Blog Highlights: Creating a 5-Year Writing Career Plan

For the grand opening of this blog, I’m spotlighting some of my favorite blog posts and moments from over the years throughout the month of June.


Week Two: The Writer’s Life





First posted on September 26, 2011

See the original post at:


With Scarlet now off to my editor, I’ve been spending some time thinking about some of my long-term career goals wedding, wedding, and more wedding (less than three weeks you guys, ohmygod!)


But in the small spaces between all that wedding planning, crafting, shopping, and organizing, I have in fact spent some time looking over my long-term career goals and checking that I’m on track.

The idea to create a five-year plan first came to me from Karen Wiesner’s book “First Draft in 30 Days.” She spent a whole chapter explaining how important it is for writers to take control of their creative processes and decide the direction they want their careers to take. I agree with her. I think it’s important to consider what you want and take the steps to make it happen.

Some of the benefits of creating a long-term career plan include:

1. It forces you to consider what you want.
Do you want to write all YA or switch between a few different genres? Do you want to focus on stand-alone novels or series, or a mix of both? Do you want to focus on one project at a time or are you comfortable bouncing between multiple projects? The answers to these questions might change, depending on your own creativity and productivity level, the market, your agent’s advice, etc., but knowing at the outset what you want your career to look like could potentially save you years of working on projects that don’t fit into your career goals (such as writing freelance nonfiction articles when you really want to be working on a novel . . . the need for immediate income aside, of course).

2. It helps you choose your projects wisely.
If you’re like me, you have an idea file brimming with story ideas. Personally, I have ideas for murder mysteries, high fantasies, magical realism, paranormal romances, even nonfiction… just about every genre under the sun. While I always make note of a new idea and file it away somewhere (because you just never know), it’s easy for me to ignore those ideas that clearly do not fit into my career plan, which currently revolves around high-concept YA novels.

3. It eases the distractions that come with having lots of ideas and projects.
Even when you do come across an idea that fits your career plan perfectly, having that career plan can keep you focused so you don’t dive into every new shiny idea that comes along. You can step back and decide, rationally, if you should be putting your attention into finishing your current project, or shelving it for a time and starting something new. Luckily, if you decide to put an idea aside for later, having your career plan can tell you exactly when you’ll be working on it (say: next Nanowrimo, or two summers from now). While it may seem like a long ways away, it can help fend off that itchy desire to work on something new if you can see precisely when you will be working on it.

4. It encourages productivity, because you always know what you’re supposed to be working on.
Certainly not least of all, when you have a career plan, it’s much easier to hold on to that forward momentum that comes with finishing a project. There’s never a time when you don’t know what you’re supposed to be working on and what your current priorities are. You can look ahead so that you know what projects you should be brainstorming or outlining, and you can get a pretty good idea of when each project will be in the first-drafting stage, revision stage, or editing stage. Although the plan can (and does!) change, there’s never that moment of limbo when you’re not sure what to work on next.

So what does a 5-year career plan look like?

I personally recommend keeping it simple. With the exception of the immediate twelve months, I make my plan on a year-by-year basis, knowing that things will change.

I find it works best to be optimistic about how much you can accomplish (because I always enjoy a challenge), but also realistic. If it took you two years to write your first novel, don’t expect you’ll suddenly be churning out three novels a year. Also keep in mind that once you’re on a publication track you’ll have many new responsibilities that need to be factored in, such as promotion and publicity, touring and events, revisions from your editor, and reviewing copyedits and page proofs.

My plan currently looks like this:

– Build publicity and promotion for CINDER
– SCARLET to editor

– CINDER releases: ongoing publicity and promotion as necessary
– Build publicity and promotion for SCARLET
– CRESS to editor mid-year
– brainstorm and outline new book or series idea

– SCARLET releases: ongoing publicity and promotion as necessary
– Build publicity and promotion for CRESS
– WINTER to editor
– start drafting new book or series

– CRESS releases: ongoing publicity and promotion as necessary
– Build publicity and promotion for WINTER
– continued work on new book or series

– WINTER releases: ongoing publicity and promotion as necessary
– continued work on new book or series

Super simple and brief. It’s not too daunting, but it gives me an at-a-glance idea of the direction my writing is going, when I’ll be able to start working on a new project, and approximately what I’ll be working on at any given time.

What do you think? Do you have a long-term writing plan? What does and doesn’t work for you when it comes to plotting out your long-term goals?


June 12, 2012: For the record, I regularly keep my career plan updated, and have started including promotion goals as well (although I’m sadly nowhere near accomplishing them, ah well). Here’s what my career plan looks like today:


– CRESS to editor mid-year
– WINTER draft #2 completed
– outline & draft new book or series (discuss w/ agent for best follow-up)

12,000 Twitter followers by Scarlet’s release
5,000 Author Page Likes by Scarlet’s release
25,000 Lunar Chronicles Page Likes by Scarlet’s release

– SCARLET publicity and promotion as necessary
– CRESS revisions completed
– WINTER to editor mid-year
– new series on submission

– CRESS publicity and promotion as necessary
– WINTER revisons completed
– continued work on new book or series

– WINTER publicity and promotion as necessary
– continued work on new book or series

– continued work on new book or series
– brainstorm for new book or series??