I don’t mean to blindly accept their advice. We’re all individuals — each of us has constraints, each of us has areas of expertise and interest and love. Don’t ignore your individuality. It’s what will eventually lead to success.
But take the nuggets of advice that work for you and make sure you put them into action.
I don’t care how you plan. I’ll talk a little about what works for me, but you’ll find what works for you, and it’ll keep changing as your needs change.
I have a publication schedule that goes out five years. Part of that is because I have far too many ideas, and over the years there are enough that I actually want to write, that it will take me a decade to get to all of them. And part of that is a need to know, to place in some firmer form than amorphous thoughts, the order in which to write these books. Until I make myself look at the list and see where an idea might fit, I will waste time spinning my wheels pondering the bright and shiny…and that’s time I should be productively writing on current projects — ones that made that list two years ago when I developed it.
Or not. The series I’m working on right at the moment is something I invented just a year ago, but it grabbed me so hard I had to make time to write it. So I adjusted my plan.
I love that flexibility, and believe me, I take full advantage of it. One of my goals as a writer in these early years of publication is to enjoy the lack of pressure on my next book, and always have fun with my writing. So I adjust when something grabs hold of me, because it brings me great joy to write in the moment and see where I end up.
But I also make sure that I’m moving forward on the long-term plan.
My publication schedule now also has sales projections tied to it, on the advice of Dean Wesley Smith. Go check him out if you don’t know about him and you’re trying to earn a living at writing. He’ll tell you (hell, he’ll show you) there’s no easy and quick solution here, but it is possible. In order to understand how much work you’re in for, make a plan. So I added the conservative sales and royalty projections Dean suggests in his Think Like a Publisher series to my publication plan, and now I have a way to make goals, roughly, about when I can add more time writing and reduce my workschedule elsewhere. Rest assured, it’ll take me some more years by those projections. Years and years. I’m cool with that. 🙂
In the summer of 2014, when I read Susan Kaye Quinn’s Indie Author Survival Guide, I was intrigued by her suggestion of a writer mission statement as one of the first steps of planning. The very next morning I set the question to myself. What would a writer mission statement look like to me? In the next thirty minutes, I poured out my first draft. Over the course of that day and the next I tweaked it, but the spirit of that first draft remained. It turned out I understood my mission statement, I’d just never taken the time to set it out for myself that way. Once again, it helped me understand where I should be focusing my time, and it reduced the guilt I sometimes feel for not taking the road I most often see traveled. (Which is the marketing road…and of course authors who work that way are very visible, because isn’t that the point?)
There are parts of this writer journey that will feel awesome. There are parts that will feel tedious. There are parts that will be downright terrifying. I don’t know your specific fears, but I’ve probably felt something quite similar. For me all the great stuff I get out of writing makes it worth it, but my writer mision statement helped me really understand what that was — what, essentially, was of value to me.
Susan’s next piece of advice also resonated with me — set goals for six months out, one year out, and five years out. For me, since I already had the publication plan set out for years and years, these goals took a shape of just a few sentences about where I want to be, how I want my portfolio to look after those time frames have elapsed. Let them take whatever shape feels natural to you. And know that you’ll adjust as you learn and grow.
Always be planning your next steps. What will you be writing/editing/publishing next month? In six months? In a year or two? Where do you see your writer portfolio in five years?
The answers to all of these questions will help you focus your time today. And by considering where you’re headed years in advance, a part of your brain will miraculously be working on how to get there, and overall you’ll actually spend less time planning than you would by taking the panic planning route. Weird, but true.
Take care until next time!
For a full list of Own Your Writing Career posts in the order they were written, visit my Writers page. I’ll be back with another Own Your Writing Career post next Thursday. Until then, happy writing!!
“Own Your Writing Career: Always Planning” copyright © 2015 by J.R. Pearse Nelson