What’s Your Plan for 2015?

By Kerry Schafer

planGod knows I'm a pantser by birth and inclination, but I've learned that sometimes I need a plan. In writing as well as the rest of my life, there is a time for pantsing and a time for planning and it's important to get this straight.

Do you need a Writing Plan for 2015?

That depends.

Do you want to just have fun and create stuff for pleasure? Great. Kudos to you. No planning required and I hope you have a lovely time. (I might be a little bit jealous)

But if you want a writing career, you need a plan.

Stay with me here. A plan doesn't have to involve flow charts and spread sheets and hours of tedious details, although it certainly can. Some of you organized minds out there totally get off on this sort of thing. My crit partner, I know, has a spreadsheet that includes detailed timelines of not only WHAT she plans to accomplish this year, but WHEN each component will be completed.

This just makes me shudder. And want a nap. And ice cream, chocolate, and a bottle of wine. Or two.

On the other hand, I know that if I don't set some goals and some timeline markers, I'm not going to accomplish everything I want to do. Time is not linear for me. It expands and shrinks according to its own irrational whims, and if I don't pay attention I'll suddenly look at a calendar and it will be November and I won't have moved any closer to my ultimate writing career goals.

In case planning is not your forte, I've included pantser-friendly steps to help you get this done.

1. Start with the big picture. Think about what you want to have accomplished by the end of the year. Pretend it's New Year's Eve and you're looking back on all of your accomplishments. What do you want to be able to say you have done at the end of 2015? Finish that novel you've been working on? Write ten short stories? Find an agent? Get published?

I like to write this up as if I've already accomplished it all, something like this:

"It's been a fabulous year. The draft of XXX came out awesome and is on my agent's desk, ready for submission...." That sort of thing.

2. Figure out what is actionable. Okay, I sort of hate the word actionable, but it makes its point. There are things YOU can do, and things you can't. For example, if one of your goals is to get an agent this year, you can't actually force an agent to sign on with you. You CAN write a good book, draft an awesome query letter, research agents, and send out queries. So take a few minutes to break your goals down into smaller steps of things you are going to do this year to get you where you want to go.

3. Set deadlines. I don't know about you, but I can get a hell of a lot done when I've got an impending deadline. If you don't have an agent or a publishing contract to do this for you, it's tricky. This is the position I was in this year. It's much harder to make myself get up at 0-dark-thirty to write when there is no deadline. Who cares? says the voice in my head. It's not like there's anybody out there waiting on your words.

The solution - or at least a solution - is to set your own deadlines. Choose a weekly word count goal, number of revision pages, how many queries you're going to send, whatever. Pick a date you're going to do this by. Write your deadlines on a calendar or sticky notes or your bathroom mirror. Tell a bunch of people. Broadcast it on Twitter.

I have to confess that I did not meet my self imposed deadlines for The Nothing. In fact, I was at least a month behind where I wanted to be when I finally finished the sucker and flipped it over to my freelance editor. But you know what? Without a deadline and a goal I'd still be writing it. Or maybe I wouldn't have bothered with it at all, because that book was a struggle for me.

4. Celebrate Everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. This is so important I consider it part of planning. This writing business is hard. It chews writers up and spits them out on a regular basis. Part of motivation and sticking with the plan comes from marking milestones. So live it up. If you made your weekly word count or your daily word count even, reward yourself. Sent out queries? You ROCK. Give yourself a cookie or a piece of chocolate or at the very least a pat on the back. You didn't just sit there, wishing. You did something to make it happen.

5. Recalibrate as needed. Things change. If it looks like your original plan is a bust, revise it. If you're a pantser, you're already good at this. The whole point and purpose of a plan is to be looking down the road a little so you know where you're headed.

Why Time Off Isn’t Time Lost

Literary Agent, Pam van Hylckama Vlieg, writing, writers life, publishingby Jeffe Kennedy

I've been pushing hard lately.

"Lately" meaning about the last year and a half. I've talked about it a fair amount on my personal blog and on a panel or two. Mainly what happened was that I signed with an agent, who was fabulous enough to get me several book deals, and I ended up scheduling myself with a novel deadline about every three months.

What with a full-time, career-type job, it's been a bit tight.

Not that I mind! My new mantra is "Good Problems To Have."

*goodproblemstohave* *goodproblemstohave* *goodproblemstohave*

What it's meant for my daily life is that I've been writing in the neighborhood of 2,000 words a day. In 2013 I wrote just shy of 500,000 words. 2,821 words short, to be exact. Which kind of burned my ass to miss that milestone by so little, but my stepson got married on New Year's Eve and I needed to be part of that.

And, really, it didn't matter. My overall effort mattered. A round number is prettier, but ultimately meaningless.

The last ten days have been a mess for me. I traveled for my day job to do a weekend-long training session. Very intensive, no time to write. I was able to get through the galley proofs of my book coming out in May, The Mark of the Tala, but that was pretty much it. Upon my return, I got hit with developmental edits for Going Under, the first book in my new erotic romance trilogy. As we all know, editing is nothing like producing word count.

Then my agent, Pam van Hylckama Vlieg, pictured above on the left with my friend, aspiring writer Anna Philpot, came to visit for four days. She spoke to my local RWA chapter in New Mexico. We had a great time and had many excellent conversations about trends in the industry and my career, all important stuff.

But I got nothing done. Nothing *writing* done, that is.

So, today I'm back at it, staring at the next novel deadline of March 15. On one hand, it feels like I lost time. My spreadsheet certainly thinks so, with my blinking counter showing me I'm over a week behind on my predicted progress. On the other, however, I'm feeling rejuvenated.

It's counter-intuitive, because I've been going pretty much non-stop. The key, however, is that I haven't been drafting. I've been learning new things and talking to people, going to fun places and *gasp* socializing.

Turns out it was good for me.

While my spreadsheets and I tend to believe that real progress is measured only by those steadily increasing word count numbers, that's simply not true. Many steps forward are intangible and can be measured only by the long-term results. That training for the day job gave me a certification for instructional design that I can use for teaching writing workshops, too. Spending that extensive time with Pam has given me much food for thought and a better idea of how to chart my future.

Time well-used.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial

Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.

Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns;  the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, including the newest, Five Golden Rings, which came out as part of the erotic holiday anthology, Season of Seduction, in late November; and a  contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera, which released beginning January 2, 2014. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, will hit the shelves starting in May 2014. A spin-off story from this series, Negotiation, appears in the recently-released Thunder on the Battlefield anthology.

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog, on Facebook, and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary.