How I Keep Track of My Writing Deadlines Using Trello

I often get asked how I manage to write seven books in a year, but truthfully, the actual writing isn't the hard part. 

It’s being organized about everything else.

Getting a book out into the world is never as simple as “I need to finish X book by Y date.”

There is that, yes, but that’s just the first draft. It’s a lion’s share of the work, but it’s one part of many.

Typing The End, ironically, is only the beginning.

After that comes round 1 revisions. And then round 2 revisions. There’s copyedits. Then page proofs. Then sometimes round 2 page proofs. And in between all of those steps, there are about a dozen emails going back and forth about covers and character name conflict, and whether we should use Book 1 or Volume 1, and what the back matter for the books should be, and "can you pull some excerpts?" and the dedication and the acknowledgment and the pricing and lots of “by the way, LL, you moved again and we need an updated bio."

And then there’s the promo. Making teasers, and writing guest blog posts, and new Facebook covers for each release. And updating the website with pre-order links, and cover reveals and advertising  and interview requests. Even after the book is out there’s pricing adjudgment and discounts and pimping book 1 in anticipation of book 2.

Back when I had 2 books out a year, I kept track of this in my head. When I moved up to 4 books a year, I used a combination of Evernote and a paper planner.

Now that I have 7 books out a year? 

I use Trello.

What is Trello you ask? First thing you need to know is that yes, you’ll have to set up an account to use it, but … it’s free!

It’s basically a tool that enables you to create “boards.” (Think, bulletin board.)

Each board has “lists.” (Think columns.)

Each list has “cards.” (Think index cards.)

You can then drag and drop these cards among these various lists, getting a visual of where each book is in the process.

I have about 30 “boards” and I use them for everything from planning the Weekly to my editorial calendar to my Last Word Designs projects. Now that I think about it, each one could probably warrant its own blog post!

Today though, I’ll focus on the board I use most frequently. I call it, appropriately, my Deadline Calendar.

First things first, I create a card for each book. 

Every single book I write or plan to write gets its own card on this board. Nothing fancy, just the title, and then I add the associated series and publisher in the description. I've recently realized you can add an attachment to each card, so now I can see the cover image, which makes it that much easier to update "at a glance." 

Then I have my lists (again, think of these as columns), that look like this:


Brainstorm: Books that I want to write some day but haven’t been submitted/contracted/started.

Queue: Books that are under contract, or almost under contract but that I'm not actively working on.

Outline: Books that I’m pre-writing; outlines, brainstorming, etc.

Draft: Books I’m actively writing, in their first draft stage.

With Editor/Agent: Books that are currently out of my hands; either the ball’s in my editor’s court, or my agent’s reviewing, etc. It’s the only “List” on this board that gets reused, as each book/card will return to this column a few times in between revisions, copyedits, etc.

R1 Revisions: Books in Round One revisions; books where I’m currently addressing my editor’s suggested changes and doing rewrites.

R2 Revisions: Books in Round Two revisions; most of my books skip this step, but every now and then there’s one that needs a little extra attention.

Copyedits: Books where I’m actively working on copyedits; timeline inconsistencies, polishing dialog, etc)

Page Proofs: Books in final review/proofreading stage.

Final: Books that are 100% final, ready to be published, and focus has shifted to marketing/promo (a whole other Trello board!) 

Released: Book’s out in the wild, and I don't have to think about it quite as often.


Now, I’ve tried to do this same sort of column set-up in an Excel/Numbers worksheet before, and technically it works, but Trello is way better.

For starters, you can drag/drop a card back and forth, which is just damn handy, especially in the mobile app version.

You can also assign labels, and color-code each step of the process.

And you can assign a deadline to each card, and then when you use the “calendar view” in Trello, you can see all of your cards/due dates on an actual calendar. Magical, right?

Here's a picture of my actual Trello board, with a few modifications to protect my Muse's creative privacy as well as projects I haven't publicly announced yet.

WritersLauren Layne