Planning and plotting

I mentioned in my post on hacks that planning is essential to making parenting + writing work. I briefly talked about my amazing planner (an "action" shot above! Finding a quiet place to focus on filling it out it nice), and have been talking it up to my author friends pretty much nonstop. I love it so much there aren't really words to describe it.

Part of the reason for the mad love is because I found it at exactly the right moment. I was writing so many different things, not sure of what to do next, but had a general idea of what I wanted to accomplish this year.

The planner helped me map it all out. I set goals for the year and by quarter, which makes monthly and weekly planning much easier. Now, having been in the corporate world where SMART goals are drilled into your head on a daily basis, this was a relatively easy task for me. But there are prompts that can help guide you a bit, and there are tracking sheets which give you an idea of what kinds of things you can use to set goals. In terms of setting realistic goals, that comes from researching the market. I have one novella and one short story out, with a very small email list, so "sell 5,000" copies this month wasn't a goal, simply because I know this is unrealistic. However,selling 5 copies seemed reasonable. And I did.

It can often feel like you're not making progress, so checking in every week and month has been great for motivation. It also allows for adjustment. I sold 5 last month, so this month, with all my email promotions set up, let's aim for 10. If I don't reach that goal, I know that these particular promotions maybe weren't the right ones.

Also, since I know when I'll be writing everything, I don't stress about the fact that I haven't started book 2. That's not what I need to be doing this week. I have another project in the works, a podcast, that I figured out I have time for thanks to this planner. I don't need to do anything for it today, because that's scheduled for next week. Removing that "What to do next" anxiety has been a HUGE help.

Plotting has had a similar feeling of relief from "what to do next." I spent a lot of time (like 6 hours) thinking about what I wanted to happen in a story and writing it all down. It felt a bit like wasted time, because I could have used the 6 hours to write. But when I sat down to write, it all just flowed out, because the ideas were all in order.

I don't think it matters so much who you listen to or how you plot, as long as you do it. I got The Foolproof Outline by Christopher Downing, which includes a Scrivener template, and is extremely detailed. For my first attempt at this, the template was very reassuring and helpful. I didn't use every single part of it, but the more I used, the easier that scene would be to write. There are lots of great resources around the web, some free, and I've seen more simplified templates as well. So try something, see how you like it, and then try one or two others before giving it up.

It depends on the project too, I think. This was for a side project, a submission to an anthology, that had a strict deadline. For my own next self-published project, I may not be quite as detailed. Similarly, there are weeks in the planner that aren't as chock-full of tasks. I have a to-do list, and do whatever feels right for my energy level that night. Other weeks, with newsletters to get out and Facebook posts to coordinate, have a lot more planned in each day.

Do you have a planner? Do you like to plot? Let me know!