Planning Your Writing Year

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It’s about to be a new year, which means it’s time to figure out what you want and how you’re going to get it. Planning for your year in writing is a bit like planning a road trip – it’s all about the budget. Instead of budgeting time and money, however, you’re balancing time, focus, and mental health. Here are a few tips to make the process smoother.

Analyze Last Year’s Goals

What did you set out to accomplish last year? If you still have your planner or list of resolutions, that’s fantastic, but you can probably still remember the general notes. Did you plan to write multiple novels? Did you want to edit something? Maybe you aimed to catch an agent.

What goals did you achieve, and what still needs work? You can estimate which tasks will take more time based on how much you got done in the past year. Maybe you draft quickly but only have headspace to edit one book a year. Maybe you can edit dozens of novels, but you write carefully (slowly). Use this as a roadmap for this year’s plans. Play to your strengths and give yourself lots of time and patients for tasks you know will cost you more.

Step Down Your Goals (Just a Little)

Sacrilege! Aren’t inspirational New Year’s posts supposed to hype you up so you can soar with the eagles and climb the mountains and dangle with kittens on motivational posters? Honestly, no. It’s been an incredibly difficult two years, and everyone is reexamining how we should and do accomplish things.

Stepping down your goals doesn’t mean giving up. It does mean shooting for a slightly lower star so you don’t overwhelm yourself and never leave the ground. This looks like deciding to write a first draft instead of getting your just-barely-conceptualized novel into the hands of an editor by next December. Be excited! Be bold! But don’t tie a boulder to your feet and wonder why you’re struggling to move forward.

The second element of this step is to turn your creative ambitions into – well – steps. Writing a novel can be like climbing a ladder. You can’t just jump and reach the top rung. If you could, you wouldn’t need a ladder in the first place. Each step – including all those pesky middle ones – matter as much as the final ones do. Recognize that a single goal has a lot of smaller wins throughout, and even if you don’t reach your ultimate prize, you’ve made progress towards it.

Plan for Breaks

Breaks are important. They let creative juices simmer and overworked brains coagulate after melting from work. There are two kinds of plans your writing schedule needs: anticipated and breaks of necessity. Anticipated breaks are things like vacations or, alternatively, busy times of year when your writing progress will probably slow. Planning ahead can help deal with guilt for not being productive and let you get the most out of your time away.

Breaks of necessity can come out of nowhere, or you may feel the need creeping up for weeks. When you’re tired, stressed, and things aren’t going to plan, you need enough flexibility in your schedule to give yourself time away from your work – even your fun work. You plan for these kinds of breaks by lowering your expectations. Plan on having an extra week or two off. Just pretend the year is about a month shorter when you’re setting goals.

How do you plan your writing year? What tips do you recommend? Share your thoughts and ideas with other writers below!

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