Creating A Customized Weekly Plan
In the writing world, writers come in two general types: plotters and pantsers. Plotters set everything up beforehand. They know the bend of their story and spend hours tweaking their favorite characters and sketching out beautiful settings before they start typing the first page. Pantsers make the story up as they go, reveling in the newness of discovery and the plot twists even they didn’t see coming.
Either method works for drafting. The activity of writing varies tremendously from writer to writer and project from project, so one size doesn’t fit all. But drafting is only a tiny part of writing as a whole--of the process of creating books, releasing them, and selling them to readers. The entire process, the life of a successful self-published author, quickly becomes chaotic and all-encompassing to new writers who attempt it.
Pacing matters--how often should you publish a book? How many different promotions do you need, and how often should you write your mailing list about it? How much time should you spend writing and producing books versus publicizing and promoting them?
The answers to those questions vary again from writer to writer, but one thing stands out: you need a routine to survive, a pattern you can fall back on and work to maintain. Some writers take an annual approach. They’ll plan out a part of the year to research and draft, another part of the year to edit, get cover creators, and hype up their audiences, and then release and promote a book at the other part of a year.
Other writers prefer the quarterly approach--deciding on a set expected budget and income per quarter and manipulating their schedules to keep it up.
If you’re starting out, larger planning periods can trap you. You don’t know how long the process will take, and anything you guarantee could fall flat and drive you away from the publishing process in general.
(New Year’s resolutions, anyone?)
The good news is that even if you’re publishing a book for the first time or only now taking your schedule and commitment to the next level, a workable plan is possible. Even if you’re in school. Even if you have a job and kids and a history of never meeting your goals. It’s time to change that.
Let’s build up according to your time and energy.
Consideration 1: Time
You probably have an idea of where you want to be as an author compared to where you are, but considering life’s habit of getting in between you and writing, how much time do you honestly have to work?
You can set goals, and that’s how most schedules work. For example, you might decide you want to edit chapters 1-3 by Wednesday, and next week start contacting beta readers so that you can send your book to reviewers by the end of the month. Then you notice that a big chunk of Chapter 2 needs to be re-written for continuity, and by the end of Thursday you’re only arriving on Chapter 3. You contact your beta readers, but you’re late in sending out the manuscript because you keep falling behind. And so on.
Schedules are worthless if you’re unable to stick to them, and creative manuscripts like your latest sci-fi family saga will likely face multiple obstacles on the road to publication. Instead of promising things that will likely never happen, commit to things that can. Like time.
It might take you ten minutes to write that email to your readers, or it might take over a day. If you set aside thirty minutes and tell yourself that for those thirty minutes, you will do nothing but work on that email--block the time out in your planner, lock the door behind you and turn off social media--you can meet that commitment. Even if the email isn’t completely done, you will have spent your promised half-hour working on it.
If you focus on blocking time out instead of meeting goals, you can feel free to relax and dive into your work without cramming, rushing, or staying up late. You’ll have more availability in your day life and can still progress in your writing, and (best of all) you’ll never fall behind.
How much time you choose to commit is up to you. I spend up to four hours a day working on my projects, but I will add or subtract time as needed or desired. Sometimes I can afford only a few minutes to carve something out, but those few minutes get the bulk of my energy behind them.
Consideration 2: Energy
You could technically spend your entire life drafting one book to perfection. You could also spend your whole life on the publishing side, booking tours and interviews, running promotions, and handling your email and social media list. There’s no set time allotment for any of those activities, and when you’re going it alone, time becomes a critical resource.
This is where delegation comes in. Just because you’re self-publishing doesn’t mean you have to work alone. On the contrary, you really shouldn’t. Publishing and writing are two entirely different jobs that require completely different skill sets, and sometimes it pays to hire someone who knows more than you if you really want to succeed.
That being said, this is an area where you can pick and choose to your heart’s content. If something sounds fun and you’re up for the challenge of learning it, you can choose to take the time to do so.
Consideration 3: Keep it real!
The first plan you come up with might not work. When working out smaller increments, like individual days or weeks, starting over again is easy. You might need to build in flexibility and vary your work from day to day to fit into your life schedule, but that’s simple and doable.
What does your weekly plan look like? Please share in the comments section below or join my Facebook group for self-published fiction writers for further tips and discussion.