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As 2023 draws to a close, now is the perfect time for authors to reflect on their achievements and missteps over the past year in order to finish strong and put together actionable writing goals for 2024.
Whether you published multiple books this year or struggled to complete a single manuscript, taking a few days to evaluate your author journey provides insights that can bolster your motivation, productivity, and publication plans for the year ahead. Outline clear goals across critical categories like completing ongoing projects, establishing a consistent writing routine, attending workshops, seeking mentorships, and implementing savvy marketing techniques for published works.
Read on for a complete guide to closing out 2023 the right way and mapping an author roadmap designed to take your writing career to new heights in 2024.
How to Finish 2023 Strong as a Writer
Before diving into 2024 plans, authors need to wrap up incomplete projects and tie up any loose ends from 2023. Use the final weeks of December to finalize manuscripts, create a daily writing schedule for the holidays, analyze author finance numbers, and reflect honestly on this year’s milestones.
Before the new year arrives, authors should:
- Finalize unfinished manuscripts
- Build a holiday writing schedule
- Review author finance and tax numbers
- Identify 2023 achievements and challenges
Finalize Unfinished Manuscripts
If you have unfinished manuscripts at various stages of progress, now is the time to push through to completion. Make finishing quality drafts of existing projects your top priority for the remainder of 2023.
Craft a plan to finalize each manuscript by establishing daily word count or page count benchmarks tailored to each project’s needs. While some authors may be able to knock out full drafts in the coming weeks, others may only be able to achieve significant progress towards finished manuscripts by December 31st. Either way, dedicate regular time blocks to make measurable advances.
Schedule writing session around holiday plans so progress does not stall completely. Get up an hour early, extend your normal writing time on weekends, or plan sessions around family activities.
Most importantly, avoid starting any major new writing projects in December. New book ideas will still be there in January. Focus fully on giving your existing manuscripts the attention needed to complete quality first drafts or get much closer to submitted drafts by the new year.
Build a Realistic Writing Schedule for the Holidays
Along with manuscript goals, construct a realistic writing schedule for late December tailored to your family, work, and holiday commitments.
Be honest about your availability without overcommitting and burning out. Despite hectic holiday schedules, most authors can still carve out 4-6 hours per week for writing with a bit of discipline.
Try locking in low-distraction times like early mornings before others wake up, during lunch breaks at your day job, or Sunday afternoons once preparation for the week ahead is complete.
Schedule writing session through January 1st in your calendar app like any other appointment to stick with the plan. Consider sharing the schedule with family members so they understand those blocks require focus just like a work meeting or doctor’s visit.
Having a defined writing schedule through the holidays keeps your author career momentum going amidst the chaos of the season and sets you up successfully for January writing.
Review Author Finance Numbers and Plan for 2024 Taxes
With 2023 winding down, December is also an excellent time for authors to analyze their income and expenses closely as a business owner.
Thoroughly review any income related to your author activities over the past year including royalties, advances, speaking fees, freelance editing work, etc. Make note of the different streams of author income from self-publishing vs. traditional publishing across physical, digital, and audio formats. Also account for any relevant business deductions like travel costs, professional development, office supplies, etc.
Use this financial data to create a 2023 annual profit and loss statement, which will provide helpful business insights and also get you ready for tax preparation. Based on 2023 revenue and expenses, assess tax liability projections and make Quarter 1 estimated payment plans or set aside savings to cover taxes accurately. Smart financial habits established this December will serve your author career well when tax season hits in early 2024!
Reflect on Your 2023 Achievements and Challenges
Equally as important as wrapping up unfinished business is taking time for thoughtful reflection on the year gone by. Carve out a few hours to honestly evaluate your author achievements and setbacks in 2023 across all aspects of the writing process and publishing.
On the achievements side, did you publish more books than last year? Complete a draft in a new genre outside your comfort zone? Commit to a consistent early morning writing routine? Start sending a monthly newsletter to engaged readers? Land a book cover feature from a major outlet?
When looking at challenges and failures, were you unable to finish a draft by your planned deadline? Struggle with writing motivation after completing a launch? Pitch several new article ideas that got rejected? Miss deadlines for writing contests and grants?
Document your objective analysis of successes and shortcomings. Then explore the circumstances, attitudes, behaviors and influences contributing both positive and negative outcomes. Identify what worked well that you should amplify next year as well as problem areas requiring a new approach or resources.
This reflection process will provide invaluable clarity and lessons learned to inform smarter goal-setting for 2024 as you continue on your author journey.
Set S.M.A.R.T. Writing Goals for 2024
With December wrapping up and a clear sense of where your author career stands today, shift focus to mapping out next year’s goals and milestones.
The new calendar year represents a fresh start full of possibility. Capture that motivation and channel it towards specific, measurable goals which propel your skills, knowledge, and publishing productivity to the next level.
Take the insights gleaned from assessing your 2023 performance and craft a balanced yet challenging set of new year author resolutions across these key categories.
- Set a GoodReads reading challenge
- Mix up formats with audiobooks
- Read outside your genre
Seek Constructive Feedback
- Identify discerning critique partners
- Request feedback on strengths and weaknesses
- Refine based on quality insights
Attend Writing Workshops and Conferences
- Search for local workshops
- Save up for a major conference
- Absorb tips from the best in the field
- Network with editors, agents and successful authors
Promote Published Works
- Analyze target reader demographics
- Map out a marketing plan for new releases and backlist
- Match strategies to readership preferences
Commit to Reading More
Regardless of whether you write fiction or non-fiction, aspiring storytellers must also be avid readers and consumers of content. Set a goal to read more books in 2024 than you did this year across both your genre and other categories.
Expand your exposure to new narrative styles, character development tactics, world building, plotting, and other elements which subconsciously seep into your own writing approach. Make a GoodReads goal to read one book per month or 52 books over the course of 2024.
Mix up formats by including audiobooks that allow you to consume books during a commute, while exercising, tackling chores, etc. Step outside your genre at times to spark new creative perspectives. Take notes on writing techniques you admire and may aim to incorporate.
Most importantly, pick books you are genuinely excited to read rather than seeing each one as a chore. Find recommendations from friends, best seller lists, preview excerpts in store, curated online lists, and other sources tailored to your tastes. If a book ever feels like a slog, switch to something else that reengages your interest. Quantity over quality does little good when aiming to elevate your own writing skills.
Seek Out Feedback from Trusted Sources
Even the most seasoned authors constantly fine tune their work based on constructive feedback from others. Make it a 2024 goal to share manuscripts and published works with a trusted inner circle of writer peers who can provide honest, nuanced critique through thoughtful lens.
Identifying unbiased friends, writing group members, colleagues, or writing coaches requires discernment about who will offer meaningful feedback, not just vague praise or overly harsh criticism. Ask selected readers to highlight elements like effective character development, engaging dialogue, clear themes, memorable descriptions, as well as confusing passages, plot holes, stilted dialogue, etc.
While tough on the ego at times, embracing critique is instrumental for refinement and growth. Internalize what resonates and discard what does not align. Then channel that quality feedback directly into your revision process for improvement.
Outside general writing technique, also seek out genre-specific mentors and developmental editors familiar with audience expectations who can assess marketability within your niche. While extensive revisions feel tedious, this refinement process will bolster the quality and commercial viability of your manuscripts.
Attend Writing Workshops and Network at Conferences
Beyond the feedback of your inner circle, make 2024 the year to invest in attending writing workshops, seminars or multi-day conferences to expand your industry network and knowledge base.
Local libraries, bookstores, colleges, and community centers often host free or low-cost writing workshops targeting different specialties like memoir writing, fantasy novels, magazine pitching, poetry, etc. Look for themes relevant to your genre and current skill gaps.
Not only will you gather new writing tips from leaders in the field, but these events provide access to editors, agents, publishers, and advanced writers. Engage workshop faculty and attendees through insightful questions and authentic conversation that continues beyond the conference itself. The relationships seeded at events can spark mentorships, critique partnerships, future conference and publications collaborations, and more.
Develop a 2024 Book Marketing and Promotion Strategy
Especially if you have published books under your belt as an author, dedicating time in 2024 to craft more intentional marketing and promotion campaigns tied directly to your new releases and backlist titles is a must.
Rather than randomly tweeting about one book occasionally or passively hoping readers discover you through a basic web presence, authors should take a strategic approach to branding and visibility.
Start by outlining your target readership across demographics like gender identity, age ranges, geographic regions, interests/hobbies beyond reading genre itself, where they are most likely to engage online, and what motivates purchases.
Then map out a cohesive book marketing plan incorporating paid advertising like Amazon ads or working with a PR agency in addition to organic social media engagement, email list-building, backlist promotions through retailers, GoodReads giveaways, contributing guest articles to high-traffic sites, pursuing relevant podcast interviews, and other proven tactics.
Coordinate your efforts around launch periods for maximum impact as release buzz builds. With a methodical marketing approach tied directly to new titles as the hub and ongoing backlist and platform growth as the spokes, 2024 can propel your author brand into new realms.
Prioritize Health, Wellness and Life Balance
Launching books while simultaneously building an engaged audience and planning future releases takes immense mental stamina paired with emotional resilience. Pouring creativity into your works demands energy. Yet author life often edges out self-care.
Make 2024 the year to truly walk the talk of your best life by caring for your holistic mental and physical health in conjunction with career ambitions. Carve out time for restorative rest, healthy meals (not perpetual coffee and takeout), regular exercise, social connection, and other wellness fundamentals.
Establish small daily wellness habits like taking a 30 minute walk, enjoying screen-free family dinners, keeping a consistent sleep schedule, or journaling. But also calendar larger restorative activities weekly or monthly like massages, nature getaways, visits with close friends, or therapy sessions.
Remember the magic happens in showing up consistently to write when creativity flows. But Brilliance originates from resting and refilling your internal wells between writing sessions so the ideas continue flowing freely. Author career success depends on effectively balancing writing output with purposeful down time.
Venture Outside Your Comfort Zone
With free hours limited, it is tempting for authors to keep writing what they know to maintain productivity. But diving into unfamiliar genres, formats, and narratives provides immense growth.
Make 2024 the year to wander beyond your comfort zone as an author. Those who typically only write novels might consider drafting short stories, flash fiction pieces, poems, or articles to flex different literary muscles.
Non-fiction specialists may find tackling a fictionalized tale rooted in true events merges their knowledge base with storytelling skills. Children’s book writers could explore contributing tales for adults.
Beyond format and genre, evaluating identity-based assumptions unlock even more creativity. Ask yourself – Would a character from an underrepresented community or different background open inventive directions? Does my intended readership reflect society’s full spectrum? If not, broadening world views translate to richer creative landscape.
Purposefully pushing the boundaries of familiar subjects, styles, perspectives, and audience expectations prepares authors for greater success over the long haul. Remember commercially viable writing fills unsatisfied niches. Dabbling in uncharted territory reveals untapped reader interests.
Design an Inspiring Writing Environment
Beyond output, process also plays a pivotal role in author success. By thoughtfully designing your writing environment, suddenly blank pages become thrilling.
Reflect on when and where creativity seems to flow with ease. Do vivid ideas surge when sitting fireside at the cabin or while people watching at a quirky café? If financial or family constraints limit getting away to inspiring retreat locales, look for ways to infuse elements of these hot spots into your everyday writing nook.
Play ambient sounds of your favorite locale in the background as you write from home. Display travel mementos and photographs from motivating places within view of your desk. Install smart bulbs that mimic the natural light patterns of stimulating locations.
Reclaim an area exclusively for your author endeavors rather than trying to use a shared kitchen table or cluttered closet. Add a fresh coat of paint, inspirational artwork, cozy throw, snacks, reference materials catered to projects, and anything else sparking joy when you sit down to write.
Building an inviting atmosphere and surrounding yourself with motivating sensory elements makes putting words on the page feels more intuitive.
Stay Current on Publishing Trends and Standards
To sustain an author career spanning decades, writers must evolve alongside dynamic changes within the publishing industry. Make it a 2024 goal to stay current on market trends, updated style guidelines, audience tastes, and industry opportunities through reputable courses, news sources, mentors, and professional organizations.
For example, understand how Tik Tok book promotion differs from Instagram while both influence discoverability. Identify changing policies with self-publishing platforms and literary agencies. Know when major awards and fellowships applications open each year. Attend genre-specific writing conventions making editors and agents accessible.
Carving out time for continual learning about the business, political, cultural, and social landscape book writers navigate ensures your career plans align with paths most likely to lead to success. Think of deepening your know-how through reliable industry channels as akin to the market research startup founders conduct when identifying sustainable gaps to fill. Authors in tune with the times craft stories and publication plans primed for prosperity.
The close of one calendar year represents a chance to reset. By first finishing 2023 strong through finalizing manuscripts and reflecting honestly on your author journey thus far, you clear space for possibility in 2024.
Then by establishing S.M.A.R.T goals tailored to your unique growth areas across reading more, seeking feedback, attending workshops, implementing marketing plans, finding life balance, venturing into new styles and genres, curating an inspirational writing environment, and keeping up with industry evolution, next year promises to unlock your full potential.
- What small goal will you achieve this week to build momentum?
- How will you implement these ideas to manifest your highest author vision one day at a time in 2024?