What’s Your Holiday Writing Plan?

Christmas baubles

Ah, the holiday season. I have to admit, I absolutely love this time of year. I’m crazy about Christmas music, decorations, and Colorado sun shining on the snow.

But the holiday season can lead to frustration when we’re trying to juggle work and family with the increased demands the holidays put on our time. The time available for writing dwindles and you start to feel behind and get stressed that you’re not meeting your goals or deadlines.

So I propose that today, or this weekend, you take a few quiet moments to make yourself a Holiday Plan. Let’s face this time of year with a strategy that will take us through to January 2nd with the least amount of stress possible.

How should you create your Holiday Plan?

1. Take a look at the next three weeks on the calendar and try to accurately assess about how much time you’ll have for your personal writing pursuits. Then, divide that in half, and assume that’s how much time you’ll realistically have.

2. Set reasonable goals for this time period. Is it a word count? Is it simply to have a certain amount of time each week to enjoy writing, without having an expectation of results? A good goal for some people is “I will put away my writing until January 2nd, at which time I will come at it with fresh eyes and a renewed sense of energy.” Set goals that are attainable given your situation.

3. After you’ve set your goals, make a plan of action for how you’ll meet them. Schedule the writing time on your calendar, or put Post-It notes on your desk reminding yourself NOT to write.

4. If you have deadlines during the holidays or immediately after, then your Holiday Plan is even more important. You may need to cut back on some activities, or delegate more of your usual holiday tasks—cooking, cleaning, decorating, shopping. Most importantly, don’t go into this season simply assuming that “somehow” you’ll get it all done. Make a plan!

5. I also find it crucial to exercise in at this time of the year — you’ll feel so much better if you do. Even if it’s just getting outside for a 20-minute walk, make time to move!

Let’s go into the holiday season with realistic expectations about what we can accomplish. The holidays are stressful enough without adding to it with impractical goals!

Tell us about your Holiday Plan. How will you handle the balance between your work and your life? What are your goals? Put your plans in writing and share them here!

Posted in

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Books & Such Literary Agency. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Writers: Keeping Up with the Hustle and Bustle? on December 21, 2012 at 9:31 AM

    […] what about writing? Does writing have a role in the busy day-to-day holiday preparation? Below are a few ideas on how to keep up with […]

  2. Pamala Clift on December 17, 2012 at 5:43 AM

    Excellent break down of project management. We are a whole entity, requiring all facets to be handled. Modify expectations toward reality and you have a chance at success.

    Have a gal that increases her expectations with success, instead of enjoying accomplishments.

    Saying No is almost the hardest lesson to learn when asked. You as a whole being are valuable. Saying No because you wish to go to the movies with a friend, is not lying.. if you say, “Sorry I am busy.”

    Anything else will make us feel resentment. What is most valuable to you.. your sanity? Your writing? Your quiet time amid societal chaos.

    The muse will take a vacation if you stress yourself.. don’t sacrifice brilliance for number of words written.. wait till the passion hits. It is less like work then.

    Good reminders.. Hugs,
    The Roadside Philosopher

  3. Ursula Jordaan on December 16, 2012 at 3:03 PM

    You know, I don’t have a plan. In fact, I’m just learning the process of setting goals…and making a plan of action?? Well, that’s new to me.

    I’ve just been writing when I can, but I’m now seeing the relevance of of the two.

    Hmmmmm, soul food for thought.

  4. Krista Phillips on December 15, 2012 at 9:58 AM

    Quite honestly, I don’t have one.

    Last year I spent 90% of the holiday season pouring my heart into edits of my debut novel and feel like I all but ignored my family. Christmas shopping, tree decorating, baking, all were done in a hurried after-thoughts.

    No deadline looming this year, so I decided to mostly put away writing for the month and take a “vacation.” I’m still getting a few words in here or there, but come January, I’ll start back and get a good plan in place to catch up!

  5. Peter DeHaan on December 14, 2012 at 7:04 PM

    For my holiday writing plan, I want to finish the next chapter of WIP #1 before Christmas Eve and the chapter after that by New Years Eve. I also want to complete three chapters in WIP #2 by the end of the year.

    • Omotolaoluwawo on December 15, 2012 at 7:36 AM

      Just dropped the pen promising myself to be faithfull to it because i’m not the type that go for things like this.i need to meet up with several deadlines this season so thanks for it.

  6. Friday Features #35 - yesenia vargas on December 14, 2012 at 6:57 PM

    […] What’s Your Holiday Writing Plan? | Rachelle Gardner […]

  7. […] then comes back with a post on her own blog about creating a realistic Holiday Writing Plan. Her five suggestions are nothing but common sense, but as the saying goes, sometimes common sense […]

  8. Kristin Laughtin on December 14, 2012 at 2:28 PM

    YES to halving the amount of time you think you’ll have! No matter how much you plan, things seem to come up at this time of year. It’s a good time to aim low and then be pleasantly surprised if you get more done than anticipated.

    Luckily for me, I always seem to be in revision mode during December. It’s much easier for me to make headway on changing existing words than creating new ones. So that’s a suggestion for anyone who fears for their book’s progress during the holidays: revise!

  9. Ken Bieber on December 14, 2012 at 2:12 PM

    This past weekend, I sadly set aside my novel (80% through first draft) for the next month to concentrate on finishing my doctoral thesis. Since I pastor a church, I plan to take the weeks leading up to and after New Year’s Day to knock out a few chapters. I will continue to do some marketing each day, however, for the short story I have up on Kindle, since it’s holiday-themed and now is the time to promote it. After completing the academic writing, I’ll return to the novel in mid-January to finish the remaining 20%. As for exercise, my kids and I play soccer out back after dinner each night. But once the temperature drops, we’ll build our ice rink and move from soccer to skating. (That depends, of course, on the weather. Last year’s winter never stayed below freezing long enough for us to enjoy the rink.)

    • Jan Thompson on December 14, 2012 at 3:30 PM

      You write well. Your prose reads like comfort food. (I’m speaking from my avid reader side.)

      The good news is that you have 80% of the MS done. I bet you already know the ending, so that 20% is just around the corner. I wish you every success from the Lord.

      • Ken Bieber on December 14, 2012 at 7:22 PM

        Thanks for your kind words, Jan. Blessings to you in this Christmas season.

  10. Heather on December 14, 2012 at 1:48 PM

    Thanks for the reminder. I definitely needed to hear that now that I feel like I’m drowning in pre-holiday deadlines.

  11. Donna Pyle on December 14, 2012 at 1:46 PM

    Since turning in my manuscript on December 1st, I’m soaking. I’m putting all “organized” writing aside and reading. Soaking in wonderful books that I shelved in the mad deadline dash. I’m journaling. Reading Scripture. Giving my brain a break and letting it wander, recharge and rest. I find it essential before diving into 2013!

  12. Meghan Carver on December 14, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    My husband is a college professor and now off for three weeks. Wonderful, I know, but he’s quite spontaneous and that doesn’t help me stick with a plan. I need more of that grace and sense of humor that Beth mentioned. So…

    1. Small blogging break and all other posts quite light.
    2. Complete my detailed outline so I’m ready to hit it hard in January.
    3. Walk outside as much as possible. It’s the best time of year for being out of doors!

    Thanks, Rachelle, for making me think in terms of a list.

  13. Kelly J Youngblood on December 14, 2012 at 12:07 PM

    Ha! I’m still trying to figure out how to do this during the regular season! Actually, the holiday season might give me more time to write, as my husband will probably be home more and he can watch the kids.

  14. Lindsay Harrel on December 14, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    Great advice, Rachelle. I’ve got hopes of revising the first six chapters of my ms before Dec. 24. Then I’m taking off work and writing from then until Jan. 2. It’s going to be glorious, hopefully a time filled with lots of fun with friends/family, reading, and movie watching. 😉

  15. Stephanie M. on December 14, 2012 at 10:57 AM

    Since the publishing world shuts down in late December, I’ve given myself the same treatment 🙂 I write if I feel like it, otherwise, it’s about family. My WIP is almost done but I can finish in January when things rev up again and we’re all fresh and shiny.

  16. Sara Mattinson on December 14, 2012 at 10:37 AM

    As a freelance writer, November is my big push then I stop pitching until January. Everyone’s head is elsewhere this time of year so I give myself the time off.
    I also work for a weekly newspaper and I’m the guest speaker at a church the first Sunday in January, so I’m already writing for the new year. That gets me away from Christmas which ends up refreshing me almost as well as a walk through the woods with the dogs.

  17. Emily Wenstrom on December 14, 2012 at 10:21 AM

    My travel this holiday season is limited to a single weekend, so fortunately I’m mostly able to stick to my normal routine…and I’m so grateful for it. Parties and visiting with family is fun, but I get a lot more satisfaction out of being productive with the things I’m passionate about. (can we say ‘loner’?)

  18. Ann Bracken on December 14, 2012 at 10:01 AM

    My holiday plan:

    1. Take off work from December 24 to January 7 (and only have to use six PTO days! Woot!). Spend at least half the time writing as if it’s a full-time job. Spend the other half eyeing all the goodies, especially mom’s fudge.

    2. Excuse myself from writing during family activities (because battling my husband/father/brothers/children for my mother’s fudge will take all my concentration).

    3. In order of importance: a) eat fudge, b) edits for agent, c) eat fudge, d) finish current WIP and self-edit, e) eat fudge, f) outline next book, g) eat fudge.

    4. Fine, I’ll try to excercise. Does running from the couch to the kitchen to snag the last piece of fudge count?

  19. Jeanne on December 14, 2012 at 9:40 AM

    I like this post. I’m definitely keeping it to help me make a better plan next year. I went into this month with my only plan being write when I can. Not specific enough, and I got frustrated because I wasn’t moving forward on my ms.

    Last weekend my honey asked me to take two weeks off writing to focus on Christmas preparations and catching up around the house. Though I was reluctant, I agreed. Then, that request was confirmed in two more ways within two days. So, my husband was right. 🙂

    I’ve slept in a little, worked out a little and begun wrapping up my Christmas details (literally and figuratively). I’m finding my mind getting excited about my next story and finding ways to make the current one stronger.

    My plan this year is to rest for these two weeks, enjoy family, help a friend in need and go back to my story after Christmas, refreshed and ready to dig into it again.

  20. Kathryn Elliott on December 14, 2012 at 9:39 AM

    Exercise is SO important! I try to carve out gym time at least 5 days a week during the holidays. That may sound like overkill to some, but the stress creeps up and bites me with a migraine if I slack off. Can you say, “Extended in-law visit?” 🙂

  21. christine danek on December 14, 2012 at 9:23 AM

    I really needed this post today. I love the holidays, but get grumpy because my writing time is limited or cut all together. I will sit down and put together a realistic plan to satisfy my writing needs. Thank you.

  22. Beth K. Vogt on December 14, 2012 at 9:14 AM

    My writing goals for the holiday:
    1. Take a blogging break (which started a week ago).
    2. Polish a manuscript I’ve been working on (a shorter one than usual.)
    3. Pre-post some blogs for 2013.
    4. Apply grace and sense of humor to all of the above.

    • Jeanne on December 14, 2012 at 9:35 AM

      I need to go heavier on the grace and sense of humor part of my plan. I like yours.

  23. Roxanne Sherwood Gray on December 14, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    Having four kids in three years forced me to make realistic goals for everything! My mom, who’s 82, hasn’t had all her children together for Christmas for 21 years, so I’m hosting everyone. It’s a big deal and I hadn’t thought about writing after next Wed. But, maybe I should take another look at my schedule … Rachelle, Thanks for this post. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

    • Jeanne on December 14, 2012 at 9:34 AM

      I hope it’s a wonderful time, Roxanne! You’re good at keeping the most important things first.

  24. Carol Benedict on December 14, 2012 at 8:50 AM

    My writing goal for the holidays is to write one blog post, re-read the manuscript I started (and abandoned) a year ago, and add pictures to my Idea Board. I’m considering entering a couple of contests that sparked my interest, but since the deadlines are a ways off I will be content with jotting down ideas for scenes during December.

    I’m combining exercise with Christmas shopping this year by browsing the stores in the mall instead of buying everything online. It’s more enjoyable than the treadmill, and the people I encounter provide inspiration for new characters.

    • Meghan Carver on December 14, 2012 at 12:07 PM

      I like your thinking about the Christmas shopping, Carol. So many odd — uh, I mean interesting — people at the mall.

  25. Julie Luek on December 14, 2012 at 8:38 AM

    Fortunately I’m in a self-education phase of reading, reading and reading before I hop on board with more revisions. My writing will be light over the holidays.

  26. Jackie Layton on December 14, 2012 at 7:51 AM

    Early morning is the time I’m planning on.

    But I’m grateful for the tip to put away my writing until Jan. 2. We have family coming to stay with us, my youngest son is home from college, and my daughter in law will probably have her second baby in the next week. All wonderful things that I want to enjoy!!!

    Thanks Rachelle for the reminder that it’s okay to celebrate!

    Merry Christmas!

  27. Evie McLaughlin on December 14, 2012 at 6:47 AM

    It was this time last year that Rachelle changed my life with a similar post to this. I sat down, had a good think and concluded that I needed to find time ‘Just Before Sunrise’ (now the name of my still embryonic blog). For the first time, I began getting up way before the house began to waken; and found the precious, still, early hours. I can wake up with my head full of the world of my story, uncomplicated by the demands of life, family or work. It meant I could enjoy the festive period fully, without feeling frustrated that I’d no time to write. Sometimes it was hard to shut off. But sometimes I did actually have full days anyway. When I came to go back to work I experimented to see if I could get up at 4:45 so that I’d have an hour and a half to write. It worked, and I’ve grown to love the early mornings. A HUGE thank you to you, Rachelle. If ‘Past The Tipping Point’ ever makes it to publication it will be in part thanks to this inspiring post. 🙂

    • Jeanne on December 14, 2012 at 9:33 AM

      Evie, I’ve been doing that for the past year also, because a friend mentioned it. I LOVE that early morning time as a writing time, especially when I worked on my first draft. I always know that I’ll get some writing time in each day, even if it’s only an hour. 🙂

      Have a merry Christmas!

    • Meghan Carver on December 14, 2012 at 12:05 PM

      Sounds perfect, Evie!

  28. Jackie Ley on December 14, 2012 at 5:41 AM

    This Christmas I’m granting myself a holiday to relax and enjoy friends and family. I’ve pushed myself hard over the past few months to complete extensive revisions on a novel which I plan to market in the New Year.
    It will feel a little odd not to open my Documents file every morning during the festive season, but ho ho ho, I think I’ll cope.

  29. Neurotic Workaholic on December 14, 2012 at 2:27 AM

    Exercise is especially good; whenever I feel stressed out I go to the gym, and I feel better and burn calories. (And of course, the cute guys with big muscles have nothing to do with why I go to the gym so often.)

    I’m looking forward to holiday break because for the first time in months I won’t have to grade any papers. It’ll give me a chance to focus on writing.

  30. Jan Cline on December 14, 2012 at 2:07 AM

    I like this idea. I think my main goal would be just to lower my expectations and be happy with smaller increments of writing time. Actually, the holidays can provide great opportunities to gather new material for stories! The important thing is to enjoy the season and get right back into a normal schedule as soon as the tree comes down. 🙂

  31. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on December 14, 2012 at 1:41 AM

    I’ll probably get more writing done during the holidays. The holidays are never easy (PTSD) and my therapist has suggested that I write during stressful times.

  32. Jan Thompson on December 14, 2012 at 12:59 AM

    Thanks for tip #1. I hadn’t thought of it that way. I only have one week off, and I was hoping to get at least 6 hours of writing done each day but it makes realistic sense to halve that. Great idea! Then I won’t be disappointed if I don’t make my word count… And I get to enjoy Christmas too!

    As for #5… Groan.

    • Patricia L. Brooks on December 14, 2012 at 12:04 PM

      Thank you – although I am a goal setter and a to do list type A person
      Nice to have ideas from you too
      Happy Holidays
      I am enjoying writing more these days
      and your blog