Tag Archives: motivation

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.

Making a Big Deal Out of It

As writers, we spend a lot of time beating ourselves up. That story wasn’t good enough, we didn’t finish it on time, it didn’t sell to our market of choice, it got a bad review, I’m just not happy with it… etc. etc. Too often, we forget what a monumental undertaking writing is in the first place. How many people say they’re going to write a book and never even set hands to keyboard? How many people get started but don’t stick with it? I propose that today, at the start of the Christmas season, we start thinking about how to reward ourselves for our accomplishments instead of letting them fall away in the stew of self-criticism and all the pressure we put on ourselves.

There are many different ways to do this, of course. Hang the reward out there as a carrot or just promise yourself you’ll do something special when you meet that next milestone. For a long time, I bought a print from my favorite musician/photographer whenever I finished a manuscript. (When I ran out of wall space, though, I had to try something different.) I’ve also been known to give myself a day off just to read, watch TV or knit when I finish a project.

A few years ago, I started a charm bracelet. It’s one of those Chamilia bracelets, where you buy the bracelet and then string beads on it as you purchase them. I got the idea when my daughter got a similar bracelet, and now I buy a bead to commemorate book contracts and completed book series. The first bead I bought was a Bestseller bead for my book Where There’s a Will, which was on the Kindle bestseller list. Then I got beads for some of my past books—a Celtic-style bead for The Haunting of Rory Campbell, a black, night-sky-type bead for my Dark Callings series, and a glass bead in ocean colors for my Mara’s Men series. Recently I picked up a bead with crossed hockey sticks to commemorate the sale of Blood on the Ice, and a round bead with embedded stones for Necromancing Nim. I’ve got a pretty good string of beads going, but there’s still room for more before I run out of room on my bracelet.

These beads aren’t exactly cheap. This makes me try to talk myself out of them on a regular basis. But finishing a book is a big accomplishment, and selling it is even more so. So I promise myself a bead for major sales, or for the completion of a three-book series, or for other milestones beyond simply completing a manuscript. It makes me feel good, and when I wear the bracelet, when people ask about it I can revisit the warm fuzzies I’ve gotten from writing and selling these books.

These ideas might not be for you, but I think we as authors need to acknowledge our own awesomeness on a more regular basis. We spend far too much time locked up in our offices churning out words and then telling ourselves we didn’t churn out enough words, or didn’t commit the right words to paper. We need to pat ourselves on the back. We really need to make a big deal out of it.

So think about that this Christmas. If you don’t already have a commemorative system in place, think about something that might work for you, and then treat yourself.

(Beads from top to bottom: Necromancing Nim, Blood on the Ice, Beautiful Music, Puck You, Vampire Apocalypse, Ring of Darkness, Crimson Star, Mom bead (a mother's day present), Dark Callings, Where There's a Will, Mara's Men, Haunting of Rory Campbell).

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Katriena Knights wrote her first poem with she was three years old and had to dictate it to her mother under the bathroom door (her timing has never been very good). Now she’s the author of several paranormal and contemporary romances. She grew up in a miniscule town in Illinois, and now lives in a miniscule town in Colorado with her two children and a variety of pets. For more about Katriena, visit her website and blog