When I worked for Uncle Sam, my work was absolutely goal-driven. At the beginning of each fiscal year, someone higher on the food chain than I was would establish goals for my organization. The head of that organization would then break those down to sub-goals for each department; the department heads would break that down further to sub-sub-goals for the branches. Then, it was my job to see that my branch’s goals got accomplished. That required tracking, reporting, more tracking, etc., throughout the year.
This process was important on a couple of levels. Accomplishment of our branch, department, and organization goals rolled up to the administration goals, and that determined our next year’s budget. Accomplishment of goals also meant justifying awards for employees. However…
It was an onerous process to track progress on the goals, motivate employees, and draft reports. I quite often felt that the “real” work of my branch often got set aside for the accomplishment of these sometimes vague goals. When I retired, I declared, “No more goals for me!”
Then, close to three years into my retirement, I realized I hadn’t accomplished what I’d retired to do–get published. So, goals weren’t so bad after all, and since I had all that “experience” in strategic planning and accomplishing goals, I at least knew how to approach setting publishing goals.
Still, help is always appreciated. So I eventually hired a business/marketing consultant who helped me recognize that despite my aversion to anything that felt like “work,” I needed to consider my writing/publishing as my personal, small business. With that in mind, I could develop an annual plan, establish goals from that, and schedule their accomplishment month by month, even week by week. In publishing, though, the key is to have a publication date in mind and work backwards.
Using this form of planning, I can start the year with a clear schedule set down in my planner.
So, What’s This Year’s Plan?
Three books: a standalone (non-series) espionage novel, a novel-length collection of espionage short stories, and a quasi-mystery/literary novel.
The standalone novel is coming out on February 14, 2021, so the planning for that started back last summer after it came back from beta readers and my editor, but knowing the steps required to get it ready helped me in planning the final steps in the first six weeks of this year.
The short story collection is coming out in July. Again, the planning for this started about the same time as the standalone novel, but the beta readers and editor wasn’t finished with it until late last year.
The quasi-mystery novel I completed back in 2012. It’s undergone at least three rewrites based on critique group and beta reader input. It’s going to my editor this month, and it should be ready to go for its planned publication in December.
Of course, life has its way of throwing spanners (wrenches) in the works.
I did write a 50K-word novel in November, but as usual, I’ve put it aside for six months before I look at it again. That step is in April in my planner. Not a spanner in the works, but this is: In early December, I read an article about a British Military Reaction Force that operated in Northern Ireland from 1971 or 1972 to 1974. They used civilian vehicles and wore civilian clothes. They operated front businesses, like a laundry, that let them gather the names and addresses of suspected IRA soldiers. For example, if a woman brought in her husband’s shirts to a particular laundry, before cleaning them, the soldiers operating the front business would check the cuffs for gunshot residue. If they found it, the husband’s name when on a list. The MRF would then arrest the men, but it didn’t stay that simple. The soldiers would often take matters to a more violent level, conducting home invasions, drive-bys, and even a botched bombing.
I’ve said before, all a writer needs is a what-if. I’m now almost 23,000 words into a story I came up with speculating that a disgruntled soldier from that original MRF has decided to continue the MRF’s work. I’m deep into my research phase and writing scenes as they come to me, but, no, that one won’t be published for a while yet. However, I do have to go back through this year’s plan and add in this spanner in the works.
That’s why I use erasable pens.
Here’s What to Expect
February 14, 2021: Love Death – a Novel
July 10, 2021: Spy Flash III: The Moscow Rules
December 4, 2021: Sudden Madness of the Carnival Season
Some time in 2022:
- For My Country (2020 NaNoWriMo project)
- Mournful Presence of the Unseen Shadow (sequel to Sudden Madness)
- Book one of the Enemies Domestic series
Some time in 2023:
- Book two of the Enemies Domestic series
- Book three of the Enemies Domestic series
- Book one of the Meeting the Enemy series
Some time in 2024:
- Book two of the Meeting the Enemy series
- Book three of the Meeting the Enemy series
- The Devil Passed By (Northern Ireland novel)
Of course, there could be other spanners (for example, I’m contemplating releasing book three of the Meeting the Enemy series as three novellas–always up for a challenge), but now that I’ve written this down and made it public, I’ll have to follow through. Although, remember: erasable pens.
What are your writing plans a year, two years, whenever from now?