BuJo is the new… everything: Bullet journaling for writers

I’ve always loved journals, but here’s the thing… I’ve never really used them. My lifelong MO  with journals goes something like:

  1. Receive/purchase a new journal
  2. Delight over its beauty and features and how it’s going to capture the stories of my life so eloquently that my great, great, great, great, grandchildren will read it and feel connected to me in a deep, meaningful way
  3. Write in it for three or four days.
  4. Lose interest.
  5. Lose the journal.
  6. Dig it out like six months later when something angers or hurts me and I need to scribble down everything that happened and everything I have intense feelings about and how I’ll never be over this incident.
  7. Regret that if my great, great, great, great, grandchildren ever find and read my journals they’re just going to see me as an incredibly angry and intense person.
  8. Repeat stages 1-7.

But that all changed a few months ago…

Author Emery Lord’s fall newsletter mentioned her discovery of bullet journaling and included a link to this BuzzFeed article titled: WTF Is A Bullet Journal And Why Should You Start One. If you clicked on this post thinking: “WTF is a bullet journal? Why should I start one?” I’ll refer you to that article now, which explains it all far better than I could, so… Go ahead, check it out.

Alright, are you back? Is your mind blown by the brilliance of this concept!?

So, why am I talk about Bullet Journaling on a blog dedicated to writing? Because I’ve found it to be absolutely fantastic when it comes to organization for all the writing things (on top of all the life things).

Writers track a lot of things: new ideas, word counts, deadlines, revision notes, queries, agent research while querying, etc. And I’ve tried a LOT of ways to track them: calendars, sticker systems, per-project notebooks, emailing myself notes, spreadsheets, and more… and all of those systems worked, in their own ways, for some time, but ultimately, none of them ever stuck that long for me before I was searching for a new, better way to be organized.

Here’s why I like bullet journaling, and why I think it’s sticking for me and helping with my writing: It allows for all of the above, and it works into the greater scheme of my overall life. It’s not a separate system, it’s part of the all-in-one of my calendar, to-dos, plans, everything (at least, that’s how I’ve set it up… but that’s the beauty of BuJo-ing, you can set it up in whatever way makes the most sense for YOU). So, I’m looking at my writing goals and progress along with my family and friend commitments, work commitments, exercise tracking, reading tracking, travel plans… EVERYTHING. I use stickers to track writing, reading and working out. I can look at my life as a day, a week, a month, and see what’s coming up. Everything is all together so I can see the checks and balances. Slacker writing week? Well, it makes sense if I see a hectic life-week and I let myself off the hook. Super open calendar? I can get more specific on my book-related goals and use the time to the fullest.

So, if your 2017 New Year’s Resolution sounds like any of these:

  • Be more organized
  • Manage time better
  • Create more balance
  • Be more aware of habits
  • Try not to be so hard on yourself
  • Feel more on top of EVERYTHING

Give it a try!

Let’s Get Gifty! Recommendations from the Pitch Wars ’15 Class

Move over, Elf on the Shelf, gotta make space for this year’s book haul! If you need a little help gift shopping, the Pitch Wars ’15 class has you covered. Check out our list of recommendations for all the book lovers in your life:

Tracy Gold recommends: THE HEIRS OF WATSON ISLAND series by Martina Boone
“Martina Boone’s Heirs of Watson Island series for the Southern Gothic feel of Trueblood minus the vampires and written for teens!”

Amanda Rawson Hill recommends: BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert
“For the writer in your life. Or the painter, or the actor, or anyone trying to pursue a creative endeavor.”

Courtney Howell recommends: AN EMBER IN THE ASHES & A TORCH AGAINST THE NIGHT by Sabaa Tahir
“I recommend this series to everyone, whether they like fantasy or not because to me, it transcends the genre. The characters are so real and so flawed and so compelling. It’s also great as an audiobook. The narrators are incredibly talented and make this already amazing story truly gripping.”

An Anonymous Elf recommends: THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES by Mindy McGinnis
“The perfect gift for your teen girl. Or your teen guy. Or your best friend who is all about Pantsuit Nation. Or anyone who needs to learn something about the female of our species. Plus you get three really sharp POVs and an ending that I’m not sure you’ll be able to predict.”

JR Yates recommends: BORN TO RUN by Bruce Springsteen
“For lovers of music, pursuers of art, and liver’s of life. Springsteen reflects on his childhood, his father’s mental illness, marriage, love and his music.”

Mike Mammay recommends: OUTRIDERS by Jay Posey
“For people who like Military Science Fiction. . . Posey writes soldiers right.”

Mairi Kilaine recommends: SOFIA KHAN IS NOT OBLIGED by Ayisha Malik
“Laugh out loud funny women’s fiction often described as the “Muslim Bridget Jones.” Malik deftly weaves comedy, romance, and the intricacies of finding love as a Muslim woman in London. I stayed up until 3am to finish it, my highest bar for a good read.”

Sarah Madsen recommends: THE HOLLOWS series by Kim Harrison
“For those who want a COMPLETE urban fantasy series . . . great fun with wonderful characters and a rich world. I adore it.”

Julie Artz recommends: PAX by Sara Pennypacker
“This lyrical story has the feel of the animal stories we loved as kids, but with a touching message of peace, hope, and second chances that feels awfully appropriate right now.”

Ashley MacKenzie recommends: THE HEARTBREAKERS by Ali Novak
“It’s a fun, voicy romp through teenage romance and sibling relationships.”

Elizabeth Leis-Newman recommends: LIFE AFTER LIFE by Kate Atkinson
“For your friend who likes literary fiction with an element of fantasy . . . it follows Ursula as she lives and dies in each chapter, and I think it is a book that examines how choices you make have ripple effects.”

Wendy Langlas Parris recommends: HOWARD WALLACE, P.I. by Casey Lyall
“Great for kids to read on their own and perfect for parents who want to read aloud to their kids—it’s from the POV of a middle schooler who talks/thinks/acts like Humphrey Bogart in THE MALTESE FALCON. Very funny film noir voice.”

Caitlan McCollum recommends: EVERY HEART A DOORWAY by Seanan McGuire
“Featuring a gorgeous diverse cast, this gorgeously creepy novella is for anyone who ever wondered what it was like to travel through the looking glass or a wardrobe to Narnia and beyond, and for those struggling to return to the real world after having an adventure.”

Leigh Mar recommends: THE HATING GAME by Sally Thorne
“For the RomCom lover in your life . . . It’s fun from page one as long-time work rivals Lucy and Joshua compete for the same job.”

Heather Murphy Capps recommends: THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colton Whitehead
“Magical Realism. The story of Cora’s escape from slavery, via an imagined actual underground train. I was concerned because the device foments the regrettable (frustrating) misunderstanding that the railway was an actual train. But it’s a beautiful, brutal, important story.”

Isabel Andrew Davis recommends: THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR by Nicola Yoon

Maria Mora recommends: SWORDSPOINT by Ellen Kushner
“Adult Fantasy. Rich world-building and delightful, subtle romance. Such a cozy, unique book and worth hanging onto for many rereads. I read it once a year.”

Kristen Lepionka recommends: WOMEN CRIME WRITERS: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s
“Boxed set collected by Sarah Weinman. A crash course on the female writers who shaped the crime fiction genre alongside writers like Chandler or Hammett back in the day, but whom you might not be as familiar with. Dorothy B. Hughes, Margaret Millar, and Elisabeth Sanxay Holding, to name a few. On top of that, it looks gorgeous on a bookshelf!”

Lyndsay Ely recommends: THE GODS OF GOTHAM by Lyndsay Faye
“Picked up this book purely for the author’s name and ended up being seduced into the series, which follows the fictional first New York City “detective.” A dark, lusciously gritty story full of street slang, devastating characters, and pull-no-punches period details.”

Happy book buying!

How to GIF (and How NOT to GIF)

So, what is an animated GIF? It’s an all-singing, all-dancing graphic that decorates many a blog, Twitter feed, Facebook page, and Pitch Wars bio.

Better question–why deploy GIFs? Well, because they’re hilarious (when done right). In a world where we’re trying to entertain, connect, persuade in 144 characters, gifs pack a ton of punch. It’s a visual quote, a reference to a movie, TV show, song, or other moment in time that layers in another level of meaning to whatever you’ve thrown out into the webuverse. But, it can get overwhelming.


Wanna gif, but unsure of where to start?

Here are some of the mechanics:

  1. Gif Libraries–My Top Three: Find the gif you want, and, depending on where you’re going to upload, save it as a file, or save the link. (Left-click on a PC; Command + mouse click on Mac).
    1. Giphy: I love Giphy. Search the library for all manner of gif-tastic nonsense.
    2. Google: YUP. Google. Get Googly with Image Search, then click “Search Tools” under the search bar. Click on  the “Any Type” dropdown and select “Animated.” And BOOM. Gifs galore. Okay, fine, it’s not exactly a “tip” to Google something, but maybe the filters are new info?
    3. Twitter: Has a GIF button embedded. The choices are limited, but it’s pretty snappy reference.
  2. How to Upload for Auto-Play: The whole point of a GIF is to auto-play so your followers immediately see your reference. So, here’s how ya do it.
    1. Twitter: Click on the GIF button to find something in Twitter’s library, OR, upload your own GIF file. No linkies here.
    2. Facebook: Unlike Twitter, Facebook auto-plays the links. So… Links only here!
    3. Blogs: Blogger behaves like Twitter, and auto-plays an uploaded file. WordPress, on the other hand, has a Giphy widget embedded in the HTML editor.

And here are some guidelines:

  1. Ye gods, don’t punctuate every sentence with a GIF. Unless you want to induce a seizure in your readers.
  2. Don’t grab just any GIF. Reference something that resonates with you. I mean, you wouldn’t quote Seinfeld if you didn’t watch it, would you? No, of course not. These are visual quotes, not popularity contests. If you love ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer?” I’mma expect to see the Scoobies all over your page. Marvel? Please let me see Hulk punching All of The Things. As for me? Well, if you know where this gem comes from, then you have seen into my soul.


Though, I suppose, when in doubt, post some kittens.


And honestly? That’s all there is to it. Your reference points should be true to your pop culture experience. So get out there, have fun, and get giphy with your bad self.

To The Shelves Coming May 1

To The Shelves is a collaborative blog developed by a group of writers who all participated in the Pitch Wars 2015 writing contest.

The blog will launch May 1 with a Pep Talk because encouraging yourself and other writers is an incredibly important part of the writing process for me, and I want to make sure it is something we take seriously here on the blog! That post will soon be followed by posts on craft, writing as a business, writing process, and writers talking about books!

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