December is here already. That means it’s time to start planning for 2016. Whether you write novels, non-fiction books, articles, blog posts, or other content, the more you produce, the more money you’ll make. This makes planning a necessity if you want to maximize your time and your bottom line.
Since December is a slower month with the looming holidays and time off, it’s a good idea to set aside a few hours to make a plan for 2016. This article tackles the process from two viewpoints: firstly, from a creative writing standpoint, and secondly, from a content angle.
Planning means a little more than writing down on a piece of paper that you’re going to write a novel in 2016. While that’s an admirable goal, and definitely achievable, you need something a little more concrete to go by so that each day, you know exactly what you need to do to accomplish that goal.
Writing a book—a novel, a non-fiction book, an e-book, or a novella—takes time to accomplish and sometimes writers get analysis paralysis. There are so many things to think about and decide that you’re mired in minutiae without moving forward.
The first thing you need to do is establish a deadline.
If you’re a seasoned writer with publishing credits, you know that to meet your publisher’s deadlines for future work, you need to be able to hit your daily writing goals on time. That takes planning in advance.
And if you’re just getting started with the creative writing process, and you want to get published anytime soon, you need to set yourself concrete deadlines for getting work done. For example, if you want to publish in 2016, you’ll need to set a deadline for completion of your book well in advance of December 31st. Plan for as much time as possible to shop your manuscript around.
Next, work backwards from your deadline to set specific goals.
If your publisher wants 2 new books in 2016, you know you have around 6 months to complete each one. You can work backwards from those dates to figure out the specifics: when you need to have your research completed, when you need to have your first draft done, and how long you need for revisions.
I wrote a non-fiction book for a businessman in 2015 that took me 3 months to complete. We set a deadline and then I worked backwards from that date to determine exactly when my research needed to be complete, how many chapters I needed to complete each week, all the way down to the specific number of words I needed to write each day.
I planned out each step needed to pull the book together and scheduled each task on my calendar. I had a 3-month view of exactly what needed to be done each day. This meant that I always knew if I was falling behind and could adjust my schedule and re-prioritize accordingly.
Working from deadlines is appropriate whether you outline your books or fly by the seat of your pants.
Whatever your style for getting your work done, due dates keep you honest and working towards the finish line. If you’ve ever done NaNoWriMo, you know first-hand how empowering a deadline can be.
If you write articles for glossies or trade publications or you blog regularly for yourself or clients, you probably already realize the advantages of having an editorial calendar that plans out your topics/titles, content deadlines, and publishing dates.
If you’re new to the publishing market, you might want to take a few days to familiarize yourself with the guidelines each of your prospective publications has for articles. Some editors want year-end or Christmas articles pitched as early as June.
The first thing you need is a calendar with national dates denoted.
You might have an interesting angle for an article to be published for Passover or Easter in a regional magazine. You definitely need to know when these holidays fall so that you can work backwards from those dates to determine when you need to pitch your idea to an editor.
Go through all of the dates on the calendar and brainstorm ideas for pitching articles or blog posts. If you have a client for whom you write weekly blog posts, you may want to assign “themes” to each month of the year.
For example, I have one client for whom I work out an editorial calendar 3 months in advance. I determine the themes for each month first and then article titles for each week of the month. These are cleared by the client in advance so I know each and every week what I’m writing about.
Determine how many articles/blog posts you need to write each week.
Figure out how much you need to produce each week. You may already have a number of articles you need to write each month, so figuring out how many you need to get done each week should be easy.
If you’re just starting out, it might be easier to start with how much money you need to make each month to meet your financial obligations and figure out from there how many items you need to write each week.
You might be an in-house writer for an editor and have your articles already planned out for you. It still wouldn’t hurt to have an idea of how prolific you need to be each day or week.
There are many software programs and apps that help you brainstorm on your computer, or you can do it the old-fashioned way with pencil and paper. I love to use MindNode for visual mind mapping on my Mac. There’s also Evernote and Microsoft’s OneNote to capture notes, pictures, links, ideas, and anything else you brainstorm.
This is just the tip of the iceberg on what’s available; check out a recent blog post on the 6 Best Editorial Tools for Writers & Editors.
Just like with writing your first draft of anything, don’t stop to think about what you’re writing. Just get the ideas down on paper or screen. Something might spark another train of thought or help you hone in on a particular topic that would be great to cover.
The more ideas you brainstorm, the more fodder you’ll have for the writing mill. And when you have a list full of article or blog post ideas, you’ll be much more productive during the year than if you had to continually come up with new ideas each week.
Finally, assign each article and post idea to a week on your calendar.
Voila. You have a calendar full of ideas to write about each week. No guess work involved. Remember, the more you write, the more you’ll either get paid for your writing or get recognition as an expert in your field.
If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. – Benjamin Franklin
Make 2016 the best it can be by taking a few moments this month to plan ahead. By tackling this little bit of the business side of writing, you set yourself up for a more successful year. Then you can sit back and be amazed at how productive you are with a little planning on the front end.