There is a goal-setting guide that will help you figure out what step to do next and set a good goal related to it (spoiler alert: use a number).
Happy New Year! I am excited to share my latest project, a day planner just for writers.
Around mid-November I became obsessed with bullet journals. Have you seen these? The basic idea is that you customize a day planner to suit your needs. There are some basic rules that many people follow to stay productive (like copying over tasks that still need to be done each week), but thanks to the handwriting trend, bullet journals have morphed into elaborate, beautiful, creative works of art.
I love this handwritten, fun, flexible style of planning projects and scheduling tasks, but I don’t have the time to design a new “spread” each week and month (I tried!). So, I decided to design a planner that I could print out that would look a bit like a bullet journal and work for my writing-related goals (like finishing another draft and updating my website).
The Writer’s Process Planner was born!
A sneak peek
Just like in many bullet journals, there are weekly spreads. I included space for you to write down your goals and lots of space to fill in tasks you need to get done during the day.
But what really sets this planner apart–the magic that makes it an affirmative, uplifting cheerleader and not just a super handy planner–are the trackers!
So. many. trackers!
Keep track of your word count…your sales…your submissions to publications large and small.
These trackers are the most important part of my process–the thing that has gotten me publications, an agent, and *most importantly* confidence in my work as a writer.
How it works
I have been using the process behind The Writer’s Process Planner for years. It has helped me achieve lots of writing goals, like finishing my first book-length manuscript, signing with my agent, and getting my first short story published.
In a nutshell, my process is:
- Figure out what to do next: write more, revise something, submit something…
- Make a goal related to that thing (and include a number)
- Keep track of your progress toward your goal
- Celebrate any success at all
It’s simple, but it works.
For example, when I was looking for an agent for my nonfiction manuscript, I knew I needed to send out query letters. So, my goal was to send 3 query letters a month.
This meant researching potential agents, reading their guidelines, tweaking my query letter, and actually sending off the letters–most months, I sent out just one letter, and one month I got to two. I also participated in Twitter agent-finding events a few times. Eventually, I found my agent through #PitchMadness on Twitter.
It took months–ten, to be exact. But I stuck with it. Why? Because I was keeping track of my work! I could see what box needed to be filled in next, and each time a rejection came in, I could check off one step and go onto the next one.
I didn’t initially plan to participate in #PitchMadness, but when the opportunity came along, I had lots of material to draw from to tweet my pitch and a query letter ready to go when (after a few tries) I got a manuscript request. I also learned from each time I participated in #PitchMadness–reading others’ tweets and writing and rewriting my own improved my pitch.
This story is a good example of the type of progress lots of writers make on the path to publication. You aim for a result and try a lot of things. These things, whether you realize it or not, help you to reach your goals.
But it can be hard to keep going! Before I queried my manuscript, I sent out a few queries for another book proposal. I didn’t keep track of these very closely. I sent queries to maybe three or four agents–I even got some positive feedback!–and then I ran out of steam. Why? Because nice No’s are still No’s.
It all worked out in the end, but only after I embraced all the rejection and started believing in the process of submitting my work and trying new things.
Why it works
Writing for others and all that entails–finding your readers, honing your craft, finishing your work–isn’t easy, and it isn’t always straightforward. Many times I’ve wondered what to do next–do I write more, revise again? Do something “market-y”?
Several years into this game, I’ve figured out that it doesn’t matter exactly what you choose, as long as you choose something and stick to it. Keep your eye on the prize–a complete draft, an agent, a publication, a number of sales–and try consistently to meet it.
So, this planner will help you to do the things that I have worked at since my MFA days:
- It shows you what step to do next, depending on your ultimate publication goals (self-publication or a traditional book deal) and genre (fiction or nonfiction).
- It shows you your progress, through (pretty) trackers and tables where you can write down the action you take and the results you get.
- It offers you outside validation–you can pick up the planner when you are feeling low and see how far you’ve come by reading through your progress each week.
- It helps you to feel like a writer.
And, as a bonus, I can attest that this system has helped me to feel the pain of rejection every so slightly less.
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