By Francine Puckly
Are you still with me on this long-term planning journey? I hope so! This month I’d like to share Step 3 (of 4) of the planning process – the one-year plan. We dreamed big in June (http://www.24carrotwriting.com/-blog/anything-but-ordinary) and charted our five year goals in July (http://www.24carrotwriting.com/-blog/planning-part-two-charting-your-5-year-plan). Now it’s time to take that five-year plan and map out the first year, looking at the first large project or set of smaller projects you’d like to undertake.
As I’ve said before, the fall is the perfect time of year for planning and goal setting. We’re rejuvenated from our holidays and vacations (or just plain ecstatic the extended family has gone home!) and the humidity is finally dropping. This leaves us with enthusiasm and renewed energy for our tasks.
Assessing Your Time
The first step in laying out an annual plan is to think about how much time you have to devote to your writing or other creative pursuits in the twelve months ahead of us. It’s important to be honest and realistic about what lies ahead. Family demands, buying or selling a house, hosting visitors, workshops and conferences, and “real job” requirements all drain your time. These events must be factored into your plan as accurately as possible.
For me, I write 20 minutes a day, not matter what. During the school year, I have an additional 20 hours a week, which ends up being more like 15-18 hours once I factor in errands, doctor’s appointments, and unexpected demands. I make sure to flag certain weeks I know I won’t be productive. My daughter has a tech week for a musical? Forget it. I might only get 8-10 hours of writing in those weeks because of last minute errands, visitors, etc. The organizations for which I volunteer also have predictable events that require more of my time, so I go lighter on writing those weeks. I also block off the week before Christmas. In each of those weeks, I do my minimum 20 minutes of writing each day, but they’re not weeks I should plan to finish any drafts! Keeping in mind these variables in my life, I make a guestimate for the year.
Once you have an idea of how many of the 52 weeks will be productive weeks and how many hours you think you can devote to your craft, now look at those projects. Remember, these estimates must include research time, any number of drafts, simmer or resting time, critique time, and any editor/agent research or submission tracking that might happen. All of these steps take time.
Laying it out
Now it’s time to lay out your plan. Ask yourself the following questions:
· At the end of twelve months, what are you expecting to have accomplished? Write that under the heading “One year from now.”
· What is halfway for that goal? That will be your six-month target. Write that under “Six months from now.”
· What is halfway to your six-month goal? That will become your three-month goal or quarterly target.
· From there, the quarterly goal is broken down into monthly goals (one third of the goal for each month). We'll talk about the quarterly and weekly plans next month!
And there you have it. A year at a glance!
It’s important to do this when you have a couple of hours of uninterrupted time. Brew a cup of coffee or tea and sit down with your notepad. Look at those dreams from June and your five-year plan from July. Then think about what comes first in your priorities.
I’ve attached a couple forms that might be helpful in laying out an annual plan, but quite honestly, a pad of paper is all you need! Write a one-year header, followed by six months, then three months, and you have a plan in place to get started.
As I mentioned above, next month we’ll talk about making weekly plans and really getting to work! Until then, happy planning! And have a great month!
By Annie Cronin Romano
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about success in writing. Not necessarily about the event itself (finishing a draft, getting an agent, signing a book deal, etc.) but about our reactions to it. A few weeks back, my writing group got together for a midsummer meet up. We discussed books we’d read recently, how our writing was going, struggles we were having with manuscripts, and other non-writing related topics as well. Toward the end of our time together, one of the ladies in our writing group modestly shared with us the terrific news that she’d just sold a story to a magazine. We whooped! We hollered! We were thrilled for her.
And then we asked her the question: Why did you wait so long to tell us? We’d been chatting for nearly two hours at this point. It would have been bursting out of us! We said.
Her response? This was not the first story she’d sold to a magazine, and she knew how hard we’d all been working on our writing. With a couple of us actively in the query trenches and all of us working intently on one manuscript or another, she felt badly. We hadn’t experienced the joys of seeing ourselves in print yet, or of knowing that soon we would, so she felt odd telling us that she’d sold another piece. Another story in print. “You guys deserve this, too,” she said.
Of course, we set her straight. You’ve got great news? You share it proudly! And that gets me to the point of my reflection. You must share your successes, from the itty bitty goals you meet to the major triumphs, with all the pride you can muster. Especially when you are part of a writer’s group and critique group. Why? Because your success is their success! They cheered you on. They encouraged you when you weren’t up to working on that manuscript. They critiqued your work and helped you get it submission-ready. When a writing colleague succeeds, so do we.
And let’s not forget, much of the success for a writer has nothing to do with being published. And hopefully, that’s not why you write. We all want to share our work with others, but we write because we can’t imagine not writing. A day that I’ve drafted a picture book story or added a few hundred words to a middle grade manuscript is a successful day. I have spent time doing something I love: writing. And that, in itself, is success.
So put pen to paper, or fingertips to keys, and write. Make each day a writing success story!
Got a writing success story? Share it with us!
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