Goals and Schedules

TrailofHope_3DLet me tell you about my writing/publishing schedule for the next six months. I have plans. Ambitious plans. I have the second book in my Hot on the Trail series, Trail of Hope, coming out this month on the 24th. The third book, Trail of Longing, is coming out January 5th, the fourth, Trail of Dreams on February 16th. After that, I plan to start interspersing another, contemporary romance project, bringing the first book in that series out around March 23rd or 30th, then the fifth book in the Hot on the Trail series, Trail of Destiny, at the end of April, and the second book in the contemporary series at the end of May.

I hear you. You’re saying, “Are you crazy woman?” And yes, well, the answer to that is probably “Yepper!” The more important thing to look at, however, is the way I’ve set goals and given myself a schedule.

I do my best work and produce the most when I’ve squeezed myself into a time frame for production. Back in the days before I got serious about my writing and before I learned about self-publishing (and knew that was the path for me), I would just write whenever I felt like it. If inspiration struck, I would knuckle down and play with stories for however long it took to entertain myself. The problem is, I never finished anything. I’d get bored with the story at hand, especially when I got stuck, and then I’d go play the Sims or something.

The key that enabled me to switch gears from being a hobbiest to a dedicated, professional writer was getting organized. Learning in depth about the craft, particularly story structure, was the first step to knowing exactly what I wanted to put on paper. But it wasn’t until I set myself time limits for production, also known as a schedule, that I was able to really get going in the direction I wanted to go.

Nothing pushes you to finish a book like a deadline. That’s one of the reasons I love NaNoWriMo so much. NaNo forces you to work with constraints. You’d think that, as an artist, freedom would be the key to success, but actually, it’s scheduling. When you have a date by which you absolutely have to get the first draft finished—or more importantly, a date by which you absolutely have to get that polished draft to an editor who you are paying to make it even better—you get to work.

salvador-dali-melting-clocksWorking with an editor for the first time opened my eyes and changed so many things about my writing. When you’re dealing with a firm deadline set by someone else, it forces you to be highly productive. But what about when you’re trying to self-motivate to get the job done? That’s when keeping a calendar by your writing space comes in very handy. Plan out your time. Think about when you need to get things to that editor, but also when you need to hand the book off to beta-readers. Think about how much time you will need for revisions once you get your baby back from the editor. Plan for having a couple of weeks for reviewers to look at the ARC. And if you’re going to put your book up for pre-order, well, Amazon requires you to have the final version locked ten days before release. You need to plan for that too.

If this all sounds daunting and terrifying, it doesn’t have to be. All of these milestones along the way to clicking “publish” are markers that can help you plan how you should time your writing process. They can give you a sense of just how long you’ll need to complete a project. Once you know that, you can work backwards to write a schedule that will keep you honest, so to speak, as you write. It’s like NaNo on a giant scale. Once you get organized for one project, you can start layering others on top of that. We all know (or think we know) how Amazon’s discovery algorithms work, and since that means you need to have a new release every 90 days, you can now plan for that.

Secretly, my goal for 2015 is to publish a book a month… or at least every 6 weeks. I think I can do that because of this amazing new outlining technique of Patti Larsen’s I’ve adopted. Barring that the only way I’ll be able to keep on that kind of straight and narrow is by scheduling everything. The good news is, I’m already ahead of schedule.

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