How to Create a Vision Board for Writing

I love Pinterest. Next to Instagram, its my favorite of the social networks because of all the pretty pictures. If you follow me at all on Pinterest you know I have boards for all kinds of things: favorite quotes, meals that I’ll probably never make, inspiration, and I even have pinboards for each of my books. My book pinboards are filled with nature pics and some quotes and (naturally) the models and actors that I think represent the characters in my books. These pinboards are very much like vision boards for me, and while I create them in the beginning stages of each draft, I add to them throughout the writing and editing and publishing process. These pinboards help me keep my vision of the books fresh while I’m trudging through the middle (middles are HARD for me, people!), and last year as I was setting up my planner I thought: why aren’t I making pinboards for other things? I should do that and so I did.

I made a vision board for 2018 on Pinterest. It was beautiful. Filled with quotes I like, pictures of places I’d like to visit or that inspire me…you get the idea. The problem was that while I filled that board up quickly, I forgot to go and check in on it (which made for a fun surprise this year when I discovered in again…but I digress). I wanted a vision board for my year that would actually work to inspire me – that I could see every day and not forget about. That meant it needed to be a physical board, not a digital one. The big problem with creating a big poster or cork board sized vision board is the size of my office and the fact that it doubles as a guest room.

Page 1 of my planner vision board

I kept thinking and wondered if I could create a vision board that would live in my planner for the year. I use my planner daily, so I wouldn’t lose track of my vision. I could add to it throughout the year because I use the Happy Planner/discbound system, that was a bonus. I played around with that idea and it turns out, I could. And I did. And I am so excited about it!

I wound up putting the vision board in my project planner because that’s what made the most sense. So far I’m really loving it. When I see those images I chose to represent my expectations and hopes and plans for the year, it just makes me happy and inspires me to keep moving forward. So much, that I wanted to share the process with you guys because I think it could help you, too! Here’s what you need: glue, a few blank pages that will fit into your planner, and clippings from various magazines or digitally printed. The images can be words that are inspiring to you, nature images, inspirational/aspirational sayings, and even people that inspire you if you’re so inclined. If you don’t have any magazines laying around, contact your local Goodwill – most have stacks and stacks of magazines that you can buy for $1/bag.

Another planner vision board page

Step One: go through the magazines page by page looking for images, headlines, and even bits of text that make you happy in some way. Cut them out and stack them in piles. I made piles of nature pics, some health/wellness images/words, inspirational words, and even a couple of pics of people (Oprah!) who inspire me. The number of clippings you have will vary, but I think a solid number is probably 20-30 clippings.

Step Two: decide how many “sections” you want for this vision board. I used three sheets of planner paper, and “titled” each page according to what it represented. I have a page for work (writing), a page for home, and a page for health/wellness because those are my top three areas this year.
Step Three: figure out which images you want on what pages and/or, if you’re just doing a single page, which section of the page. I like to have one big image and then I fill in the rest of the area with quotes and pictures that either reinforce what I see in that image or that build upon it.

The “home” page from my vision board

Once you’ve figured out what goes on that page, it’s time for Step Four: start gluing! Rubber cement or glue sticks work well, but I prefer a tape runner (I use a TomBow) because it isn’t as messy but it keeps things in position. For my vision board, I also used washi to tape the pages together so that they fold in on one another. Speaking of, washi would be a great way to stick images to your pages and add a little more color/texture to the overall piece. That’s it. You’ve created a vision for your year that can be tucked into your planner (or put on a cork board if you have one!) that will keep you inspired for the next year.
Do you like vision boards? What would you like to create a vision board for?

January Goals & Planning for 2019

A couple of weeks ago, I shared with you my planner setup for 2019. Well, it’s 2019 and I know we’re only a day in, but I’m already loving my planner! But, as I was setting it up and my planner was getting thicker and thicker I realized something: I needed just a little separation. 2018 brought about a lot of new things here at Casa Knight: bebe started karate, which leads to several practices each week, RadioMan started a new job that not only includes sportscasting but also running a radio group (and all the meetings, late nights, and ballgames that entails), and I started working part-time outside the home.

Kristina’s “mini”/family and health planner

All of that means our family schedule is packed. It also means that, many times, our family schedule takes up space that I need to have dedicated to my writing…and when I don’t, some of the business parts of my writing can be put off or (gasp!) forgotten. Which is where Separation comes in. I decided to split out my writing from our family planning (although some of the same appointments go in both – because it never hurts to have some things in multiple places). So, I bought my first Happy Planner Mini (this one, an hourly format) that I’m not using hourly but as a workout, food, and water log, along with appointments and family things.

Kristina’s 2019 Planner

Kristina’s Project Planner

My main planner (a BIG sized Happy planner, in the Teacher layout will be my business planner) remains, with sections for writing, social media, planning, refilling the well, you get the idea). And, I created a project planner. This is only a planner in the loosest sense of the word – I’m using parts of a Happy Notes BIG, with sections for different writing projects (those contracted through NY and those that are INDIE), ideas for my blog and social media, and a few non-fiction ideas, too. This is one of the project pages, from my book that is coming out in March. Speaking of plans, it’s the beginning of a new month and that means it’s time for GOALS! Meanwhile, let’s recap December: 

  • Set a daily writing goal on Sunday of each week (Sunday is my planning day); my minimum writing goal will be 1,000 words. – CHECK
  • Finalize a partial/synopsis for my agent. – CHECK
  • Finalize the novella edits and formatting in preparation for the March release (I just saw the cover and I canNOT wait to share with you guys!). – CHECK

Despite the craziness of December, I did meet my three main goals, so I’m super happy about that. Now for January’s goals: 

  • Continue setting daily writing goals on Sunday, with a minimum goal of 1,000 on writing days
  • Begin tracking my food and water intake, along with workouts, in my mini planner. Health is going on the front burner this year because…well, because it needs to. And by health I do mean physical, but I’ll be doing some mental-health things, too. Stay tuned!
  • Start writing my next full length project, with a goal of pitching by the end of January. In addition, continue working on my next contemporary series idea, this one with the goal of pitching mid-February.
  • Begin working on plans for my book releasing in March, including a cover reveal and creating a dedicated page for it here on my website.

If you’ve got a goal (or twelve) for January, feel free to share in the comments. I’d love to hear from you! 

5 Ways to Improve Productivity

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about productivity. Every year about this time, I start looking ahead to the next year. I begin to cull through my potential Word of the Year List and reflect on my word for this year. I look at my goals for the year and come up with a plan to make it through the holiday season with my goals still intact.

I like to be productive. I’m happier when I’ve checked off my to-do lists, when I have a plan for the day (or week or month or, heck, year). I feel better, not just in my headspace, but physically when I’m meeting my health goals and I feel better in my headspace when I’m making time for creative outlets. But it’s hard to be productive all the time – some days, no matter how many things are on my to-do, I just don’t feel like it. I don’t want to write or read or finish that craft or make those phone calls or pay those bills or fold that last load of laundry. I just flat-out don’t want to.

When those days hit, there are two choices: 1) don’t do anything and feel even worse the next day or 2) fight back against the don’t-wannas with a few tricks. Here are five ways I push through those blah days:

  1. I use a focus app called Tide:   I’ve been using focusing apps for a long time, but I switched over to this app in the spring and I am in serious love with it. There are several different settings (nap, meditation, focus, etc), with different timing options starting at 15 minutes. I usually set it for 45 minute writing sessions: write for 45, take a short break to fold that load of laundry or get a drink of water or play ball with Hazel-the-pup, then it’s back at my desk for another session. 
  2. Put the phone in another room:   This seems like a given but for a long time, I was working with my phone right next to me. Email would bleep or someone would call and wham! I’m out of my zone and distracted again. Putting the phone in another room (and turning off the notifications for my watch) is key to keeping my focus where it needs to be. Going along with this one: turn off the internet! Seriously, disconnect from wi-fi and if you need to check “just one thing” online, make a note in your WIP or on a piece of paper and keep pushing forward. Check that one thing during your morning routine or after you’ve met your word count for the day.
  3. Use a paper planner: There are a lot of digital options for planning and I think they’re great. For me, though, a paper planner is the best option (the Happy Planner is my jam! Love the flexibility/customization options of the disc system). My planner holds daily to-do lists (like cleaning and appointments) but it also houses my business plan, deadlines, quarterly goals (including action steps to meet said goals). Plus, there are stickers and stickers make everything better! There are a couple of different studies that have shown the physical act of writing down a goal or appointment helps us meet those goals. I’m a firm believer in paper planners for accountability and goal setting.
  4. Make a date with yourself: have lunch with girlfriends, go for a walk in the botanical gardens, or just head to the mall to people-watch. I like taking my writing notebook with me. Sometimes I brainstorm book/character ideas, sometimes I write down blog/social media post ideas and sometimes I just bring dump a lot of the stuff in my head or doodle. Here’s the thing: as much as I love planning, there are times that I plan too much for too long. Being unable to focus on my work can sometimes mean that I haven’t made time for *me*. When that happens, stepping away from my computer is crucial, even if it’s only for an hour. Creative dates help me clear my head so I can focus again.
  5. Sleep: I don’t mean a nap in the middle of the day (although a good 20 minute power nap can be ahhhh-mazing!). I mean getting a full 8 hours of sleep. Having a set bedtime and sticking to it. Along with eating healthy and drinking water, the best thing I can do for my focus is to make sure I’m getting enough sleep. Being rested is crucial for me to feel good, to feel like working, and to be able to focus on my work. 

When I’m having one of those days when I just can’t focus, I’ll think about what I’ve been eating/drinking, the sleep I’ve been getting or the schedule I’ve been keeping…if I need it, I’ll take an hour or so for me, and then I’ll go back to the basics of turning on my focus app, turning off the internet, and getting back to work.

What about you? How do you focus when your focus is gone?

Using Photo Boxes for Office Organization

blue, blue, and more blue!

Last week, I decided my office needed a little bit of a makeover. Okay, technically this is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time – I’ve had cube shelves for a while and the fabric boxes I’ve been using were getting old and a bit worn and … frankly, kind of boring. And they didn’t match how I wanted my office to look. Which led me to a Pinterest rabbit hole and then an IKEA rabbit hole and then Michaels…and you get the idea. 

aren’t these color combos great?

I liked everything I saw at IKEA and Michaels and the ideas on Pinterest were amazing as always, but there was nothing specific to my problem of the cube shelves other than *more fabric boxes* and I didn’t want fabric boxes for all of the reasons I listed above. I decided to hit Pat Catans (which is a kind of small town version of Michaels) to see what I could find. 

And I hit the motherlode. Seriously. They were having a huge sale on photo storage boxes – you know, the kind that are about shoe box size? I picked up 14 of these boxes for less than $20. 

Love the look of my cube shelves now!

My first step was to go through the fabric boxes I already had, separating and organizing the detritus of a home office. Supplies (paper clips, rubber bands, etc) in one area, extra cords in another, stationery over here, “author” stationery over there…you get the idea. Then, it was as simple as organizing how I wanted to store all the bits and bobs and labeling each of the boxes. 

bebe’s cabinet is much more organized!

I think it turned out great – and I even had enough boxes left over to update bebe’s bedroom cabinet that houses her supply of hair stuffs and tween makeup and whatnot. I couldn’t be happier with how my office turned out or her cabinet – and the bonus is that now I know where everything is again!

Do you use storage boxes in your office? How do you organize your shelves?

#WriteTip: How to Approach Edits

Wow, it’s a new month and I’m here posting on a brand new day! There’s a reason for that: a couple of group blogs that I’m involved with are changing up their posting schedule, which prompted a change to my blog’s schedule. Starting today (and how apropos that this is actually starting on the first day of a new month?), I’ll be posting every Monday here. 

Today’s post is part of my #howwedo series, in which I ask a few author friends how they approach different parts of the writing life, from brainstorming a story concept to that final round of edits. I started this series because of the most-often asked questions writers get is how do you _____. And what I’ve found over my years in publishing is that there is no one approach to anything in this business. I think it can be incredibly helpful to see the various ways that different authors approach aspects of their career because we may be able to grab a little nugget of something Writer A does and adapt it into our own processes. So, without further ado, How We Do: Self-Edits

What is a self-edit? It’s that round of edits we do to polish our manuscripts before sending to our agent/editor/hopeful-publisher. 

My approach is first a quick-hit with my grammar program because I have a serious problem with commas thanks to my years in TV journalism when we used commas to “tell” the anchors where to pause. This also helps me find obvious typos and the occasional run-on/wordy sentence. Then, I save the manuscript as a PDF and put it on my iPad Pro, so that I can read through and mark it up using my Apple Pencil. From there, it’s as simple an inputting those changes and sending off to my agent. 

But you don’t just want to hear from me. Here’s what my friend, Nan Reinhardt (who happens to be a super-talented author and editor), has to say. “I start with whatever my Betas have discovered—typos, time line issues, name problems, etc. and fix those. Then I put it on my Kindle and read the whole manuscript that way, making notes the entire time. Then I run it through an editing program I have—one that I use when I’m editing other people’s work. After that, one last spell check before I finally send it off. This last time, I knew the heroine could have been fully developed, but I was running short on time, so I sent it off with a hint of doubt. Sure enough, my editor loved everything about the story, except she thought the heroine needed fleshing out. I think most writers have a gut feeling about their stories when they finish a first draft.”

Author Claire McEwen wrote for Harlequin’s Superromance line with me, and we did a fab multi-author novella collection, based on our different Superromance series. She now writes for Harlequin’s Heartwarming line and says, “If at all possible, I like to take a break from the manuscript before I try to revise or edit. It is amazing what I can see if I have a few days off from the pages! So I set my writing schedule up to accommodate this. For example, right now I’m writing the first draft of a contracted book. I plan to finish the draft in the next few weeks, then set it aside. I’ll spend the next few weeks working on a proposal for another book. Then I’ll go back to my draft and revise and edit before I send it off to the editor.”

My friend Liz Flaherty has written for Harlequin’s Special Edition as well as Heartwarming line, and her approach to editing is so on-point because Liz believes that you have to own the book and story you’re telling. “I type it as clean as I can, my friend Nan Reinhardt—who, blessedly enough, IS an editor—then gives it a read. I fix or I don’t, depending on what she tells me <g>, then it’s off to my editor. If I were newer, or not published, I’m not sure how I’d do it.”

There you have it, writers, 4 approaches to editing that I hope will help you develop a system of your own. Next time, our #howwedo will deal with approaching editor feedback. Stay tuned!

Oh, and since it’s the first of the month, how about we do some goals? I know I am much more likely to accomplish my goals if I tell people about them. So…here we go. Kristina’s 3 October Goals

  1. Track my meals Monday – Friday, and create a workout schedule. I have a plethora of workout videos, a running/interval program on my phone, and a number of WiiU fitness games. The problem is that I can sometimes put off a workout because I can’t decide what to do. So, like my buddy Jill is doing, I’m going to create a rotating schedule of Monday-Friday workouts, put them in my planner and then it’s as simple as loading the DVD (or going outside) and checking off that list item!
  2. Finish writing a novella for an indie-continuity project that releases early next year. The books are light-hearted, sweet romances, set in the Caribbean (y’all know how I love a beach!) and I can’t wait to share more with you. 
  3. Create a “themed” schedule. Even though I’m a full-time writer, I don’t write from 8am – 4pm; I can’t, as much as I want to. But, I also waste some of the time I have when bebe is at school. So, I’m creating a block schedule in which certain times of the day are for writing and others are “themed” – like for professional development, content/social media creation, “me” time. You get the idea. I’ll let you know how I like this block schedule. 
  4. Do a final revision pass once I get a project back from my agent this month. It’s something I’ve been working on for a while and I’m so excited about it but it’s been such a HARD book to write!! This is my final goal of the month because I don’t know when I’ll get her comments back and I’m not sure how many changes will be needed…so this goal may bleed into November. 

Do you have a goal or two for the month?

Office Hack: Easel Hangars

3 Current Folders!

Y’all know my penchant for office supplies by now – planners and pens and notebooks and folders. These are functional, basic office items. I also have a basic, functional office because it doubles as a guest room when we have friends or family come in to stay with us for a while. But, just because my office needs to function well (for me and for guests) doesn’t mean it has to be boring or ugly. 

Part of what I love about office supplies is the sheer variety. Sure there are plain manila folders and basic yellow #2 pencils and you can get a 24 pack of basic black Bic’s. But, you don’t have to. When I was redoing my office a couple of years ago I looked at all the office supplies I have – a myriad of colored pens and pencils, folders with designs and images on them, notebooks repurposed from old planner pages. I wanted to give my basic, functional office pops of color so I decided to use my folders and notebooks and yes pens as part of the decor. 

Today, I’m going to show you how I created a folder filing system that isn’t one of the those yucky, gray things that hang on walls in office buildings. Here’s what you need: 

3-4 small easels for pictures
3-4 of your favorite folders
Command hangars

Hang the easel upside down.

Find a place on your wall or the side of a bookcase (like I did!). Place 2 Command hangars side by side but about 3″ apart. Next, hang your easel upside down, so the “V” shape is ope toward the ceiling and the “lip” is pointed toward you. Go up the wall or bookcase about 6″ and repeat for the second easel and continue on like this until you’ve hanged each easel. Now put your folders there and, voila!, you have hacked your office and made your pretty folders part of the decor! 

Kristina’s File Rack

For additional functionality, you could add a pretty binder clip to the “lip” of each easel to create a label. I don’t do this because I label each of my folders, which takes care of me knowing what they’re for. Also, I keep my most urgent (as in have a deadline of 1-2 months) in the bottom easel, things that have a bit more time in the middle, and the top easel is for story ideas and future projects (things that don’t have a deadline just yet). 

One more tip: I always find the best (prettiest!) folders at Target, but the easels and Command hangars I picked up at our local dollar store – for the rock-bottom price of $5 total…making this also a very economical office hack! 

What do you like best about your home office? 

#WriteTip: Setting Up Your WIP Notebook

Kristina’s Project Planner Worksheet

I get asked a lot about my writing process, and while we all have our processes and most writers are cool sharing what works and what doesn’t, I think the real value in knowing how other writers write is in knowing that there are so many different ways to write a book. There is no singular right way. You look at what is working for you and you adjust accordingly. My process isn’t the same even from book to book. Some books I write beginning to end. Some books I write out of order. Some books I turn in and realize that I need to rearrange a few key areas. Books are beautiful, frustrating, really weird things. But.

You knew there was going to be a but. 

But, there is one thing that stays true with my process: my WIP Notebook/Project Planner. So I thought I’d share that part of my writing process with you guys this week because it might help you, too. My WIP notebook becomes a kind of catch-all for each book. It has details like drafting/editing deadline, series name/information, and detailed plot and character notes. I love it because having all the details in one spot makes it easy to double-check a character’s eye color or change names when you realize every.single.name begins with “M” or to fill in the “blah blah make this funnier” notes we leave in our WIPs while we’re fast-drafting.

Here’s how my WIP notebook works for me:

The brain dump: The brain dump is exactly what it sounds like: a dump of information. I write everything I think I know about the book, characters, and backstory on these pages. Things I think might happen, things from the past, where my characters are emotionally at the beginning of the book, where they are at the end, what the romantic storyline is, what the personal storyline is. It takes up the bulk of the notebook and is usually four of five pages of…stuff. Stuff that I need to get out of my head before I can actually start parsing through to see what works and (more importantly) what doesn’t. 

Kristina’s Plot Worksheet

The Plot Worksheet: After I’ve written down the pertinent backstory stuff, character stuff, maybe even opening or closing scene details, it’s time to start parsing through that to create an actual sort-of plot. That’s where my plot worksheet comes in. Here I’ll list the tropes for the book, the series (if it’s part of a series), title and length details. But, the real work is in the scene listing. I’ll write out scene ideas for the different acts of the book – some will make it in and some won’t, but having the scene ideas written down is very helpful in create an actual outline. 

Kristina’s “W” Worksheet

The “W” sheet: From that dump of information and general scene listing comes some actual outline information. I’m a fan of the “W” plot and I kind of integrate it with a three-act structure to create my outline – and for those of you who think this is too rigid, just know that I go into every outline knowing that once the draft is finished I’ll probably move at least 2-3 scenes around in the book. Back to my worksheet. So we have the highs and lows of the initial trigger and problem, the first turning point, a second triggering moment, a deepening of the conflict, and so on. Some of these moments will be in my brain dump of information. Some in the plot worksheet. It’s why I do a brain dump, a plot worksheet, and then a W sheet – because genre romance is all about certain moments happening at certain times. By winnowing all.the.details. into specific.plot.ideas. and then into an outline form I get a clearer vision of the conflict. Conflict, as we all know, comes from the past. Something bad happens as a child. Something bad happens as an adult that confirms to the character that they are not worthy of whatever it is they want/have/need. It’s conflict math. 1+1=2 or Incident+Incident=Confirmation. For me BrainDump+Plot Workheet=Solid W plot-plan.

Kristina’s Character Worksheet

Character Sheets: Then come the character sheets. Each character gets a main sheet with details about their physical features, their home, their family, their wants/needs, job information, hopes/dreams, nicknames. Why they have what they have and don’t deserve what they want…all that good, emotional stuff. 

Kristina’s Setting Worksheet

Setting Sheet: Keeping track of business names and locations, seasonal details, big events, even the town layout and a timeline of events can be hard in a single book…its even harder when you write a series. Having a setting worksheet keeps all those minute details in one place so that I can refer back to find that I called the local bar Shorty’s in book one (or, heck, chapter one) and Logan’s in another book/chapter. 

If you like these pages, I have printable versions that you can print and use for your WIP notebooks. Do you use a WIP notebook (either online or offline!) to help your plotting? 

#WriteTip: Getting Into the Habit


Habit. It kind of sounds like a bad word…probably because for most of our lives we’re told we need to “break that bad habit”. Be that habit smoking or drinking too much soda or indulging in a candy bar once too often.

One thing I’ve learned over time: it’s much easier to learn a bad habit than it is a good one. I think because the bad habits can be so fun – I mean, who doesn’t want to spend a day in the pool rather than at the office? Who doesn’t want another slice of Chocolate Decadance or one more drink of that mojito? We’re human. We like the things that, in many cases, aren’t great for us.

According to Mr. Webster, an habit is “a behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary”. In other words, a habit is a learned behavior, and it doesn’t have to be a bad learned behavior.

I think the key to creating any habit is to begin by looking at it as a positive rather than a negative. Instead of “I can never eat chocolate again” look at it as “I’m going to enjoy one slice of the best chocolate cake ever and I’m going to enjoy every second of it”. Instead of “I can never laze in the pool on a hot summer day!” think “I’m going to meet __(goal)__ before I laze in the pool this afternoon”.

Y’all know I love my planner – it’s so much easier to have a list of to-dos and deadlines and expectations and family events all in one place that I can keep track of. But, another thing I do is track my habits – the good and the bad. Up above you’ll see the habit tracker I created for 2018 (feel free to download my Habit Tracker and other printables for writers here). I don’t fill it out every month, but I do find it helpful to use it every couple of months, just to make sure I’m doing the things I need to be doing – like exercise, like drinking enough water, like making my bed time. I’m happier, in general, when those things are going well, and I’m more likely to follow through on work goals when I’m also meeting my personal/health goals.

Here’s a copy of the tracker so far for August. Making those checkmarks is very satisfying…and as you can see, I’m not perfect. I haven’t been tracking my meals like I should (which is probably why, even though I’m hitting my bed time goal, I’m still feeling a little tired and “off”). But, now I can see where I’m not being the best me I can be (as bebe’s teacher liked to say in 4th grade), and I know how I can make a small change to start feeling better, in general.

Have you tried tracking your habits? Did it work for you? Share in the comments!