5 Steps to Creating a Long-Term Writing Plan

Most writers (like me) don’t want to spend their time creating a long-term writing plan. It’s boring. It’s daunting. It’s riddled with responsibility—and I’m unsure if I can commit. 

Story of my life.

What we’d rather do is write. Then again, that’s what we say. Because when the pressure sets in or when life takes hold of your hours, writing ends up being the last thing we do, if at all.

And yet, all of us have this one writing dream. Yes, that one writing project that’s not just a goal of printing the words on paper. No, we want that one writing project to succeed, to thrive, to resonate.

Isn’t it about time you make it happen?

The truth is, you won’t achieve your writing goal without creating a long-term writing plan. No need to panic—creating a comprehensive vision isn’t a painful process. In fact, you can complete your writing strategy in under an hour simply by following these five steps.

Step 1: State Your Writing Goal

This is easy. You know what you want to write. Now it’s about framing your writing dream into a time-focused, attainable goal.

Creating a long-term writing plan centers around your writing goal, so articulate it clearly. Your writing goal should be measurable, specific and deadline-driven.

Here’s an example: “I plan to complete my novel manuscript (insert working title here) by the end of December.”

Notice that I didn’t say “I will,” for that pushes your goal forever in the future. Saying “I plan” keeps your goal in the present and inspires you to act today, not tomorrow. 

Step 2: List All Tasks to Reach Your Goal

All you need to do here is braindump your to-dos on paper. Don’t worry about listing them in a particular order, be it chronologically or in preference of fun. The goal here is to get down on paper every task that turns your writing goal into a reality.

Don’t think that writing is your only task when creating a long-term writing plan. There are many non-writing tasks that also need to happen alongside the creation of your project, from researching and marketing to outlining and editing. 

If writing a to-do list is intimidating, think about taking a different approach. For example, you may want to write your tasks down in a free-flowing journal entry, then transfer these tasks over as a bullet-point list into your writing plan. 

Step 3: Organize Your Tasks into Actionable Steps

Now is the time to assemble your action items in chronological order. For example, your research and outline tasks are likely to come before your writing tasks.  

If a task is too big, break it down into smaller tasks. Keep in mind when creating a long-term writing plan that every action should be approachable.

Now assign dates to each task. It may help to work backwards from the deadline so that you know just how fast you need to move to make your writing wish come true.

Step 4: Commit to Milestones on Your Calendar

What’s the fun in creating a long-term writing plan without celebrating mini wins along the way? 

Define monthly (even weekly) achievements you want to reach throughout your writing journey. After all, you are more likely to keep going with your writing goal by rewarding yourself along the way with a small, cherished prize.

Designate a calendar as your writing calendar. Mark your milestones throughout your writing journey. Display it prominently in your home for inspiration.

Step 5: Start Your Plan

Why wait? Begin your first task today!

Don’t hesitate if your long-term writing plan needs tweaking as it unfolds. You may find that a task here and there too big tackle at once, so break it down into smaller steps. You may also discover that more (or less) steps are needed along the way, so adjust accordingly to meet your deadline.

Have fun with this process. Creating a long-term writing plan isn’t intended to drain the delight from writing. Rather, it paves the path so that writing is again an enjoyable, stress-free experience.

Still not sure where to start? Here’s a template you can follow to create your own writing strategy. 

Example of a Long-Term Writing Plan

Goal: I plan to complete my novel manuscript (insert working title here) by the end of December.

January: Read three novel writing books to learn how to outline a novel

  • Week 1: Read first novel writing book and take notes
  • Week 2: Read second novel writing book and take notes
  • Week 3: Read third novel writing book and take notes
  • Week 4: Compile notes into actionable strategy

February: Research material for the novel

  • Week 1: Research time period of novel
  • Week 2: Research setting for the novel 
  • Week 3: Research character behaviors in novel 
  • Week 4: Review similar writing projects and note how to differentiate this project

March: Outline the novel

  • Week 1: Create a complete story arc
  • Week 2: Create chapter-by-chapter expectations in outline for chapters 1–15
  • Week 3: Create chapter-by-chapter expectations in outline for chapters 16–30
  • Week 4: Revise novel outline

April: Write chapters 1–10

  • Week 1: Write chapters 1–3
  • Week 2: Write chapters 4–6
  • Week 3: Write chapters 7–8
  • Week 4: Write chapters 9–10

May: Write chapters 11–20

  • Week 1: Write chapters 11–13
  • Week 2: Write chapters 14–16
  • Week 3: Write chapters 17–18
  • Week 4: Write chapters 19–20

June: Write chapters 21–30 to complete manuscript

  • Week 1: Write chapters 21–23
  • Week 2: Write chapters 24–26
  • Week 3: Write chapters 27–28
  • Week 4: Write chapters 29–30

July: Edit chapters 1–15

  • Week 1: Edit chapters 1–4. Make list of needed changes in rewrite.
  • Week 2: Edit chapters 5–8. Make list of needed changes in rewrite.
  • Week 3: Edit chapters 9–12. Make list of needed changes in rewrite.
  • Week 4: Edit chapters 13–15. Make list of needed changes in rewrite.

August: Edit chapters 16–30

  • Week 1: Edit chapters 16–19. Make list of needed changes in rewrite.
  • Week 2: Edit chapters 20–23. Make list of needed changes in rewrite.
  • Week 3: Edit chapters 24–27. Make list of needed changes in rewrite.
  • Week 4: Edit chapters 28–30. Make list of needed changes in rewrite.

September: Rewrite chapters 1–15

  • Week 1: Rewrite chapters 1–4
  • Week 2: Rewrite chapters 5­–8
  • Week 3: Rewrite chapters 9–12
  • Week 4: Rewrite chapters 13–15

October: Rewrite chapters 16–30

  • Week 1: Rewrite chapters 16–19 
  • Week 2: Rewrite chapters 20–23
  • Week 3: Rewrite chapters 24–27 
  • Week 4: Rewrite chapters 28–30 

November: Revise chapters 1–15

  • Week 1: Revise chapters 1–4. Make updates where needed.
  • Week 2: Revise chapters 5­–8. Make updates where needed.
  • Week 3: Revise chapters 9–12. Make updates where needed.
  • Week 4: Revise chapters 13–15. Make updates where needed.

December: Revise chapters 16–30 to complete novel manuscript

  • Week 1: Edit chapters 16–19. Make updates where needed.
  • Week 2: Edit chapters 20–23. Make updates where needed.
  • Week 3: Edit chapters 24–27. Make updates where needed.
  • Week 4: Edit chapters 28–30. Make updates where needed.
  • December 31: Submit novel manuscript for professional editing services or to agent

What steps do you take when creating a long-term writing plan? Share your strategy in the comments section below.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.