The Ten Year Plan

One thing you can easily and always find on the internet is advice. It’s everywhere and I mean everywhere. Some places will charge you for a little, other people will lavish that stuff on you like scented unguents over a decadent Roman emperor, and free of charge.

I end up accepting, relative to the sheer, mind-boggling expanse of what is available, an insignificant mote of the stuff. So much advice either doesn’t apply or is bone-headed nonsense when scrutinized even for a tender moment. And, this rule goes double for writing advice.

In 2014, at DetCon, I got into a discussion with a couple of much more accomplished authors. We were talking about the advice that is often dispensed to independently published authors about “how to make it.” “It” being that undefined often variable bar after which you have a couple of clams to rub together for all your efforts deep in the manuscript mines. Success, baby. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

I made the observation that this advice is usually “lottery winners telling you how to make it big, just like they did.” And my meaning was that most of these people couldn’t tell you exactly what worked for them and what didn’t, and that at least some of their success must be the direct result of luck. That’s the thing about this “career” path; of all authors, no two of them are alike. Some of us make a JK Rowling-sized swimming pool of money after writing a single meritless POJ while others will always languish in obscurity.

This morning, after getting my 1k down, I noticed that Hugh Howey posted the following. So You Want to be a Writer … could be just another repetition of the same tired “work harder, write more” advice that pops up pretty much anywhere, but I’d urge you to spend a little time with this one. It’s not that.

In fact, Howey gives authors aspiring to make a living from their art some pretty objective milestones by which we might plot our own course. Immediately, I saw the utility of what Howey has proffered.

Long-Term Writing Plan: (2016-2026)

Below is my ten-year plan to become a successful author. It is based on the advice Hugh Howey provided in the post linked above, but it’s my plan. Laid out and customized for me.

Reading: Hugh Howey is completely correct. I’m surprised how few writers I meet just don’t make the time to read.

  • Read for at least an hour a day.
  • Log the reading the same way I log my writing.
  • Figure out a way to integrate audiobooks into the ledger.

Practice: Yeah this one is obvious, it almost does not bear mentioning, but this is also where I’m going to quantify my discipline. Where the ink meets the page, so to speak.

  • Three blog posts a week (not about things that make me angry).
  • Weekday writing time is 9:00 AM to 12:00 or 1,000 words. No internet, not distractions before this. This is dedicated story time, not blogging time.
  • One full-length novel, plus two short(er) stories per year for ten years.

Daydream:

  • Hugh’s advice here is spot on. I know that if I’m not filling myself up as much as my work drains me, the deficit will quickly show in my words. For me, the best, and most reliable flow state–where my mind wanders and explores–is when I’m moving. So to daydream effectively, I need to walk, run or ride. Daily, without over-training.
  • You can’t write science fiction without science. So I will continue to network with people working in the sciences. I will stand in awe of them, I will be their fanboy, and I will learn as much as I can from these people.

Learn to Fail:

  • Far from perfect here, but I’m much better than when I began. I will continue to learn from the feedback and review I get, when and where it’s available. And I will revise, revise, revise, and revise until what I’ve written no longer wakes me up in the middle of the night.
  • I will re-read everything I write at least three times before I move on.

Things to Lose: These are the things that I’ve got to toss overboard and fast. They’re getting in the way and despite the fact that I know this, I haven’t been able to let them go. No more, they’re going.

  1. Limit game time, approach zero.
  2. Limit screen time, approach zero.
  3. Take care of your house and hobbies proactively.
  4. Get exercise, daily. Stop being a slug.
  5. Want to be the person I’ve envisioned. Cut out the thought loops that make me fail.
  6. Stop talking about what I am writing until it’s ready. Then don’t talk about it much, work on the next project.
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2 thoughts on “The Ten Year Plan

  1. Thanks for posting this. There’s a lot of shady writing advice circulating around the internet. It’s nice to know that not all of it is complete crap. I just started writing seriously. For me (purely a hobbyist) that means finishing what I start and getting over all the self-doubt and nonsense I’ve picked up from haters in my life. I wish you all the best. 🙂

    • Likewise, I’ve concluded that my worst detractor is myself. Knowing this is one of the most important piece of information I can carry around, every time I send something out I worry that what I’ve written isn’t nearly good enough or that people will read in between the lines and see all my flaws.

      Knowing where this anxiety comes from helps me cope and certainly keeps the words flowing. Hang tough, you’ve got to be your first, best fan (even if you’re just a hobbyist).

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