When I tell writers to plan for this one thing, they think I’m being contradictory.


As a writing coach, I have learned that there is one crucial thing writers often forget to plan for.

I lied. There are in fact lots of things beginning authors do not give enough thought to as they begin writing their books. Beta readers, editing, formatting, synopses, ISBNs…

But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about something more general, but which can truly derail your writing process. We’re talking about planning for failure. And when I tell writing clients to do this, they look at me like I have two heads. “What? Aren’t you always telling us that we need to believe that we are able to do this writing thing?” they ask.

Yes. Absolutely. You 100% must believe that you are capable of writing, publishing, and promoting your books. But you must also plan for failure.

When you endeavor to write and publish a book, there is a high chance of things going sideways, or even belly-up. There are obstacles. And if there aren’t obstacles, I say your goals aren’t lofty enough.

Look at your book’s characters. They forget to plan for failure, too.

And it forces them to make decisions that might be ill advised and go down a road that will see them hitting rock-bottom- which is handy for character growth, but probably an experience that you can avoid as an author. Because here’s the thing: when your character fails, they are forced to act- because you gave them agency and main character energy.

But you?

Chances are an unplanned-for failure can derail your plans and at the very least ruin your writing momentum.

In fact, even an unplanned-for success in something unexpected can impact your writing plans. That happened to me last week. I failed to roll out my Writing Coach on Demand program in time due not only to tech issues, but also due to last-minute client needs I hadn’t anticipated, as well as an unplanned triumph, which I discuss in one of the bonus episodes of the How to be an Author podcast that you get when you join the program- which is now working just fine. But here’s the thing:

I had planned for failure, so I had a backup option and a plan to move forward. Believe me, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but at least it kept me going. Keeping going in some capacity is key.

Why is it so dangerous to not plan for the unplanned or for the unplan-able as a writer?

Because we authors are tough in many ways, but we are sometimes also fragile. We’re vulnerable. And an unplanned setback can seriously mess with our mindset, our momentum, and our motivation.

So plan for setbacks. Plan for outright failures. And don’t just end your plan with, “and then I fail!” Have a few action items for recovering from them. 

Example: You experience tech issues, like when I failed to get my program set up on time.

If I had not planned for failure, I would have beaten myself up over it and questioned whether I was even going to manage to roll out this program.

Instead, I offered my whole list two free office hours: win-win. (If you missed it, I’m sorry- it was FUN!)

Example: You’re so proud of your book, but your beta reader feedback SUCKS.

If you didn’t plan for it, that sort of thing can be devastating. I know so many writers who are blindsided by the feedback they receive from editors or beta readers. In fact, that is one of the big reason they become writing coaching clients.

If you planned for it at least a little bit, you can be more objective about the feedback and determine how much of it is true, and how you can address it without scrapping the whole book.

Example: You query a bunch of agents and receive rejection upon rejection.

If you didn’t plan for this, you roll into a ball and cry yourself to sleep.

If you did plan for this, you’ll either decide to tweak your query package and maybe your book and query some more, or you’ll make a plan to self-publish.

Because failure is not the end of the road. It is where the true road begins. 

So be like your book’s main character: let failure wake you up, knock you down, shake you free of complacency, and show you that maybe you don’t have a bunch of loosey-goosey choices anymore. Instead, what you now have is a clear road to what you actually need. And you may not like it at first, but hey, at least now it’s clear. And you’re up to the challenge.