Posted in Writing

Be a More Successful Writer by Planning Ahead

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There are many things you can do to find success as a writer.

A big one is finding time every day to write, of course. An hour. Thirty minutes. Even ten minutes of writing a day can work wonders.

Another thing you should do is learn from your mistakes and improve as a writer. Whether it’s writing fiction or poetry or non-fiction or whatever, it’s important to keep trying new things and keep learning your craft.

I started writing fiction seriously in 2010, and nearly ten years later I’ve improved considerably. I look back at my short stories and novels from 2010 and gasp at how terrible most of them were. Practice makes perfect as they say, and that’s definitely the case with writing.

One other thing that will help you find success? Something that I’ve been doing for years now?

Planning ahead.

It’s not enough, alas, to just sit down every morning or afternoon or night and write. What are you going to write? What project do you want to work on next?

I firmly believe if you just write when you feel like it, just work on whatever project you want, you’ll struggle finding success in your writing life.

Instead, what you should do is plan in advance what projects you want to work on and when, and what you want to accomplish on every given day.

I don’t really know how else to be a writer. I love to plan. Not only down to the week. But, yes, down to the day.

When it comes to my novels, I often plan my schedule months in advance. Like, what weeks I’m working on the draft of Novel A, and what weeks I’m working on the draft of Novel B. Often I’ll find two weeks in the schedule free, and so what I do with that time? I write a new short story!

For example, there’s a novel contest I’m sending one of my books to on August 30.

That gave me the whole month of August to complete one more revision of the manuscript. The book is 31 chapters long, and today I’m revising chapter 27, then I’m taking the weekend off to prep for my first week of college teaching.

To have the book ready to submit on August 30, I will be revising Chapter 28 on Monday, Chapter 29 on Tuesday, Chapter 30 on Wednesday, and Chapter 31 on Thursday. On Friday morning I’ll be submitting my latest, hopefully greatest draft of the novel!

If I had spent the month of August working on the book when I felt like it, revising a chapter here and a chapter there, or revising a few pages a day without any real idea of when I’d reach the novel’s end, there’s no way I would have made the August 30 contest deadline!

This is the case where the deadline is real, of course. Often as a writer there is no deadline, and so it’s vital that you make it up, believe it’s real, so you eventually reach the end of your latest project.

Again, no matter what kind of writing you do, you’ll be more successful when you plan ahead.

Write your Medium stories a day in advance if you can. On Friday or the weekend, figure out the fiction writing you want to do for the following week. If you want to write a new short story, figure out how many words you need to put down every day, and then stick to it.

And if you’re a novel writer like me, sometimes it’s best to plan months in advance. In May, for example, I knew what my next few months were going to look like. I knew that I was going to write a new novel in June, work on the fifth draft of my previous novel in July, work on the tenth draft of another novel in August, and then start the second draft of my newest novel in September.

I find it easy to break up novel projects in terms of months, to dedicate about four weeks to whatever draft I’m working on. Four weeks usually works best, and only rarely do I need longer to devote to a draft.

You don’t have to plan four months in advance if you don’t want to. You don’t even have to plan one month in advance if that feels too far out.

But at minimum try to plan a week in advance what you plan to write, and then, as always, stick to that plan. Your writing will improve in the long run.

And you’ll be a bigger success!

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