways to make a living as a writer is to learn how to write more.
The more books you release, the more ways readers have to find and connect with you and your work, becoming devoted fans and followers.
But finding the time to write can be tricky, and keeping all your thoughts and ideas organized can seem nearly impossible!
To handle the constant flow of ideas, many writers have turned to bullet journals, a convenient, flexible system that lets you record and organize just about anything.
In a previous post, we went over the bullet journaling basics: what it is and how to get started.
Now let’s kickstart your creativity with 8 ways you can use your bullet journal to help improve your writing career!
1. Writing Inspiration
Keep your bullet journal nearby at all times so you can jot down ideas as they come to you.
Keep lists of words that appeal to you, character ideas, names you love, places that would be interesting to incorporate into a story, and any other good ideas that come to you.
Make a list of writing prompts, record found dialogue, or create a “what if” list of things that strike you in daily life and make you ask “what if…” questions that you can answer in your writing.
2. Planning a Work-in-Progress
To help you plot your next book, break down the outline, chapters, scenes, plot points, character arcs, and more in your journal as a collection. Bestselling author Rachel Aaron shares some great ideas for plotting a novel.
Organize your larger plot arcs for series by mapping them out in your bullet journal.
Expand your worldbuilding—you can never fit all your setting details into a novel without info-dumping, so build the background of your world in your bullet journal and then pick and choose the details to show your readers.
A good rule of thumb is you should have at least twice as much background detail in your journal than ends up in the final version of your book. The better you prepare by taking notes and working out the details ahead of time, the easier it will be to write the book and create a captivating story.
Develop secondary character profiles. Not every character gets to have his or her own full arc, but creating realistic and engaging characters requires each of them to be a developed person, not just a caricature. Flesh out their backstory in your bullet journal, then choose what you’ll include in the book.
Note themes to use and more general shapes and structures that you’d like to develop through your writing.
Organize your research notes, group your resources for a nonfiction project, or just jot down points of interest.
3. Managing Edits
Bullet journals can also help you stay on top of the editing process.
Keep notes on beta reader feedback that needs to be addressed.
When you’re self-editing, mark out any plot holes, problems that need fixing, and other areas that might be bogging you down.
Note what you can streamline or delete, or point out a scene that could be moved or reconfigured to improve the flow of the manuscript.
If you come across an issue you can’t seem to solve during the editing process, write it down in your journal and work on it. You’ll be amazed how much faster you can create solutions when you start journaling.
4. Coordinating Production
Keep lists of titles, cover artists and design ideas, fonts that you love, and other creative inspiration.
Sketch out covers, promotional posters, etc.—because bullet journals are blank, you can draw all over them and still keep organized lists on the next page!
This is a great place to note good resources you’ve found, like helpful websites or courses that will make your production process easier.
This section is also a perfect place to insert a checklist. What do you need to do to get your book out to the public? Keep track here, including all the steps from hiring a cover artist to formatting the book for Kindle to getting everything uploaded.
Also make sure to write down marketing or promotion ideas as they come to you. Keep a separate page in your journal just for marketing ideas.
5. Submissions Tracking
When you’ve finished your manuscript, you’ll still need to keep tabs on it.
Make lists of agents, editors, and publishers you’d like to work with, along with their submissions requirements. Then use your bullet journal to keep a log of where you’ve submitted and what the status of your query is or when you should follow up.
You can also create checklists to help you during the submissions process, mapping out what you need to do, like writing a query letter or polishing your author bio.
If you’re self-publishing, keep track of the editors and cover artists that you’re working with or might like to work with in the future.
6. Reading Logs
The best writers read a lot!
Keep lists of the books in your to-be-read (TBR) pile, write notes on great techniques, point out elements that work and don’t work, and jot themes down for an online review.
A great way to connect with other writers is to post book reviews on your blog. It’s great writing practice, you’ll learn more, and you’ll build relationships that could help improve your career.
7. Word Count Tracker
Create a calendar page to help you practice “chained” habit-building. Mark off each day that you’ve written, or how many words you’ve written each day, to help you build up great writing habits. Tracking your daily word count can be as simple as writing down the number every day or as involved as drawing a beautiful calendar spread to fill out.
This is a good technique for staying on deadline, too—if you know you have a certain deadline to make, you can break up the necessary words per day to stay on target.
NaNoWriMo authors, pay attention! Bullet journal tracking is a perfect way to keep your pace.
8. Marketing Management
Keep track of ad campaigns, keywords, new marketing ideas, and more. Note your pre-launch efforts, including advance reading copies and review copies that you’ve sent out and what responses you’ve gotten.
If you’re self-publishing, jot down ideas for Kickstarter campaigns and rewards.
More Great Bullet Journal Ideas
Not enough inspiration for you? Check out how these writers are using their bullet journals to take their creativity to new levels.
Kara Benz, an author and the blogger behind Boho Berry, is an avid bullet journaler. Her spreads are things of beauty!
She created a full bullet journal just for her NaNoWriMo adventures, tracking everything from possible character archetypes to her daily word count on her way to completion.
These are just a few of her spreads—check out more on her website and subscribe to get access to free printable PDFs to help you start your own writing journal!
Author Amanda Hackwith makes amazing use of her bullet journal. She creates a manuscript status page for each of her books, using that central location to mark off her progress towards the full word count, major plot points, deadlines and due dates, and more.
If you’ve got a lot of works-in-progress at a given time, you might want to give something like this a try!
Amanda offers a ton of ideas for how she uses her bullet journal to manage her writing on her blog.
Author Holly Walrath manages most of her writing through her bullet journal—and her layouts are beautiful, too!
Holly’s future log and key let her keep track of all her submissions and events, as well as staying on task for deadlines and upcoming projects. She also tracks her reading list, word count, and more.
Her list of “shiny words” is a particularly fun idea for writers—jot down anything that catches your ear and see how you can incorporate it into your writing!
For keeping track of weekly progress, author Rosa Swann has a gorgeous setup. She charts out two pages for each week of writing, keeping track of the time she’s spent writing on the right-hand page, and mapping out tasks on the left.
She includes items like doing promo work, writing, editing, and more. She also includes a place to track word sprints to help her write more each day.
Check out Rosa’s blog for how she sets up her writing pages in her bullet journal.
Megan at Page Flutter is a bullet-journaling genius! She demonstrates examples of all different kinds of layouts to work with just about any kind of mind or organizational need.
Some of her weekly planners, in particular, could help busy writers stay on task, carving out space specifically for their writing alongside family time, a day job, and self-care.
Victoria Fry, a writing coach and author, uses bullet journals to keep track of a lot of her writing process. She’s written a blog post all about how fiction writers can use bullet journals to organize their writing, and even offers a free checklist to help you get set up.
Check out the post here!
Trish at Love, Laughter, Insanity shows how powerful color-coding can be to help you keep track of different elements.
Her reading tracker is amazing! It details whether a book is fiction or nonfiction, the format she read it in (ebook, print, or audiobook), when the book was published, whether it’s by a male or female author, whether it’s got diverse characters, and more. Phew!
Be sure to read her bullet journaling post for more great layout ideas.
Christine, whose Instagram feed @Readbeforeyouwrite is full of great ideas, has created a jaw-dropping illustrated want-to-read layout that will inspire you to get sketching and reading!
Author Cynthia Lowman uses her bullet journal to keep tabs on all aspects of her writing career, including tracking her social media use and when and how she’s been promoting!
This is a great way to encourage yourself to focus on building your platform alongside getting your writing done.
Check out Cynthia’s blog post on how she uses her bullet journal for even more awesome ideas.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bullet journaling—your only limit is your imagination, and maybe how many colored pens you have.
How do you use your bullet journal?
For more creative inspiration, read on:
- Fast and Loose: 3 Ways Freewriting Will Upgrade Your Creative Career
- Chart-Topping Stories: Musical Inspiration for Your Fiction
- 5 Ways Writing By Hand Can Boost Your Creative Career