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Your Writing Plan for 2021 (part one)

Advanced tips for writers

Planning your writing in 2021

This post is for you if you fancy taking your writing to the next level in 2021, or if you’re fed up with putting off your writing goals because something else keeps coming up, or if you would like to get your next twelve months of writing planned so you feel super-organised going into the new year.

Looking for my other posts on Your 2021 Writing Plan? Go here. 

Maybe you want to know how to create workable writing goals in the first place or you have set goals before and after a while life took over and you kept putting off your writing, until those goals seemed unimportant. I promise you there is a way to work on your writing goals without sacrificing the other important things in your life, you simply need to learn the right way to do it and put it into practice.

Nearly ten years ago, I wrote a book on goal-setting and time management, inspired by my undergraduate students. The techniques I learnt about as I researched the book are life-changing and they’ve stayed with me every since. In the next couple of posts, I’ll summarise the approach I developed in that first ‘small steps guide’ and how you can apply the small steps method to your writing life in 2021.

So how does it work?

First of all, think about a writing project you feel enthusiastic about, and create a specific writing goal for it. Dedicate a notebook to your goal and write the goal down on the first page. Now answer these questions:

  • Is the goal big enough? (Edit: If you follow my blog regularly you’ll know I like to contradict myself and here’s a blog post where I discuss whether your goal is too small.)
  • Is the goal outside your comfort zone – but not so far outside it that you won’t know where to start?
  • What don’t you know? What do you need to learn? What kind of research could you do?
  • Can you think of any problems or challenges that are going to get in the way of this goal?
  • Is there a community associated with this goal, somewhere you could go for support?

These question are simply to get you thinking, you don’t have to know the answers yet. Here are a couple of made up examples.

Example 1: Submit my novel

  • Project: write my novel
  • Specific goal: submit the novel to agents by December 2021
  • Is the goal big enough? Is it outside your comfort zone – but not so far outside it that you won’t know where to start? Not sure yet.
  • What don’t you know? What do you need to learn? What kind of research could you do? I don’t know how to structure a novel. I could look for books or online courses.
  • Any problems or challenges that are going to get in the way? Finding time to work on my novel.
  • Is there a community associated? Maybe I could join an online writing group?

Example 2: Sell my feature articles

  • Project: pitching and publishing freelance feature articles
  • Specific goal: publish and earn money from ten feature articles in print magazines this year
  • Is the goal big enough? Is it outside your comfort zone – but not so far outside it that you won’t know where to start? Not sure yet.
  • What don’t you know? What do you need to learn? What kind of research could you do? I want to get better at pitching to editors. I could look for some resources online.
  • Any problems or challenges that are going to get in the way? I don’t know how to research magazines that are open to submissions.
  • Is there a community associated? Maybe there are Facebook groups?

You can see how both goals are time limited, both are concrete and measurable, and it will be easy to tell whether these writers achieve their goals or not by the end of the year. You can also see that both writers could come up with the answers to these questions without knowing exactly how the goal would be achieved.

You might also have noticed that the emphasis in goal one is on submitting the work. In goal two, the emphasis is on publishing and selling the work. These two fictitious writers have quantified their goals in different ways. Personally I think that 1) knowing why you write and 2) knowing how you want to quantify your writing goals in 2021 is key to your writing success. I’m creating a new course about precisely that at the moment – but more on that another time.

Signposts

Using a diary, planner or calendar, block off any times when you can’t work on your writing (a holiday or wedding for example) and mark in some ‘signposts’. Signposts are stages that you want to reach by a certain point in the year. The novelist in the above example, for instance, wants to submit by December, so perhaps s/he decides to get a finished draft done by November. Working backwards, s/he decides to start redrafting the book in August, so needs to finish a first draft by then – so s/he needs to finish half of it by April. These are all signposts that will let him or her know if s/he’s on track. By the way, your signposts will also tell you if you need to revise the goal.

What next?

On Boxing Day (the day after Christmas here in the UK), I‘ll post again setting out exactly what you need to do to take action on the writing goals that you’ve come up with today.

Until then, I hope you get to enjoy the festive season. Thanks so much for reading.

Louise xx

2 Comments

  1. Lisa Fisk says:

    Practical and broken down into reasonable pieces!!
    Thanks for the encouragement and the gentle encouragement for planning (opposed to pantsing) the new year’s endeavors!

    1. Louise says:

      Glad it helps. Took me a long time to learn how to plan in a way that made sense to me. 🙂

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