The 4 Things You Need for Writing Success

It’s that time of year again! I’m bringing back the series of posts I wrote nearly ten years ago to help you strategically plan your writing career. It helps to assess where you’ve been on your journey and what you envision for the new year. Dive in!

Since 2022 is winding down and many of us start looking ahead to a new year with hope, anticipation, and uncertainty, I want to devote the last few posts of this year to something I feel is essential for all writers (and probably for just about everyone with any career goals whatsoever): strategic planning.

Some of you are probably groaning, for planning sounds a lot like plotting or marketing or promoting—just another thing that times time, effort, and yes—thought! Strategic planning sounds “corporate” to me—all business and no fun. Certainly not as much fun as just winging it with my writing in a creative flair without caring what the future holds.

But most of us have some goals for our writing life. Maybe they’re a bit vague, like we want to become best-selling authors, or we want a lot of fans. I’d like to propose that in order to really succeed in your writing career, though, you really need to get a little more specific.

So, I’m going to delve into some very specific things regarding strategic planning that have helped me a lot, and much of what I’m going to share with you was provided for me by the wonderful Randy Ingermanson, who has the popular blog Advanced Fiction Writing (which you should absolutely subscribe to). Some of you know of Randy via his famous (or infamous?) “Snowflake Method.” (If you haven’t heard of it, just do a Google search and you soon will be in the know). Randy, to me, is the epitome of a “planner.” As a physicist, he brings to his writing career an inordinate measure of logical evaluation that, sadly, many of us “creative types” often lack or resist.

I believe that’s why so many novelists don’t want to put on their marketing hat. There is just too much. . . well, strategic planning needed to execute a plan that is time-efficient, productive, and practical. We don’t want to be bothered; we just want to hole up in our little office corner and write great books.

Your Strategic Plan Is Like Taking a Trip

But, just a little planning isn’t all that painful. In fact, once I got into it, I had a lot of fun dreaming up all the milestones I wanted to reach and allowing myself to envision in specific detail what my “success” will look like a year from now. That’s kind of like writing fiction, right? So try this and see if it helps you. I believe it will—on many levels.

For one thing, if you have a clear plan in place, you can set very specific practical tasks to do each week to reach those goals. And as you reach them, it’s very satisfying. Like when you go on a road trip to a faraway place and you’re checking the map for landmarks and towns along the way, or roadside attractions you want to see. So when you get to each place you are aiming for, you can cross it off your list and explore and have fun while you’re there.

Strategic planning is just like that but without the corny T-shirt you buy at the souvenir stand. For another thing, it will take much of the mystery and confusion out of your journey, as you have some clear destinations you are striving toward, and that can reduce stress (that and massive amounts of chocolate).

The Four Things That Lead to Success

So all you need are four (yes, just four) basic things in order to succeed in your writing career: vision, strategy, tactics, and action. Here’s a simple explanation of each of these key components of your fabulous strategic plan:

  • Vision: You need to have a clear idea of what you want your career to look like in 1, 2, and 5 years. If you want to just plan next year because thinking too far ahead gives you hives, just focus on that.
  • Strategy: All this really means is you create a road map you will use to get to that town called “Vision” you just described. If it helps, get out your crayons and paper and draw a neat little Western town called “Vision” on the far right side of a map  and draw a long road leading to it. That road is the highway we call “Strategy.” (Or if you want to really get into this metaphor, call it a wagon trail.)
  • Tactics: Tactics are the specific methods and skills you will use to achieve various milestones, each by a certain deadline (the word deadline sounds good in here, right?). Draw a bunch of humpy things that look like tombstones in intervals along the road (Okay, you can write R. I.P. on some of them, but don’t pay any mind to the circling buzzards overhead).
  • Action: Yep, you actually have to saddle up your horse and ride the long road to get to each of those milestones and then finally to the town you aim to end up in. You are going to have an idea how long it will take you to get to each one of those milestones (where you can water your horse and maybe get some grub). You see how this is like a planned trip with a destination in mind? Don’t forget your Winchester for the pesky rattlers!

Let the Dreams Come

So next week, we will take a long, good look at what your vision might entail and why it’s important to have a very specific one—not just a vague idea. If you are going to plan that trip to “Vision,” you really want to know what’s there that’s so enticing and worth the trip. In the meantime, think a little about where you are in your writing career, maybe just brainstorm a bit with those nifty crayons, and throw around some ideas of where you’d like to be, as a writer, in the next year or two.

What does that writing career look like a year from now? What do you see yourself doing? Write down whatever comes to mind, however outrageous or trivial. Hang on to that piece of paper for next week, when we dig in and shape and color that vision a bit . . . pardner.

Be sure to sign up for my mailing list. By doing so, you’ll get my Strategic Planning ebook that contains all these posts and more! (Just click on the link on the right navigation bar.)

Featured Photo by James Lee on Unsplash

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