Plan Your Future Writing Now

Clickety-click clickety-click clickety-click…


Uh-oh, who stole what?

“Yes, sweetie?”

“We forgot my lesson!”

A writer probably should teach his child to read. Sigh…

Empress Erika

My daughter already loves books and she can’t even read. I love it but need to teach her how to read the stories she loves so much. Hooked On Phonics seems to work well with Erika, so we’ll have that reading down pat before she starts kindergarten. This is truly a plan for her future!

A new year is a great time to not just reflect on what has been accomplished but what needs to be done. I love the start of a new year because it holds the promise of new projects or the completion of old ones. Both are exciting prospects, and I use the beginning of the year to look at both.

My New Year’s Day is always spent working in the office on a variety of projects both personal and professional. For my writing, I have a set list of things that I like to accomplish. First, I use three spreadsheets for my writing: Publishing, Marketing, and Sales. Each holds very different tasks dedicated to the particular area I am tracking.

Amazingly, once you have some product out there, you must manage that product, promote it, and pay taxes on the sales of it. These require a varied set of tasks that I like separated into different spreadsheets. I’ll talk later in the year in more detail about those, but this month I wanted to suggest you develop a similar annual process of cleaning up after the old work and preparing for the new work.

The first thing I do is copy my spreadsheets into new filenames using the new year in the filename. This creates copies that can be reset to begin the new year fresh. Since you will have carry-over from the previous year, copying is the easiest thing to do. Once that is completed, I move the old spreadsheets into an archive folder to save them for posterity. Who knows, might be interesting for someone down the road. Nostalgia!

I open the new files and delete all the tasks that were listed as Done in the Status field. These are now archived so I don’t want them in my list. Next, I go through the list of left over tasks from the previous year and modify the dates based on the fact they were not completed last year. Then I align them with the new year and my new Appointments to Write. Yeah, you still have your appointments!

Once that is completed, I think about what new tasks need to be added to the list. It is a new year, so maybe some new work has bubbled up to the land on the “active” list. Some has for me, so I add in those items. But wait, what new work could that be? Ah-ha, I thought you would never ask! You need a plan for the future from which these tasks bubble up to the “active” list.

Now some say I am anal when it comes to these things, but I honestly believe putting your dreams down in writing is a great first step to making them reality and is a great way to track your progress along the way. I do this dream plan at the end of every year and carry it out ten years into the future!

One thing I learned in business is you must have a long range plan if you have any hope in achieving your goals. In high-tech, we usually didn’t look out more than a couple years, but for my passion, I feel ten is a great way to keep me going. Yes, I actually have more than ten years of work on the slate! I have kept this dream list since 2003 and enjoy looking back at everything I had planned and actually completed.

At the start of each new year, I look back at the long range plan and move forward anything that was not completed in the previous year. Then I adjust the subsequent years based on that slip. Sometimes, there is no slip, so no further adjustment is necessary. However, the order of the projects typically changes over time based on my whims and desires, so I make changes to the list based on these new ideas for what I want to work on.

Now, I can’t divulge my top secret projects I plan on working on, but I can tell you this year is exciting. As I achieved my goal of finishing my fourth novel in the Onyalum Series last month, I plan on completing the editing and proofreading before publishing mid-year. That is a very satisfying plan for this year as I like to describe that book by saying it was like giving birth to a watermelon! Preview of the book is available here for those who are interested.

The rest of this year shapes up with the completion of two screenplays and starting my next novel, a high-tech military thriller. So where does ten more years come into play? Great question, but one I can answer without divulging all my plans. I had a life goal of ten novels before I leave this plane of existence, and indeed I have seven of those planned just for my Onyalum Series, so three more are needed. I also have at least a half dozen screenplays I want to write, so it was pretty easy to fill up the years.

Hey, if you are just starting your writing career, then don’t sweat it if your plan consists of only one novel. Forget this month’s blog and write your novel using your spreadsheet created just for this year! However, if like me you are a dreamer with big plans, write them down and track your progress each year. Now, I calculate one novel every eighteen months, and a screenplay in about three months, so I plan out my projects using those basic timelines. After all, you are looking at years with large goals not individual tasks and deadlines.

So where do you put this list, you might ask? Inside your task spreadsheet under a new worksheet titled Long Range. Create a simple table with two columns: Year and Publications. Once you have it, create a row for every year starting in 2010 going through 2020. Now, think about your projects, about how long each will take, and then place them in the appropriate year.

Remember, these are high-level goals, not individual tasks, so keep them something like, Write Novel, Edit Novel, Publish Novel. You get the idea! I have included my list for the old tasks I have completed since 2003 to give you an idea of what I am talking about.

As you can see, I have been busy! Throw in a career change, two children, and another dog, and you can see why being organized is so important to accomplishing your dreams. You don’t have to just dream your list, put it down in writing and actively pursue it. Once I have adjusted my list for the year, I usually go to my task list and start the process of breaking down the high-level tasks into smaller ones.

This also serves as your sanity check to ensure you can actually complete your dream list for that year. Don’t worry if you can’t because the process helps you think through priorities for each item you wish to accomplish. The main thing is getting something down and translating that into your task list. You will achieve excitement, ignite your passion, and finally convince yourself to keep your Appointment to Write!

So, if you are already thinking about novel two, three or four, then a long range plan is for you. Add that extra worksheet into your spreadsheet and write down your dreams. It is just one more way to keep your head in the game and your ass in front of the computer. Forget your resolution to lose weight (yeah, me too), and start actively pursuing your dreams! You’ll never regret trying.

“All right, Erika, I am coming!”

Okay, where is that Hooked On Phonics box? What in the world does the letter X sound like?