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heza
11-14-2014, 10:40 PM
I have some writing goals for which I don't make the progress I'd like to. I think a lot of my problem is procrastinating out of fear of failure. But another part is being overwhelmed by everything I know about the industry and not really being able to organize the steps I need to take to reach my goals (I have some brain issues).

I've been looking at planners and books about setting and realizing goals. Yesterday, my husband even sent me a link to a neat kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/angeliatrinidad/passion-planner-the-one-place-for-all-your-thought) for a goal-planning... planner. Anyway, it's pretty cool, so I wanted to pass it along.

But it got me to wondering what kinds of goals other writers set for themselves, not just for writing a book, but for success in the industry (i.e., having a career) and how they organize those goals and the steps to get to them.

For so long, my plans has pretty much been Step 1: Write book, Step 2: ?, Step 3: Profit.

As a writer with a long view toward a career in writing, do you also just concentrate on your first book idea and then assume you'll worry about what comes next after you have a viable MS (and we often warn each other to concentrate on the book and not put the cart before the horse), or do you have a "plan" with mini goals and actionable steps (which is what success gurus tell you to do), steps you're already taking even while still writing your MS?

If so, how do you organize your dream? What's your route, and how has it worked out for you so far? Are there any specific productivity or organization tools you use? Have you seen any good blogs from authors, agents, or editors about what steps (and in what order) a writer who wants a career should take—things we should be doing that all of us might not thing about?

Hapax Legomenon
11-14-2014, 11:18 PM
I think a lot of the "don't put the cart before the horse" business with books is because a lot of books get started and not a lot of them get finished, so kicking up a lot of buzz before you're ready for publication is kind of useless and can end in disappointment for many people. I do not know if "success gurus" actually know this about writing.

gothicangel
11-14-2014, 11:32 PM
I think once you had a viable manuscript then your next step would be finding an agent and then a publisher. As for making a profit, well I'm with Will Self who recently said that he thought the ability to be a writer who didn't need a day job to support themselves as a blip of the 80s and 90s. Most authors are lucky to earn £10,000 a year, as an unpublished author I would make publication the goal and not financial return.

I follow Grant Cardone (I suppose you can call him a "success guru") and he says that he loses money on his books (and he's a NY Bestseller.)

Debeucci
11-14-2014, 11:51 PM
I went full time writing this year.

The **only** thing you should worry about is writing a great manuscript. That in itself should be your entire career project at this point. Honestly, nothing else matters. This is one industry that is definitely one step at a time, assuming you plan to go through a publisher and not self publish.

All else is basically crap until then. Sure you might want to get your social network presence up and running but that is mostly useless until you have a deal in place.

Mr Flibble
11-14-2014, 11:56 PM
Step 1: Write book, Step 2: ?, Step 3: Profit.

That was my plan as well. But then I'm not very good at planning!

I sold my first ever book to a small press. I stayed with that editor for the next few books, learning as I went (Would not have got anywhere near where I am without her!). Then it was the usual -- get agent, bite nails, slam tequila, get publisher, slam more tequila...

Hmm

Looks like my plan is tequila.

Filigree
11-15-2014, 12:22 AM
The mms will come if you train yourself to work on it regularly.

What you really need is money set aside and a day job skill that pays a living wage, without completely destroying your free time or energy. And it has to be *your* money, not hubby's or partner's. Because you never know how a relationship will change over time.

Do not believe the lie that artists must suffer to make good art. You are more likely to have more critical health problems, far fewer financial options, and less creative output when you are financially stressed.

heza
11-15-2014, 01:38 AM
I'd go ask this question on the self-publishing board since that definitely requires more planning, but they're pretty up front with their plans on their diary threads.

Dennis E. Taylor
11-15-2014, 01:43 AM
Looks like my plan is tequila.



:drool ... I don't see the problem

Locke
11-15-2014, 01:59 AM
I've been procrastinating on a writing career for years. Right now, I still have several book ideas, but I want to hone my skills and earn a little spending cash with short stories, because if there's anything I've learned recently, I need the practice in order to translate the endless amount of advice I've absorbed into application. My desired path is much like the OP's though: get an agent, get published, earn a living. But I also realize that doing that is somewhat similar to winning three lotteries.


I would make publication the goal and not financial return.
+1 response, AAAAA+, would quote again.


I went full time writing this year.

...

This is one industry that is definitely one step at a time, assuming you plan to go through a publisher and not self publish.

One writer I've followed for a while, Chuck Wendig, took this step a few years ago. One of the things I really admire about him is that he likes to take a "hybrid" approach. Some of what he's published has been independent, and he also has several represented books on the market (Blackbirds trilogy, Under The Empyrean Sky, The Kick-Ass Writer).


Looks like my plan is tequila.

I would also suggest the rum. Tequila makes the keyboard all wobbly.

Undercover
11-15-2014, 04:05 AM
I'm with Hapax here. I would concentrate on writing the book and not thinking too far ahead. That in itself might stall your writing. It's hard enough as it is.

Unimportant
11-15-2014, 04:37 AM
But it got me to wondering what kinds of goals other writers set for themselves, not just for writing a book, but for success in the industry (i.e., having a career) and how they organize those goals and the steps to get to them.

...

If so, how do you organize your dream?
1. Recognise that "published novelist who earns part/all of their income from writing" is more of a dream than a business plan. Writing is more often a hobby than a career.

2. Have two separate sets of goals, plus a set of aspirations:
Goals A will be with regards to how well you write, how you proceed in the craft. Goals B will be with regards to your production/output -- a novel per year, or a short story per week, or 500 words per day, or three agents queried per month, or whatever. Both of those are wholly under your control and wholly dependent on you. Aspirations, C, are the bits that are out of your control to a large degree: an acceptance letter from Magazine X, or representation by a literary agent, or a five thousand dollar advance, or winning an award, or earning a living solely through your writing, etc.

3. Look at your aspirations. What are the pathways that can get you there? How have other writers accomplished the same things? If it's selling to Magazine X, then you will need to write something (possibly a whole lot of somethings) that conform to their guidelines. If it's a five thousand dollar advance, then you will need to write a commercially viable novel and will almost certainly need to have agent representation. If it's earning a living from writing, your odds may be better with writing freelance non-fiction rather than fiction, or writing and self-publishing erotica.

4. Look at your aspirations again. Are they realistic? Are they viable? And why do you aspire to those things? Getting a million dollar advance....no, that's not realistic. Netting a five thousand dollar advance so that you can say nanny-nanny-boo-boo to your old English teacher who once told you that you'd never amount to anything....Is it worth putting in years and years of hard yakka to perfect your craft just so you can go waggle your tongue at the old biddy who probably doesn't remember you at all?

5. Re evaluate your goals and options once every six to twelve months.

All just my opinions; feel free to ignore! :D

Mr Flibble
11-15-2014, 05:04 AM
I am on my second three book deal with a big five

I recently had to go full time to pay the bills (mortgage + teens + Old Man's business is not so well.)

gingerwoman
11-15-2014, 08:02 AM
That was my plan as well. But then I'm not very good at planning!

I sold my first ever book to a small press. I stayed with that editor for the next few books, learning as I went (Would not have got anywhere near where I am without her!)
That was my publisher?

I think researching publishers is a good part of the plan, because other authors' input on the trustworthiness of various publishers can potentially save you a lot of heartache. That's if your plan involves starting with publishers.

J.S.F.
11-15-2014, 11:57 AM
I'm a spur of the moment kinda guy. I write and then think about what's next.

Seriously. Because, to me, if you 'plan' ahead, what're you gonna do when rejectomania runs all over you?:D

Really, when I started writing--and I've only been writing since 2010 and first got published the following year--I just wrote, thinking that it was a cool thing to do. I had no idea I'd ever write anything again. I had no plan on becoming "the next big thing" or anything. I just wrote.

FWIW, I'd just concentrate on finishing your manuscript first, polishing it to the best of your ability, and then finding an agent or submitting it yourself. See what happens. Don't be disappointed if you don't score right away. (If you do, great!)

As has been said, many authors are lucky to make sales, and that's with published books! I have no idea about self-published works. My guess is that some do very well, while others don't. My wife tells me daily that when I sell a million books I can go full-time as a writer. I'm still working at my day job.

And I keep writing. So should you. My two yen for the day.

Fuchsia Groan
11-15-2014, 06:25 PM
Unimportant's steps seem very sensible.

I have had three phases in my writing (which I still only tentatively would call a "career"): 1. Write whatever I want, barely submit, don't think about the market (this lasted for a decade or two). 2. Research the market, find the overlap between what I want to write and what can get published, aim for that, submit regularly. (The Internet made that phase possible.) 3. Sell something, realize I am unprepared to have two demanding careers and will never have time to spend the money I make, freak out a bit (right now).

Soooo, yeah. My goals for writing were always short-term and concrete. Finish draft by X date. Send to betas by X date. Send five queries per week. If you do that stuff, you might achieve the larger goals, like getting an agent and a contract, but much of that is way out of your control. And if your main goal is earning a living from writing, there may be more efficient paths. (My day job involves writing. Just not making up crazy stories full of plot twists and angsty characters, unfortunately.)

Unimportant
11-15-2014, 11:35 PM
Unimportant's steps seem very sensible.

I have had three phases in my writing

Oh, there's a big difference between what I advise people to do and what I actually do :D

eqb
11-15-2014, 11:52 PM
I just write what I really want to write. So far I have an agent, five novels and one collection published, plus a couple dozen short stories. What I do plan is how to get the next novel or short story finished. My agent gives me advice about what is commercial or what is not, but mostly she tells me to write whatever makes me happy.

Cathy C
11-16-2014, 12:06 AM
I have some writing goals for which I don't make the progress I'd like to. I think a lot of my problem is procrastinating out of fear of failure. But another part is being overwhelmed by everything I know about the industry and not really being able to organize the steps I need to take to reach my goals (I have some brain issues).

As others have said, be careful not to dive so much into the planning that you forget to write the book!



But it got me to wondering what kinds of goals other writers set for themselves, not just for writing a book, but for success in the industry (i.e., having a career) and how they organize those goals and the steps to get to them.

For so long, my plans has pretty much been Step 1: Write book, Step 2: ?, Step 3: Profit.

This is actually not a bad plan to go forward, even on a limited basis. I tend to be a planner, so I understand where you're coming from. For me, it was Step 1: Plan my profit, Step 2: Find my niche, Step 3: Write book. You may proceed to :Wha: and :e2faint: now.

See, I'm deceptively mercenary at my view of the industry. My Step 3 came first: Plan my profit. How can I maximize the profit as I write? I know that many authors here will :scared: at this concept, but it's worked so far for me, because what CREATES profit is quality! Let me say that again: PROFIT is created by QUALITY!

So, how did that help my planning? By realizing that the majority of people who buy books buy them wanting something. What that "something" is depends on your genre. I wanted to write beach reads: fast paced books with rich descriptions and interesting characters because it's what I like to read. I didn't want to create a book that people would slog through over days, that would make a reader ponder the concepts and the underlying themes. I wanted to create a book that people would eat like a candy bar. It's gone before you know it . . . leaving a craving for another.

So, to create the level of quality of beach read that would lead to profit, I had to research who my competition was. If I was going to enter the market hard and fast like I wanted, I needed to get a solid grasp of who I would be sharing the shelf with. Thus began my stint of research of other authors in my genre. Not only did I discover the ones I liked, I more importantly discovered what I didn't want to do. I tore through book after book with a highlighter, dog-earing pages as I went. Then, and only then, did I sit down to write. It wasn't about stealing ideas that was the reason for reading, but to figure out pace and flow and chapter points and character backstories and, gosh, just a ton of things!

It turned out my niche was paranormal with a splash of romance. Some horror, some noir, some heat and poof, a series was born!

A big chunk of the planning was also about marketing. For a Big 5 author, I do a TON of marketing. Really, at the self-pub level before that was a thing. Some of it's free, some costs money. But I'm of the view that it takes money to make money. So far, I've been successful at it. Not as successful as others, but it's more a matter of willpower and whether I'm feeling pumped up about a particular book.


As a writer with a long view toward a career in writing, do you also just concentrate on your first book idea and then assume you'll worry about what comes next after you have a viable MS (and we often warn each other to concentrate on the book and not put the cart before the horse), or do you have a "plan" with mini goals and actionable steps (which is what success gurus tell you to do), steps you're already taking even while still writing your MS?

Absolutely! Writing is a career and you have to manage it or it'll run you over. The ms is part of it, of course, but a bunch is where to find readers and how to get the book into their hands. Mini-goals didn't really work for me. I'm a big picture sort of person so that I have to envision the whole goal before I can break it down into managable chunks. Like, I joined RWA when I decided my manuscript would contain romance. It wasn't ALL romance (because urban fantasy didn't exist as a genre yet), but it had romance in it. I learned how other authors marketed and where and who were the primary readers of what I was writing. I read what things drove readers nuts (purple prose, anyone? :rolleyes: ) and what drove them to the bookstore for the next book. What plot elements failed? What heroes weren't heroic? What readers wanted to see but couldn't find. Etc., etc. Really, it was paint by numbers on the first one to give the readers what they couldn't find elsewhere. And do it well, with an eye to quality. :)


If so, how do you organize your dream? What's your route, and how has it worked out for you so far? Are there any specific productivity or organization tools you use? Have you seen any good blogs from authors, agents, or editors about what steps (and in what order) a writer who wants a career should take—things we should be doing that all of us might not thing about?

Depends entirely on what you want. I'm still working on what I want for the next level. I have a lot of friends who've gotten there--NYT, international travel, major signing events, etc. I'm learning the tricks for when a series hits. The quality is there now, the awards in place, the bestseller status steady, so I'm hoping it's just a lightning strike away from the reality that will grab the readers next.

Plan away, just don't lose focus on the one thing that's critical--the BOOK. The breathtaking worlds, the rich, touchable characters, the description that sucks the reader inside. Whatever your genre, learn what the readers can't live without and then give it to them.

At least, that's MY plan... ;)

Jamesaritchie
11-16-2014, 12:09 AM
I'd go ask this question on the self-publishing board since that definitely requires more planning, but they're pretty up front with their plans on their diary threads.

Yes, but how many of them turn those plans into a real career? The last place I'd go to plan a writing career is a self-publishing board.

Cathy C
11-16-2014, 12:14 AM
Yes, but how many of them turn those plans into a real career? The last place I'd go to plan a writing career is a self-publishing board.

True. I knew I wanted an agent and a large publisher. I figured it would take a few stints with a small press to get to that level, but it thankfully happened quicker than planned. :)

Ken
11-16-2014, 12:18 AM
The **only** thing you should worry about is writing a great manuscript. That in itself should be your entire career project at this point. Honestly, nothing else matters.

This. And producing a great ms is all about steady progress in your writing. Each project should be better than the last until you write a great ms or at least one that is very good. Then you're in. Sure, subjectivity factors in. But if you rely on that well it becomes a game of chance. Better to take the bull by the horns and take charge !

Jamesaritchie
11-16-2014, 12:40 AM
I have some writing goals for which I don't make the progress I'd like to. I think a lot of my problem is procrastinating out of fear of failure. But another part is being overwhelmed by everything I know about the industry and not really being able to organize the steps I need to take to reach my goals (I have some brain issues).

I've been looking at planners and books about setting and realizing goals. Yesterday, my husband even sent me a link to a neat kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/angeliatrinidad/passion-planner-the-one-place-for-all-your-thought) for a goal-planning... planner. Anyway, it's pretty cool, so I wanted to pass it along.

But it got me to wondering what kinds of goals other writers set for themselves, not just for writing a book, but for success in the industry (i.e., having a career) and how they organize those goals and the steps to get to them.

For so long, my plans has pretty much been Step 1: Write book, Step 2: ?, Step 3: Profit.

As a writer with a long view toward a career in writing, do you also just concentrate on your first book idea and then assume you'll worry about what comes next after you have a viable MS (and we often warn each other to concentrate on the book and not put the cart before the horse), or do you have a "plan" with mini goals and actionable steps (which is what success gurus tell you to do), steps you're already taking even while still writing your MS?

If so, how do you organize your dream? What's your route, and how has it worked out for you so far? Are there any specific productivity or organization tools you use? Have you seen any good blogs from authors, agents, or editors about what steps (and in what order) a writer who wants a career should take—things we should be doing that all of us might not thing about?

First, follow Heinlein's Rule For Writing. These really aren't writing rules at all, they're business rules, and they work.

Read this, and believe every word of it. http://www.sfwriter.com/ow05.htm

All sorts of people will argue with you about one rule or another. Let me know when one of them is actually earning a good living as a writer.

Second, pretty much every "plan" I've ever seen mean following these rules.

You'll b told that writing isn't a race, that you don't have to write a lot, and you don't have to write regularly. Again, let me know when someone who tells you think is earning a good living as a writer.

Too many try to complicate earning a living as a writer. It's really pretty simple, or it's impossible. For most, it;s impossible. For the rest, it means not practicing one form or another of self-sabotage. Don't procrastinate, don't find excuse for only writing every third Thursday, don't spend nine years writing one book, don't spend another nine years trying to sell one book without writing several other in the meantime, and don't keep rewriting that same book over and over.

And don't jump into self-publishing because your first book doesn't sell.

The only other salient point is that two kinds of writers earn a good living. One kind is the J. K. Rowling type who hits it so big with a first book that money is never again an issue.

For every bestseller like this, there are at least ten like me. I earn a living from writing, but it's because I've learned to write anything and everything. I earn a fair anount of money writing fiction, but not enough to pay all the bills, and raise a family, so I write all sorts of nonfiction, and anything else that comes along.

A few weeks ago, I earned some decent money drafting letters to politicians. Last week, I spent four days writing inventory reports.

Most often, I write what I most enjoy, which is fiction and essays, but I'm ready, willing, and able to write anything I need to write to earn an honest dollar.

Many, many writers just like me eventually work onto the bestseller list, and no longer have to write anything and everything, but most keep doing what I'm doing, and I love it.
I truly enjoy the process of writing, and I love switching things around, jumping from this to that, and being able to earn a living bouncing all over this writer's paradise.

But it all comes down to Heinlein's Rules. Read what Robert J. Sawyer has to say about them, and believe him.

Earning a living by writing is all about writing. It seems obvious, but as Sawyer says, half of all who try fail on this first, and most common sense, rule.

gettingby
11-16-2014, 06:49 AM
You don't have to plan for a writing career as much as you have to write for a writing career. If you are not progressing with your writing, think about taking some writing classes. Other than just writing and reading a ton, taking writing classes is the only valuable step I can think of to develop your writing skills which could be seen as a step toward a writing career.

It is fun to fantasize about becoming a big-time writer, but it's not really something you can plan for. You mention that you are procrastinating when it comes to writing. Trying to set yourself up to have a career in writing without actually doing the writing seems just like another thing to distract yourself from doing what actually has to be done, the writing.

Aggy B.
11-16-2014, 07:24 AM
So far my planning has consisted of analyzing what I want (to write novels and have them published by a reputable publisher who offers a professional advance) and then figuring out what other things need to happen to make it more than a "Wouldn't it be nice if..." daydream.

This has included things like:
Figuring out a writing routine based on how quickly I write, what my productivity goals for the year/month/week are.
Sticking with that routine as much as humanly possible. (And this has been a year that has challenged that on every level.)
Finding creative methods that improve my ability to meet deadlines. (Like learning how and when I need to outline. Or not. Reading and analyzing other folks work to better improve my own.)
Compiling a list of agents to query once I had a novel ready to send out.
Writing a query letter/synopsis.
Diversifying what I write so I'm not constantly stuck trying to sell work in the same sub-genre. (Branding is useful, but only if it's producing sales.)

Many of those things had smaller steps involved, that I tackled one by one.

Of those the most important thing has been trying to write every day. Because I write on a near-daily basis I've been able to write two novels and two novellas in the past year and a half. The first novel hooked my agent. The first novella was picked up by a tiny publisher (who closed up shop this summer). Not every project finished is going to be an immediate or complete success, but I couldn't have gotten the agent or the publication if I hadn't been writing every day.

StarWombat
11-16-2014, 08:12 AM
I just wanted to stop in and say that this is an amazing and very helpful thread. I've read every post once and now I'm going to read them again.

JustSarah
11-16-2014, 09:42 AM
Well I used to plan to submit shorts to New Yorker, then began to settle for Fantasy and SF. Yet over time found myself not really writing either, and thus gave up planning my career.

I just go where the sails take me.

heza
11-17-2014, 11:28 PM
I apologize for not coming back to the thread recently; it was a crazy busy weekend. Thanks to everyone who gave advice and shared their plans. I have a lot to say in this post, and it's going to look sort of like I asked a really vague question in the first post only to share what I really meant to refute everyone whose responded. But I swear my question only really came into focus for me after reading all the responses and thinking them over.



Several responses were along the lines of "just write the book" or "don't use planning to procrastinate." I don't think I'm stalled because I'm planning, and I don't think planning is necessarily foolhardy without a finished MS, even if plans change. I think my procrastination comes from some place else, and it manifests in a specific way (i.e., when I procrastinate, I'm watching TV. I find planning productive). I want to have a solid plan because I don't want to waste time. Yeah, yeah, I know taking four years to write a book sounds like a lot of wasted time. But not all of that time was just procrastinating. I'd started the book, but then put it on hold when I joined because I realized I needed to spend more time learning craft. So I wrote a lot of non-saleable material. After I felt more comfortable with my writing, I realized I needed to figure out some other things—what was my voice? What kind of author did I want to be? What kind of writing did I want people to think of when they heard my name? What category did I want to write in? Did I want to be a SFF writer or contemp?

I've gotten half my book written, but now I'm a bit stalled because of a plotting issue I need to figure out, but when I do, I think I can get the WIP ready for Beta in a few months. So it's not that I'm not writing in favor of day dreaming or plotting out my future instead of writing. It's just something I've done at the same time, and I wondered if anyone else gave this much thought to the career aspect of it.

And some other comments have been in the vein of, "Don't quit your day job." And I just want to assure everyone that I have a day job (and I'm the primary earner in my household) and I'm not planning to quit it until I can transition over to a writing career that provides a similar income and accounts for having to purchase insurance for my family. And I do understand that it can take many, many years to get published at all, let alone make a career out of it. So any planning and dreaming I'm doing, I'm totally doing from a place of stability and financial safety. And I'm grounded in reality. I'm not planning on getting rich next month or even next year or at all (I was disabused of that notion within weeks of joing the forum. ;))

At the same time, though, I do believe in the power of positive thinking and visualization. I don't want to tell myself that it's most likely never going to happen and that this is all just a hobby because I really do internalize a lot of the things I tell myself. And I normally work better when I'm organized. I agree with a lot of self-help gurus that when you know what you want, it's good to make a plan (for as much as is in your control) and then actually take those steps. I want to be centered and have a vision for myself and my writing going forward, even if that plan doesn't always go as I'd epected—I can adapt.


1. Recognise that "published novelist who earns part/all of their income from writing" is more of a dream than a business plan. Writing is more often a hobby than a career.

All you wrote was good, helpful information. I wanted to comment on my rationale about the above step. Someone around here used to have this sig quote: "Treat writing like a hobby, you'll get hobby rewards. Treat it like a profession, you'll get professional rewards."

I want to be focused on my writing. I know it's a hobby at this point, but I want to treat it like a business. I want to take it seriously. I want to be prepared for things and I want to have a plan for building my author/series brand. I want an idea of the things I'm going to write and when I'm planning to write them (accepting that the market might force me to change the plan). I don't want to just write whatever I feel like and then realize that it's going to be the very odd duck in my otherwise similar-feeling backlist or that it's for a market that doesn't sell well (I'm category and genre versatile).

So all of that is the planning I'm talking about. So right now, I'm planning to write the first book in MG fantasy Series 1, and then move to the first book in MG fantasy Series 2. I've read from other industry pros, though, that writing only novels is a bit like putting all your eggs in one basket. It's a very slow-moving process, with generally small advances doled out over years, if there's an advance at all. (And that's another part of the planning; do I aim for an agent and large advances with big publishers, or do I go it alone at small presses with no advance?) So to make up for the slow/low advances, do I try to fill the gaps with articles or short stories for magazines? Do I self publish novellas (and how do I plan my branding in that space)? If I'm going to put up an author website or blog, should I start getting an idea of the kind of content I want to post to attract readers from my target audience? Do I diversify, as Aggy B said, and not focus solely on writing MG and branch off into YA or even adult contemp or cozies?


Absolutely! Writing is a career and you have to manage it or it'll run you over. The ms is part of it, of course, but a bunch is where to find readers and how to get the book into their hands. Mini-goals didn't really work for me. I'm a big picture sort of person so that I have to envision the whole goal before I can break it down into managable chunks. Like, I joined RWA...

The "planner" I'd looked at and linked to in my first post looks like it promotes mind-mapping. That's something my former day-job manager tried to teach me (loosely), but I never caught on until I looked at the planner. It seems like it would be a good way (for me) to organize mini goals based on big-picture items. "Get involved in my community" could have a lot of sub-goals, such as "post on AW three times a week," "Join SWCBI in my region," "Join a crit group," which I could further break down into smaller steps, actual action items.


Plan away, just don't lose focus on the one thing that's critical--the BOOK. The breathtaking worlds, the rich, touchable characters, the description that sucks the reader inside. Whatever your genre, learn what the readers can't live without and then give it to them. While I understand and agree with what everyone's been saying about THE BOOK, I do feel like that's actually part of why I want a plan—because I need to build contingency for rejection into it. If this book doesn't work, if I'm not good enough yet, if the market just doesn't want this genre by the time I'm ready, I need to know where I'm going next so I don't flounder and mope about the death of this book. I'll work steadily on this book, but I want to know that this book isn't where I'm hanging all my hopes.



Yes, but how many of them turn those plans into a real career? The last place I'd go to plan a writing career is a self-publishing board.

There are actually several on our self-pub board with decent sales—or at least the kind of sales even some of our trade published writers can expect. Others don't sell very well. As someone who wants to hybrid publish, I do think it's worth it to follow them and learn what they've done and what seems to work and what doesn't. There aren't any guarantees anywhere.


But it all comes down to Heinlein's Rules. Read what Robert J. Sawyer has to say about them, and believe him.Thanks for the link. I've heard all of these rules at some point or another around here, but I've never seen them all in one place. I guess I'm stuck on Rule 2, right now, but I'll work through it. (Maybe I should work on a different story for a while.) Thanks for the link! And thanks for the breakdown of all the different things you write.


Diversifying what I write so I'm not constantly stuck trying to sell work in the same sub-genre. (Branding is useful, but only if it's producing sales.)

And that's one of the things I feel like I should at least start thinking about... what categories/genres can I write in? How should I separate myself as an author for each (same pen for MG and YA or different pens all around)? Which category and genre combinations are going to conflict (MG vs. NA erotica, for example)? Where should I be trying to publish them (like maybe MG for trade publishing because of the less substantial e-market, but YA for self publishing because of an audience for previous work)?


Anyway, everyone has been very helpful and the discussion has really bolstered my flagging hopes and gotten me focused on getting back on task. I really appreciate all the replies and how open everyone's been.

gettingby
11-18-2014, 01:45 AM
I guess I don't understand planning a writing career, especially if you are not yet published or have a deal with a publisher, especially if you haven't finished the book you think is dramatically going to change your life so much that you feel a need to start planning out your life as a writer. You say you want to write other things, too. Great. Do that. But I think it is premature to be planning something before you've had a taste of how competitive the industry is and before you have had some success.

I would love to say I have big writer plans. I think we all have goals and dreams. But if your focus is not actually on the writing, all that planning will be useless. It takes a lot more than one book to make a writing career for the majority of writers. And the plans you are trying to make are way off in the future.

Reading your posts, I have to wonder why the writing itself isn't enough for you right now? Your plan should be to write a chapter a week and finish the book. Then you might need several months to revise it before it is ready for agents or publishers to look at. It seems like you are glossing over how important the writing is when it is really the only thing that matters. You don't need a plan to be a writer. You need to write to be a writer.

I also don't understand how you know you really want to be a writer given how early you are in the process. If you like the idea of being a writer more than writing, you probably won't get that far. I am not saying this to be mean. Maybe you have a lot of potential, but there are a lot of people with a lot of potential who write more and maybe even better. You are going to face a lot of competition and a lot of rejection. That is just how this business works.

I had a long and successful career as a journalist. I planned for this my going to school and then working hard to prove myself. Now, I do more creative writing and fiction writing. Again, I am in school for this. I don't think everyone has to go to school to be a writer, but it is my plan. It is a way to get my writing to the level it needs to be in order for me to have a shot at success writing fiction. Yes, I have dreams, but I realize they are useless if my writing skills are not up to par with industry standards.

Are you spending more time planning than writing? Are you in this for the long haul? I just interviewed an accomplished writer with a new book. She said it took her nine years to finish her latest book. Sometimes it can take that long to tell a good story that will be a success. Are you prepared to pour real time and energy into your writing? Rather than planning her life around this book, she wrote and published short stories during the this time. And she already had an agent and publisher lined up because of other books she had written. I would say that I think you have some things to think about, but what I really want to say to you is just write. Have goals more than a plan because often things don't go as planned. And even if you have the best plan, it won't matter if you can't produce the best work. I wish you luck.

veinglory
11-18-2014, 02:09 AM
I think you initial plan is fine so far.

Step one: write the book. Until you have a book you can't know if it is sell-able let alone where or for how much.

If you plan to have a career (that pays your bills or others supports the notion that you are a 'professional writer') the odds are you need to be able to complete step one and produce a commercial work multiple times every year. To even begin to know how realistic that is, you need to do it at least once.

RedWombat
11-18-2014, 02:53 AM
Yes, but how many of them turn those plans into a real career? The last place I'd go to plan a writing career is a self-publishing board.

Ahem. I've got a real career as a trade published author already--I wanna transition to hybrid. All these eggs could stand a couple more baskets.

Maybe it doesn't count if you're going back the other way, but I have found some ruthlessly career-minded individuals self-publishing. If you're going to be successful, you have to be either blindingly good/lucky or you have to pay very close attention to the business side. For every person repeating long-debunked statistics, there's...well, realistically probably .005 of a cutthroat businessperson, but I don't know that's that much worse than the usual run of humans.

Nothing wrong with planning. I lived for a few years as an artist and freelance illustrator, and honestly, self-publishing books is significantly less terrifying!

RightHoJeeves
11-18-2014, 06:14 AM
Oh someone had once told me about those rules and how that corresponds to the 100 writers being whittled away. I had wondered who had said it originally...

Makes me feel optimistic as I have finished things, accepted criticism, and learnt.

heza
11-18-2014, 07:22 AM
I guess I don't understand planning a writing career,...

I appreciate the advice, but at the same time, you've made a lot of assumptions in your post about how serious I am about writing, whether I'm even qualified to decide whether I want to be a writer, my skill level and basic competency in writing, and what you seem to presume to be a naivete about the industry. I think these assumptions are unfounded considering you have no way of knowing that much about me.

Wanting to have a solid stable of ideas and thinking about what markets I want to pursue and how best to brand myself as I'm writing a book instead of well after the fact doesn't necessarily mean that's all I'm doing or that I think that's all I need to do.


I also don't understand how you know you really want to be a writer given how early you are in the process.The "process" doesn't begin and end at a single book. I've been working on this one book idea for a bit, having put it off for a couple of years in the middle to work on some craft flaws, but I've been writing fiction in one format or another for almost fifteen years, always with an eye toward improving my prose, my characterization, and my plotting. I have an English degree and I've been a well-paid technical writer in a variety of industries for well over ten years. So I'm not "early in the process" of learning to write or knowing that I want to be a published author. Well over four years ago, I decided I wanted a career in publishing, and so I researched and learned a lot about the industry and what things might give me a better shot of making that goal a reality. At the same time, I continued to work on my craft. All of that is how I know I want to be a writer. How do you really know you want to be a writer? Do you feel like that's something you should have to justify to a stranger?

I've researched enough to know the odds and how the business works. My problems with my current WIP are because of fundamental issues with the plot that I'm trying to work out, not because I've made some plans in my downtime. I'm planning before I'm published because, among a lot of other things, if I ever get an agent offer, I want to come to the table knowing what other markets I want to write in and what plans I have for myself so I know whether this agent will be a good fit.


Have goals more than a plan because often things don't go as planned.Maybe this is the communication problem. I don't see much difference between goals and plans. If one of my goals is to start querying my current project within six months, then steps to meet that goal would be a plan. If another goal is to self-publish a three-book series within the next four years, then I can make concrete plans to do that. If yet another goal is to write short stories while I'm querying an MS, then I can make plans to do that. I really don't see the conflict here, and I don't thing long-term planning makes me anything but more prepared for the next step. It doesn't mean I'm not writing; it just means I know what I want to write next.

Let's put it another way. I make a meal plan every week, so I know what I'm planning to cook and eat for dinner Saturday night. Things don't always go according to plan, so maybe I go out to eat Saturday and move that dinner to Sunday. Or maybe Saturday's dinner burns and I have to eat sandwiches, but I just move on to Sunday's dinner the next day. But none of that planning ahead means I starved on Monday. It does mean, however, that I'm more efficient at the grocery store and more likely to stay on budget.

veinglory
11-18-2014, 07:32 AM
I, personally, think the process does at least begin with a single book. In fact I could argue the process has not really begun until then. Where it ends depends on what you goals are but tilled earth does not make one a gardener and no amount of map reading makes one a mountaineer.

heza
11-18-2014, 07:40 AM
I, personally, think the process does at least begin with a single book. In fact I could argue the process has not really begun until then. Where it ends depends on what you goals are but tilled earth does not make one a gardener and no amount of map reading makes one a mountaineer.

I'd get into this analogy, but we'd just end up going in a lot of circles.

In any case, I was responding directly to the assertion that I can't know whether I really want to be a writer because I'm not far enough along in the process. I believe that I am, in fact, far enough along in the process of knowing whether I want to be a writer... not necessarily the process of writing a book or having a career, but definitely the process of knowing what I want to do when I grow up. That's what I was speaking to.

ETA: I know I started the thread, but I'm going to bow out of it now. I think everyone's said what they need to say to me. You all feel free to keep discussing it, but I don't think I'll participate anymore. I have plans for what I want to do as a writer, and I wondered if other people had plans for what they wanted to do. I figured that was a simple question, and I thought it might make for a fun thread. I wasn't expecting so much judgement about me, personally, and I'm going to just sign off before I start feeling uncomfortable here.

gettingby
11-18-2014, 07:44 AM
I appreciate the advice, but at the same time, you've made a lot of assumptions in your post about how serious I am about writing, whether I'm even qualified to decide whether I want to be a writer, my skill level and basic competency in writing, and what you seem to presume to be a naivete about the industry. I think these assumptions are unfounded considering you have no way of knowing that much about me.

Wanting to have a solid stable of ideas and thinking about what markets I want to pursue and how best to brand myself as I'm writing a book instead of well after the fact doesn't necessarily mean that's all I'm doing or that I think that's all I need to do.

The "process" doesn't begin and end at a single book. I've been working on this one book idea for a bit, having put it off for a couple of years in the middle to work on some craft flaws, but I've been writing fiction in one format or another for almost fifteen years, always with an eye toward improving my prose, my characterization, and my plotting. I have an English degree and I've been a well-paid technical writer in a variety of industries for well over ten years. So I'm not "early in the process" of learning to write or knowing that I want to be a published author. Well over four years ago, I decided I wanted a career in publishing, and so I researched and learned a lot about the industry and what things might give me a better shot of making that goal a reality. At the same time, I continued to work on my craft. All of that is how I know I want to be a writer. How do you really know you want to be a writer? Do you feel like that's something you should have to justify to a stranger?

I've researched enough to know the odds and how the business works. My problems with my current WIP are because of fundamental issues with the plot that I'm trying to work out, not because I've made some plans in my downtime. I'm planning before I'm published because, among a lot of other things, if I ever get an agent offer, I want to come to the table knowing what other markets I want to write in and what plans I have for myself so I know whether this agent will be a good fit.

Maybe this is the communication problem. I don't see much difference between goals and plans. If one of my goals is to start querying my current project within six months, then steps to meet that goal would be a plan. If another goal is to self-publish a three-book series within the next four years, then I can make concrete plans to do that. If yet another goal is to write short stories while I'm querying an MS, then I can make plans to do that. I really don't see the conflict here, and I don't thing long-term planning makes me anything but more prepared for the next step. It doesn't mean I'm not writing; it just means I know what I want to write next.

Let's put it another way. I make a meal plan every week, so I know what I'm planning to cook and eat for dinner Saturday night. Things don't always go according to plan, so maybe I go out to eat Saturday and move that dinner to Sunday. Or maybe Saturday's dinner burns and I have to eat sandwiches, but I just move on to Sunday's dinner the next day. But none of that planning ahead means I starved on Monday. It does mean, however, that I'm more efficient at the grocery store and more likely to stay on budget.

I'm not making assumptions. I am going off of what you said, but, honestly, it doesn't seem like you want any advice or guidance. It seems like you just wanted people to back up your plan and say it's great. Do whatever you want. I'm not hear to argue with anyone. I was trying to be helpful. When people respond to comments the way you have been here, it feels like a waste of time for people who were trying to share their insight.

I know I'm a writer because I write. I made a living as a writer. I am in competitive MFA program because of my writing. I have no problem answering how I know I want to be a writer, and I don't think anyone else here would either. Good luck to you. I am done with this thread!

heza
11-18-2014, 08:34 AM
I'm not making assumptions. I am going off of what you said, but, honestly, it doesn't seem like you want any advice or guidance. It seems like you just wanted people to back up your plan and say it's great. Do whatever you want. I'm not hear to argue with anyone. I was trying to be helpful. When people respond to comments the way you have been here, it feels like a waste of time for people who were trying to share their insight.


Okay, I'm posting one more time in hopes I can clear this up.


I should not have mentioned my problems in the first post.

I hadn't intended to ask for advice or guidance, and that's why I was really caught off guard by some of the responses I got. I mentioned that I was having some issues with organizing my goals as a lead in for mentioning the planner that my husband had linked me to, which I wanted to mention because that's what got me thinking about the purpose of my post, which was to find out if other people had certain plans for how they wanted their careers to go and how they went about organizing their goals. (And yes, typing that out now, I understand it was very convoluted and I totally buried the purpose of my post.)

I thought people would share their goals and plans or share why they don't have plans, but everything seemed to get really focused on my personal writing and that confused me and made me a little defensive because it wasn't what I was expecting.

I tried to thank everyone for posting and for sharing their experiences and advice, even if I didn't understand why some specific things were being directed at me, and I tried to give out rep points to everyone who participated. But as advice got more intense, and I got more bewildered by it, I tried to reexplain what I had meant in the first post but still didn't do a good job. From my perspective, I had asked for sharing personal stories and ended up with a lot of judgement about my process, which was uncomfortable and embarrassing. I didn't understand there was another perspective here and that I'd fouled up my original post until gettingby posted the above. I appeared to be brushing off advice because I didn't realize it looked like I'd been asking for it, and I realize how that must look from the other side, now. Sorry about that.

In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have mentioned having issues; I was using it to frame the discussion, but it led to a miscommunication about what I was trying to do here. I've been around long enough to know that when someone mentions any kind of problem, other members give advice for any and everything they see that needs advice because everyone's so naturally helpful here and wants everyone else to succeed. I didn't read my post the way other people might see it. Knowing my reason for the post was at the end, I didn't realize that it had a "Problem" right at the front for people to address.

I'm sorry my miscommunication caused issues with the thread and that I look like I'm being ungrateful for what I know was well meant advice. It just wasn't what I was expecting, and that's why I got all weird. I really do appreciate everyone who posted, and I learned a lot—not the least of which is to be clearer in my writing.

So I'm not asking for advice about what I should do with regards to planning... I'm planning what I want to write because I'm a planner and it makes sense to me to do so. The advice everyone gave is still sound, though. I wish I'd asked advice on how to work through my plotting problems, instead, since that's what is really holding up my story.

But this is super not the conversation I'd been hoping to have and I feel very awkward now, so I'm going to go away for a while.

gingerwoman
11-18-2014, 11:17 AM
Ahem. I've got a real career as a trade published author already--I wanna transition to hybrid. All these eggs could stand a couple more baskets.

Maybe it doesn't count if you're going back the other way, but I have found some ruthlessly career-minded individuals self-publishing. If you're going to be successful, you have to be either blindingly good/lucky or you have to pay very close attention to the business side. For every person repeating long-debunked statistics, there's...well, realistically probably .005 of a cutthroat businessperson, but I don't know that's that much worse than the usual run of humans.

Nothing wrong with planning. I lived for a few years as an artist and freelance illustrator, and honestly, self-publishing books is significantly less terrifying!
This is what my deleted comment was about. I know many people doing very well indeed with the new free to upload self publishing, but since the cost of paying for editing up front deters me personally from that path, I figured I'm not really the one to speak for those authors.

JCornelius
11-18-2014, 05:31 PM
If all that post-and-reply writing energy and accompanying emotional ups and downs got harnessed into finishing the project, that would be great, I think.

I remember reading somewhere Michael Moorcock saying he wrote his Eternal Champion books in a frenzy by channeling anxiety into the physical act of writing. Using the fear of failure to power the creation of success.

A lot of great replies and examples in this thread, thank you to everyone, a pleasure to read.

Aggy B.
11-18-2014, 06:33 PM
I have to admit, the idea that one should just write a book without putting any thought into what one's goals are or what one plans to do with that book once it's finished is the ideal method, has me scratching my head. The "just write the book" advice is a valid response to questions like "How do I stop starting new projects?" or "I hate my characters. What do I do now?" or even "My story seemed so wonderful when I started but this writing thing is hard and I wonder if there's something wrong with me."

It's not much use in response to "How do you plan your writing career?" Because, even if you read the question as "I don't know how to plan my career, help me out" the question is still "How do I make plans to do something with the book after it's written?"

Like many of us on this board, I've been writing since I was quite small. If I look at how many years I've been writing, it's almost three decades at this point. But I didn't start having any success with publication until I started making plans based on what I'd determined my goals were. The whole "I'll just write and once I'm done I'll figure out what to do with it" mindset did not work for me. At. All. (Everyone is different. Some folks have to separate the business/creative aspects, and I get that. But for me, the road to publication didn't start with finishing a project. It started when I made a plan for what to do with the projects I was finishing.)

So, yeah. I'm scratching my head a little at all the (well-meaning) advice to just write the book.

What ticks me off is the implication that there is some standard or quantity of effort of commitment that qualifies one to proclaim "I want to have a writing career." I find that attitude so antithetical to the purpose of this board that I woke up this morning still angry about it. The time, effort and education that each writer puts into their work is their own business and has NO bearing on their ability to know that they want to be a writer.

I first realized I wanted to be a writer when I was seven and I began to truly understand how wonderful books were. I started writing and I didn't stop. I also didn't study English or Creative Writing as a Major/Minor in college. And it took me almost twenty years to get to a point where I finished something that was actually close to being novel length. (I finished a lot of other things - short stories, screenplays, bad poetry, graphic novel scripts, novellas - but I didn't finish my first novel 'til I was 29.) The lack of finishing a certain kind of project, the lack of education, the fact that I had years where I wrote much less than other years and focused on a different career, didn't disqualify me from saying "I want a career as a writer."

The fact that folks on this board would even hint at such an idea (that there is some quantifiable standard to reach before one is entitled to say "I know what I want and this is it.") makes me a little sad. We know better than that.

EMaree
11-18-2014, 08:08 PM
I have some writing goals for which I don't make the progress I'd like to. I think a lot of my problem is procrastinating out of fear of failure. But another part is being overwhelmed by everything I know about the industry and not really being able to organize the steps I need to take to reach my goals (I have some brain issues).

Your issues sound a lot like my issues. :) If you ever need a cheerleader, give me a shout. Recently, I've found these (http://jennytrout.com/?p=8359) articles (http://gingerhaze.tumblr.com/post/102556255108/first-of-all-congrats-on-finishing-nimona-its-been)motivating.


But it got me to wondering what kinds of goals other writers set for themselves, not just for writing a book, but for success in the industry (i.e., having a career) and how they organize those goals and the steps to get to them.

For so long, my plans has pretty much been Step 1: Write book, Step 2: ?, Step 3: Profit.

As a writer with a long view toward a career in writing, do you also just concentrate on your first book idea and then assume you'll worry about what comes next after you have a viable MS (and we often warn each other to concentrate on the book and not put the cart before the horse), or do you have a "plan" with mini goals and actionable steps (which is what success gurus tell you to do), steps you're already taking even while still writing your MS?

My process looks a bit like this:

1. Write book, fairly quickly (I aim for 50k words in 30 non-consecutive days, and bulk it up significantly in edits.)
2. Rest Book (Sometimes, write another fast draft)
3. Edit book
4. Give Betas Book
5. Edit until I'm sick of it.
6. And then edit some more.
7. Query book to agents.
8. Write a new book or edit an existing fast draft, and let the cycle repeat while keeping project #1 on submission.
[AND NEVER STOP READING AT ANY POINT. ALWAYS FIND TIME FOR BOOKS.]

The idea is constant forwards momentum on the only thing I can control (writing good books), though the plan doesn't always go as smoothly as it looks on paper. I procrastinate a lot and put obstacles in my way, but in the end, the above steps are the only things that work for me.

When I get an agent, step 7 will change to 'go on submission to publishers' and that's about it. (My 'social media marketing' time is already in play, it's otherwise known as procrastinating on Twitter.... :P)


My goals for writing were always short-term and concrete. Finish draft by X date. Send to betas by X date. Send five queries per week. If you do that stuff, you might achieve the larger goals, like getting an agent and a contract, but much of that is way out of your control.

Love this system! Hard deadlines rarely work for me but I wish they did.

Sam Argent
11-18-2014, 11:43 PM
My goal is to be a full time writer so I've had a career plan since I started working on my first book. This is what it's looked like so far.

1. Determine daily wordcount goals and guess book length/finish date.
2. Start book.
3. Get halfway through it and assess genre and publication possibilities.
4. Finish book, edit, write query.
5. Repeat step 3 and send out book.
6. Self-evaluation of my writing and how I can improve.
7. Improve lacking areas in NaNo type challenges.

This official NaNo finally got me to an average of 4k words a day, so now I can write fast enough to send out novellas to publishers while querying my novels to agents. I want to make money without putting all my hopes on one book panning out. My plan has worked in two ways. First, checking out publishers before I was ready to sub and after let me see if there were any ongoing problems. That helped me dodge a #NotChilled bullet. Second, I sold my first book this year. But, this plan worked for me because I like writing all day and know that's what I want to do for decades. I don't know how this plan will work for people who aren't OCD, like sleeping, and leave the house.

gingerwoman
11-19-2014, 11:28 AM
I also didn't study English or Creative Writing as a Major/Minor in college.
Those of us who did, and have advanced degrees in these subjects, know that they don't give you the slightest advantage in terms of well....anything at all in life really.

veinglory
11-19-2014, 07:29 PM
I don't think anyone is saying 'don't have plans'. But more like, 'don't count your chickens until you see what kind of book you are capable of writing'.

veinglory
11-19-2014, 07:31 PM
Those of us who did, and have advanced degrees in these subjects, know that they don't give you the slightest advantage in terms of well....anything at all in life really.

On the other hand browsing author bios in Barnes and Noble does suggest to me that a disproportionate number of them have a degree in something. Not sure where the cause-and-effect lies there.