Finding Your Tactical Plan

On this last day of 2012, I’m wrapping up the month-long look at strategic planning for writers. With thanks to author and writing instructor Randy Ingermanson, I’ve been going over the four basic elements writers need to consider to put together a real plan that is practical, efficient, and useful. These four elements are vision, strategy, tactics, and action. I’ve covered the first two a bit, and discussed how to come up with milestones to place along your journey to reach your vision.

Now we’re going to look at tactics and action. My hope is that by going over these posts and writing out your strategy, you’ll get a clear vision for what you’d like your writing career to look like by the end of next year, as well as what you’d like to accomplish. By breaking down your dream into bite-sized pieces, you can really manage it!

I mentioned your goals comprise three types of things: things you want to have, things you want to do, and things you want to be. I encouraged you to brainstorm a bit and write down some ideas that address these dreams for your writing career. Hopefully you’ve written down your vision statement by filling in the blanks I provided, and by creating your own sentences. Then you set milestones you know you need to reach in order to get “there.”

Putting Your Tactical Plan in Place

So now, take a look at your milestones for each part of your vision. Ask these questions:

  • What obstacles prevent me from reaching this milestone?
  • Where can I learn how to get past these obstacles?
  • Who can I ask who has reached this milestone?
  • How much time, energy, and money will it take to hit this milestone?

Dare to Dream

In the last post, I gave some scenarios to show what kinds of reasonable milestones you might set up to lead you to your vision. I posited you might want to write and upload for sale three ebooks by the end of 2013, and set some reasonable goals for yourself—if you’re the kind of writer that could reasonable accomplish this. I think the key here is the word reasonable. Only you have a good idea of what you might be able to do. But don’t limit yourself but denouncing your dreams before you try to reach them. Remember what I wrote about dreams? Every amazing accomplishment in human history came about because someone dared dream.

So balance the reasonable with the outrageous. If, in order for you to write three novels and put them up as ebooks by this date next year you would have to sell your small children, divorce your husband, and marry a billionaire, that’s just not realistic (but it might make a great plot for your novel!). On the other hand, if your vision is to write your first novel, and you think you are ready and might feasibly be able to do this, don’t hinder yourself. Answer those four questions above and set some tactics.

Maybe you have a small child at home. Maybe you are taking some college courses on writing to help you improve. Maybe you know a few successful authors who also have small kids. Yes, you’re feeling overwhelmed and can’t imagine how you can get a novel done.  By answering those questions, you can come up with a tactical plan to examine your time spent on all your daily tasks, assessing how much time you would need to write each day or week, when the best times to write might be to fit into your schedule and fit the time you are best able to concentrate on your writing. You can talk to your writer friends and ask them how they manage to put out a novel each year with four kids at home. You can read up on ways to sleep deeper and feel more refreshed in the morning, or maybe you’ll start taking vitamins or give up (oops, did I really say that?) coffee after five o’clock so you can fall asleep easier. Even little lifestyle changes can be included in your tactics to reach those milestones.

 Now, Put It All into Action!

Nothing happens unless you implement your plan. Believe it or not, to get to your end destination of “vision,” you need to hit those milestones. And now that you have a strategic plan with all kinds of goals to reach and ways to get there, knowing the amount of time each benchmark will take to reach (or thereabouts) you need to get started. Tomorrow is a new year. Rather than make vague resolutions you will forget and fail to keep, you now have a handy strategic plan, which is much more specific and usable. Instead of just saying “My New Year’s resolution is to write a novel this year,” you have all kind of mini goals to reach in a set order with tactics in order to achieve those goals, and you can see a nice tidy path to the finish line.

You may not reach some of those milestones in the time you’d like. As I mentioned in earlier posts, some of those milestones are out of your hands, like winning an award or getting a publishing contract, but you can still reach all the milestone that are in your power to reach, and you can adjust the timeline as needed. Some of your career goals you will reach later than you hoped, but others you will reach sooner. It’s all about going on a wild, wonderful, surprising journey when you write for life.

Be Determined

So be determined to take action and be steady in your resolve to keep the course. Regularly sit down and go over your plan. Maybe once a week look at that piece of paper you’ve pinned to the wall by your computer and mark off the milestones you’ve reached. Get some shiny star stickers (remember those from grade school?) and when you reach some milestones, however minor, reward yourself with a star (or a big chocolate bar, which is more my style). If you need an accountability partner to keep you on track, find one and report to them regularly about your goals. As the stars start piling up (or the chocolate wrappers fill your round file), be proud of what you’ve accomplished. Set new milestones as you see fit, reach higher, dream bigger. For your dreams are what make you who you are, and this writing life can take you to the stars and beyond.

Wishing you a very happy New Year—one full of dreams, visions, and writing success!


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  1. I needed to read this article as it reminds me of a saying, “Be-Do-Have: BE willing to DO what it takes to HAVE what you want.”
    I definitiely need to try new ways of keeping on task to complete my studies and think that some of those colorful sticky stars might just do the trick.

  2. Hi Susanne,

    I’ve found reading your blog throughtout this past year to be so inspiring – the best writing blog I follow is yours!

    Even though I feel I’m a little more advanced than your posts are intended for, I still feel like I learn a lot from them. This post is obviously intended for beginner writers whereas I’m well into my third novel. But I love all your posts and I thought the motif themed post was very clever. Wishing you all the best for the coming year.

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