Organization: Make Your Annual Plan Now
Nothing is more important to your writing business than making an annual plan.
Even if your year takes a drastic left turn. (It will.)
Even if you bite off way more than you can chew. (You greedy dog, you.)
Those pesky motivational geeks constantly tell us that “if you don’t have a target, you’ll never hit it.” It’s a platitude, but they’re right, curse them.
It may take you five years to do all the stuff you foolishly cram into your annual plan. That can be frustrating, but so what? Life is full of frustrations, and then you die. Being frustrated is better than dying, so don’t sweat the frustrations.
First Things First
There’s one thing you should do before you make that annual plan for next year. Haul out the one you made last year (if you made it), and look at it. Read the whole thing.
What went right for you this past year? Was that part of the plan, or was it one of those serendipity things that fell into your path?
What went wrong? Was that something you could have predicted, or did it just come out of left field?
Did you achieve everything in last year’s plan? If so, then bravo. If not, then you may have aimed too high. That’s not so tragic. Aiming high is a good thing.
Did you make a reasonable effort to execute your plan? How many hours did you actually put in? (If you don’t know, then now would be a good time to set up some kind of tool to track your hours. A lot of writers use a spreadsheet, and that works pretty well. I use an online tool at HarvestApp.com that makes it easy to track my time and pay myself an hourly wage for every different kind of task. This costs me $9/month, but I think it’s well worth it.)
Looking back at 2014, I see that I only accomplished a small fraction of the things in my plan. But they were the right things. I edited and rereleased three books from my backlist and wrote one new book. As a direct result, my writing revenue for 2014 shot up rather drastically over 2013. I averaged about 90 hours per month on my writing work, which was more than I averaged at my day job.
I’d rate the year a success, even though I only completed 4 of the 14 items on my list. The important thing is that I worked hard and felt happy working on the projects I chose. It’s a bonus that my revenue took a leap upward.
One Thing to Remember
Bear in mind that there are things you have control over and things you don’t.
You can’t control whether some publisher somewhere decides to buy your work. (This is why indie authors like being indie—they don’t have to depend on what a publishing committee decides.)
You can’t control how many people are going to buy your book.
You can’t control sickness, family problems, and all the random stuff that happens to you.
You can control (mostly) how many hours you put into your writing.
You can control what projects you work on.
You can control what sort of marketing plan you make and whether you execute it.
Now Make Your Plan For Next Year
Let’s keep this simple and shoot for the sure thing first. Write down the answers to the following questions:
- What’s the one fantastic thing you’d like to achieve next year that’s actually in your control?
- What sort of outcome do you expect from it? (That is, will it likely earn you money and if so, what’s a reasonable amount to expect? It’s okay to guess here.)
- How much time and money will it reasonably cost you to achieve this goal?
- Do you actually have that much time and money available in the year? If you have time and money left over, then go ahead and repeat the above questions as many times as you want, until you’ve run out of time or money to execute them all.
That’s your annual plan for the year, in a nutshell. It won’t hurt to write it up in a document. It won’t hurt to put your major goals on a sheet of paper and post them over your computer, so you see them every day.
I did the above steps just now and immediately saw that I was hoping to do far more than is humanly possible next year. I can’t do ten major projects next year. I can do two.
I also realized that my #2 project has a predicted return on investment that’s massively higher than the ROI for my #1 project.
So I’m rethinking things to move the bigger revenue-generator closer to the beginning of the year. Money is time. The more money you earn, the more time you free up to do what you love doing most.
In 2015, track your progress and review it monthly. Are you putting in as much time as you thought you would? Are things taking longer than expected?
If you do your annual plan now, well before the New Year begins, you can hit the ground running on January 1. And have a great year.
This article is reprinted by permission of the author. You can read the full piece here.
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 10,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.