Outlining Your Writing Career Path

Recently I was looking over one of my favorite resources on book outlining -- Karen Wiesner's First Draft in 30 DaysToward the end of the book she has a section on outlining your career as an author, including a one-year plan and multi-year planning.

It was a bit of a kick in the pants (given that I forgot this section existed). You see, I have plenty of career goals. No problem there. But I don't map out long-term plans to get there in quite the same way I do with my short-term goals and daily, weekly, and monthly plans.

I'd like to change that, especially given that now is the perfect time for a mid-year career check-in anyway. And I think it's an idea that can easily be tweaked to suit writers of all types. For example....

Freelance Writers

  • Plan out your pitching schedule for publications throughout the year.
  • Plan a year's worth of big promotional efforts (like releasing an e-book or launching a new campaign).
  • Come up with a newsletter schedule to reach existing and former clients.
  • Lay out known major or recurring projects for the year so you can work smaller one-off gigs around them.


  • Put together an yearly editorial calendar for your blog so you know what big topics you'll cover and when.
  • Line up guest post appearances elsewhere (or guest posts for your own blog).
  • Plan new blog features or product launches through the blog.

Book and E-book Authors

  • Map out your book research, outlining, and writing schedule.
  • Plan how you'll spread out work on multiple books or series over the course of the year.
  • Plan your editing schedule.
  • Figure out when you'll pursue other elements of the publishing process (if you're an indie publisher) so you can meet your publication goal or deadline.

Do you outline your writing career in some way? Or do you plan more for the near future than your broader goals? What other things might you be able to plan a year or more in advance as a writer? Share your thoughts or your own career outlines in the comments.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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8 thoughts on “Outlining Your Writing Career Path”

  1. Love this idea! I have been struggling recently and I think I share that kick in the pants reaction to the idea of outlining the career path.

    I set goals for short-term and annually, but not so much the mechanics – like eBooks. I have the target for them, but I don’t map out the research, outlining, and writing. Duh. I do it for client work, why not my own?

    • Same here. I can put client work into a calendar beyond my to-do lists. But I’m not very good at giving myself deadlines for my own big projects. And it’s so easier for time to get away from me. Heck. Where did the first half of the year go??

      So I did that today. I made a master list of my “big” project plans. And then I came up with a three-year plan that, should I stick to it, will let me get it all finished with set deadlines to space things out. Now it’s just a case of review that each day or week to push myself to stay on track.

  2. I’ve been doing a mid-year review of my yearly goals and realize I need to rework a few. This post is timely. I’m currently working on 3 ebook projects (one for a client) that I need to complete by the end of the year. After that, I have 3 more I’d like to start working on at the start of the new year. My problem: between juggling client projects, personal writing projects and home life, I become completely overwhelmed like a deer caught in headlights and end up procrastinating or doing absolutely nothing.

    I REALLY like this career outline. Breaking down goals into daily/weekly/monthly tasks is a lot less daunting.

    • “My problem: between juggling client projects, personal writing projects and home life, I become completely overwhelmed like a deer caught in headlights and end up procrastinating or doing absolutely nothing.”

      I know exactly what you mean. Once I get that point of being overwhelmed, all bets are off until I find a way to snap back out of it. Looking at things laid out for the long run is helping. I’m definitely feeling more excited about my work after doing it. Or maybe I’m just excited about our holiday and day off tomorrow. 🙂

  3. Long-term plans and outlines can help freelance writers become more strategic about the way they market their services. It helps them know when to start looking for clients and when to take on less work.

  4. I kind of outline my writing career. I keep a file of writing ideas and add to them when I receive more ideas about the direction, theme, etc. For me, it’s an issue of choosing ‘one’ project and developing it. I have a tendency to have my hands in a lot of thing. Focusing can be a challenge for me. For example, I have ideas for non-fiction books such as eBooks, but I go back and forth on them like a tennis match. 🙂

    I think it would be in my best interest to research my projects, both creative and non-creative and see which ones I’m drawn to.

  5. Outlining or creating a flow on your writing is still the best key for me because it may result to a long-term plan of your career.In addition, I do believe that making an outline will give a better output.


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