Wednesday, January 1, 2014

365 Ways To Be a Better Writer - The 5-Year Plan

This post begins my series this year that I'm calling 365 Ways to Be a Better Writer. Every day on my Facebook page and profile, I'll post a new nugget that will, in some way, make writers better. Perhaps it will be a tip on writing craft, or a way to dig up new ideas, or perhaps it will pertain to the business or marketing side of writing. Then once a week, I'll write at least one blog post about one or more of the nuggets I posted that week.

Since it's January 1, I thought this would be a great time to talk about Nugget #1: The Five-Year Plan.

Every writer should have a five-year plan. You have to know where you're going and what you want to achieve if you're going to get there and achieve it. Think of your five-year plan as your road map to reach the destination you've projected for yourself.

What do you include in your Five-Year Plan? This could vary for everyone depending on where you are in your writing journey, but it could include:

  • Your targeted annual sales for the next five years
  • How many books you want to publish each year (including their titles. Use "working titles" if you haven't yet named a manuscript.)
  • How many drafts you want to write each year (including their titles or working titles)
  • Total number of words you want to write (make sure the number of words you're targeting makes sense given the number of drafts you want to write and the number of books you want to publish. For example: If you plan to write three novel-length drafts, you will need to write a minimum of 180,000 words)
  • How many books you want to read on the writing craft (including the titles of those books if you already know them)
  • How many writing classes you want to take (and the names of those classes, if applicable)
  • The number of conventions you want to attend, including which ones and the dates.
  • Any contests you want to enter
  • Your five-year bio
The point is, it's your plan. Include those things you want to achieve and that you feel are important at each step in your journey as an author. If you're just starting out, your plan might include more study-related items. If you've been writing for a few years already, your plan will likely include more publishing-related items. But really think about what it is you want to achieve each year, especially year one (2014). Be realistic. If you haven't published a single book and haven't even written one, don't make "Publish four books" part of this year's plan. It won't happen and you'll be setting yourself up for failure right out of the gate.

I've been planning for the past couple of months to devote all of 2014 to writing. Everything I've done since the end of October has been to prepare myself for one solid year of writing. There's a few reasons for that, some personal and some professional, but this change in plans made me pull out my the Five-Year Plan I worked up in May and revise it. This is what my 2014 plan now looks like:

This is the year of writing. No book conventions, perhaps only one blog tour at the end of the year, no big giveaways.

Get all books in print and update ebook listings.

Start searching for an agent.

Enter local chapter RWA contests, Golden Heart, RITA.

Enter IPPYs with Good Karma, Bad Karma, and Bound Guardian Angel.

Publishing Goal: 6 books
Good Karma
All the King's Men - The Beginning (novella prequel)
Bound Guardian Angel
Severin's Muse (novella)
Trace of Submission (novella)
Bad Karma

First Drafts Completed (aside from those published): 7 books
Learning to Walk (m/m contemporary)
The Right Type (working title for CA contemporary romance)
One Night (contemporary romance)
Taming the Savage (Maddox)
Marked (KOJU, book one)
Strong Karma
Losing Control
Taking Control

Publishing Rights
Regain my publishing rights for Moonlit Hearts through XOXO Publishing.

As you can see, I have a MAJOR writing year ahead of me. Will I reach all my goals? I don't know. All but three of my planned drafts have been started. I just need to finish them. And all but two of the books I plan to publish have been started or are in some stage of editing. But I know one thing for sure. If I don't map out my goals, I definitely won't reach them, and I won't have anything pushing me to keep surging forward when I would rather take a day off. Goals give you that. They give you a guide and motivation to keep going when you would rather watch TV.

I've broken out 2015-2018 the same way, but with less detail for each subsequent year, even though I have noted how many books I want to publish and draft in those years, with a general idea as to what they will be. And at the end of my 2018 plan, I've also written a short bio about myself based on what I've outlined in my Five-Year Plan.

You'll note that I don't include my word count goals on my Five-Year Plan. That's because I track word count goals on a white board hanging beside my desk. I've got the next four months plotted in a grid:
Jan = 68,200 words or 2200/day
Feb = 96,000/3429
Mar = 84,000/2710
Apr = 88,000/2839

Here's the thing you have to remember about making a Five-Year Plan. It's always evolving. I visit mine a couple of times each year and revise it based on where I am and what has come up. For example, just this morning, two new short novels popped into my head that I immediately started working on. Obviously, I want to get those drafted in the next year, so I added them to my 2014 plan. This might mean that another story could get bumped off, but for now, I think I can accommodate all my projects with some serious elbow grease.

What else do you think should be included on a Five-Year Plan? Did I miss anything?

Happy Writing! And may 2014 be the best writing year of our far. :)


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