The New World of Publishing: How To Keep Production Going All Year

This is the fourth part of a series on how to set yourself set up and plan for 2013 writing and publishing. There have been three parts so far. Please read them first because this one will build on those four. Part One: Some Perspective on 2012. Part Two: How to Get Started Selling Fiction in 2013. Part Three: Goals and Dreams. So now we move to Part Four: How to Keep Production Going All Year. Remember, any business and production plan you decide to set up for yourself is made up of goals that can be attained with work. The focus of the goals you set is to attain a dream. Read the third part again, but keep in mind a goal can be attained and is in your grasp. A dream is what you work toward with a series of goals. So, this year-end series is continuing, but again, before reading this, please read those first three parts. Setting Up For Failure I’m starting this post with a warning: Understand what is failure in a goal and what isn’t failure. Every time I do this post, or talk with writers at the end of the year, I hear goals being set that are seemingly impossible when you do the math. I’ve set a few of them myself, to be honest, over the decades. I honestly have no problem at all with impossible goals. None, as long as the person setting the goal understands that the likely failure can also be deemed a success. But most writers I know don’t understand that simple detail. For example: Two years ago here I set a goal to write from titles and publish here and online 100 short stories. And even though slightly behind, I felt I was pretty much on schedule to hit that goal when one of my best friends died and I took over his estate. I turned away from writing almost completely to do the estate and only did what deadline work I had. So did I fail? Nope. I wrote and got out over thirty original short stories in the challenge, plus a number of stories for original anthologies that didn’t count in the challenge. Not the year I hoped, or even my best year, but not a bad year considering all the factors. It would have been far, far worse without the challenge. But most writers I know, when faced with actually missing their goal, just stop all together. The problem is that the goal sets them up for a failure, and then they use the failure or life issue as an excuse to stop writing. So caution when setting goals so extreme, you can’t make them in any fashion. And if you do set an extreme goal, have fall-back success levels. A reminder of the first steps needed… — I assume you have done the math to know how many original words you can produce of fiction per hour. — I assume you have figured out how many hours you have each week to write original fiction. — I assume you have started to set up a writing space, and have started telling your family and friends how important your writing is and have plans to start protecting your work, your time, your art in the new year. All of this is from the previous posts. If you haven’t done the above, I wouldn’t worry about moving forward with setting goals, because without the knowledge, the goals will fail. Goals must be set from a position of knowledge, not from a position of wishful thinking. A Sign of the Classic Want-To-Be-Writer: Another Warning Every long-term professional fiction writer can spot a hopeless want-to-be fiction writer easily. — They are the fiction writers who talk about writing, but never finish anything. — They are the fiction writers who feel jealous of all your writing time because they can never find the time. — They are the fiction writers who come up with one idea and spend years on it, talking about it, researching it, workshopping parts of it, but never finishing it and moving on. — They are the fiction writers who believe they will never succeed because they don’t have a major fan base like a major writer, so why bother. Or worse, they finish one thing and spend all year “promoting it.” — They are the fiction writers who decide they are going to write in the new year, but set no plans, no goals, no structure. — They are the writers who just get to their fiction writing when they can, when the muse strikes, because ideas are hard and writing is hard.  They “just can’t find the time.” And then the following year they try the same thing that didn’t work every year before. If you don’t want to be one of those “writers,” reread the first three posts I did in this series and set your time, set your defenses, and then set your goals for the year. Be a writer who makes your production of new words important.  How to Set Fiction Writing Goals in 2013 Now that I am done with the warnings and have the basics from the first three posts out of the way, it’s time to get to some ideas that might work for you. Remember, I’m just tossing out suggestions here. There is no one way for every writer, or only one way for the same writer from year-to-year. Use what strikes you in these ideas, alter them to suit your needs, and set the goals for you. And also I think it would be fine to combine some of these suggestions. Idea #1 Set your plan to strictly follow Heinlein’s Rules. The rules are: 1) Write 2) Finish what you write 3) Do not rewrite unless to editorial demand. (Meaning New York book editors who can buy your work, not someone who you hire. It is fine to fix mistakes first readers find and spelling mistakes.) 4) Put it on the market for someone to buy it. (Either a New York editor or readers indie published.) 5) Keep it on the market. (For indie publishers, this means leave it alone.) If you are one of the very few who have the courage to even try this, let alone succeed with the attempt for an entire year, you will be stunned at how far you will move toward your writing dreams and how much fun you will have. Warning on this one. Deceptively simple looking rules, fantastically difficult to actually follow because of all the myths that swirl around fiction writing. You will find yourself spending a ton of time coming up with excuses to not follow them. (Please, don’t comment on your excuses here. These rules are a Yoda situation. Either do. Or Don’t.) As Robert Heinlein said about his own rules. “But they are amazingly hard to follow — which is why there are so few professional writers and so many aspirants…” Idea #2 Set a new word count you would like to hit for the year. “New words” means finished words that can be either indie published or sent to traditional editors. Rewriting, researching, and all the other excuses you have do not count. New words only. (If you hear yourself say right there, “But…” you may have an issue to deal with.) Here is how to do this: Say you would like to finish a quarter of a million new words this year.  A very solid, but scary goal. A very large elephant. 1…. So divide the total word count desired into 50 weekly parts. (Two weeks off for vacation.) Example: 250,000 words divided by 50 weeks = 5,000 new words per week. 2… You have determined you can do about 1,000 words per hour.  So divide the 5,000 words by 1,000 = 5 hours of writing per week. 3… Look at the fiction writing time you have figured you have each week and find about eight hours total to get those five hours of writing done safely in your schedule. (The extra three will give you a cushion.) 4… Then protect those eight hours and write during that time every week to make sure you get the 5,000 minimum words per week done. At the end of the year you will look back and have finished one quarter of a million words. And trust me, you will be a much better fiction writer at the end of the year with that much practice, and if you finished and mailed or published everything, you will be on your way. A quarter of a million words a year sounds like a great big elephant. But 5 hours of writing per week does not. Yet one equals the other. Weird how that happens, isn’t it? And note: I will be talking a great deal about a week as a unit. We can all handle keeping a week in our minds because the world has trained us that way. So use that training when setting these goals and stay focused only at a week level. And better yet, a daily level. Idea #3 Set up a production goal. A lot of people, me included, like production goals more than word-count goals. When I started seriously writing, I set up a production goal to write and mail one short story per week. That sort of breaks down to the same word count as Idea #2 of 5,000 words per week. But the focus for me was on the finishing and mailing. (I was following Heinlein’s Rules religiously also during the challenge and still do, which is why I am still a professional writer.) My ongoing challenge is also production based. (I will talk about it in a post right before the first of the year.) The reason production-based goals sometimes work better is because of the end date. If your goal is to finish one short story every week, that keeps your mind off of the larger goal. You only focus down on one project at a time. If you are writing novels, I would highly suggest you break it down into smaller goals, such as finishing a scene per day or a chapter per week. And then only focus on that small bite. Again the key with eating an elephant is to not think of the task, just chew up one bite at a time, only thinking of the bite. Idea #4 Get one new book up indie published every two weeks. (Take two weeks off, so you are aiming for 25 by the end of the year.) This is a great challenge a friend of mine is running and a lot of people are taking part on a private list. Set up your own group. The idea is that the book can be a short story or a collection or a novel. And the key is to have the total at the end of the year. So if writing a novel, a month or so will go by with nothing new up, then do some short fiction and then a collection before going back to the next novel. Also, if you have some stories you have written and haven’t sold, or backlist of stories that were published and you now have the rights back, get those up as well. They would count. There are lots of ways of doing this, and it really works. And having 25 new books in print by the end of the year is something you are going to be very happy about. Trust me. Reporting In To Someone Here is the key to success for every major method of goal-setting. You must have someone, or some method, or some way to keep you on track. If you don’t make your weekly goal or word count, you must tell someone you didn’t make it. If you did make it, you must tell someone you did. When I started writing fiction … Continue reading The New World of Publishing: How To Keep Production Going All Year