Thursday, December 26, 2013

What's YOUR Five-Year Plan?

Hope you had a very merry Christmas!

Now that Santa has made his rounds and we're still gorging on leftovers and goodies from the day before, it's time to start thinking about the brand new year to come…in less than a week!

Did you have a plan for 2013? How did it turn out? What have you learned that you can apply to a plan for 2014?

Evaluating 2013

It was about this time last year that I was challenged to create one-year, five-year and ten-year plans for my writing career. Frankly, I found the five-year and ten-year plans very difficult to do. I mean, what I do five years from now really depends on what I do this year, which is a month-by-month, day-by-day thing. I can't predict the future. This past year I was way off-track even before I contracted a serious illness that robbed me of two months. I have no idea what this year will bring, but there's no doubt that having long-term goals in mind when I sit at my computer every day helps me stay focused.

Focusing On the Future

What would I like to accomplish in the next five years? Well, like all authors, I'd love to become a best-seller. But how exactly do you do that? I think the best-seller thing comes from (1) having the discipline to keep writing, (2) willingness to learn from mistakes, (3) having great critique partners and (4) a lot of luck! I've made great strides with numbers two and three; I'm working on number one, and, well, I have no control over number four. So…becoming a best-seller isn't part of my five-year plan. If it happens, I'll be thrilled. But if it doesn't, I'm not going to feel like a failure.

I've decided to focus on five-year goals. In five years, I would like to:
  • develop the habit of writing consistently six days a week, three hours a day (not including blog posts or social media)
  • experiment with self-publishing and other sub-genres of romance
  • develop my writing skills with books, classes and conferences

A wounded soldier and the girl next door find peace and love amidst a backdrop of rural Christmas traditions.  Available from Ellora's CaveAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboSonyARe.
That in mind, I developed a plan for the remainder of 2013 and all of 2014. I discovered it's way too easy to over-plan, which is what happened this past year. I made spectacular progress with my social media (going from 0-60 in about 30 seconds) and my two blogs, Susana's Parlour and Susana's Morning Room, but the negative side is that I found myself using these short, enjoyable tasks to put off the longer, more difficult writing tasks. The end result: the novel I started working on in 2012 remains unfinished and the only finished project is my Christmas novella…which had a firm deadline that I was determined to make. Overall, though, 2013 was a pretty great year, in spite of everything. It's the year I became a published author and learned tons about the writing business, and I refuse to look at 2013 as anything but one of the best years of my life!

Making 2014 Goals

Keeping my long-term goals in mind, this is the general plan I came up with for 2014:
  • time travel novella
  • Christmas novella
  • curricle novella
  • Cherishing Charlotte (novel)
  • Lost Baby story (novel)
  • try self-publishing
  • NANO something new
Essentially, I'd like to finish three novellas and two novels (both already started with about 50K), as well as self-publish one of them, and get a good start on another one during NANO. If I could do all that, I'd be ecstatic! It doesn't sound like much for a whole year, does it? And yet I still have my blogs and social media, and whatever other obstacles fall into my lap.

What it all boils down to is…discipline. Getting myself to sit at the computer and focus on writing for three hours a day. If I can make that a habit—they say it takes three weeks to make something a habit—I can accomplish all of these things…perhaps even more! At the time I'm writing this, there are exactly 21 days left in 2013. So I included the remainder of 2013 in my 2014 goals, bound and determined that by the time New Year's Day arrives, I'll have acquired the habit of daily writing that I can continue throughout 2014.

Here is my plan for 2014, month-by-month:

  • plot out time travel novella
  • write time travel novella
  • send time travel novella to critique partners
  • work on Cherishing Charlotte novel
  • plot out Christmas novella
  • finish Cherishing Charlotte novel
  • send CC off to critique partners
  • write Christmas novella
  • send Christmas novella to critique partners
  • plan revisions to Lost Baby novel
  • work on Lost Baby novel
  • work on Lost Baby novel
  • plan revisions to curricle novella
  • work on Lost Baby novel
  • finish curricle novella
  • send curricle novella to critique partners
  • work on Lost Baby novel
  • plot NANO novel
  • finish Lost Baby novel
  • send Lost Baby novel to critique partners
  • plot new novella
  • write new novella
  • send new novella to critique partners
  • work on preliminaries for NANO
  • brainstorm new plots
  • catch-up month
  • finish preliminaries for NANO
  • NANO
  • plot new novella
  • write new novella
  • send new novella to critique partners
Although this may appear to be rather optimistic—it includes an extra novella)—it's nothing like last year's. While it does have me finishing two novels in seven months, both are already well on the way to completion. I've also tried to include some flexibility—the freedom to switch to another project when one becomes a bit stale—and a catch-up day prior to NANO so that I'm not distracted by uncompleted projects when the NANO pressure is on.

If the plan works perfectly, great. I'll have an extra novella completed in addition to the original projects. The truth is, even if I only complete half of it, I will have proven to myself that I have what it takes to be a serious writer. And that will be a wonderful thing!

Note that I have not set definite submission dates. I value my critique partners and beta readers, and I don't want to burden them with my deadlines. They have jobs and families and lives and I appreciate whatever time they can spare me. It may take a month or more after receiving their feedback to revise the manuscript before it is ready for submission, and that time too has to be considered when making a plan such as this.

My First Challenge

Primarily to prove to myself that I can follow a plan, I'm going to write a novella in three weeks. I'll start to plot out the scenes as soon as I'm through with this post, and then I'll start writing them. I wrote Treasuring Theresa in five days and A Twelfth Night Tale (twice as long) in about two weeks, so a precedent has been set. Wouldn't it be great to start the New Year having a new project completed (or at least off to the critique partners)? What a boost that would be!

What about you? Do you have a five-year plan? A one-year plan? New Year's resolutions? I'd love to hear about them!

About the Author

A former teacher, Susana is finally living her dream of being a full-time writer. She loves all genres of romance, but historical—Regency in particular—is her favorite. There’s just something about dashing heroes and spunky heroines waltzing in ballrooms and driving through Hyde Park that appeals to her imagination.

In real life, Susana is a lifelong resident of northwest Ohio, although she has lived in Ecuador and studied in Spain, France and Mexico. More recently, she was able to travel around the UK and visit many of the places she’s read about for years, and it was awesome! She is a member of the Maumee Valley, Central Florida and  Beau Monde chapters of Romance Writers of America.


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Susana’s Parlour (Regency Blog) • Susana’s Morning Room (Romance Blog)


KarennaC said...

Those definitely look like manageable goals. Good for you for being able to plan so far ahead! I'm currently working on re-branding myself and getting goals in place for 2014, as well as a "where do I see myself" statement for 5 years and 10 years, and trying to do that is harder for me than actually writing a book! But if we're going to treat writing as our career, we have to do the planning and not-so-fun work as well as writing the stories.

Tina Donahue said...

Love the cover of your book - it's beautiful.

Your goals are very good.

Since writing is so subjective and unpredictable when it comes to what readers want, the goal I tend to adhere to is to write every single day, except Christmas. Although this year, I did that too on one of my submissions.

Nothing gets in the way of writing. Nothing. If you don't have product to sell, none of the other goals matter.

jean hart stewart said...

I agree with Tina...If you keep writing the rest will follow. Without that there's nothing to plan.