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Planning Your Writing Career
by Dawn Copeman

Return to The Business of Writing · Print/Mobile-Friendly Version

On the Newbie-Writers website I ran a poll asking about Writing Business Plans: "Do you have a writing business plan to help you plan your writing?" And almost 87% of those who voted don't.

To be honest, this didn't surprise me. For the first year of my writing life I didn't have a plan either. "Writing is a creative exercise," I reasoned to myself, "therefore, I shouldn't try and fit it into a plan." But my, was I wrong.

You see, without a plan for your writing career, it is hard to keep track of how much writing you do. It is difficult to push yourself to achieve further writing credits, to pursue new markets, to successfully enter contests or even to achieve your targeted word counts for that novel you're working on.

Without a plan, your writing will simply drift along and you can find that at the end of a week you haven't actually written a thing. This is not good if you are ever going to sell your work or finish your novel. To help your career take off, you really need a Writer's Business Plan.

So what is a Writer's Business Plan?

At its most basic a writer's business plan is a set of goals that you intend to reach and deadlines by which you will reach them. At its most complex it is a schedule for increasing your writing income by a set amount, increasing your published clips and the number of magazines you write for by setting exacting targets for you to meet, and involving backward planning to work out when you need to submit queries to which magazines. As this article is aimed at beginners, we will concentrate on a basic writer's plan. For those of you who want to write a more complex one read, this Building a Writer's Business Plan by Moira Allen.

How do you write a Business Plan?

There are three steps involved in writing a business plan:

  • Setting goals
  • Allocating Time
  • Checking your progress

Setting Goals

Goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and targeted -- or SMART for short.

Specific: Don't just say "I want to be published this year." Instead say, "I want to be published in x and y magazines or I want to have z novel published this year."

Measurable: Don't write "I want to increase my number of published clips this year." Write: "I want to have 10 published clips this year." or "I will send out fifty queries this year."

Achievable: Don't say "I will write two novels this year" or "I will write two articles a week," if you only have 5 hours a week writing time. Instead write something like; "I will complete 3000 words a week on my novel this year." Or "I will research and write one article a fortnight."

Realistic: Don't write down that you will earn $100k from your writing this year, or that you will win the Pulitzer Prize or the Man Booker prize. Write down things that you can realistically achieve given the time you have available for writing and your level of experience. It is realistic to say "I will earn $100 an article by the end of this year" or "I will have completed the first draft of my novel this year" or "I will enter ten writing contests this year."

Targeted: Don't write: "I will one day become a famous author." When will one day be? This is a dream, not a goal. For goals to work; they need to have targets: "I will have written my first draft by x.x.xx." I will submit a query each month by the x." "I will send my novel to one agent every three months"

Allocating Time

Next, look at the time you have available for writing and work out how much time you can realistically spend on each of your goals in a week or a month.

You might need to split your writing time into various tasks: researching new markets, researching articles or fiction settings; composing query letters, writing first drafts of articles or fiction stories; editing second drafts; writing your novel; copywriting work etc, etc.

Then you need to give each goal a deadline, for without a deadline there will be no impetus for you to finish each task and the time you spend on a task will expand to fit the time available to it. To set deadlines you need to take into account such factors as:

  • Deadlines for article submissions (particularly for seasonal articles)
  • Deadlines for contest submissions (build in an early deadline for yourself to allow time for editing etc)
  • Deadlines for when you want to have written the first three chapters of your novel...
  • Or word counts: 3000 words a week on your novel

You will also need to factor in time that you won't be able to use for writing, such as holidays.

For example, if you want to get 10 published clips this year, then realistically you could be looking at writing fifty queries. That means you need to send out, on average, five queries a week. If you don't plan for that or allocate time to researching markets and drafting queries, then you won't achieve your goal.

Ideally, you should also factor into your writing plan time to improve your craft; time to read writing books or newsletters, time to go on courses or use writing products. You need to invest time in your development as a writer.

Checking your progress

I write out all my goals on a piece of paper and then transfer these goals to my diary. I write out when I should have achieved each goal on the correct day of my diary and check my diary and business plan on a weekly basis. I also copy my immediate goals onto a "Things to Do" page in my planner.

When I used Microsoft Works I found their scheduling software a boon for setting targets. You might find using the scheduling tool in Outlook Express useful too. Whichever method you use; the important thing is to write down your goals and check your progress towards them regularly.

So, there you have it. Writing a plan for your writing career is not a lengthy process but it is one that should improve your productivity and enable you to make the most of your writing time.

Find Out More...

Bite-Size Resolutions - Moira Allen

Building a Writer's Business Plan, by Moira Allen

Goals and Resolutions: Mid-Year Course Adjustments - Moira Allen

Goals Are Worthless If... - Brian Jud

Setting Effective Writing Goals - Moira Allen

Copyright © 2006 Dawn Copeman

This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

Dawn Copeman is a UK-based freelance writer and educator who has published over 300 articles on the topics of travel, cookery, history, health and writing. An experienced commercial freelancer, Dawn contributed several chapters on commercial writing to Moira Allen's Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer (2nd Edition).


Copyright © 2018 by Moira Allen. All rights reserved.
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