Tag: battle plan

I want you to drop and give me fifty push-ups.  No really.  Yes, right now.  No, this isn’t the Drill Instructor.  Just little ol’ Jon Paul.  That’s right, fifty push-ups.

Trouble?  Oh, I see.  That’s alright.  Maybe we’ll do them later, shall we?  OK.

To tell you the truth, before I joined the military, I could barely do twenty-five push-ups myself, so I understand.  I’ve had a few “practice sessions” in the last eighteen years so I could do the fifty now, if need be.  In fact, just about anyone who’s spent time in the military could probably knock out fifty push-ups without hardly thinking about it.

Here’s a different proposition: what if there was a book deal at the end of those fifty push-ups?  Yeah, like the magic lamp and three wishes–sorta.  If you did the fifty push-ups, then there would be an agent there ready to sign you and ready to pitch your book to anyone and everyone.  Oh, OK.  I’ll wait.  OK.  Oh, you’ll  figure out something?  Great.  OK.  I’ll tell ya what.  Let’s knock out this post and we’ll come back to this idea.

Hiya!  Today is Part Five of my six part post series Conquering the Page: Creating Your Own Fiction Writer’s Battle Plan.  If you missed any of the first four parts, they’re linked on the right sidebar.

So far in our Battle Planning sessions, we’ve identified goals and tasks and organized them into a staged schedule.  In other words, we’ve built the Battle Plan–or BP for short.  Having finished BP construction is a great accomplishment, but that only gets us half way there.  Your BP is still untested.  The quality of the effort we make to execute the BP and to judge our success are as critical to our long-term writing success as having a plan in place in the first place.

Prussian Field Marshall Helmuth Carl Bernard von Moltke, a late nineteenth-century military strategist, famously said: “No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.”  This is the military corollary to Murphy’s Law: “If anything can go wrong, it will.”  This will be true of your BP too; I can almost guarantee that day in, day out, month in, month out, your BP will not go the way you planned it to go.

What does this mean for us writers?  It means that we can have the best plan in the world, but there’s also this thing called real life that sometimes gets in the way.  Cars break down.  Kids get sick.  Sometimes we have to work late.  Sometimes an event occurs which changes the entire rhythm of our lives, but that shouldn’t mean that the writing doesn’t get done.

The trick to being successful has two parts:  1) get up on the writing horse, but equally if not more important 2) stay there!

When we talk about improvising and being flexible in the execution of our BP, what we are really saying is “Find a way to get the writing done, regardless of other demands on our time.”  Expect things to change.  Expect the two hours we set aside for writing this morning to become thirty-minutes.  Compensate.  Practice re-arranging your schedule to accommodate your writing tasks.  Sacrifice.  Make hard choices.  Give up the television show you love.  Buy voice recognition software for your laptop so you can record yourself on the drive to and from work.  Stay up a half hour later.  Get up a half hour earlier.  Get creative.  Do whatever it takes to get the job done. 

Think of it this way: every day you delay is another day before you get your book deal (or whatever your long term goal happens to be).  For success in the writing business, we need opportunity, but as Malcolm Gladwell argues, we also need to put our time in.  He believes that a person cannot become an expert in a field until they’ve put in 10,000 hours.  Here’s an excerpt from a recent interview following the release of his book Outliers:

Anything that is cognitively complex seems like it requires at least 10,000 hours. … It’s deliberate practice, so it’s focused, determined, in environments where there’s feedback, where there’s a chance to really learn from mistakes. What’s fascinating about this notion that expertise arises only after 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is that it seems to apply incredibly broadly to an astonishing array of different professions – from playing chess to writing classical music to being a brain surgeon to playing hockey.

So putting your time in is key, and the key to finding that time is in learning to improvise and be flexible.  Practice writing, but also practice being absolutely ruthless with yourself in the pursuit of your goals.  Find a way to get it done.

Now back to the fifty push-ups.  Being able to do fifty push-ups without thinking about it comes from being physically fit.  If you want to succeed as a writer, you also have to attain a kind of improvisational fitness–beyond simple practice, until finding time for your writing is no longer a conscious effort, but an integral part of the day-to-day fabric of your life.

Years ago, when I graduated from Officer Candidate School, the Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeant who ran the school gave each graduating officer a placard which I still keep handy and go back and look at from time to time.  It says “Be a contender, not a pretender.”

I believe that to be a true contender, you have to get the job done, come hell or high water, no matter what else is happening or what circumstances have changed.  Make yourself a contender!  Build flexibility into your BP!  Give your writing the planning, time and attention it deserves and you’ll be ready when the big writing opportunity presents itself.

Homework.  Take a look over your BP and identify tasks which may go by the wayside or are in conflict with other activities in your life.  Brainstorm and write down the work-arounds you’ll take to accomplish the task anyway.

Thanks for stopping by.  Part Six, Assessing Your Progress will be next week!

For fun, I leave you with this scene from “With Honors” starring Brendan Fraser and Joe Pesci, highlighting how important flexibility and improvisation can be.

Hi all! Today we embark on Part Four of my four part post series based on my experience with military planning called Conquering the Page: Creating Your Own Fiction Writer’s Battle Plan.

In Part One, the Drill Sergeant yelled at us for a few minutes, gave us the overview and an inspirational movie. Part Two kicked off the process of defining your writing mission and identifying associated goals. Part Three assisted us in identifying all the other associated writing tasks that will be part of the Battle Plan–BP for short–and also helped each of us decide if we were a General of a Foot Soldier.

As we embark on Part Four, here’s what you’ll need:

1) Your writing goals (up to three).
2) Your BP worksheet with writing tasks divided into strategic or tactical level categories.
3) A calendar or scheduling program (like MS Outlook or Google Calendar)–a paper calendar works fine too–your preference.

Building Your Battle Plan.  The question before us is this: how do we take the writing task list we’ve already created and convert it to a BP?

The answer relates to one ingredient in our writing process we have not yet discussed: time.  Time is such a critical part of a BP–in fact it is the one ingredient that makes a task list into a plan–that I now give you not one, not two, but three quotes on time to get us started (you know I love those quotes):

“You may delay, but time will not.”    ~~Benjamin Franklin

“Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.”    ~~John Archibald Wheeler

“Time is an equal opportunity employer.  Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day.  Rich people can’t buy more hours.  Scientists can’t invent new minutes.  And you can’t save time to spend it on another day.”    ~~Denis Waitely

Time is the only element of the BP that is not negotiable.  Each of us gets no more or less per day than any other, so a big part of devising the BP is choosing the best use of our hours, days and weeks to accomplish goals in a way that fits our lifestyle.


The single worst enemy of your writing is real life–all the other things you have to do on a daily basis that decrease the time you available to perfect your craft.  It is therefore extremely important to understand how long the different tasks in our writing routine take; how long do I need to draft a query letter?  How much time should I spend commenting on blogs?  The road to publishing is made up of tens, maybe hundreds of smaller tasks, and organizing these tasks in a meaningful way will make the trip more efficient and less stressful.  Thus, the next step in constructing a BP is to arrange writing tasks over time in an organized way to best meet our writing goals.

Time Budgeting.  If you’re like me, your list of writing tasks is extremely long–so long, in fact, that it should be pretty obvious at first blush that you can’t do them all at the same time–or even during the same week.  The trick then is to come up with a way to organize all these varied activities over time.

The first step is to work out some time budgeting.  This process is a lot like balancing the checkbook or calorie counting for you fitness gurus out there.  Take a look at your list of tactical tasks.  For each task on our list, estimate the amount of time you believe you’ll need to accomplish it, then write that number down beside your task.  You might write “read 25 pages of fiction–30 minutes”.  Keep it simple: fifteen minute increments should work fine.  

Some of your tasks will be easy to budget.  You probably have a pretty good idea how long 500 words of first draft writing takes, for example.  Others may be more difficult, like plotting and scene development.  Jot down your best guess.  If you think it takes you six hours to develop a query letter, then so be it.   As you sketch out these times, don’t get hung up on getting it exactly right.  Remember, a good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.  We’ll talk later about how to refine these numbers.

Stages.  Once you’ve assigned times to your tactical level tasks, the next step is to begin to organize them into a schedule on a calendar.  As I said before, you likely can’t do all the tasks in the same day or same week even, so we need to begin to focus our efforts on the tasks that need doing now in a way that makes sense.

Here’s where your strategic tasks and your goals become important.  Ask yourself: “Where am I in my writing process?”  I’ll use myself as an example.  I am currently in the skills development stage (I recently came of a multi-year hiatus from writing), and my plan calls for starting the initial draft of a first novel in April.  You could look at the two periods I’ve described (“skills development” and “first draft development”) as stages, and when you do that, you can see that certain tactical level tasks immediately align with the stages in question, and other tasks don’t belong.

So, during my skills development stage (note: this is what I am calling the stage.  Name your stages in a way that works for you), I am doing a lot of fiction reading for craft, reading how-to books, conducting fiction exercises, etc.  Other tasks such a query letter development and plotting and scene development don’t really fit this stage–so I do not currently do them, but I will put them into future stages when their accomplishment is appropriate.

In this way, we can identify the tasks we should be working on now and those we will accomplish at a later date.  Once we’ve identified the “now” tasks, and since we know how long each task should take, we can begin to fit them into our days and weeks in a common sense way. 

Think of it like an assembly line for a tank or jeep.  Certain of the parts have a set manufacturing time.  Once the manufacturing is complete, then they must be shipped to the construction site, which also takes time.  Then the parts need to be bolted and welded together, until we have the basic chassis sitting there in front of us.  Slap on a coat of paint.  Fuel her up.  Provide ammo and food supplies for her crew.  Take her for a test drive.  Tweak her until she’s running like a Swiss watch.  All these processes take time, and they have to be done in a certain order–can’t start painting right off the bat, for example.

Only after putting our writing tasks in proper order and after summing the time required for each activity together will we know the total investment in time needed before we can be published.   

Homework.  Here’s where we get down to brass tacks: actually building your BP.  Today we’ll set up the general structure; Parts Five and Six will discuss the process of judging how well our BP works. 

For starters, today we’re only going to worry about two stages–the one you’re in and the one that comes next; eventually you’ll want to build the plan as far out into the future as you can manage, with as many stages as you require to reach your most distant goals.  Here’s what you do:

  • Get out a piece of paper (or do it on the computer if you prefer) and make two headings: one for the stage that you think you’re in, and one for the next stage.
  • Under the current stage heading, copy down all the tasks you believe apply to that stage, with associated times.
  • Do the same for the next stage.
  • Now break out your calendar (or calendar program–I use Google Calendar) and start placing tasks as necessary for each day and week.  Do this for all activities until complete.
  • So, for example, if we want to write a 100,000 word first draft and we write 500 words an hour, then it will take us 200 hours to complete.  If we are able to write two hours a day, six days a week, then we should be able to complete a first draft in a little less than 17 weeks, or around four months.  So we would place a two hour block on our calendar for each of our writing days until we cover the allotted time.  Next, we’d pencil in time for research, for example.
  • As an aside, it is also helpful to put many of our other routine non-writing tasks on the Calendar which allows us to see the various time conflicts we have in our schedule.  If we have to make an early morning run to the airport and we write in the mornings, for example, we will have to move our writing slot or account for the lost production.  Keeping track of how our schedule conforms to reality will be extremely important when we discuss improvising and assessing our BP in the last two posts.
  • Once you’ve done that for each of your tasks you can begin to get a feel for when this stage will end and when the next stage will begin.  Using the above example, if the first draft writing was the longest task in terms of calendar time, then one could begin to think about the next stage (revising, for example) in about four months.
  • Also, if you begin to plug all your tasks in over the week, you can see that it can fill up pretty quick.  This is why I compare this process to balancing a checkbook.  You will likely have a sense of “where do I get the time I need to do all this stuff?”  This is when you need to get creative.  Maybe one kind of task gets done on Mondays.  Maybe we accomplish a different task the next day.  Maybe what you build is more like a two week cycle than a one week cycle–keep playing with it until you figure out what looks right for you.  The key is to schedule all current stage tasks and then reach some conclusions about how long it will take in daily, weekly, and monthly time to get to the next gate.
  • After you’ve completed this process for the current stage, take a walk through the next stage as well.

Once you’re done, give yourself a round of applause.  You now have a true BP in your hands and, I hope, some sense of how your writing process will go in the future.  But our work isn’t done yet.  Next week, we’ll discuss how to manage the plan “in the wild” once you’ve built it–these last two posts will perhaps be most critical to the future success of your BP. 

Next Wednesday will be Part Five: Improvising For Battle Plan Success.  Make sure to check back, and thanks for stopping by.

Welcome!  This is Part Three of a six-part post series entitled Conquering the Page: Creating Your Own Fiction Writer’s Battle Plan.  You can find the first two parts here:

Part One: The Overview
Part Two: Defining Your Writing Mission

Your homework from Part Two was to come up with up to three writing goals.  Today, with those goals in mind, we’re going to start sketching out the broad outlines of our Battle Plans–or BPs.

If you don’t know, the military has a plan for everything.  Going to chow, clearing minefields–even invasions of entire countries have detailed plans.  It is part of our culture, and when conducting military missions, we plan without even thinking about it.

As we set out to plan for our writing though, we don’t want to go overboard.  Writing is a creative and dynamic process.  Writing can’t be organized in the same way that one might organize an assembly line, but organizing your writing process can still help.  Let’s face it: if getting published were as simple as sitting down and banging out 1,000 words a day, everybody would be doing it.  But it’s not.  For this reason, a tailored BP–one aligned with your unique needs as a writer–can provide you with a number of important benefits.

Planning Hierarchy.  In order to understand how we will construct our BPs, it will be helpful to understand a little about military planning.  Military planners organize their tasks using a hierarchy.  Plans are strategic or tactical (there’s an intermediate type of operational plan, but it is not needed for our purposes).  This sounds complicated, but stick with me.

Strategic plans relate to high level efforts.  A plan to invade a country is a good example of a strategic plan.  Tactical plans apply to individual units–occupy and defend this road intersection, for example.

In order to win the war, the overall plan–the BP–must synchronize tactical level operations with the strategic objectives.  Problems occur if this is not done.  For instance, the Generals may have an amazing attack plan, guaranteed to catch the enemy by surprise, but the troops on the ground are poorly trained (no one thought to put it in the plan), so the attack fails.  Conversely, let’s suppose the troops at the tactical level are highly motivated and trained, but the Generals have no real plan.  Individual units wander around the battlefield in disorder, and the strategic objectives are not met. 

The same idea can be applied to writing.  The concept for your novel is amazing, but your language isn’t polished.  Therefore, you can’t find an agent.  Or you write so beautifully that your first drafts read like published work, but your novel concept isn’t all that inspiring.  Again, no agent.

The point is these different efforts rely on each other.  All your writing activities–first drafting, editing, critiquing, beta’ing, querying, platform building, market research, etc.–must work in concert and all be of high quality if you want to be published. 

Are you a General or a Foot Soldier?  Let’s take a look at the goals you identified after Part Two.  Are they strategic or tactical goals?  If one of your goals is to publish a novel, then I would put that in the strategic category.  If, on the other hand, a goal is to write 1,000 words a day, then that would be a tactical goal.

For our purposes, we’re going to call writers with tactical goals Foot Soldiers and writers with strategic goals Generals.  You may be a little of both and that’s OK too.  (By the way, it’s not better to be either a Foot Soldier or a General).

Generals tend to think big picture, but tend to not work out the details to get where they want to go.  I am about the biggest General around.  I always have some bright idea–writing or otherwise–that I think is earth shattering and amazing, but I struggle to do the day to day legwork needed to achieve the vision of the ideas I’ve chosen.  Generals tend to start lots of projects but finish only a few of them.  If you think you’re a General, your job in constructing your BP will be to think more like a Foot Soldier.

Foot Soldiers are great at digging in and producing day after day, but they haven’t plugged the constellation of their efforts into a larger set of long-term goals.  Foot Soldiers may finish the year and have accomplished a ton of work, but in terms of moving forward in their career (strategic level effort), they are really no better off than they were the year before.  If you have more than two finished novel manuscripts that you’ve never submitted to an agent, you may be a Foot Soldier.  If you’re a Foot Soldier, your job will be to think more like a General.

If you find you fit somewhere in between these two definitions then pat yourself on the back.  You’re already ahead of the power curve.

Constructing a Battle Plan.  Writers who want to be published have to be both Foot Soldiers and Generals.  The BP process will help us adjust our efforts to cover all the bases.

The job of building a BP begins with identifying all the different activities we need to accomplish to reach our writing goals.  This is alot like balancing the checkbook or building a monthly budget.  We need to make a list of each individual process in our writing effort.  Here are some examples (not an all inclusive list):

Strategic:

  • Career planning and development
  • Novel/story concept development
  • Platform building
  • Query plan and tracking
  • Mid to long-term planning
  • Market research

Tactical:

  • Plotting and scene development
  • Editing and rewriting
  • Drafting query letters and correspondence
  • Reading fiction (for fun and to see what published authors are doing)
  • Reading fiction how-to books (for craft and knowledge development)
  • Writing classes
  • First draft writing
  • Vocabulary development
  • Exercises and games
  • Production tracking and assessment
  • Muscle memory development and training
  • Fiction case study and language study

Homework.  The post this coming Monday will cover how we implement the BP–in other words, how we transmogrify this list of tasks into a real plan.  Here’s how you create your own list of tasks:

  • Get out a legal pad (or you can do it in MS Word if you prefer) and title it [YOUR NAME HERE]’s Battle Plan.
  • Below the heading, write down your goal(s) from Part Two.
  • Next, place two headings on the page:  “Strategic” and “Tactical.”  Decide whether each of your goals is strategic or tactical, and place them under that heading.  Then start brainstorming other tasks you think you need. 
  • If your a Foot Soldier, you’ll be building up.  Begin to think about and identify strategic activities that your tactical goals (“write 1,000 words a day,” for example) support.  The trick here is to start thinking big picture.  Where do you want to be six months from now?  A year?  Five years? 
  • If you’re a General, the opposite will be true.  You’ll goals will be high level, and you’ll build down.  Your strategic level goal might be to publish a novel.  A corresponding tactical goal that you should write down will be to “write a first draft.”  Edit, beta, etc. might be others.  So the game is to capture all the smaller efforts that are needed to get your novel published.
  • Simply provide a single line placeholder for each activity.  Don’t worry so much about capturing the scope of each activity.  So “write every day” without mention of a word count is OK.  The idea is to have every kind of task listed–in the way you would try to capture every flavor of expenditure in a budget.  Next post we’ll start defining these activities further and taking a look at how much time they take individually and together.

When you finish, pat yourself on the back.  You have started building your BP.  Woo hoo!  Let me know what questions you have. 

Monday will be Part Four: Implementing the Plan.  Thanks for stopping by!

After the Drill Sergeant’s tirade on Saturday, it’s nice to get back to some level of normalcy around here.  We sent him on a field exercise and he won’t be back for awhile.  No matter; we should get on fine without him.

If you’re new to the site, this is Part Two of a six-part post series entitled Conquering the Page: Creating Your Own Fiction Writer’s Battle Plan. You can find Part One, The Overview, here–and don’t mind the Drill Sergeant.  His bark is worse than his bite.

Why Is A Battle Plan Important?  The Drill Sergeant was all about motivation and not a lot about explanation, so I can hear the questions from a mile away: what will a Battle Plan really do for me?  Why do I need one?

After eighteen years in the military, my view on how to execute any project is defined by Benjamin Franklin’s great quote: “He who fails to plan is planning to fail.”  The military lives and dies–literally–by this credo.  I believe it’s useful for writers too–no matter the experience level.

Having a Battle Plan–since the military loves acronyms, we’ll call it a BP–is essential to the successful execution of large or complicated projects.  For us writers that means anything from writing a novel to a short story to jumping into the query wars.  The point is that getting published requires the execution of a wide variety of activities over a course of many months, sometimes years.  If you want to do it efficiently and effectively–and still maintain your sanity–you should have a plan.

Sure, small projects go off fine without a lot of planning.  You can probably jot down a short story or a poem without much prior thought; but for a multi-year project as involved as writing and publishing a novel, a good BP is not only advantageous, it could be a deal-breaker.  Even if you’re a short story writer or a poet (or any other kind of writer for that matter) a well-constructed BP will help you focus and consistently hit your writing targets.

Here’s what a good Fiction Writer’s Battle Plan will do for you:

Flexibility.  If you’re like me, carving out time to write is a constant struggle.  On any given day, there are literally dozens of other responsibilities that place demands on my time.  Having a good BP means that when an unexpected event occurs–the boss asks me to come in early for a presentation for example–I can adjust my writing effort and still meet my goals.

Resilience.  I believe the best writers can write under almost any circumstances.  They can be productive during the most trying times and can even muscle through writer’s block and other maladies that afflict less organized writers.  A good BP will help you get where you’re going, but will also help you develop the skills you need to complete the mission under less than ideal circumstances.

Peace of Mind.  IMHO, a writer’s mindset relates closely to his progress.  If he feels he’s moving forward–he’s written a couple great scenes, for example–then his attitude is positive and his outlook is rosy.  On the other hand, if he goes three or four days without writing–he was supposed to finish those two scenes but didn’t–then the lack of accomplishment may push him into a slump or make it harder for him to begin again.

What if, despite having missed a few days, the writer is still 3,000 words ahead of his annual goal (because that writer has a BP and has planned for eventualities such as not being able to write for a few days)?  His outlook remains positive because he understands where he is in his larger plan and so has no reason to worry.  Having a good plan creates peace of mind–and helps the writer focus on the most important thing: writing.

Defining Your Writing Mission.  Before we can build a BP, we have to identify what we as writers wish to accomplish.

Every time I go flying (by day, I’m a helicopter pilot), I sit down with the flightcrew and we brief what will occur during the flight.  One of first things I generally cover is the flight’s mission, and from that flows everything else in the discussion.  For example, a Combat Search and Rescue mission is briefed in a completely different way than an Instrument Training hop.  How much fuel do we need?  Are we carrying any passengers?  What is the weather like?

But could you imagine the funny looks I’d get if I said I didn’t know what the mission was?  “No.  You heard me right.  I don’t know what the mission is.  Seriously.  We’re just going to go out there and burn holes in the sky.”  Not only would I get strange looks, but the execution of the flight would be confusing, sloppy, and certainly not as efficient as it could be.

It sounds unreasonable, but I bet when a lot of writers sit down to write, they make this mistake.  They write without a mission in mind.  I know for the longest time, I did.  Sure I might get some good pages done that day, but how did those pages fit into the larger whole of my project–or my writing “career” for that matter?

Even if I was working on a long project like a play or a novel, I often had no clear picture of my progress from one week to the next.  If I was doing work as part of a class for example–I often waited too late to finish things and then had to accomplish a ton of poor quality work in a short period of time to make deadline.

In those cases, I failed to determine clear goals and make a plan to attain them.  Which bring us to our second quote of the post (if you haven’t figured it out by now, I LOVE quotes): 

Yogi Berra said:  “If you don’t know where you’re going, you will wind up somewhere else.”

If we take Yogi at his word, we have to know as writers what we want to accomplish–in both the short-term and the long-term.  Knowing what we want to accomplish allows us in turn to build a BP.  So.  What are our writing objectives?  What is our writing mission?  Yours might be to write 10,000 words a month, or finish a first draft of that WIP by June.  Or you might want to become a published author by 2012.  The goal can be virtually anything.  And once we’ve identified those goals, we can start building a plan for success.

Constructing Goals.  As you’re starting to consider your goals, here are some things to think about.  Well constructed goals are both achievable and specific.  By achievable, I mean that you can build a BP to get there.  For instance, I would argue a goal such as “become the best-known American author in the 21st Century” is not achievable because there are simply too many variables.  There’s no way to map a path to that goal.  On the other hand, a goal of finishing three novels by 2012 is very achievable because the goal can be broken down into smaller steps.  Identifying and organizing those smaller steps will be our method for BP construction.

Specificity is an essential element of a well constructed goal also.  I can share with you that one of my goals is to submit a novel for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in 2011.  That means I’m going to have to write through to a final draft, have the novel beta’d, and be ready for submission by early next year.  A lot of work I know (particularly because to date I have written only about 500 words of an outline), but I have a sturdy BP based on all the relevant details so I’m not concerned.  Because the goal is specific, I have planned all the tasks needed to get to the finish line, on time, on target, without losing my mind.

Homework.  On Wednesday we will start building BPs.  In order to do that, you first need to identify your goals–your writing mission.  Here’s your homework (you didn’t think there’d be no homework, did you? :D):

  • Write down up to three writing goals.
  • Make sure the goals are achievable–in other words, a plan can be built to achieve them.
  • Make sure the goals are specific.  Include key information like time frame and size of project, and all the things you think you’ll need.  For example, you may say: Novel first draft and first edit completed, 100,000 words, by the end of August.
  • If you have more than one project that you’re working on, that’s fine (one novel and five short stories ready for publication, for example).  Include them all, but remember your BP will have to account for all writing activities.  If you are writing three different novels simultaneously, you may discover your goals taken together put you in the unachievable category.
  • If you’re not sure what your goals are or should be, that’s fine too.  Pick a few just for fun.  Make your best guess.  If you realize later that you picked the wrong ones, you can change them.  The important thing is to identify what, as a writer, you really want to accomplish.  This may take some time, but the sooner you start thinking about it, the farther along you’ll be.

Once we have our goals defined, we can start building a personalized Battle Plan.  If any of this doesn’t make sense, feel free to post a question below and I’ll respond.   If you can share a writing goal with the group in a comment below, that would be fun too.

Wednesday:  Part Three: Organizing Your Battle Plan.  See you then!

***This is Part One of my six-part series.  Go to Part Two here.***

AH-TEN-HUT!

Company, STAND at attention!

DID YOU HEAR ME?  Don’t be eyeballin’ me!   AH-TEN-HUT!  When I say those words, that means YOU don’t move.  That means YOU stand at attention when I address you.  That means YOU keep you eyes forward–I see you gawking Postie!  You want ME to show you the DOOR?

You all look like you wanna run HOME to Momma.  Right now you’re probably thinking to yourself: SELF, why am I here?  What on GAWD’S GREEN EARTH brought me to this blog?

Well I KNOW why you’re here.  YOU want your very own FICTION WRITER’S BATTLE PLAN, dontcha!  DONTCHA?

I CAN’T HEAR YOU!

And you know what, even though someone should give you a TISSUE because you’re just CRYING for leadership, I’m gonna take PITY on you.  I’m gonna take you under my wing, jus’ like you was FAMILY–only don’t go gettin’ confused!  This ain’t no love fest!

But if you listen and listen well, YOU might learn a thing or two.

Today, I’m gonna cover the ELEMENTS of a Fiction Writer’s Battle Plan.  Why do I need one, YOU ask?  YOU want to write a book, dontcha?  YOU want to be a published author, dontcha?  I see YOU shaking your heads yes.

Let me paint a picture for you:

Say you’re halfway through your WIP–and suddenly you can’t seem to find the time to write.  Laundry.  PTA.  Football.  All those other activites that are in your life start to take over.  And then when it comes to time to write, you got NOTHING.  NADA.  How YOU gonna respond? 

Or you’re out there in front of your computer, operating alone and unafraid.  You come over that rise and you find yourself FACE TO FACE with the blank page.  What you gonna do?  I MEAN how you gonna react?

You gotta be ready for ANYTHING, people, and the Battle Plan will help you get there.  So let me BOIL it down for you.

Conquering the Page: Creating Your Own Fiction Writer’s Battle Plan

If some stuffy General Officer like NAPOLEON or MONTGOMERY was up in here, he’d probably give you a bunch of tired old CLAPTRAP like “Writing is a war and the blank page is the battlefield,” or  “Every word you manage to add to your manuscript is another bullet you put downrange to defeat the enemy.”

But all that high-fallutin’ propaganda is beside the point.  It’s nice to think all ABSTRACT and stuff, but when it comes to writing, we gotta keep it REAL.

All those lame mixed war metaphors is a bunch of BOOLCRAP.  YOU know it.  I know it.  Besides, Napoleon was a pansy.  He couldn’t write himself out of a paper bag.

No, we ain’t got no Generals here.  Just little old me.  And I’m gonna give it to you STRAIGHT.  We don’t care about the HYPE.  We care about RESULTS.

So we’re gonna give you what you NEED.  Regardless of what kind of fiction YOU write–if you want to KNOCK that novel out of the park or POP off short stories like POPCORN–what YOU need is a BATTLE PLAN.

What goes into a Battle Plan, you ask?  Well let me tell you: five things.  Five stinking things.  And the beauty is, once YOU have a GOOD Battle Plan, you’re ready for anything.  I mean AH-NEE-THING!

Here’s a quick rundown on what we’re gonna do.

First, define your mission.  What IS your objective?  What ARE you after?  THIS hill here?  THAT hill over there?  What are YOUR short-term goals?  What are YOUR long-term goals?  And when I say GOALS, I’m talking about MORE than “what do I want for chow tonight?”

Second, organize.  You there!  Cross!  Put down that I-Pod and stand at attention!  I don’t care what song is playing.  That’s right!

Where was I?  Oh yes.  When I say ORGANIZE, you probably think I’m talking about your sock drawer.  I’m not.  I mean everything to do with WRITING.  What, RECRUIT, are the essential tasks you must accomplish in order to achieve YOUR writing objectives?

Third, implement the Plan.   So YOU come up with a plan, and it’s a doozy!  It’s the best plan since General Custer’s Last Stand.  What do YOU do next?  How do you put it into practice?

Fourth, improvise.  You think everything goes as planned?  No way Sonny.  This is WAR.  NOTHING goes as planned, so you have to be PREPARED.  You HAVE to expect the unexpected.

Fifth, assess your progress and adjust fire.  If you’re shooting at a bad guy and he moves, do you still keep shooting at the same spot?  That better be a big “NO!” I hear.   The answer is no.  You make adjustments, you figure out what works and what doesn’t.  Then you move out smartly.

So that’s it in a nutshell.  Next week we’re going to go through each of these parts of the Battle Plan in much greater detail.  I want you to come LOCKED and LOADED and ready to learn!

I know I went through it quick, but do YOU have any questions?  Raise your hand if YOU have a question.  Good.  That’s what I like to SEE.

Now I have a short FILM I want you to watch.  This will INSPIRE you to be ready for class next week.  After the movie, I want you to fall out of formation and carry on with the Plan of the Day.

Be back here at Oh-SIX-hundred hours Monday morning for Part Two: Defining Your Writing Mission.  AND DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT BEIN’ LATE!

DISSSS-MISSED!

[Editor’s Note: With all due respect to the Drill Sergeant, next week’s posts will be somewhat more “traditional.”  Thanks for stopping by!]