Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Organized Writer: Goal Planning for the New Year

By Angela Quarles, @AngelaQuarles

Part of the Indie Author Series

I kicked off my posts here with some articles on organization for writers. Since this is typically the time when people look back over the past year and plan for the next, I thought it appropriate to write a new installment for this series, this time on goal planning.

Indie writers have a unique advantage that can also be a disadvantage, if not managed properly--we have the freedom to create our own production schedule. This can be a blessing when you really need the extra time for a troublesome book that perhaps a book contract wouldn't allow. But if you don't make a schedule, then it's easy to let a whole year slip by without reaching any of your goals.

I am not the best example of an indie author who has their one-, two-, five- and ten-year plans already laid out. But in talking to successful indies who regularly put out quality work consistently, they do have such goal planning in common.

At this time last year, I knew I couldn't continue advancing in my career as an indie author unless I took steps to be more organized. To that end, I went back to paper planning calendars and worked to keep myself focused that way. It mostly worked, but I can do better.

However, I wasn't terribly hard on myself about goals. I knew I wanted to put out at least one book, and I did. It even came out a bit earlier than I'd planned. But I also had a vague idea that I'd like to put out two books a year, even if one was a novella. That didn't happen, but it's not surprising since I actually didn't plan it. See how easy it is to not be hard on yourself if you didn't have actionable goals planned out?

So if like me, you'd like to put on your publishing house hat and hold your author self accountable to a schedule, then here are some tools you can use to help get yourself there.

A Large Yearly Calendar

These can be found at most office supply stores--they're huge laminated wall calendars that show the whole year. On this, take a dry erase pen and mark out a rough plan for your production schedule. I recently bought one and will hang it right by my desk so I can always see it. I plan to mark out realistic blocks of time for the various stages of a book, from drafting, to my various revision stages, to launch and marketing. This can help you see realistically what you can produce in the coming year, taking into account pre-existing commitments and your own habits and needs. This is one of the main tools I've seen successful indies use to help block out a schedule (and stick to it). The point here is to position yourself as the publisher and mark out what you, as the publisher, would like to hold your author to (which just happens to be you!)


Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out what our goals should even be! For those looking for inspiration and guidance, here are two resources that can help you jump start your 2017 year:

Your Best Year 2017, by Lisa Jacobs. This isn't a workbook specific to authors, but it is written for creative entrepreneurs. This workbook has a lot of meat to it, so it's not a "quick fix" -- from what I remember of last year's, it will challenge you to really think through your past year and tease out what will make a successful upcoming year for you.

AuthorLife Planner 2017, by Bria Quinlan. This is a combo goal planner and calendar. The front is chock full of exercises to help bring your goals into focus, followed by monthly and weekly calendars for the year. Unlike the first one, this is written specifically for authors.  

What about you? Will you join me in creating a production schedule? Are you good at setting goals and sticking to them? What are some challenges you come across as an indie author when planning your production schedule?

Angela Quarles is a USA Today bestselling author of time travel and steampunk romance. Her debut novel Must Love Breeches swept many unpublished romance contests, including the Grand Prize winner of Windy City's Four Seasons contest in 2012. Her steampunk, Steam Me Up, Rawley, was named Best Self-Published Romance of 2015 by Library Journal. Angela loves history, folklore, and family history. She decided to take this love of history and her active imagination and write stories of romance and adventure for others to enjoy. When not writing, she's either working at the local indie bookstore or enjoying the usual stuff like gardening, reading, hanging out, eating, drinking, chasing squirrels out of the walls, and creating the occasional knitted scarf.

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About Must Love Kilts: A Time Travel Romance 

The Jacobite Rebellion--not the best time to get drunk, hook up with a guy, and lose your sister.

A drunken bet...

When computer game designer Traci Campbell gets too close and personal with a bottle of Glenfiddich while vacationing in Scotland, she whisks her kilt-obsessed sister back to 1689 to prove hot guys in kilts are a myth. Hello, hundred bucks! But all bets are off when she meets Iain, the charming playboy in a to-die-for kilt.

Wrong place, wrong time, wrong name...

Iain MacCowan regularly falls in love at the drop of his kilt. The mysterious red-haired lass with the odd accent is no different. But when his new love is discovered to be a Campbell, the most distrusted name in the Highlands, his dalliance endangers his clan's rebellion against King William.

It’s all hijinks in the Highlands until your sister disappears...

Traci thinks men are only good for one thing--thank you, Iain!--but when she awakens once again in Ye Olde Scotland and her sister is gone, she must depend on the last person she wants to spend more time with. He wants to win a heart, she wants to keep hers, but can these two realize they're meant for each other before the Jacobite rebellion pulls them apart?


  1. Timely blog, Angela. I've bought the author life planner to help me with 2017 - I did have a great plan for 2016 but it decided to mess up big time, so will be taking forward what I had planned. I also use a half year planner and a self publishing timetable where I put deadlines for all the key parts of producing a book, from macro edit to publication. It's a kind of belts and braces type of thing. I did try having some digital planning but I tend to ignore the reminders more easily than I do when they're written in red ink! Good luck with your plans...

  2. I keep a paper calendar, but I like your idea of a yearly calendar on the wall even better. If I can't find an empty space on the wall, I'll make one. I think I'll miss finishing my novella by a few days (Dec 31 "was" the date.) Thanks...nice post. Marilyn Johnston (aka cj)

  3. Timely post as I have a rough plan, but no more. I will check out the links. Many thanks.

  4. My goal has been one book a year, and I've done that for four years. But I missed this year because my book is more complicated. So it's my main goal for 2017.
    I'm going to use your idea of the yearly calendar on the wall where I can see it. I need to use both hard copy visuals (that don't get lost on my desk) and software to organize. I recommend BookPlanner (on line software) by Joel Friedlander. It is very helpful in guiding indies through all the steps to publishing a book and when to take those steps.

  5. My production schedule is in a rolling spreadsheet, so I am not setting any special new goals right now, but constantly looking ahead and tweaking the goals and dates for the next year to eighteen months.

    And year to five-year plan (with two years left), yearly plan, monthly plan, weekly goals, daily tasks...

    A few more goal-setting books on my blog today: