Goals: The Five-Year Plan

For the month of January, I’m going to focus on goals. Seems like an appropriate time. There’s something about a new year which causes us to reevaluate. What have I accomplished in the last year? What do I want to accomplish in the coming year? Personally, I love goals. Goals are like New Year’s Resolutions, but with a plan for reaching them. I have to have a goal to be happy. Aimless and I do not get along.

I spent the last year in a small accountability group comprised of writers. (I’m a writer – but goal setting isn’t specific to my chosen profession. Anyone can set and reach goals). I learned a lot. A LOT. I mostly learned I don’t have any idea how to set goals. Goals for me looked more like stuff I want to get done instead of stuff I can get done. Yes, there is a difference. I often overloaded myself and didn’t take into account things like illness, unexpected emergencies, short notice, etc. We’ll talk more about the everyday nitty-gritty around goals in another post.

Another thing I learned is the importance of a long term plan, which is something successful career-minded people all have in common. I’m a writer. One day, I plan to be a published writer as my career (not my hobby or side-job). Note I say “plan”, not want or wish. I want a Ferrari. I wish I could be an Olympic gymnast. These are things I really can’t expect to accomplish in my life because I’m too cheap to spend a quarter of a million dollars on a car that a Z06 Vette can take off the line for a third of the price. Let’s not talk about being a gymnast except to say I’m not six and I think that’s when you have to start.

Being published is going to happen because I’ll have a plan – specifically a five-year plan. I’m not sure I understand the magic around five years, but in the publishing industry, it’s about the span of time, on average, a writer can reasonably hope to start writing for publication until the day they see their first book on the shelf. Yeah. Really. Sometimes it takes longer. Sometimes it doesn’t. But since I can’t predict the future, I’m going with the average and therefore, I have to have a plan because there are a lot of steps between 1. Start Writing and 2. See your book on the shelf at Borders.

So I need a five-year plan. I’m sold on the idea but FIVE YEARS? I barely know what I’m having for dinner and I’m making it in ten hours. Also, see above about how I can’t predict the future. How can I build a five year plan – and I do mean build because each year should be a progression based on last year’s success – which is actually achievable? I’m big into achievable because if you can’t see some success, it’s very de-motivating. I know this because my first attempt at a five-year plan failed miserably. It just wasn’t realistic, which is part of being achievable.

It’s not realistic for me to stick an item in my plan in year three that says “Make 35,000 from my writing this year.” Yeah. It was on the list. Could it happen? Sure. But like being an Olympic gymnast, I would have had to start a lot earlier than last year to achieve that goal. And it also wasn’t based on a previous year’s success. A more realistic goal would have been to wait until I get a book contract for say 20,000 dollars and THEN have a goal to increase it to 35,000 the next year. That’s still a pretty significant increase. When’s the last time you got a fifteen thousand dollar a year raise? I’m not sure it’s reasonable to tie a dollar amount to goals at all. A percentage increase is probably the better way to go IMHO.

I’ve recognized I need to be realistic. The goals also have to be achievable. It’s a five year plan, so it’s got natural timed deadlines at the year marks, a must for me cuz I tend to procrastinate. What else do I need to take into account? Oh – what ARE the goals? I need to be specific, with individual steps between “start writing” and “be published”. I mentioned a lot of steps, and there are, but at a high level, which is where we want to be with a long term plan, it’s okay to have a specific goal that’s kind of broad. Write a book. That’s a good one, right? Then what? Well, maybe I need to find out, so a goal can be to research the publishing industry. In my research, I discover I need an agent to sell the book to my target publisher. Arg. How does one get an agent? More research. See where I’m going with this? Specific short term goals come out of the long term goals.

Last but not least, I’d like to know if I did what I said I was going to do. That means the goals must be measurable. Yes or no works, as in “Complete first draft”. Either I did or I didn’t. Timed goals are good too, like Butt in Chair for one hour. If I only sit down to write for 30 minutes, I didn’t reach my goal. For those of you who are already goal people, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Hey. I’ve heard this formula before.” Yep, it’s called the SMART approach to writing goals. Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic and Time-based. I did not make this up myself, though you can still be impressed with my genius if you want.

Now, if you’re still with me, you’re probably looking for an example of a Five-Year plan. Here’s my second attempt:

New Five-Year Plan

2011

  1. Complete 1 single title and 2 category length novels to submissible stage
  2. Complete 1st draft on 1 single title novel
  3. Attend local chapter RWA conference in April
  4. Pitch single title to agent at conference
  5. Submit 1 ST to at least 30 agents and 2 CL to Harlequin
  6. Enter the Golden Heart
  7. Attend at least 5 local chapter RWA monthly meetings
  8. Study 3 published books
  9. Invest at least one hour a week learning about the publishing industry
  10. Blog 1x a week from predetermined list of topics

2012

  1. Revise/edit and submit 1 single title from 2011 to at least 30 agents
  2. Complete 1 single title and 2 category novels to submissible stage
  3. Submit 1 single title to at least 30 agents and 2 CL to HQ
  4. Sign with an agent by August
  5. Have at least one manuscript on submission to editors via agent by the end of the year
  6. Attend RWA national conference in July as a Golden Heart finalist
  7. Attend at least 5 local chapter RWA meetings
  8. Study 3 published books
  9. Invest at least one hour a week learning about the publishing industry
  10. Blog 1x a week from predetermined list of topics
  11. Increase traffic to blog by 10% 

2013

  1. Complete 2 ST and 2 CL novels
  2. Sell at least 1 manuscript
  3. Develop and execute promotional strategy for release (depending on release date)
  4. Apply for RWA-PAN membership
  5. Devise and submit proposal for an online workshop
  6. Attend RWA national conference in July as a prepublished author
  7. Attend at least 5 local chapter RWA meetings
  8. Study 3 published books
  9. Invest at least one hour a week learning about the publishing industry
  10. Blog 2x a week from predetermined list of topics
  11. Increase traffic to blog by 20% 

2014

  1. Complete 2 ST and 2 CL novels
  2. Sell at least 2 manuscripts
  3. Increase writing income by 10%
  4. Develop and execute promotional strategy for releases (depending on release date)
  5. Submit proposal for a 3 book deal or a series
  6. Mentor a new writer in an intensive one-on-one format
  7. Conduct one online workshop
  8. Devise and submit proposal for a new online workshop
  9. Attend RWA national conference in July as a published author
  10. Attend at least 5 local chapter RWA meetings
  11. Blog 2x a week from predetermined list of topics
  12. Increase traffic to blog by 20% 

2015

  1. Complete 2 ST and 2 CL novels
  2. Sell at least 3 manuscripts
  3. Increase writing income by 20%
  4. Develop and execute promotional strategy for releases (depending on release date)
  5. Submit proposal for a 3 book deal or a series
  6. Mentor a new writer in an intensive one-one-one format
  7. Run for an RWA board position
  8. Conduct one online workshop
  9. Devise and submit proposal for a new online workshop
  10. Devise and submit proposal for a paid speaking engagement
  11. Sign my books at a bookstore signing
  12. Attend RWA national conference in July as a published author
  13. Attend at least 5 local chapter RWA meetings
  14. Blog 2x a week from predetermined list of topics
  15. Increase traffic to blog by 20%

 Just for fun – some things on my ten year plan (Yes, I have one. It’s kind of a sickness):

  1. Tell three random people I’m an author, who then say “Oh, I’ve heard of you!” or better yet, “Oh, I’ve read your books. They’re wonderful!”
  2. Inspire Team Edward vs. Team Jacob style debate
  3. Sign a contract for a six-figure deal
  4. One book optioned for movie rights
  5. Sign a contract for a hardcover deal

I figure I have a better shot at these five things than a Ferrari. Then again, if people are walking around wearing T-shirts with my character’s names on them and actually picking sides in a love triangle I created, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to afford one. J

And, with that, I open it to you for comments. Do you think my new and improved five-year plan fits with the criteria I outlined above? Does this method make sense to you? What challenges do you face when trying to plan the next five years of your career?

Thanks for joining me as I jump into the blog pool with both feet (I’m afraid a graceful swan dive might be beyond my capabilities). It’s my goal to blog once a week this year, which you’ll see more about next Monday as I tackle breaking out my five-year plan into my specific 2011 goals.

10 thoughts on “Goals: The Five-Year Plan

  1. You have some very realistic goals, and I wish you luck to achieve them. I am a goal oriented person. I make lists for everything. It really does help, especially when I can cross something off the list that I have done. I haven’t done a five year plan for my writing career, but you’ve inspired me. 🙂

    • Oh, how wonderful to hear I’ve inspired you! That’s more than I could hope to accomplish with my goal of blogging this year. 🙂 I hear you about crossing stuff off. I LOVE THAT. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. I’m still working on my goals for this year, but you are inspiring me with the 5 year plan. I’ve always thought it was too daunting to tackle but maybe I can do it. Thanks!

    • Trust me when I tell you it was daunting for me too! I worry about putting goals on my list that I have no control over, like an agent offering representation and selling a book. All I can realistically do is submit, but I also believe there’s power in stating explicitly what you want to achieve. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Looks great, Kat. Best of luck crossing each one off your list! I did a similar recap of 2010 and glimpse at what I want to do in 2011 on my blog, but loved how detailed you got here! Go get ’em. I’m ready to say “I knew her when…”

  4. I love the idea of a five year plan. It makes the whole idea to become a published author more concrete. I have to admit though that I’m a bit intimidated by the number 5. I’m thinking of starting with more concrete goals for my writing for this year and then work on a 3 year plan.

    • I totally get the five year plan being a little intimidating. One of the things I promised myself is that I get to redo it if things aren’t coming together like I planned it, but just having the plan does make me feel more like I can call it my career. I don’t see anything wrong with doing a three-year plan. I think the discipline of it is the most critical part, not the arbitrary number of years. Good luck with yours!!

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