Outlining Your Writing Career Path

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on July 3, 2012 in Productivity & Organization
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Recently I was looking over one of my favorite resources on book outlining -- Karen Wiesner's First Draft in 30 DaysToward the end of the book she has a section on outlining your career as an author, including a one-year plan and multi-year planning.

It was a bit of a kick in the pants (given that I forgot this section existed). You see, I have plenty of career goals. No problem there. But I don't map out long-term plans to get there in quite the same way I do with my short-term goals and daily, weekly, and monthly plans.

I'd like to change that, especially given that now is the perfect time for a mid-year career check-in anyway. And I think it's an idea that can easily be tweaked to suit writers of all types. For example....

Freelance Writers

  • Plan out your pitching schedule for publications throughout the year.
  • Plan a year's worth of big promotional efforts (like releasing an e-book or launching a new campaign).
  • Come up with a newsletter schedule to reach existing and former clients.
  • Lay out known major or recurring projects for the year so you can work smaller one-off gigs around them.

Bloggers

  • Put together an yearly editorial calendar for your blog so you know what big topics you'll cover and when.
  • Line up guest post appearances elsewhere (or guest posts for your own blog).
  • Plan new blog features or product launches through the blog.

Book and E-book Authors

  • Map out your book research, outlining, and writing schedule.
  • Plan how you'll spread out work on multiple books or series over the course of the year.
  • Plan your editing schedule.
  • Figure out when you'll pursue other elements of the publishing process (if you're an indie publisher) so you can meet your publication goal or deadline.

Do you outline your writing career in some way? Or do you plan more for the near future than your broader goals? What other things might you be able to plan a year or more in advance as a writer? Share your thoughts or your own career outlines in the comments.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.

She owns 3 Beat Media - a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.


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8 Comments

  1. Cathy Miller July 3, 2012 Reply

    Love this idea! I have been struggling recently and I think I share that kick in the pants reaction to the idea of outlining the career path.

    I set goals for short-term and annually, but not so much the mechanics – like eBooks. I have the target for them, but I don’t map out the research, outlining, and writing. Duh. I do it for client work, why not my own?

    • Jennifer Mattern July 3, 2012 Reply

      Same here. I can put client work into a calendar beyond my to-do lists. But I’m not very good at giving myself deadlines for my own big projects. And it’s so easier for time to get away from me. Heck. Where did the first half of the year go??

      So I did that today. I made a master list of my “big” project plans. And then I came up with a three-year plan that, should I stick to it, will let me get it all finished with set deadlines to space things out. Now it’s just a case of review that each day or week to push myself to stay on track.

      • Cathy Miller July 3, 2012 Reply

        I must be so ashamed at my lack of action, I’m hiding behind Mystery Man. :-) Where did my Gravatar go? :-D

  2. Kimberly July 3, 2012 Reply

    I’ve been doing a mid-year review of my yearly goals and realize I need to rework a few. This post is timely. I’m currently working on 3 ebook projects (one for a client) that I need to complete by the end of the year. After that, I have 3 more I’d like to start working on at the start of the new year. My problem: between juggling client projects, personal writing projects and home life, I become completely overwhelmed like a deer caught in headlights and end up procrastinating or doing absolutely nothing.

    I REALLY like this career outline. Breaking down goals into daily/weekly/monthly tasks is a lot less daunting.

    • Jennifer Mattern July 3, 2012 Reply

      “My problem: between juggling client projects, personal writing projects and home life, I become completely overwhelmed like a deer caught in headlights and end up procrastinating or doing absolutely nothing.”

      I know exactly what you mean. Once I get that point of being overwhelmed, all bets are off until I find a way to snap back out of it. Looking at things laid out for the long run is helping. I’m definitely feeling more excited about my work after doing it. Or maybe I’m just excited about our holiday and day off tomorrow. :)

  3. MicroSourcing July 4, 2012 Reply

    Long-term plans and outlines can help freelance writers become more strategic about the way they market their services. It helps them know when to start looking for clients and when to take on less work.

  4. Amandah July 4, 2012 Reply

    I kind of outline my writing career. I keep a file of writing ideas and add to them when I receive more ideas about the direction, theme, etc. For me, it’s an issue of choosing ‘one’ project and developing it. I have a tendency to have my hands in a lot of thing. Focusing can be a challenge for me. For example, I have ideas for non-fiction books such as eBooks, but I go back and forth on them like a tennis match. :)

    I think it would be in my best interest to research my projects, both creative and non-creative and see which ones I’m drawn to.

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