Making it Your Business: Developing Strategies

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  I’m celebrating the luck of the Irish by returning from a business trip to New York – I’m actually typing this entry from my seat in a Tripper Bus.  (Gotta love the wi-fi…)  I might be a bit slow to reply to comments, but don’t let that keep you from participating in our discussion!

In a previous post in this series, we discussed creating a Mission Statement (drafting a concrete, specific statement about what we want from our writing career, including balancing that career with our personal lives.)  We then discussed setting specific goals to achieve that mission.  That brings us to today’s topic:  Developing strategies to obtain those goals.

Strategies are tools.  They are methodologies.  They are systems that will advance our agenda, enabling us to accomplish all that we need to do.  (Strategies are not actions.  They are not tactics, the most-detailed level of our strategic plan.  (We’ll discuss those in the next post of this series, next month.))

The strategies step is often the most challenging of the Strategic Plan.  This is the time when you should let your imagination run wild. Theorize the most outlandish methods for obtaining your goals.  Push yourself to identify methods that you never previously considered.  As you brainstorm, write down all the possible strategies you can imagine using — you might discard some of them along the way, but you’ll be certain to have turned every last stone in your efforts.

Last month, I used the example goal of losing weight.  To accomplish that goal, I can identify multiple strategies, including:

  1. I will join Weight Watchers’, using the online plan to maximize my participation in light of expected travel.
  2. I will consume fewer calories.
  3. I will consume more nutritious food that better matches my body’s nutritional needs.
  4. I will exercise more.

You’ll note that I’m not (yet) defining what “fewer” calories means.  I’m not (yet) defining the exercises that I will do.  Those are specific actions, and we’ll get to them next month.

Also, I’ve discarded some strategies in my finished list.  At one point, I considered adding “I will try one extreme diet each month, exploring the benefits for incorporation into my healthy lifestyle.”  That conflicted with the balanced approach advocated by Weight Watchers; therefore, I eliminated that “out there” experimental strategy.

So?  What about you?  What specific strategies can you express to accomplish the goals that you defined last month?

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10 comments to Making it Your Business: Developing Strategies

  • Mindy, I’ve always been better at tactics than strategy, but have tried to become better at both. So I’d like to tell where I am from last month. And, well, I laid out my plan then!

    Last month I said >> I will lose 15 pounds by May 1. I will cut all artificial sweetners out of my diet and I will exercise 3 times a week, even if it’s for only 30 minutes a day, through May 1.

    I have lost 4 pounds. I have cut artificial sweateners out except on weekends, when I am at the lab. I am moving toward the healthy goal more slowly there. I have exercised (other than walking which I was doing anyway) 2 times a week. (Building those new habits is *hard*!)

    I said >> I will follow the recommendations of my new PR company and work to increase my web presence wisely, thereby increasing my online FB fanbase to 2500 by May 1.

    I have passed the 2,000 fan number mark on FB. Have created a FB fan Page for my character Jane Yellowrock, which was fun. Am looking for ways to combine PR for a new kindle short story and for the Jane series all at the same time, with plans for an ad. Am thinking about a new book trailer for Raven Cursed.

    >> I will finish 4 short stories and outline one book by May 1.

    This part of the plan got expanded and then changed! I finished one short. 4 shorts are revised and ready to go to my Kindle guy. 2 shorts were canceled due to ill health of the anthology editor. I signed for a new short due Oct 1. I agreed to a new book contract, and that changed my plan. Dates were moved up for the release of book JY 5 and 6. Therefore I must start the outline on Monday and be done by April 1. And I started my part of a co-written short with CE (Catie) Murphy today which is a blast!

    This has been fun. I like the short term goals better — still more tactics than strategy, I guess. But I am getting there. A one year plan is a good thing!

    Thank you so much for this series. I am looking forward to the next one!

  • My plan for this year includes: revise/edit/e-publish novel one, wite novel 2 (the sequel), write a prequel novella and short story, and sell my first short story to a paying publication.

    My strategy for these is simple, and it worked for me last summer (when draft of novel one was written):

    Even though I’m not teaching, still work. Treat writing like the job I want it to be. I get up at 8 or 9, hit my computer, write on the novel until I hit my quota (2k per day or 10k per week, which generally takes 3-4 hours, then spend the day doing whatever else I need or want to do.

    This summer, I intend to do the same thing except structure the months and hours between projects. First two hours are for revision, second two are for the sequel. Once the sequel draft is done, work on the novella. Late night will be for writing/revising short stories. I consistently keep 3-4 shorts out on submission, sending them out to a new magazine as I get rejections. That number should be 5-8 over the summer. Eventually, they’ll find homes. And it’s pretty passive.

    I figure I can take my winter break from not teaching to begin revisions on the second novel and then repeat the process annually. Eventually, I hope this process becomes my daily routine. My goal is for that to happen within 5 years.

    I’m a very structured person, so I need to discipline myself to treat writing seriously if I ever want it to not just be a dream job.

  • OK, you were right, I did do this last time, so here’s what I posted then. (Hope no one minds me reposting them where they were supposed to go.) But the month since has given me a chance to re-read what I wrote and make sure that these are the strategies I want to pursue. I honed a few of them and added a few more specifics.

    My mission statement was: “To make a successful living as an author, published by a traditional publisher in the young adult fantasy genre within the next five years.”

    Elsewhere, I’ve said that “If I’m going to get an agent, I need to finish my WIP (etc etc).

    So with that in mind, here are my goals:

    1. I will make writing a priority in my daily schedule.

    How I will do this:
    a. I will limit my Internet Time Wastage (specifically, not spending excessive time on Livejournal, Twitter, and Facebook).
    b. I will limit my social time (specifically, I will not every event I’ve been invited to on Facebook or elsewhere).
    c. I will start with writing first when I have any plans to “get some writing/editing done” in a given period of time. That means, if I sit down at the computer, I open the word document first, not the Hotmail or Facebook. If I have plans for chores, I spend some time writing first. If dinner needs to be cooked … well, okay, that one’s a bit more complicated. Some tasks cannot be completely avoided.
    d. I will regularly attend my local NaNo Other 11 Months writing group at least twice per week. There I get the best of both worlds: social interaction and writing time.

    2. I will make my health a priority so that I can a) stay strong and avoid another MS episode, b) gain muscle strength in case I *do* have another MS episode, and c) be able to feel “on” (ala Faith’s post several weeks back) more of the time.

    How I will do this:
    a. I will stay aware of and in touch with my body so that I know when I’m pushing myself too much and so that I don’t push myself to the point of triggering an episode.
    b. I will go to the gym or engage in reasonably-strenuous physical exercise at least three times a week, focusing more on building muscle rather than a specific pounds-lost goal because the muscle helps me lose anyway, and I feel stronger for it.
    c. I will get more sleep by starting the get-ready-for-sleep routine (brush teeth, wash face, don PJs) at least an hour earlier than the time I’d like to go to bed, and allowing for 7 solid hours of sleep in addition to said routine.
    d. I will not consume caffeine late in the day.
    e. I will drink more water and limit my pop/soda consumption to special occasions.

    3. I will keep up my writing self-education.

    How I will do this:
    a. I will attend class at Magical Words. 😉
    b. I will read regularly, because there is something to be learned from every book or short story read.
    c. I will keep my butt in the chair as much as possible, because that’s the best teacher!

    This has been very motivational. Thanks, Mindy!

  • These were the goals that I posted last month. Already failed at one (as far as the deadline) but in part that’s because I revised my working schedule. Therefore #1 has been updated slightly from before…

    1. Develop and design a basic personal website by end of April. Increase average monthly visits to blog to more than 150 by June 1.
    – Purchase domain name (done)
    – Convince husband to assist with website design (done)
    – Link or embed blog in website
    – Develop website content
    – Participate in more online groups/forums
    – Include links to blog/website on correspondence
    – Develop self-marketing plan

    2. Have a complete manuscript of ‘Pack’ for beta readers by April 3. Incorporate beta reader comments and feedback into final manuscript of ‘Pack’ by May 29.
    – Spend time on novel EVERY DAY
    – Select beta readers
    – Define beta reader rules, requirements, deadlines

    3. Complete two short stories, ready to submit, by May 1.
    – Brainstorm story ideas, in ‘Pack’ world and outside of ‘Pack’ world
    – BIC EVERY DAY, even after ‘Pack’ is beta-ready
    – Research publication options

    4. Complete outline and planning of second novel by May 29.
    – BIC EVERY DAY, even after ‘Pack’ is beta-ready and shorts are done

    Phew….that’s a lot of work! :)

  • Sarah

    1. I will pursue medical and lifestyle solutions to my chronic headaches/sinusitis […] I will pursue this goal until I am headache free or have found a pain management strategy that allows me to remain productive.
    Strategy: eliminate coffee entirely (it’s a common migraine trigger) and reduce caffeine intake to 1 coke or a few cups of hot tea per day. Avoid caffeine entirely after 4pm to see if I sleep better (lack of sleep is one of my major headache triggers.) I will meet with a neurologist for further testing and medication adjustment. (Appt is the 24th.) I am keeping a careful log of headaches and related symptoms/triggers so that the doctor will have good information to work from.

    3. I will finish my WIP Winter’s Dawn before ConCarolinas.
    Strategy: I will write for at least one hour every Tuesday and Thursday (my non-teaching days) and every Saturday afternoon. I will not let social engagements impinge on these writing times. Word minimum for each writing session is 1,500 words. (DONE!!!! I finished it last Saturday. Now I’m going to submit it to the Suvudu contest and Beta group it. New Goal: get story edited and agent ready by Con Carolinas. Same strategy.)

    4. I and my co-author will write a synopsis for KnychtSpelle and begin sending it to agents by the end of April. (Have to check this one with co-author, but I think this deadline works for her.)
    Strategy: I will pull up Stuart’s post on how to write a synopsis and follow the guidelines during my Tuesday/Thursday writing time. I will have Synopsis finished by the end of next week and submit to co-author for her critique.

    5. I will make time during Spring break for a personal writer’s retreat. During this retreat I will do one of the following: research and outline new scholarly article or finish at least one short story. Either way I will write every day of the break.
    Strategy: I can’t afford to actually leave town/rent a cabin, so I will set my alarm and go to work every day during spring break. I can work in my office and the garden when there aren’t students around. I will not let my sleep schedule become erratic – I will maintain sensible bed times and wake ups.

  • Great stuff Mindy! :)

    1). I will work on my health– To this end: keep track of calories and work out three times a week for 30-40 mintes (I’ve done it successfully this week!)

    2). Writing: I’m in a weird space right now. I just finished and sent off Hell Mary to the suduvu contest. I’m okay with the April deadline my co-author has set up for Knyctspelle (or however she spells it… heehee) and so I’ll work on the queries and synopsis. So I’m going to start a new project. I will go back to my schedule of writing twice a week. I’ll also work on scholarly stuff, too.

    3). Professional writing stuff: I will have my query letter and synopsis for Hell Mary done by early April and I’ll start sending ’em out. :) Yay.

  • Unicorn

    Thanks for the post, Mindy.
    Last month’s goals still stand…
    1. Finish the second draft of “Sparrowhawk” (finally found a title that I currently like, “Voice of the Silver Mustang”), my YA fantasy, by about June, including lopping off a good deal of that 160 000 words.
    – Work on several chapters a week, focusing on every single scene, making sure it really, really needs to be in the story, and if it doesn’t, cut it. I’m afraid I’m doing deplorably; I’m a quarter of the way into the story and have only cut off 3 000 words. :( But I’m working on it.
    2. Finish the first draft of the first novel in my new series-in-progress also by about June.
    – Make an outline of the story, since right now the plot is wandering crazily
    – BIC, BIC, BIC, several times a week, several thousand words a week
    3. Send two short stories to magazines/competitions by the end of the year.
    – Research magazines and competitions
    – Polish up the short stories, get their word counts right, send them to beta readers, then send them out
    4. Finish the third draft of “Sparrowhawk” by the end of the year.
    – Same strategies as for Goal Number 1.
    A totally off-topic question, only Faith, Sarah and Pea Faerie mentioned it: How does it work, co-authoring a story? How do you figure out who writes what, or do you both write together, or what? Just out of curiosity.
    Good luck with your goals, everyone.
    Unicorn

  • Sorry, folks – my connectivity and scheduling both proved to be a *lot* more challenging than I expected yesterday. In any case, some belated comments…

    Faith – I, too, am a better tactician than strategist. It seems as if you’re making great progress on your short-term goals. (Of course, there are some people who never move on to medium- and long-term goals, because they work so effectively with a short-term system!) I look forward to more updates along the way!

    B.J. – Your last sentence really resonated for me. I, too, am a very structured person, and I needed to convince myself that it was well worth my while to treat writing as seriously as I treated my day job. The end result – writing *is* my day job now. Still, it’s all too easy to compartmentalize the skills that make us most successful in one part of our lives…

    Laura – I’m glad that you reposted! It makes it easier to track our evolving conversation here. (And, as you noted, these things evolve over time, as we learn more about ourselves and our goals.)

    Megan – I’d say that you “haven’t succeeded at one yet”, rather than that you have “already failed at one.” For most of us, goals are a huge restructuring of what we have done in the past. The fact that you’ve identified areas to work on, or to work more on is a major step forward! I look forward to hearing more about your progress next month.

    Sarah – Your goals and strategies seem to be firmly in place! I am a *huge* fan of the personal writing retreat. I accomplished most of the writing on my first nine books by scheduling personal writing retreats, taking a week of vacation from my then day-job and writing pretty much non-stop. I loved the feelings of accomplishment those “Writing Marathons” engendered!

    pea_faerie – Thanks for continuing to post on this thread! (And may I just say, I love the “yay” at the end of your post. I think we all need to give ourselves more “yays”)

    Unicorn – It sounds as if your goals and strategies are in good shape! As for co-authoring, the answer is (alas!) “it depends.” People co-author in dozens of different ways. Some have one person come up with an idea and/or worldbuilding; the other author writes the text. Some have one person draft the entire story; the other person revises. Some have one person draft one section, the other draft another section, lather, rinse, repeat. With longer works, some have one person write all sections from one character’s POV, the other write all sections from another POV. Co-authors need to experiment to see what works best for them, and the answer often varies, even from project to project. (Legally, the co-authors should decide ahead of time how they intend to handle rights. Copyright can be held by multiple authors, and such “joint copyrights” need to be licensed by both authors or neither, etc…) Hope this helps!

  • I love this series of posts, Mindy. I think I’ve said that before, but it remains true. I’m late to the game, and so I won’t go into too much detail, but my goals as written in last month’s comment were something along the lines of “I’m going to have 5 books under contract by the end of the year.” My strategies for reaching this goal. 1. I’m going to write like a demon. 2. I’m going to push myself to explore new subgenres. And 3. I’m going to write like a demon….

  • David – Thanks for checking back in after your Grand Tour out west! I totally understand the “write like a demon” part of the strategies. And I think the new subgenres are *vitally* important for any author hoping to survive long-term in our new topsy-turvy publishing world!