Will This Be Your Year? Make A Writing Plan And Take Out The Guesswork

Becca and I love you guys. We want to see you break barriers, build careers, and enjoy success after writing success. Supporting you is what we’re about and what we do. We enjoy helping however possible, encouraging each of you to grow and be awesome as only you can.

success1To do this well, sometimes we have to nudge. Push a little, even. But our hearts are in the right place, because there’s no point candy coating the work it takes to be a successful writer. It will require every drop of strength and persistence you have to keep moving forward in the face of obstacles, rejection and doubt. You will have to grow thick skin, thicker than you ever thought possible. You will have to wear the hat of a learner, because you will never know it all or reach a point of ‘good enough’ when it comes to writing. There will always be more craft to absorb, more skills to hone, more marketing and business challenges to overcome, more work needed to expand your career, year after year.

So in our tough-love yet encouraging fashion, Becca and I are starting the year with a challenge for you: steer your own ship. Make a plan. Treat your writing like the business it is.

And this isn’t hot air, I promise–we live what we preach. Since organizing ourselves and adopting a yearly business plan in 2012, we have accelerated our careers. Not only have we built multiple businesses, published books in 5 languages, created a one-of-a-kind writing library and grown Writers Helping Writers into a learning hub with a loyal following, we teach and speak professionally as writing coaches. It didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen easily, but it happened.

And guess what? Neither one of us is special. We don’t have a magic 8-ball, or pet hamsters that shoot lasers out of their eyes while predicting the future. We’re just Angela and Becca, two writers who met in an online critique group.

What’s I’m saying is…if we can do this, you can too. So let’s get started. 🙂

Organize The Chaos

Most say writers write, but I think writers actually juggle. Yes, they do write, edit, and learn. But they also research the industry and their audience, build a brand, create a platform, handle marketing, promote, and run a business. And that, my friend, is juggling.

Trying to master all these aspects of a writing career is chaotic. There are countless books and articles to read on various subjects of writing, publishing and marketing, experts to heed, social media platforms to navigate, people to connect to and opportunities to take advantage of. And often what happens is the writer is pulled into so many directions at once, no real headway is made on bigger goals. Instead writing time is spent on a million mini tasks that seem valid at the time, but may not be.

planIn 2012, Becca and I found our time was being eaten by all the little things that come with running a larger site like Writers Helping Writers. Our days were spent neck deep in email, social networking, blog comments, and guest posting. And guess what wasn’t getting done? Writing. And well, that’s sort of the point, wouldn’t you say?

We knew we needed to organize ourselves and prioritize better. We wanted a way to measure each opportunity that came our way and make better decisions with our time. Luckily, my husband is a business management consultant, and he led us through the process of creating a business plan. The start was to assess where we were at, and define where we still needed to grow.

Ask Yourself The Tough Questions

In the business world, assessments are common. People are brought in to examine departments and processes, do risk assessments, and conduct 360° reviews on employees. A company needs to be efficient and functional to prosper, and a writer’s career is no different. So take a step back and look at where you are at. What areas did you focus on this past year, and what was your progress toward big goals? If you could do it all over, would you do it the same way, or organize your time differently?

Taking stock of where you are, and where you want to go is a great way to hone in on what to focus on in the coming year. If you can be honest about areas you are weaker in and what you must strengthen to position yourself better, you’ll save yourself heartache. For example, if your writing is really strong, you have a book you feel is marketable but you have no online presence whatsoever, spending more energy honing your craft isn’t the best use of your time. Instead, you might want to make getting yourself online, learning how to network and find ways to build relationships with your potential audience a primary focus. Yes, this might seem scary, but pushing out of your comfort zone will help you grow.

Likewise, if you are a Social Media queen but your writing skills are less-than-adequate, start boning up on your writing craft. Read, take classes and practice technique. A great platform will not sell a poorly written book.

Be a Planner, Not a Pantser

pantsLots of writers like to “pants” it. A little, a lot, maybe the whole book is written on the fly, a joy ride from start to finish. What will the main character do? Where will he go? How will the book end? Who knows—that’s all part of the fun.

And pantsing might work great…in fiction. But in business, pantsing will hurt you, or perhaps better said, will hurt your potential. Because while you’re flying along, researching weather patterns for a new story idea you have here, increasing your twitter following there, and flirting with a group promotion or two when invites roll in…you are missing the forest for the trees. Rather than take confident strides toward achieving specific goals to help you leap forward, you’re taking half-steps in too many directions and hardly getting anywhere.

Like Becca and I did, you might need some structure. A road map, a way to determine what areas are the most important to work on, what goals should be the focus, and the timeline needed for each. You won’t believe how well this will help keep you on track, and just how much more you’ll get done in a year.

encourageI realize for many, the words, “business plan” probably sounds intimidating, but it really is so simple—7 steps will get you there. In fact, I wrote a post about the process at Jane Friedman’s blog, so please, check it out. Everything you need is there—the steps, a template, and even an example of one of our old business plans. (Take advantage of some free professional business consulting!)

You love what you do, and you work hard every day, I know it. You are capable of so much, so challenge yourself! Make this your year.

Happy writing and business-planning,

Angela

 

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About ANGELA ACKERMAN

Angela is an international speaker and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also enjoys dreaming up new tools and resources for One Stop For Writers, a library built to help writers elevate their storytelling.
This entry was posted in About Us, Business Plan, Goal and Milestones, Marketing, Promotion, Publishing and Self Publishing, The Business of Writing, Time Management, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Will This Be Your Year? Make A Writing Plan And Take Out The Guesswork

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  4. Alizey says:

    It is the very post which motivated me and it effulged my wish too.. It’s my desire to be a writer but this wish was disappeared due to laziness but your post watered my dream and now InshaALLAH I’ll start writing .. thnkQ so much for such a motivational post 🙂

  5. Laura Reynolds says:

    Awesome advice and oh, so accurate. I’ve been working in the corporate world for over twenty years. Recently, I’ve been fortunate to be able to leave corporate and write full-time to achieve my dream of becoming a children’s author. I dabbled in writing over the years but always became overwhelmed with thinking I needed a website, blog, and twitter. Then, I needed to attend all these writing conferences to network. I found I wasn’t writing. From my past experience, I now have a different approach…

    I write. Writing comes first. Because no matter what anyone tells you about needing this, that, and the other; bottom line, if you write well…everything else will fall into place. You also need a plan to write and approach it like you are a business…because you are. Here’s my plan…

    My plan includes spending most of the day writing. Then at night, I look at various blogs for advice. (BTW, this blog is excellent! Thanks so much for offering all your advice.) At night I also try and send out at least one tweet a day and then pick at least 5-10 more successful authors, agents, publishers, etc. to follow. Finally, I’ve set goals on when I would like to submit my stories to agents to keep me focused on my plan. How’s it going so far…

    I’ve completed the first draft of my middle grade novel and while I wait for the editor to finish reading it, I almost have my second novel completed. I would like to begin querying agents by February.

    This is just my plan and certainly it won’t work for everyone. But what will work is to write!

    Best of luck to all of you!

    • Thank you so much for the kind words, Laura! Sounds like you have a good system going, and congrats on finally doing what you’ve always dreamed. I love hearing stories like yours. 🙂

  6. Boy, do I need a nudge! Thank you for the push in the right direction. Happy New Year! 🙂

  7. Thanks so much for this timely advice and ‘kick-on-the-pants – just what I needed to get me going again! Wishing you both all that’s best in 2016.

  8. BRMaycock says:

    This is something I have to figure out. The writing is going by the wayside while the blogging, posting and social media is taking over everything, without any impact on sales and without much help to ‘the craft’ either. Thanks for the nudge;)

    • Learning the sweet spot of juggling is not easy. I feel like I am just not getting a handle on how to manage everything without feeling swamped All. The. Time. Don’t be afraid to try a few things and readjust as needed. 🙂 Good luck!

  9. Celia Lewis says:

    Excellent nudges there for the first Monday in the New Year 2016. I’ve started with setting up a routine for myself – being retired means I do a lot of dawdling around having fun for a change. But I still need some routines to keep me focused on my goals – like, oh, maybe getting published this year!! Cheers – I appreciate what you share so much.

  10. Lotté says:

    Thanks for such an informative and motivational post this helped alot! 🙂

  11. I do agree writing is juggling many different hats, often with another demanding full-time job and families. Happy New Year to you both!

    • Some days it is so hard, isn’t it? All we can do is our best, and make sure “we” don’t get lost in the shuffle (taking care of ourselves is important too!)

      have a great 2016 and thanks for the well wishes!

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