I’ve just now read through all the comments that my blog readers have left since my last post. Wow! I’m impressed by the detailed action plans some of you have put together. That’s great!
I had to laugh at Karla’s comment that it sounded like a good idea to have a Board of Directors meeting and a Shareholder’s meeting. It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law–at least if you run a corporation. I incorporated all my writing and teaching activities about a year ago. (I don’t recommend this until you are earning a decent amount of money, because there are expenses that must be paid to run a corporation, AND you have to do pesky paperwork such as keeping minutes on official meetings. And annual meetings for the Board of Directors and the Shareholders are required.)
Even though it’s a boring legal requirement, I’m glad I was forced to do it. Before the meeting, I took a few hours and wrote up a President’s Report for 2007, which listed all my accomplishments for the year, including one failure. (Failure is OK; it’s good to fail occasionally, because that shows you’re taking risks; it’s also good to fail quickly, which I did in one project in 2007.)
I also did an analysis of which tasks earned me money and which ones didn’t. That’s very helpful in making plans for next year. In doing the analysis, I learned that keeping track of time is something that should NOT be done on paper, it should be done by computer. It’s far easier to analyze the information if the computer does the hard work. For 2008, I am eliminating paper records of time-keeping and am using an online service that costs me $9 per month. I think that’s a bargain. They actually have a free version that manages only one project, but I have more projects, so I’m using the payware version.
I also had to wince in sympathy at Gerhi’s comments:
I’m in a bit of a bind. This year I have decided to quit my job and start a business with my wife. Maybe it is more, quit my job and help her to make her business make enough money so that we can have a decent income – so that I can spend time on my projects, expecially writing. It involves selling the house, quitting my job, moving accross country to be closer to family and support, AND building the business as a matter of priority.
Randy sez: That’s where I was about two years ago. I had recently been laid off from my irritating day job, and decided there was no good reason to stay in San Diego any longer. So we sold the house, moved halfway across the country, bought a new house, and ramped up my writing/teaching business. That pretty much shot all of 2006. So 2007 was a year of getting back in the swing of things, learning to live in the Pacific Northwest, and learning how to schedule my time when I have apparently all the time in the world, but still have to earn a living.
If there’s anything I learned in 2007, it’s this:
Successful Fiction Writing = Organizing + Creating + Marketing
There are people who will tell you to focus on one or the other of these to the exclusion of all else. That works for awhile, but eventually things get out of kilter. I believe the great trick of managing your writing career is to continuously improve in each of these areas.
I am consciously spending time in each of these areas every day. Today, three of the actions I took were:
1) Cleaning up ONE drawer in my desk that had gotten out of control.
2) Editing the three sample chapters of my novel.
3) Writing up a strategic plan for products I plan to create and market this year.
If you look at those, that’s one organizational action, one creational action, and one marketing action. Actually, I had several other actions on my task list, so these are representative of what I did for the day.
Continuous improvement is essential, because improvements tend to multiply. As a rough example, if you learn to type twice as fast AND you learn to write twice as well, your writing time will be four times as effective. If you then learn to market twice as well, you could in principle end up earning eight times as much as originally.
Quality, of course, is hard to quantify, but the basic point is clear: small improvements multiply. Small improvements can mean; learning new skills; buying new tools; getting better organized; or automating your processes. Anything that makes you a better writer is an improvement. I’ll talk more about this in my e-zine tomorrow, so stay tuned!