Your goals for writing should help you develop a strategy for what you write and establishing a publishing schedule.
If you are writing solely for yourself, then there’s no need for you to read further. You are free to write whatever you want and publish anytime you want. :D
If, however, you are writing for yourself and others or for others, then this post is for you.
The first step is to figure out what you are going to write.
This depends on who you are writing for. Who is your audience? Pick some self-published and traditionally published books that are selling well in the area you want to write. Then list down common things that are in all or most of the books. For example, let’s look at romance. The most basic element in a romance is the happy ending. Dividing it down to Regencies, I’ve noticed scandals do pretty well or there is a rake who will be reformed before the book is over. Those aren’t the only common elements in popular Regencies, but there is definitely a preference for those things that Regency lovers enjoy. Another thing you might look at is heat level or violence level. Is it PG, PG 13, R? A Christian romance noted for its G or PG content will not appeal to the romance reader who prefers R content. This is why you not only look at the overall genre but you break it down into subcategories within the genre and pick out similarities in those.
Once you have listed 3-5 common elements that you have noticed in the books you want to write, think of ways you can incorporate them into your book. This is not taking someone else’s idea and rewriting it. This is taking basic components that can’t be copyrighted and making a plot around them.
For example, if you decide to write a Regency, then you’ll want to pick out a couple of things that might make the story more likely to appeal to your target audience. (Understand, of course, that doing this doesn’t guarantee a certain number of sales but it might help your book be more appealing to your audience. There is never a guarantee of sales, no matter what you do.) Anyway, back to the Regency example. Let’s say the writer picks out 3 common things: a scandal, a rake who will be reformed, and a happy ending. The writer then sits down and picks out, “What will be the scandal?” Then the writer decides, “Who is my rake? What made him that way? How will the heroine reform him?” And finally, “How will these two get a happy ending?”
All I did in the example above was take the common trends in popular books in a particular genre and apply elements in it that I could incorporate into my own story. This way, I do have a unique story, but I am also keeping my audience in mind. So I’m able to write for myself and for them.
The second step is to figure out a publishing schedule.
Unless you’re publishing books, you’re not going to have the chance to make money. This doesn’t mean you sacrifice quality or skimp on editing. What it means is you get serious about writing. The only way a book is going to get written is for you to sit down and write. And yes, I know this is easier said than done. There are days when I don’t get much more than a couple sentences down. Sometimes I have to sit down for 15 minutes and write down anything because writing is like pulling teeth and I have to force it. It’s not fun. But I’ve learned the muse is fickle and you can’t wait until you’re “in the mood” to do it. This is why I reward myself for writing on those days with a something I like.
Write whenever you can.
I understand how hard it is to write when you have no set routine. As much as I’ve tried to set a routine, I just haven’t been able to do it. Just because I work at home, it doesn’t mean those around me leave me alone. I am bombarded with stuff all the time. Some people can do a routine and do very well at it. Others just write whenever they have a moment to spare. I am the “moment to spare” kind of writer. I start first thing in the morning and stop in the early evening. Throughout the day, I’m taking care of the family, doing the chores around the house, and trying to work in emails and blog posts. Write however and whenever you can.
The next book is the best marketing tool you control.
Depending on how fast you can write and get a book edited, you may not be able to publish as often as another writer. That’s fine. Do the pacing that works best for you. Just understand that if you’re not getting a book out, it’s going to be harder for people to remember you for when your next one comes out. Social networking has its place, but I still think the best marketing tool an author has is the actual book. The percentage of people who buy and read books is higher than the percentage who pal around with authors on a social networking site.
How often to publish depends on your situation but try to keep it consistent.
I read a blog post years ago that said you need to publish four books a year to maintain a living as a writer. I don’t know if that’s true or not. It would depend on how well your books sell. A book that hits the top 100 paid in any store is going to go further than four books that only sell one copy a month. But my thinking is that having a couple books out a year will increase your chances of getting noticed and retaining your current fan base than if you only did 0-1 book a year. Something new helps remind people you are still out there and will keep them searching for new books. Email lists are good for that, too.
I would suggest whatever publishing schedule you choose, that you make it as consistent as possible. Some people write an entire trilogy and then publish one book a month. Nothing’s wrong with that. Some people publish every six months. That’s fine too. I tend to publish whenever I have a book ready, and since my average is six books a year, that’s doable because of how many I have going out annually. If you only publish once a year, maybe choose a particular month so your readers get used to looking for your newest book around that time of year. Maybe you can send out teaser scenes or character interviews once a month to remind people you’re working on the next book in the meantime if you don’t publish frequently.