Mapping Out Your Writing Year

by Kathie Collins

Kathie CollinsIt’s too easy to start each new year with a general resolution to “write every day,” then drop the practice by the end of the first week. I get lost in the ether of the concept. I sit down to write and find myself paralyzed, as I do in those dreams where I’ve missed class all semester and now have to take the final exam. (Something like this did happen to me in college by the way. I think it did permanent heart damage.) When I take the time to write out a plan with a few specifics, however, I find myself a little more in-step with my chosen vocation. And, when I fall off the writing wagon, I find it’s a lot easier to get back on because I know which direction the party is heading.

Today, we’re going to spend our prompt time creating some writing goals and a simple map to keep those goals on track. Whether you’re writing a full-length novel or memoir, an essay or poetry collection, or a short story or two, breaking the process into manageable bites will help you get it done.

  1. Generate a list of ideas of 10-20 stories, essays, poems you might write. If you’re already working on a full-length something, list scenes you haven’t yet written. (Know that you’re not committing yourself to only these topics. What the list does is give you some place to go when you get stuck with a case of writer’s block.)
  1. Where and in what form would you like to see your writing in the world? Who publishes the kind of work you write. If you’re not sure, pull out some of your favorite books and journals. Research the publisher. Find out what it might take to see yourself in print.
  1. Who are the writing allies who will help you get to the finish line? Do you need specific craft lessons? An editor? A critique group? Beta readers? Make a plan for gathering a writing community.
  1. Who and what are (or might be) the antagonists on this year’s writing journey? Netflix? Daily calls from your mother? Perfectionism? Name them and set some boundaries so they’re less able to sabotage your week.
  1. Where and when will you write? How long a writing session is truly sustainable for you?
  2. How will you know you’ve succeeded? You may or may not complete an entire manuscript in a single year, but success comes in increments. What will that look like for you?