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Beyond the Basics
With Tulsa Brown
The 30-Second Solution
Backstory vs. Flashback
Intimacy Begins With "I"
Hit the Ground Running
Make the Reader Leap
Meaningful Dialogue
Pulling the String
Central Image
Elegant Smut
Better Plots
Bitch Power


The Write Stuff
From Ashley Lister
Predefined Your Goals
Spell Ink Miss Takes
Plotting & Planning
Character Building
Speech Therapy
Talking Sense


Two Girls Kissing
With Amie M. Evans
Intro to Lesbian Erotica
3-Dimensional Characters
Submitting for Publication
Five Year Writing Plan
Setting Up Your Plan...
The Power of Naming
Language of Lesbian...
Sexual Description
What Can I say?


Hard Business
From Greg Herren
What Are Your Priorities?
How to Edit an Anthology
Follow the Guidelines...
A Cock is Just a Cock
But is it Still a Story?
Who Am I Fucking?
Potential Material
Rejection ...


The Business End
By Kate Dominic
Effective Cover Letters
How to Lose Contracts
Contracts: Agent Issues
Contracts: Read It!
Double Duty Bios
What's Sex?


Literary Streetwalker
By M. Christian
Ground Rules for Writers
No Muse is Good News
Effective Cover Letters
Location, Location
Say Something!
Dirty Words


The Erotic Book Docter
By Susie Bright
Marketing Your Book
Submission Concerns
Promotion Strategies


2006 Smutters Lounge

Pondering Porn
With Ann Regentin
Babes & Hunks of Erotica
Fantasy, Reality & Rape
Selling Ourselves Short
Selling Smut in Motown
The Frankenstein Bride
Frankenstein Revisited
Porn and Perfect Shoes
Porn's Passionate Pull
Instruments of Joy


Get All Worked Up
With J.T. Benjamin
Orwell's Eerie Parallels
Redefining Marriage
The Porn Menace
High-Quality Porn
About Profanity
Dirty Laundry
Big Brother
Sluts


Editorials

Wrong Reasons to do SM
by Midori

Two Girls Kissing: Writing Lesbian Literary Erotica
with Amie M. Evans



Five Year Writing Plan
Part I: Getting Started



Motto:  Set grandiose objectives and strive in small, calculated steps towards them.

One of the most important things I learned when I first started to pursue writing professionally was that managing my time and projects was critical to achieving my writing goals. Additionally, I discovered that having clear-cut, concise writing goals made it much easier to manage my time and select projects. As the motto above states, I have grandiose objectives and the only way to achieve them is in small steps. Many of the writers I know hold down full time "day jobs" in addition to pursuing their writing careers. When you add to this the responsibilities of life in general, it is a miracle that anything ever gets written. The two tools I use to do this are a Five Year Writing Plan in conjunction with a to-do list driven writing schedule. This two-part series will address administrative issues to help you as a writer organize your projects and time by helping you set up your own Five Year Writing Plan whether you are a new emerging author or a well seasoned pro. Part I addresses the pre-work you will need to do. At the end of Part I you will have: a project list, 5-11 driving objectives, and a numerical value to represent your realistic goals.

 

Why Have a Five Year Writing Plan?
I have more ideas for stories than I have time to write.
I strive for excellence in my writing.
I want it all now.
I have grandiose writing goals.
I sometimes cannot see the forest for the trees.
I sometimes cannot see the trees for the forest.

If any of these statements are true about you then a Five Year Writing Plan will help you stay focused, establish your goals, and achieve them. A Five Year Writing Plan is a road map you construct as a guideline to steer your career. It should not be thought of as an unchangeable, inflexible bench mark of your abilities to succeed. Instead it is a coherent plan of action broken down into nice bite size pieces based on realistic achievable short, medium, and long term goals that can be altered or deviated from as circumstances require. A Five Year Writing Plan based on a focused agenda will provide you with a map of measured steps to reach your grandiose objectives.

Sample Author Examples
The sample author examples throughout this article help to illustrate the basic math in concrete terms. They should not be used as realistic bench marks as I randomly made them up to illustrate potential situations. The specifics of each example, such as productivity, have no basis in reality.

All of the sample authors have full time day jobs. Author A has been writing for 2 years. He writes short stories, poems, and has recently started a novel. Author B has been writing for 8 years. She writes a monthly column, short stories, essays, and novels. Author C has been writing for less than a year. She writes short stories and essays.

Creating a Focused Agenda
A Focused Agenda (Gabarro, HBS) works by:

  • Establishing 5 to 11 Short-to-Long Term Driving Objectives
  • An understanding of what you must accomplish to get there
  • A screen to judge which activities are most important, which can be deferred, and which do not matter
  • A means to make choices about how to spend your time

A clear Focused Agenda is the first step in setting up a functional Five Year Writing Plan and apply it to your writing schedule. The first step in constructing a Focused Agenda will be addressed in this column and the remainder will be addressed in next month’s column.

Getting Started
The first step is to sit down with a blank notebook in a quiet place away from anything that will distract you. If you are a computer driven person, you can also do this in a Word document using the column feature. The advantage to doing this on the computer is you can cut and paste instead of rewriting. If you do this on paper, I strongly suggest when you are done you transfer the actual Five Year Writing Plan to a word document which will make it easier to update and modify as needed. The steps as described below work for a computer or pen and paper. The Five Year Writing Plan you are creating will begin on January 1, 2007 and end on December 31, 2011.

Project List

(1) Take a sheet of paper and in landscape orientation divide it into four uneven columns. The first two columns should be about an inch each, the third about two inches, and the fourth is the remainder of the page. Write: PROJECT LIST at the top. Write over the columns starting at the far left hand side and continuing to the right: (1) step to a goal; (2) due date; (3) title or catch words; (4) description.

(2) Column 1 should remain blank for this part of the process. All materials will have a completion date after January 1, 2007. Disregard any outstanding projects or calls with deadlines before that date. In the 3rd column, list the title (of the piece or project) or a two to four word catch phrase for all of your outstanding contracted commitments—things you have already sold to editors or regular commitments like this column. You may not have any and that is alright. In column 4, you can describe each item, if you like. Make each description as short as possible. You need enough information so that you know what the item is, but absolutely no longer than five sentences. In column 2, write the due date including the year. If you write a regular column or book review due on the 20th of the month, for example, you need to list it once for each month it is due. If you only write it once on the list, the actual commitment you are making will not show up visually.

Step

Due Date

Title

Description

(3) Now do the exact same thing with any submission calls, contest, grants, and/or fellowships to which you want to submit in the next 15 months. Feel free to include deadlines that will occur after 15 months, but within the five year end date. You may use the name of the anthology or grant as the title in column three for this section.

(4) Now do the same thing with any plans, projects or story ideas you have. This should include short works, novels, poems, essays, collections, anthology proposals, columns you wish to have, and conferences or classes you wish to attend. Anything that is related to your writing. However, skip column 2 (due date) for this section. Make the actual list as long as you like. Get it all out of your system. I’ll wait.

Realistic vs. Unrealistic Goals
Your dreams should be as big as you are capable of conceiving. Dream big. Dream large. Grandiose, even. No dream is too big to have. No dream is unrealistic. However, in order to bring your dreams to fruition, you need to break them into manageable pieces or goals that can be achieved individually and, when put together, collectively for the dream.

Unrealistic goals by their very nature set you up to fail. Read that sentence again. By setting your goals outside the possible realm of completion you are establishing a negative loop that feeds on itself. You set goals that you do not achieve and then you feel bad about setting goals because you fail so you don’t set goals. You don’t fulfill your dreams. And fail you will. Better to set and surpass a realistic goal then to establish unrealistic goals that under the best of circumstances—something life seldom if ever presents us with—would be impossible to reach.

In my experience most writers by their nature are over-achievers, workaholics (I prefer to think of myself as driven and focused), and dreamers. By setting realistic goals and achieving them you will actually produce more finished product and realize your dreams then if you have no goals or plan of action in place.

Realistic goals are achievable if you stay focused. They should be based on your Past Performance, Outside Forces, and, what I like to call, the Plus One Factor. If you are honest with yourself, this information will create a Focused Agenda that will lead to a Five Year Writing Plan that will help you succeed at meeting your objectives.

Five to Eleven Driving Objectives

1.  Take out a new sheet and in portrait orientation write DRIVING OBJECTIVES on top. What are the 5 to 11 top things you’d like to achieve in the next 5 years? Take some time to think about it. Yes, you can only have seven or any number between five and eleven. Write down your top five to eleven writing goals in declarative sentences, skipping three lines between each one. These should be more general then the project list such as publish a novel, finish 10 short stories, get an online column, edit an erotic anthology, etc…. Be realistic, but don’t be afraid to challenge yourself or to dream big.

Five Year Writing Plan Goals examples:
An example of a realistic goal for someone who has never written a novel is to write one. An example of an unrealistic challenge for the same person would be to write five novels.

Keep in mind, there is nothing to stop you from writing more than one novel in the next five years, however, better to set a realistic goal and surpass it then an unrealistic goal and fail to meet it.

Author Examples
Author A: I will have finished a novel. I will have attended a writing conference each year. I will have created a chat book. I will have published 5 short stories a year. I will have edited a book of lesbian erotica.

Author B: I will have finished my second novel. I will have a collection of my erotic short stories. I will have edited two lesbian erotica anthologies. I will have attended a novel writing class. I will have offered a seminar for emerging writers on writing lesbian erotica.

Author C: I will have answered five calls a year. I will have written 10 short stories a year. I will have gone to one LGBTQ writing conference. I will have published three short stories a year. I will have gotten a monthly gig writing book reviews of LGBTQ erotica.

2.  Rank your goals in order 1 (most important) to 11 (least important). Which goal is critical to you as a writer to achieve over the next five years? Be as concrete as possible using numerical values such as 1 novel, 10 short stories, etc… Pretend it is December 31, 2011 and you are looking back over the last 5 years.

3.  Now take your PROJECT list and starting with your first (most important) goal indicate all the projects that fit into your top five goals. Write the goal number in column 1. Do this for each of your goals.

Determining Your Realistic Goals
Turning a creative process such as writing into a mathematic formula is difficult. But, this method will give you a clear idea of what your normal productivity is and allow you to set more realistic goals and create a better Five Year Writing Plan. After using this method for 6 months or a year, you will also be able to better determine how long it takes you to write a given piece. For example, I know it takes me twice as long on average to write a chapter then it does for me to write a short story.

You should by no means judge your writing skills on the number of stories, poems, or chapters you produce in a year. However, writing, as a business, does demand output. How do I increase my writing productivity? Is one of the most frequently asked non-craft questions I hear from writers who take my workshops. Followed closely by how do I stay focused and organized. The Five Year Writing Plan and To-Do List Driven Schedule are the answer to both of these questions.

Formula for Establishing Realistic Goals

PP-OF+1=RG
Past Performance minus Outside Forces plus One equals Realistic Goals

Past performance refers to your pattern of performance in relationship to one year of writing. This is based on the average number of items you write in a given amount of time not the average amount of time it takes you to write any given item. Since it may take you twice as long to write short story A then it did for you to write short story B even though both are 6,000 words, averages are used to determine your productivity.

The longer you have been writing the more accurate and easier it will be for you to determine your performance levels. As a rule, it is always better to estimate lower.

Determining your PP
I redo this formula each year during the Five Year Writing Plan so that each successive year is based on the most up to date data. Take a clean sheet of paper write Past Performance at the top. Now you will need to categorize your writing into subtopics. Here are some examples of subtopics: Poems, short stories, novels (chapters), essays, columns, book reviews, editing anthology; articles; etc… Write the subtopics of your writing on the paper in columns three across leaving five or six lines between each row. List only the types of writing you currently do or have done during the survey period.

For this section you should use the last three full years of writing starting with Jan 1 and ending with Dec 31. For example, 2004-2005, 2003-2004, and 2002-2003. If you have been writing for less than three years, but at least one full year, then use however many years you have. If you have been writing for less than a year use whatever you have.

Tally up your productivity for each year. Do this separately for each category you have listed. Items do not have to have been sold, but they do need to be completed. Give yourself 1 point for each completed item in the appropriate subcategory and .5 points for each completed draft. It is best to count novels by chapters. Now, add each category and divide by the number of years you have used. If you used less than a year, multiply by 2. Change any decimals to .25, .50, or .75 which ever is closest to, but lower then the original decimal. See example B below. These are your PP averages for each type of writing you do that you will use for the 2007 year.

Author Examples

Author A is using 2 years:

2004-2005:
2003-2004

Process

Short Stories

8
8

Poems

5
3

Chapters

2 (.5 each)
0

Totals: (add) 16 8 1
Averages: (divide by 2) 8 4 .5

Author B is using 3 years:



2004-2005:
2003-2004
2002-2003

Process

Short Stories

9
10
14

Essays

3
3
5

Chapters

6
4
2

Column

12
12
12

Totals: (add) 33 11 12 36
Averages: (divide by 3) 11 3.66 4 12
Author B will adjust the decimal for essays to 3.50     3.50    

 

Author C is using less than 1 year:

Currently has:

Process

Short Stories

2

Essays

1

Totals: (add) 2 1
Averages: (multiply by 2) 4 2

Determining your OF

Outside forces are those things that pop up and impact on your writing. OF come in three varieties: Repeating, Planned, and Unexpected. Repeating OF are already factored into your PP because they occur each year such as family holiday events and birthday parties, yard work, vacations with your partner, life chores, etc…, and you do not need to adjust for them. Planned OF that you may already know about would include buying a house, having a baby, getting married, changing your day job, returning to school, etc…, you will adjust for with a flat numerical value. Unexpected OF cannot be planned for such as a death in the family, a natural disaster, getting fired, getting dumped by a long term partner, etc…, you will adjust for as they occur. (I’ll talk more about this next month). For every Planned OF that you know about that will occur during the term of your Five Year Writing Plan, subtract 2.5 for that years totals. Likewise, OF such as retiring or quitting your day job that free up more of your time to write will allow you to increase your totals but we will not adjust for them as surpassing your goals is always a good thing.

Author Examples
Author A is planning on buying a house in 2007 so he will subtract 2.5 from his totals for that year.
Author B is planning on reducing her day job to ½ time, so her OF will be 0.
Author C has no life changing plans so her OF total will be 0.

Author A is the only one to make an adjustment for OF of 2.5. He will subtract a total of 2.5 from all of his categories. Since he wants to focus on writing his novel, he will subtract half of the value from his short story total and half from his essay total.

 

 

Short Stories

Essays/Poems

Chapters

Column

Author A   8 4 .5  
  Adj. for OF value of 2.5 6.75 2.75 .5  
Author B   11 3.50 4 12
Author C   4 2    

Determining your +1

Plus One is the challenge to your self. It is you striving to improve your output and to grow as a writer. You may add a total of 1 (one) to your entire numbers. Break the 1 down into 4 units of .25 or two of .50 or use it as a full 1. But the total you add to all the categories cannot not be greater then one. For ease, I suggest rounding up any decimals to whole numbers.

Author Examples

 

 

Short Stories

Essays

Chapters

Column

Author A   6.75 2.75 .5  
  Adj. for +1:  .25  .25 .5  
New PP:   7 3 1  
Author B   11 3.50 4 12
  Adj. for +1:    .50  .5  
New PP:   11 4 4.5 12
Author C   4 2    
  Adj. for +1: 1      
New PP:   5 2    

Summary of PP-OF+1=RG Author Examples

 

Short Stories

Essays

Chapters

Column

Author A RG: 7 3 1  
Formula: 8-1.25+.25=7  4-1.25+.25=3 .5-0+.5=1  
Author B RG 11 4 4.5 12
Formula: 11-0+0=11 3.50-0+.50=4 4-0+.50=4.5 12-0+0=12
Author C RG 5 2    
Formula: 4-0+1=5 2-0+0=2    

I hate to leave you hanging, but next time, we will set up your Short, Medium and Long term goals; address resources and hard choices; finalize your Five Year Writing Plan; establish your To-Do Driven Writing Schedule; and discuss how this whole system works.

Materials created by John J. Gabarro of the Harvard Business School inspired this article.

If there is an issue you would like me to address in Two Girls Kissing, please email it to me, Amie M. Evans, with the column title as the subject line. To be added to my confidential monthly email list, please email me with subscribe as the subject line.

NEXT TIME: Five Year Writing Plan Part II: Setting Up Your Plan and To-Do List Driven Writing Scheduling

Amie M. Evans
October 2006

______
"Two Girls Kissing: Writing Lesbian Literary Erotica" © 2006 Amie M. Evans. All rights reserved.

About the Author: Amie M. Evans is a widely published creative nonfiction and literary erotica writer, experienced workshop provider, and a retired burlesque and high-femme drag performer. She is on the board of directors for Saints and Sinners GLBT literary festival and graduated Magna cum Laude from the University of Pittsburgh with a BA in Literature and is currently working on her MLA at Harvard.
Read Amie M. Evans' bio at the Erotica Readers & Writers Association.



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