Monday, January 3, 2011

The Inescapable New Years Resolution Post

It's a new year, a new day, a fresh start, a blank page--insert your favorite New Years resolution cliche here. Whether or not we make formal New Years resolutions, it's hard to escape the fact that a new year inspires a writer to both take stock of what's gone before and make plans for what lies ahead.

Resolutions. Ugh. I've been making the same resolutions for so long, I can recite them in my sleep--eat better, exercise more, remember to floss, change the oil, and send birthday cards. This year I'm thinking about skipping all that resolution stuff. After all, didn't somebody say that insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results.

But somehow, I just can’t let go of certain resolutions, especially writing-related ones-- goals to write higher quality pieces and more of them, seek publication in new markets, or try my hand at new projects. How about you? Have you set any writing goals for 2011? If not, may I suggest a few, to get the wheels turning?

Write a certain number of words/pages/minutes per day/week/month. Maybe Famous Author claims that the key to success is to churn out a thousand words every day before breakfast. Well, good for him. Maybe you can only write on Saturday mornings, or only on your lunch break, or only when the moon is full. Whatever your personal constraints are, plan your writing according to what works for you, not for some other writer who’s decided that a thousand words before breakfast holds some kind of magic. The point is to have a writing plan that works for you, and then get cracking.

Send out a certain number queries or proposals per month. If your goal is publication (and it’s okay if it’s not—a truth that we writers tend to forget), then vow to put your work out there regularly. You can’t control whether Dream Publisher, Inc. will accept your work, but you can control whether you sent out two queries in April and two more queries in May.

Try a new genre. Normally a novelist? Try a poem. Master of the memoir? Try futuristic fiction. The worst that could happen is you remember why you avoid futuristic fiction like the plague. The best? A whole new creative path opens up before you.

Improve your craft. Writing encompasses myriad skills to improve on. Pick one. Make 2011 the year that you expand your vocabulary, or perfect your comedic timing, or draw richer characters. Choose a favorite author and really study how he or she uses language or pacing or humor. Try to emulate it. And speaking of favorite authors . . .

Read! For many writers, reading is like breathing. But a surprising number claim they don’t have time to read. Respect your reading time, and make sure others do, too. If you have to, block out time on your calendar with, for example, “appt.. w/EBW.” Then honor that “appointment” with E. B. White as much as if he were there in the flesh, and watch the quality of your work steadily improve under his influence.

Participate in a writing or critique group. Don’t go it alone. Writing groups can inspire each other, learn from each other, and make strides toward all of the above.

Sometimes cliches become cliches because they're true! It IS a new year and a new day. So turn the page, turn a corner, turn up the volume . . . it’s time to write!

1 comment:

Norm de Ploom said...

I love your common sense approach to writing. You suggest goals that are not intimidating or unrealistic and you do not lecture. Very helpful. Thanks, Jenny!