The Rational Writer: Nuts and Bolts is the first step-by-step guide to project management for writers, and it's equally suited to independent authors who self-publish their own books and traditional authors with publishing contracts from large or small presses. Mindy shares more than 20 years of publishing experience to help writers spend more time writing books and less time managing business details. Topics include:
Readers who purchase The Rational Writer: Nuts and Bolts will receive passwords for multiple spreadsheets and legal forms, available for download and personalization.
The description of this book uses a phrase that makes my little creative brain tremble. She tells writers how to "project manage" their careers. I approached this book with great fear and came away feeling empowered. I don't like spreadsheets or time management cards, and yet this book taught me how to use them all to improve my writing business. Those of you with engineering brains will love this book. Those of you who hide when someone mentions data and numbers will help you improve your writing business without making your head hurt. – Kristine Kathryn Rusch
From Chapter 1: Strategic Plans
Strategy. Check the word in a dictionary, and you'll find a long definition about the science and art of war, specifically, the combination of political, economic, psychological, and military forces used by a nation to achieve a specific goal.
That could hardly apply to writing, could it? We're not fighting a battle.
But the truth is, writers fight a battle every single day. We fight to carve out time to write. We struggle to define our work, to determine whether a particular book fits into our overall vision of who we are and what we create. We campaign to craft an image for potential buyers, to define ourselves in a way that makes readers want to buy our books.
Some days, it's downright overwhelming.
Many years before I wrote novels full-time, I managed the library for a 14-office international law firm. A huge part of my job was grappling with business minutiae—including the creation and implementation of a strategic plan.
A strategic plan consists of a mission statement and a detailed statement of specific goals, strategies, and activities intended to fulfill that mission. Prior to that job, I had never been a huge fan of strategic plans. I thought they relied too much on jargon to state facts that should have been mere common sense.
Then, I had an epiphany. I realized that if I created and implemented a strategic plan, I could use it defensively. I could argue that the library should not take on Hated Tasks A, B, and C, because those tasks were not part of our strategic plan. I could also mount an offense: I could demand resources to complete tasks enumerated in the strategic plan that the institution had approved.
My strategic plan worked like magic. I successfully shed some of the library's most disliked duties—projects that belonged more appropriately in the marketing and information services departments. And even more importantly, I succeeded in making a crucial new hire, a librarian with electronic expertise to move our department into the next phase of Internet-based legal research. My strategic plan was more than a business school exercise. It was an engine that moved the library forward.
When I walked away from library management and became a full-time writer, I created a strategic plan for myself. I did the whole thing: mission statement, goals, strategies, and actions. Now, I draft a new one at the start of every calendar year, and I review it quarterly to make sure that I'm continuing to shape my career in the way I want it to grow. I maintain my plan on my computer in a Word document. It looks a little like an outline, with the mission statement at the top. Specific actions are nested under specific strategies, which are nested under specific goals.
My strategic plan functions as a roadmap. When I'm confronted with a possible new journey, I look at my plan and determine whether the proposed path will take me to my ultimate destination. If the change—a new book, a proposed collaboration, a possible appearance at a distant venue—gets me closer to where I want to be, I work to make it happen, even if the addition requires careful resource management. But if the changes causes me to wander far afield, presenting the likelihood that I'll end up farther from my intended destination, then I shut things down immediately, choosing not to start on a journey that is likely to be unproductive.
Business consultants spend weeks structuring strategic plans for growing enterprises. The following section outlines a handful of easy steps for the rational writer to generate this tool in short order.