As 2017 winds down, you will inevitably start hearing about New Year’s resolutions. Whether it’s your co-worker’s no-sugar diet, your aunt’s great decluttering, or your husband’s pledge to get in shape, there’s no escaping the plethora of magical changes that will take place as soon as we turn the calendar.
If you are a writer, do you ever set yourself writer’s resolutions for the coming year? If not, maybe you should! Every writer I know has areas they wish to improve upon. These improvements can range from aiming to write a certain word count every day or week, to improving focus, to learning how to self-edit better.
With that in mind, and in the spirit of making 2018 the best writing year yet, I’ve compiled a list of tips and suggestions for any writer who is looking to make some changes to their writing habits in the coming year. As far as I’m concerned, these habits are helpful no matter when you start them!
Read more. To improve as a writer, you must know and study your craft. You truly cannot read too much! You will increase your vocabulary. You will come across countless writing styles and voices. If you read a really stellar book, you will remember why you write. You might even be inspired! Try reading a book (or many) of a different genre. This will expand your reading and writing universe. Most certainly read a classic or two. Read a book of poetry. Even read something you know you’ll tear apart word-by-word just for the sake of flexing your editing muscles.
Eliminate distractions. We live in a world full of distractions. While writing this blog post, I’ve checked social media, done a load of laundry, and stared out the window at the snow for a bit too long. I find that the biggest culprit many writers wrestle with is technology. This comes in the form of the email notification that pops up mid-sentence, or the smartphone app that sends constant notifications. This year, chose a set amount of time each day where you will remove all potential distractions (or remove yourself from a distracting environment) and do nothing but write. Find a quiet room or space where you will more likely be left alone. This could mean waking up an hour before the rest of your family to get some quiet writing time. Turn your email off. Silence your phone and if you must, truly restrict yourself.
Don’t let it bum you out. There are many aspects of the writing life that can make you feel meh. Getting rejected by a publisher can kick you down a notch. Selling two copies of your self-published novel can burn, especially when it was your parents who bought the copies. And, while you can be happy for a colleague who had a successful book launch, you can’t help but dwell on your shortcomings. Maybe you can’t overcome a serious case of writers’ block and just want to throw in the towel. Whatever it is that causes you some angst, channel that frustration into your writing. Tap into the passion that drew you to write in the first place. Stop comparing yourself to others and learn to recognize your own accomplishments, no matter how small they feel to you. You write because it is fun, it makes you feel good, and you have something to share with the world (or the inside of your journal). As long as you are making the effort to write and continually improve, you should not be disappointed in yourself!
Back up your computer. This one doesn’t need much explanation, but it is a no-brainer. Just imagine what you could lose if something bad happened to your PC. There are different products and services available to make backing up a breeze. This is one resolution that is easy to check off your to do list. And you’ll never regret it.
Prioritize your writing. We are all very busy. Most writers have other jobs, which leaves limited time for writing. In addition, downtime these days looks a lot like driving kids to practice, hitting the grocery store for the third time in a week, and going to the dentist. But, there are just as many opportunities during the day to write as there are excuses for why you don’t have time. Even if you can only commit to 30 minutes a day, or maybe only 2 hours every Saturday, that is still a commitment that you can make to yourself and truly keep. You could choose to set a word count goal for every day or week. Even if you only have time to write 750 words, it’s still 750 words that otherwise never make it to paper. Approach your writing like you approach exercise or other things that you know are beneficial and important, though not always easy to prioritize. You never regret going to the gym just like you’ll never regret allowing yourself the opportunity and time to pursue your passion and hone your craft.
Get published! Whether you’re a complete unknown or an established author, now is a great time to plan for publishing your work within the calendar year. In the age of self-publishing, anyone who sets their mind to it can become a published author. There are many resources available and professionals who can help you with the self-publishing process, and there are different types of publishing arrangements if you’d rather work with a traditional publisher. If you’re going to self-publish, pick your date of publication now (think Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Halloween for the horror genre, etc.) and then make every step with that date in mind. Spend the year building your author platform and marketing. You should research blogs that are popular with your audience and look for ways to get some publicity. These things can be done while the editing, formatting, and book cover design processes are also happening. Plan your launch blitz, get your finished product online, and go! What a way to end the year! And maybe next year’s resolution will be to write that sequel…
Happy writing and Happy New Year!