On January 2nd, Kasie and Rex were back in the studio to talk goal setting for the new year. Here are the show notes:
Theme for the day
Setting Writing Goals
- New Year’s Events & Opportunities
- The AFI Framework
- Goal Setting
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Also, glad to announce an upcoming event for you literary arts folks. Local poet and friend of the show, John Starino headlines Uncle Fester’s Sunday/Funday Open Mic tomorrow from 2-5 p.m. at Uncle Fester’s bar. It’s a Facebook event so you can look it up there. We’ll add the link here: https://fb.me/e/1RSPnOV7B Looking forward to doing some day drinking down there. If you show up and come over and say, “Hi,” I’ll give you a prize 🙂
South Carolina Writers Association has a helluva year planned for 2021 with six Become an Author events occurring via Zoom. The first session will be January 12th with friend of the show Susan Zurenda. The event is free and open to the public. Click here to register.
Today’s episode is the prework for my upcoming SCWA Writing Conversations launch event taking place on January 19th. It’s the first of three midday sessions taking place via Zoom January 19, 26th, and February 2nd at noon. Click here for more info.
We’re going to shape this goal conversation like a business would. This is part of my ongoing effort to help writers see themselves as entrepreneurs, business owners, professionals. In business, we create strategies for how we plan to acquire more customers, make more sales, and earn more profit. Writers should do the same.
So many writer-goals conversations are arbitrary like, “I want to finish a novel,” or “I’d like to find an agent,” and while these are necessary tasks, they are only part of the strategy for becoming a professional writer. To build, launch, grow, and maintain your author business, you need strategy.
We’re going to use the AFI framework, which is just an acronym for Analyze, Formulate, and Implement. Its value is in categorizing the work you need to do to pursue a successful business opportunity.
To begin, we’re going to make a couple of assumptions: 1) you can write, have written, and are reasonably knowledgeable about the publishing industry and processes therein, and 2) you have a reasonable understanding of social media and digital resources for the purpose of marketing. If that’s you, stay tuned. We’re going to plan the f*ck out of your 2021.
AFI begins with Analysis. In business terms this can be a SWOT analysis — strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats — or it can be a simple assessment of what you have, what you need, and what channels and risks are on the horizon.
Analysis means research. You can start with an assessment of yourself, your work, your capabilities. What assets do you have? A completed manuscript or just an idea for one? An agent? A publisher? An editor? A critique group?
Then you’ll want to look externally. What other books are like yours? What other authors are like you? Where are they on the internet? Where are their books being sold? Who represents them? How did they get published? What kind of marketing are they doing?
Businesses go through a full internal analysis trying to assess what they have going for them and what they’re missing. They list assets including individuals, their skills and experience, and the product or inventory they have. You might consider the time you have available as a strength or a risk. You might think of your regular employment as a resource (money) or a liability (time). Consider your own skills in digital tools, query-writing, grant-writing, or research. What do you feel confident you’ll be able to do yourself (blog writing) and what you’ll need to outsource (graphics).
After the internal analysis, look outward. What opportunities will there be for education? For networking? For selling? Are there events? What are they like? How do you qualify? Will attendance or participation cost money? How much should you budget? Think also about the market: what is selling right now? How are people accessing books? Are they attending workshops and readings? Who is your target audience and how can you reach them? We talk a lot on this show about finding readers, not just other writers. So in your analysis of the market you’re approaching, concentrate on readers. You find them by looking over the shoulder of the writers that are successful in your genre.
The reason I think the AFI framework is too simplistic is the F — formulate. I always want to know, “How?” What does it mean, really, to formulate a strategy?
Well, for example: Your analysis research says readers who liked Twilight will like your book, too. So you decide to draw their attention via Twilight. You plan to blog a series on the parallels between your book and Twilight. With reverence, and respect, of course. Don’t dog Twilight to promote your own work. Remember this message is about what Twilight lovers love and want more of (i.e. your book).
You formulate your strategy by identifying
- the tools you’ll use (blog and social media),
- the message you’ll deliver (Twilight parallels), and
- the schedule on which you’ll execute (weekly).
Then you determine how you’ll measure the success of your strategy. How many clicks do you want? Readers? Comments? Shares? Set some early expectations and measure the work to those targets.
Formulating the strategy must include measurements and milestones. When do you plan to reassess? Monthly? Quarterly? How will you hold yourself accountable to the targets you put out there? If you set yourself a blog schedule and check in two months from now and you’ve met every deadline, you’re executing your strategy at 100%. That doesn’t mean it’s working, but it does mean you’re working.
So the measurements help you decide if it’s working. And if it’s not, make a change. Make several changes. But let the data be the reason you change. For example, you were going to blog weekly but it’s been hard to find time. Maybe you can write three blogs at once and schedule them out. You can make little mini-series inside a big series. That “Comparison to Twilight” strategy could be three episodes on characters, three on setting, and three on YA elements (like love triangles).
The hardest part of the AFI is the last letter, “Implement.” Because life, right? Implement is about doing what you said you’re going to do. It’s here that we need to be measuring carefully. What time of day do we write? When are we most creative?
Keep track of the measurements you’re using. Sometimes we set ambitious goals (2000 new words a day) and come up short once or twice. Sometimes we set low-bar goals and should be pushing ourselves to do more.
The key in implementation is always to track progress toward the goal. If your measurements prove arbitrary, then adjust them. For example, word count might be easy to reach but you might not be making progress in crucial editing or querying efforts. Maybe you set a time goal and have found it difficult to stick to a schedule. Measurements are only valuable if 1) they are leading you toward your goals, and 2) you’re able to meet and track them.
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