Saturday, January 12, 2013

SETTING ANNUAL WRITING GOALS for 2013: Three Well-Published Authors share their techniques

Here are some tips about how to set comprehensive "Annual Writing Goals" for 2013.  These come from 3 multi-published children's authors who are each known for publishing book after book, year after year, and for continuing to move forward in very successful, full-time writing careers.  For those of us who want to have serious writing careers of our own, we can pull ideas from these three as we finish setting our personal writing goals for 2013 and beyond. So... drumroll please... here are some strategies from folks who know how to make writing careers work:

Kathleen Reilly:  Kate is a full-time author who writes nonfiction children's books, ghost-written books for famous people, articles for multiple national magazines for kids and adults, and she is now also moving into hilarious middle grade and adult fiction novels.  She's known for writing awesome books at the speed of light, and if I do say so, two of her great non-fiction books Planet Earth and The Walt Disney World Extreme Vacation Guide For Kids are some of the best non-fiction books written in the past few years for creative elementary and middle-schoolers who like fun science experiments, craft projects, learning about the world, and more.  Kate's career is on a roll.  So, share with us Kate! Will you tell us your secrets for January that keep your career rolling along so fabulously?

Absolutely! I ADORE setting goals. Not just in January, either. I consider goals as a living entity – constantly in need of attention and tweaking and feeding and watering. Once I set goals, I hover around them, keeping an eye on their progress and seeing what I need to do to help them blossom and grow.
That said, there’s something special about January goals. The turning of a new calendar page that says, “Last year is history! 2013’s a clean slate! You can do anything you want this year!” So I’ll make a Word file that’s called 2013 Goals and that’s the file I fuss with all year. At the top of the page, I’ll think hard about what *very specific* goals I want to see happen. Do I want to write a new book? I’ll write down specifically what idea I have. Do I want to get more ghost clients? I’ll specify how many I want. Do I want to break into new magazine markets? I’ll write down which markets (or how many new markets I want).
Then, the next section of my Word document is called “Make it Happen.” Here, I list each specific goal I’ve made above and write down exactly what steps are needed. So, for my ghost clients goal, I’d put action items like which people I’ll contact to propose a ghosting relationship, or jot down a good place to start researching new clients, or maybe list the title of a book about the industry I should read. Then I make sure that throughout the year I'm going back to look at that "goals" document frequently  to make sure I'm on track to meet those goals and to update it.

For those who don't know Kate, she makes very comprehensive goals and zips right through to the finish line with them every year! :) Thanks Kate!

Our next fabulous author is Alan Gratz.  He's written stories set in Japan, fantasy-land, Brooklyn, Tennessee, outer-space, and Warsaw Poland.  His most recent book -- Prisoner B-3087, based on a true story about a heroic 10 year old boy trying to survive a concentration camp during WWII, will be released by Scholastic in March 2013. It has already been hailed by Kirkus Reviews as "A bone-chilling tale not to be ignored by the universe." Alan is the author of 7 middle grade and young adult novels, with more on the way. He also keeps busy marketing his books via school visits, teaching at writing conferences, and he will be faculty at the Highlights Whole Novel Workshop again this year.  Tell us, Alan, how do you personally set annual writing goals to keep your career moving forward each year?

Every December/January I sit down and look at my writing schedule for the coming year, figuring out when I'll be working on previous obligations, and when I'll have time to work on new projects. This month, for example, I'm waiting on an edit letter on a book I sold recently, so I have time to get a start on a new project. I break the year down by month, and put in when I think I'll get notes back from editors, and when my deadlines are, and what my major travel obligations will be. The empty months (those few that remain) are when I slot in the new stuff. Things happen so far out in publishing that you can't sit on your hands waiting for someone else to get back to you. In fact, this year, I went ahead and took a tentative look at 2014's schedule as well! That one is even more open to revision than 2013's schedule, of course, but I like having things in the queue for those times when I have time to play.

Wow - planning all the way out to 2014.  That's a really good idea. That's a good example that shows how writing for a career is a not a "just fly by the seat of your pants and hope you sell some books and that it all works out" endeavor. Planning is key.

Here's another great "planning" author, Stephanie Greene. Stephanie's written more than 20 books for children, and three new titles in her Princess Posey early chapter book series will be published in 2013, along with her 4th Sophie Hartley middle grade novel, Sophie Hartley and the Facts of Life, in the fall.  Stephanie's long and successful career hasn't slowed a bit during all the recent changes in the publishing world.  

Stephanie's New Years Strategy: 

I start every New Year with a new book. If I'm working on something that's going well, I'll still take part of every day to begin a new manuscript. If I'm at the stage on an existing manuscript where I'm re-writing and honing every little word without moving the plot forward, I put that manuscript to the side and start something new. I don't let books drag on and on. The way I set my deadline is that I look at the year beyond the new year (in this case, 2014) and tell myself that if I want to have a new book come out that year, I have to write it now and quickly. Winter months are good ones in which to write. I tend to set April 1st for completion of the first draft. That gives me roughly a month to revise before I send it to my agent. Assuming an editor accepts it, I then have until late fall to get it into good enough shape that it can be published the following fall. It doesn't always happen the way I want, but I stick to that schedule. There's no other way to meet it but to write every day, moving the book along, until I have a draft. 

THANKS Stephanie, Alan, and Kate! You guys are great!

Now the rest of us can follow your tips and examples as we make sure that we too are moving forward with clear goals and plans for 2013 and 2014.


Jenny said...

Great post, Janelle. I always think about my goals, but I've never really taken the time to write and revise them. I will from now on - you and your guests have convinced me. Thanks for sharing!

Linda A. said...

Thank you for another great post. It wsa terrific to hear three different view points on setting goals. Very helpful! Thinking beyond the present year makes perfect sense too. I'll now have an even greater appreciation for two year planners.

Janelle said...

I do love the idea of planning 2 years in advance - every year. It shows that the author is committed to being in this writing world as a career and not just as someone hoping to get lucky once (as if writing is easy,) and then to go on to some other fun adventure like sky-diving. : )

Making writing our career is difficult, and planning, it seems, is essential!

Janelle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Thanks, Janelle, that was great and just what I needed today!