I’ve been working out my plans for 2019 over the past few days, starting to drill down on specifics. My brain wants to do everything—even when it doesn’t make sense. I’ll get a new idea and immediately want to jump on it. That’s set me back at times. I think I’ve finally settled on four priorities within my control.
I’d like to make a living from my writing. Don’t get me wrong—I love libraries—but I’ve always wanted to make a living from my writing. Whether I’ve made money or not, though, I’ve kept writing. I keep learning, trying to improve, and have fun. At times I’ve been super focused and consistent and at other times my priorities have shifted. Most recently the past few years when I went back to school for my MLIS degree.
“Making a living” is a dream. It’s undefined. It isn’t something that I have control over. Even if I set a specific income goal (say I want to make a high 5-figure income in 2019)—it’s still a dream. I could get even more specific and say, “let’s make $75,000 in 2019 from my writing.”
That’d be great.
It’s Specific. It’s Measurable. It’s Achievable (likely or not, it isn’t an unreasonable amount to consider given the number of books I have). It’s Relevant to making a living. And it’s Time-based because it’s tied to 2019.
Sounds like a S.M.A.R.T. goal, doesn’t it? Only it’s not. Not really. It sounds like it is, but it fails the key test. I don’t have any control over it. It isn’t tied to specific actions that I can take. It’s a dream. It’s an outcome that I hope will happen but it isn’t really a goal.
S.M.A.R.T. goals are powerful when used responsibly and tied to actions rather than dreams. Nothing wrong with the dream.
What does an actual S.M.A.R.T. goal look like?
“Write the new Moreau Society novel, Synthetic Pain, by March 31st, 2019.”
That’s specific (I could make it more specific with a word count, and that it’d be the first draft), measureable (I’ve finished the draft or not), achievable (91 days until the deadline, if I show up consistently that’s entirely possible), relevant (writing new books helps me get closer to my dream), and time-based (there’s a deadline).
A goal like that is tactical. It’s one possible way to implement a strategy for making my dreams come true. So what are my strategies for 2019? This takes us back to those four priorities that I mentioned earlier.
I can’t make a living if my books aren’t available. I pulled many of my titles out of print to do new editions. I have others that I haven’t published yet. Not counting my older novels that I don’t plan to publish, I still have over 20 books. I can come up with different goals or tactics to get this done, but a driving strategy is to get it done quickly. The sooner my books are available, the sooner you (and others) can read them.
While being mindful of how I use my time, I need to write quickly. I’m using Freewrite’s Sprinter at the moment for initial drafts (since my Freewrite hasn't arrived yet). The main thing I need to do with this is just be consistent. Writing 1,000 words per day is enough for four books in a year—if you write every day. More books equals more opportunities to connect with readers.
In Seth Godin's excellent book, This is Marketing, he describes marketing in terms of service to your audience, the change they desire, and how you can help. I want to build more connections with readers, and with more people joining my email readers’ group Readinary, I’m more likely to succeed in sharing my work. I want to write stories that you love, that take you on adventures, and introduce you to characters that you want to spend time with. If you haven't signed up yet, please do so at the bottom of this post. I'd love to hear from you.
While I work on building connections, publishing, and writing new books, I also need to keep learning every aspect of my craft and business. I’m never satisfied. I always want to learn how to be a better writer and storyteller. Improving my business and marketing skills will help build those connections with readers. And I need to keep up with the changing technology and environment of publishing today. It’s a very different world than when I first started writing!
For each of the priorities, I plan to set goals and develop tactics to make sure that I meet those goals. For example, I’m making extensive use of Trello to organize my work. I find it an invaluable tool at getting what I need to do organized. On my writing board I have each of my series, planned titles, links between them, and links to boards for each book. So I’ll have a card for Synthetic Pain on my writing board that links over to the Synthetic Pain board where I’ve organized my novel, fleshing it out as I go. I can assign specific tasks and deadlines, synchronize those to my calendar, and have easy access to all of my notes on my phone or computer. With documents attached to the board, I can easily drag and rearrange as needed, filter, sort, label, etc. I’ve used Scrivener in the past, but using Sprinter (or a Freewrite) for drafts allows me to focus on the writing the draft.
That’s just one tactic. I could always change tactics during the year—but my strategy to write fast by being consistent remains unchanged.
Consistency. That's the keyword for 2019. I've done very well in the past with writing streaks. While working as a full-time librarian and a full-time student getting my graduate degree (both times), I was very good at being consistent. I studied, completed my assignments, and focused. The tactics used differed with each degree, but the strategy remained.
Now I need to pull all of that together, everything I've learned over the years, and apply it to my writing, learning, publishing, and marketing efforts. Those four pillars of my strategy are supported by the foundation of being consistent. If I let that foundation weaken and cracks develop then one or more of those pillars will fall.
I'd love it if you'd join me on this journey. Sign up for my readers' group, Readinary, and be a part of it with me.
Ryan M. Williams lives a double life as a full-time career librarian and a multi-genre writer with over twenty books. He writes across a range of genres including science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, mystery, horror, and romance. He earned a Master of Arts degree in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University and a Master of Library and Information Science from San Jose University. His short fiction has appeared in anthologies from Pocket Books, WMG Publishing, and in On Spec Magazine.