writing

One Chapter at a Time (Three months in)

I’ve been at this writing thing for ten years this September. And in that time, I’ve had people ask me if I had a routine that I followed. Honestly, my answer varied given on the day I was asked. In reality, I hadn’t found the thing that worked for me yet.

This year, however, I decided to get real with myself and start putting some goals down on paper and then, the hard part, making a plan to get them achieved. I was great at writing down the long term goals. Less successful with turning those goals into daily, achievable tasks.

In January, I tried out a new plan, which I blogged about earlier in One Chapter At A Time.

Basically, I print out a yearly calendar. This is the one I made but you can use any design you want.

STEP 1: Using that big picture view, I draw a red box around any month that will be too busy for me to realistically have a release in. Like, August for me tends to be crazy busy because I have teenagers getting back to school, so I’ll typically avoid August. Just figure out what months you think are off the table and draw a red line around them or mark them off in some way. It doesn’t mean you’re stagnant that month, it just means you aren’t releasing, so don’t cross it all the way off, just make a note of the conflict.

STEP 2: Next come the gray boxes. The highlight of that month. The main thing you will focus on from a marketing standpoint. Like it or not, marketing is just as important as writing. Some may argue more so. So this can also help you focus on what you want to be highlighting each month.

Start with your release month(s). Then, the month before a release is always a cover reveal, so those months have a focus by default. Then you can fill in the other months with a sale, a giveaway, or just promoting a title from your back list.

Map out your monthly goals using your release months as a jumping off point.

Everything starts with the release month(s). You work backward from that point. If you know the release month, you have an idea of when you need to book your designer by. When you need to book your editor by. Each will have their own lag time so make sure you know how soon in advance you have to book them. Then figure out what sales/giveaways you might plan. Do they tie into a release at all? What backlist titles need some love? Put down in the gray boxes what title will be the focus that month.

STEP 3: Tackle the rest of the white space in each month. This is where you’ll rough out what needs to happen each month to achieve your goals. For instance, if you are releasing in November, you’ll need to go back four months to book your designer/editor (give or take.) Map out when you’ll WRITE the book(s). Are you an author who needs three drafts before it goes to an editor? How long does it take you to write a draft? Mapping these details out in pencil helps you figure out if the release month you set is realistic or if it needs to be moved back.

unfinished, but you get the idea.

Step 4:. Taking those monthly tasks and making them work in a daily schedule. If I know it takes me three months to finish a draft, how many chapters a week do I need to do? What days can I devote to getting those weekly goals done? I know I need to book an editor in July. What day will I devote to doing that, and so on and so forth.

  • Step 1: Map out what month(s) you want to release in
  • Step 2: Map out main marketing focus for every other month
  • Step 3: Map out monthly goals
  • Step 4: Make the monthly goals daily goals

Do these steps in pencil or digitally, because inevitably, something will need to shift around. And that’s okay. It’s how you learn what is realistic and what is too ambitious. It’s a tedious process that does take a fair amount of time to plan, but I’ve been at it three months now and so far, it seems to be working. I’m meeting my weakly goals. Which means I’m hitting my monthly goals too. Soon, the yearly goal will happen. One chapter at a time.

Danielle Bannister, author and planner of all the things.

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