6 Things to Plan for Your Writing in the New Year

You’re recovering from the holiday food binge, preparing your liver for the NYE booze binge, and wondering what to do about your writing in the new year. It’s time to sit down and figure out a plan, because we both know that nothing will ever get done unless you make a plan and give yourself deadlines.

It took me nearly 4 years to get my first book, Divided, published. I wrote the draft for National Novel Writing Month in November of 2008. I reworked it and reworked it and put it away for a while and reworked it some more and put it away again….you get the point. I wanted to publish it, but it wasn’t until I finally told myself, “Jen, you are going to publish this book on March 11, 2013 OR ELSE.” Once I had that date in my head it became real. And being real meant that I actually had to do the work to finish it.

And guess what? I published it on March 11, 2013!

To help you reach your writing goal, here’s a list of things to plan for the new year.

Decide what your goals for the year will be

I recommend having a maximum of 2 big goals each year. As an example, my 2 goals for 2018 are to publish my next book and get booked out with Dream. Write. Sell. Once you know what your goals are, follow these steps:

  • Break it down into tiny chunks
  • Write each step down, with deadlines, where you’ll see it every day
  • Find an accountability partner

Plan your social media posting

This doesn’t have to be super intense or detailed, but it is an important piece of your writing business. To start you can just figure out what you want to post, which platforms you want to use (where do your readers spend the most time?) and how often you want to post. Write this down to remind you of it every day.

Make a reading list for the year

Include a book or 2 on the craft of writing, but read for enjoyment. Great writers are voracious readers. Read widely so you can see what works for other authors and what doesn’t work in their stories. Read fiction, read non-fiction, read biographies and memoirs, read sci-fi and epic fantasy and chick lit and mysteries. The more varied your reading, the better a writer you will become, and the more ideas you’ll get for your own stories.

Revamp your writing space

Whether you have a dedicated writing space or a spot on the couch, now’s a great time to spruce it up. Start the year with a clean, inviting, distraction-free workspace to help you get the most out of your writing time.

Feed your creativity

If all we ever did was hide behind our computers and tap away at the keyboard we’d quickly run out of ideas for new stories. We need to get out into the world and have new experiences! I try to do something different once a month. Examples range from a day at the zoo or art museum to a few hours sitting in a coffee shop or park with my notebook while people watching and free-writing. I don’t use this time to work on any current work in progress. It is solely for creative flights of fancy.

All the “fun” money stuff

I’ll admit this made the bottom of the list because it’s something I tend to forget about until the last minute, but I’m going to change that this year. You may have heard about the new tax bill that passed recently, so it’s a really good time to talk to your accountant and figure out how the changes are going to affect you and your writing business. I also suggest figuring out what your expenses will be for the year – cover design, editing costs, marketing, etc. – so you can budget for it.

Most of these things are fairly simple to plan and I’d love to help you with them. Sign up for Stop Dreaming. Start Writing 1-1 coaching package to create a fool-proof writing plan for the year!


Top 10 Practical Gifts for Writers

There are dozens of lists from everyone and their brother’s best friend’s cousin’s sister’s dog about the perfect gift for writers. This one is different. This one provides only ideas that are practical! Most of the other lists have some, if not many, useful items, but there are always things that are so gimmicky there’s no way you’d ever buy them for anyone. You won’t find any of that here. I promise the writer in your life will greatly appreciate receiving any of these gifts.

NOTE: I am not an affiliate for any of these items in any way. I just think these are really cool things I’d love to try out or already own.

Waterproof Notepad

It seems that the shower is the place we writers most often come up with ideas. This leaves us scrambling to hurry up and finish before we forget it or trying in vain to write notes in the steam. This waterproof notepad solves that problem. Yes, for real! The Amazon reviews for this are great, and I plan to try this myself soon.

Price: $15

Lumio LED Novelty Book Lamp

This USB-chargeable lamp looks absolutely awesome!! I definitely need one of these on my desk. A truly unique and useful gift, especially for writers who don’t like bright lights on while they work, but need a little more than the glow of their monitor.

Price: $33.95


I’m half-tempted to wallpaper one of my walls in Litograph posters. The art is created with text, and each poster contains the ENTIRE text of the book it represents. I have a large The Last Unicorn poster in my living room and it is truly stunning. The also sell scarves, T-shirts, and totes. Scarves are perfect for writers hunkered down in the cold winter months!

Price: $19-$39


Scarves, T-shirts, gloves, and more! I own a scarf (The Raven) from this shop and am amazed by the quality and warmth! It’s large enough to use as a shawl, and survived an accidental trip through the washer and drier unscathed (though I don’t recommend doing this just to be safe.) I plan to buy a pair of the gloves once I decide if I want Dracula or Alice in Wonderland.

Pro-tip: The fingerless gloves are FANTASTIC for us writers to keep our hands warm during hours pounding away at the keyboard. (Whether that pounding is from our fingers making actual words, or our heads making gibberish that seems, at the moment, better than our actual words, varies.)

Price: $14-$48

Moleskine Notebooks

These are my absolute favorite notebooks! The quality is all around spectacular. They survive being tossed in my purse with a ton of other junk and the paper feels so good to write on. No writer can ever have too many notebooks (no matter how loudly we lament the stack of unused journals piling up on our desks.) Moleskin has so many color, design, and size options to choose – including pocket-sized – from you’re guaranteed to find the perfect one for the writer in your life.

Price: $6-$40

Sharpie Pens

These are my favorite pens with which to write in my Moleskine (or any other notebook for that matter!) The set in the link is a particularly nice set with 20 colors and a hard storage case, though you can buy smaller sets for cheaper. Nice pens are always a great stocking stuffer for writers!



What are the writer in your life’s favorite snacks? Make sure they’re not messy, something we can easily munch on without getting crumbs in our keyboard or chocolate smudged on our mouse – halloween-sized candies are perfect!

Starbucks Gift Card (or the coffeeshop of your writer’s choice)

If you think gift cards are too impersonal, stop! It’s almost a guarantee that the writer in your life runs on coffee, and being able to treat ourselves to a fancy latte once in a while is bliss! This is also a great gift for friends and family who live far away because you can send a virtual gift card!

Price: Whatever you want!

Upright GO

Stick this nifty little device on your back between your shoulder blades and it will help improve your posture by vibrating gently each time you slouch, reminding you to sit up straight. I backed the Kickstarter campaign for this and love the device. I was a little worried how it would feel to have it stuck to my back each day (it uses medical grade 2-sided tape and is very light) but once it’s on I hardly noticed it – unless I slouch! I love it, and definitely recommend it for writers!

Price: $79 (I linked to Apple’s website because, for some reason, it’s cheaper there than on the product website, where it’s $99)

Massage Gift Card

After hours upon hours hunched over the keyboard, there’s no doubt this will be a treasured gift. You can find a spa in your area, but if you aren’t sure where to look, Massage Envy is a great place to start. They have locations all over the country, and I’ve been a member there for years and have always had a fantastic experience and wonderful, muscle-relaxing massage.

Price varies, usually around $60-$75 for an hour-long massage

Professional Coaching

All writers can use some help now and then, especially those just starting out. If you want to really wow your writer, you can give them the gift of Dream. Write. Sell. Author Coaching. This will help with all aspects of writing and self-publishing a book, and will save your writer countless headaches caused by banging their head against the keyboard making gibberish.

Price: $250-$1350, monthly payment plans available


Easton Press Book

Books in general are always a great gift for writers. But Easton Press makes stunning leather bound books with gilded pages. Every writer has that one book that changed their lives, or is deeply important to them in some way, and would love to have a beautiful version like this of it on their shelf.

I debated on including this one because it’s not exactly as “useful” as the other items, but it was too good to leave off the list. That’s why it’s a bonus.

Price: The cheapest book on their site is $35 but most are pricier than that. You can get sets that cost several hundred. They do offer payment plans, and I’ve bought these as gifts in the past. They are absolutely worth the price!

WRITING MYTH: Professional Writers Can Quit Their Day Job

Quitting your day job and making a fantastic living off your books. Isn’t that almost every writer’s dream? The Greats make it look so easy. Stephen King. Neil Gaiman. Laurell K. Hamilton. J.K. Rowling. But scratch the surface, and you’ll find out they all came from modest pasts, and fought hard to get where they are today.

Even those who are mid-list authors, those who don’t make a million dollars a year, and maybe make less than you do in your corporate job, make it look easier than it is. “They’re doing it, why can’t I?” Dig deeper. Sometimes they struggle to make ends meet. It isn’t all fun and games, even when you do work for yourself. There are no paid sick days for authors.

Still, that’s what most of us yearn for. I hate to break the bad news to you, but that’s not likely to happen. Many, many professional writers – even those with traditional publishing deals – still have a day job. Even those you may be familiar with. Chances are, they’re still working in a cubicle or retail store somewhere, and writing in their time off from the “day job.”

Making enough money from your books to quit your day job is HARD. That doesn’t mean you’re not really fantastic at it. You might have written one of the best books of this century, but there’s no guarantee it will become a best seller.

There are tens of thousands of books in the world. Think about your own “to read” list. Be honest; is it likely that you will make it all the way through that list (which likely grows almost daily as you discover new books that pique your interest) before you die? Probably not. There are a lot of great books on that list, and the fact that you may never get around to reading it is not a dig on said book.

When my own “to read” list grows too large, I take a break from looking for new and exciting books for a month or two. How many great books made their way to the top of Amazon lists in that time, but fell back down before I noticed them?

And in this never-ending sea of books, how do you make yours stand out? You can’t just click “Publish” and wait around twiddling your thumbs. You have to work hard to market your book. The vast majority of authors are far more creative than they are business-minded, so this effort falls flat.

But every once in a while, a book will come out of nowhere, and not even the author expected what was coming. Look at Andy Weir, author of The Martian. He was originally a self published author, who sold enough books on his own to catch the attention of a literary agent. The stars then aligned for his book to make its way to Ridley Scott, who eventually turned it into a movie.

It is possible. And I don’t say all this to discourage you. I want you to be BIG, but realistic with your goals. That way, if you aren’t able to quit your day job in three years, you won’t be as devastated. Yes, it will still be disappointing, but when you have a healthy dose of realism, it’s much easier to dust yourself off and say, “Well, self, we’ll do better and make it next time.”

As long as you never give up, the dream is still alive.

Happy Writing,

The Writing Process: Idea to Publication Explained

If you’re new to the world of publishing, you probably don’t even know where to begin. Let me help you out with that. Keep in mind the process will be slightly different for each writer, so I’ll keep it high level.


    • *Write book (duh)
    • *Edit book
    • *Design cover
    • *Format book
    • *Publish
    • *Marketing

That may seem like a lot, but it’s pretty simple compared to traditional publishing. Now, I don’t have direct experience with traditional publishing myself, but I’ve read a lot, attended lots of workshops, and listened to a lot of podcasts, so I have a pretty good idea how it works.

    • *Write book (duh)
    • ***(unless you’re writing non-fiction. Then it’s best to send proposals before starting your work.)
    • *Edit book
    • *Query agents
    • *Sign contract with agent
    • *Agent queries publishing houses
    • *Sign contract with publishing house

From here on out, everything is completely out of your hands

    • *Publisher will have their in-house editor go through your manuscript
    • *You change manuscript based on their edits, sometimes going back and forth with editor
    • *In-house cover designer creates cover based on what they think your book is about. (They likely haven’t read the book.)
    • *Copywriters create back cover blurb based on what they think the book is about, or from their memory of when they read it months prior.
    • *Publish
    • *Marketing (You still have to do a lot of your own marketing, even with traditional publishing.)

That’s a LOT more steps, and you have a LOT less control with traditional publishing. You also only get on average 15% of the sales, where as a self-published author you get 100%.

I know it sounds like I’m kind of dogging traditional publishing. I do intend to publish a book this route one day just so I can have the experience. You have to do your research and evaluate your options to decide which route is best for you.

So what do you think? Which path do you think you’d like to go down? Whichever you choose, I can help you every step of the way with my coaching program. Check it out!

Happy writing,