I was going to do this whole podcast on project planning, but I realized that a lot of things I’m doing are visual in nature. I plan on paper, and I refer to that paper all year long. It’s one reason I just bought a Hobonichi Cousin to use this year. It’s minimal enough that I can still use some bullet journal techniques in it, and it already has the months and weeks laid out for me so I don’t have to draw them out.
The biggest thing I needed was an editorial calendar, to track writing deadlines, blog posts, podcasts, and eventually videos when I get over myself. But when I’m first starting to plan out my year and eventually my quarters, I print out a year’s worth of calendars from the Calendar app on my Mac. You could do the same thing from Google as well.
I love using the Calendar on my Mac because I can set it to the months I want (which will get important later, when I want to do my 12 week planning instead of my annual planning. But right now, I’m trying to figure out how much I can do in a year, so we’re going to print out all 12 months. Actually, 13 months, because I usually do this in late November, so I include December in the planning because I still have things i need to get done during December. But for our purposes, I’m only printing out the 12 months of the year.
The next screen, I set it to print 4 months to a page. I’d have preferred 3 months but it didn’t give me that option. Maybe Google Calendar does? I haven’t tried it so don’t take my word on that. Anyway, it’s a little thing in the grand scheme. It’s just that 3 months per page is actually perfect because I plan in 12 week increments, or quarters during the year. But I mostly print this way because I want to save paper anyway. *shrug*
Alright, so now we have our months printed out. The first thing is to run through the whole thing and mark out days you know you’re not going to write or edit or work on your publishing business. For a lot of people, it’ll be holidays, birthdays, vacations, ect. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Took a while, didn’t it? I have the same list of tasks for every book I write and publish. I know, after a dozen books, how long it takes me to plot/pre-write, draft, revise, edit, and publish. i know how long my editor takes to get my book done, and I know how long it takes me to slog through edits when she sends them back to me. I’ve done my own covers so far, so I plan for time to do publishing tasks like covers, back cover copy, formatting, ect. But for our purposes here, we’re going to concentrate on the big ones. Plot/Pre-writing, draft, revise, edit, and publish. You might have more or less steps. This is sort of a “depends on the person” part, what’s going to be on the list. I figure these are the most common.
I have a separate little insert I made just for project planning. I give it to my newsletter subscribers (the Nerd Herd) for free when they join. It’s not big. Just a few pages. I print it out in booklet form and then saddle-stitch staple them together with a simple cardstock cover. I’ve been working on my handlettering so I wrote on the cover, but often times, I really don’t.
Don’t judge me for the crappy handlettering. I haven’t been doing enough practice lately. And this was an early try.
So you know what I’m talking about, I’ll show you my project timeline for HER LAST KILL. None of it’s really a secret, so I don’t mind showing you an example. Here’s the thing. This is specific to me and the speed at which I know I can move. YOU may be faster. Or slower. Or maybe you’re better at revisions than I am and only need half the time. Or maybe you need a little longer on edits.
So here’s how I figure out those dates. I went through, marked off all the time I wasn’t going to write. This includes conferences, military trips, or just family time. I even give myself a couple sick days each month. Because shit happens.
Now I think about when I want to release books. I know I want to put out four this year. This book is one of them, obviously. So I pick release dates for each one and work backward, one at a time. So like, I know that I want to release HER LAST KILL at the beginning of May. I work backward from sending out ARCs before release to formatting to edits… etc, etc… Some of it, I work out of the timeline or I’m doing them concurrently as I write or edit or whatever. Like covers. I work on covers when I’m tired of writing for the day, usually.
So if I want to release May 6, then I know I need to send out ARCs about two weeks beforehand. Which means, I need the book formatted and ready to go by then. But I also use a distributor instead of directly uploading to retailers, because I’m lazy, so I have to have my files ready by the six-week mark before the release date. I like that anyway, because then I don’t have to stress about the book being ready in time, and I can concentrate on the next book while I’m gearing up the book launch. But I have to have these dates down so I know when I need to be done with each step.
And of course, there are other tasks that aren’t as big that support these that I have on the list. That all goes onto the facing page in the booklet, which is just a task list for the project. Once I complete each task, I mark it done. Easy peasy. I also consult this insert when I’m setting up my work planner for the month and the week. I need to know what I haven’t done, so I’ll take tasks from the projects that I can do this week and transfer them into my planner on the weekly pages.
So there’s a quick overview of the way I plan out my projects. Every week, I send out some small tips on productivity and publishing for writers for Nerd Herd members and a lot of times, I give out some guides and inserts I use to plan out my time. My hope is that it helps other writers that are in the same position I was in years ago. This week, everyone gets the project planner I use.
If you’d like your very own project planner, add in your email address in the box below this post to join the NerdHerd, confirm your email, and it’ll send you instructions on how to download it.
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