I RESOLVE TO . . .
Resolutions for Writers
Rhonda Browning White
Turn the calendar page. Better still, break out an entirely new calendar. We have more than a new month ahead; we have a whole new year in front of us! Blank squares waiting to be filled with important appointments, blank lines waiting to be filled with significant words. The year 2014 presents a fresh start—a chance for growth and improvement—for every writer, so let’s resolve to do something vital and vivacious with each new day that’s given to us. What good is a New Year without a few resolutions, anyway? Print out this list, and make it yours.
· . . . Write five days a week. If you’re one of those writers who lives by the mantra, Write every day, then goody for you! I live in the real world, however, where writing is a job—my career—and like any job, I do it five days a week, reserving the other two for my family and myself. Besides, life gets in the way, and it’s unrealistic to think we can (or would even want to) write every single day. We set ourselves up for failure when we insist we must write 365 days a year. Don’t fail. Allow yourself a couple of days off, but write the other five.
· . . . Write 100 words a day (five days a week). Anyone—anyone!—can do this. You pound out several hundred words a day on Facebook, a thousand or more via email and a dozen at a time on Twitter. One hundred words a day is nothing. Nothing! A few of my friends and I started this 100-words-a-day challenge, and we hold each other to it. We report in daily, sometimes admitting defeat (kid is sick, car broke down, computer on the fritz), but more often gloating that we wrote 200 words—or 2,500 words. You’ll find that, more often than not, 100 words leads to 500 words, and soon you’ve written multiple pages. Even on the busiest days, you’ve accomplished something toward your goal, even if it’s only 100 words.
· . . . Read, read, read! You can’t be a great writer unless you’re an avid reader. Read the genre in which you want to write. If you write romance, read the latest romance novels on The New York Times bestseller list. Be sure to read the masters. If high school was the last time you read Hemingway, Hawthorne or Flannery O’Connor, you’ve done yourself a great disservice as a writer. Works by these canonical writers are still around for a reason. Figure out what that reason is, and apply those lessons to your own work.
· . . . Study the craft of writing. Resolve to read six books on the craft of writing this year. That’s only one book every other month. Easy-peasy! Some of my favorites include The Lie that Tells a Truth by John Dufresne, Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose, and Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern. Especially good for beginning writers is Sandy Tritt’s Tips and Techniques Workbook (available for automatic download online HERE), which includes fill-in-the-blank worksheets and direct examples to help improve your writing. Take a writing course at your local college this year, or attend a writers conference that offers courses in writing craft.
· . . . Type “The End.” Have a file full of half-finished short stories? Seven different novel beginnings? Three memoirs that total less than a hundred pages each? Stop procrastinating, and finish something! This is where the 100-words-a-day challenge can help you reach the end of your first draft. Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard. Write!
· . . . Have my work professionally edited. What’s the difference between a traditionally published author and an unpublished writer? Many times, an editor. What do author-editors have in common? We have our work professionally edited. Yes, editors hire editors. It’s true that we can’t see our own mistakes in our writing, so it’s important to have trained eyes look over our final drafts. Professional editors will do more than find typos and grammar mistakes; they’ll point out that your character has green eyes in chapter one and blue eyes in chapter twenty. They’ll remind you that you left a loose sub-plot thread dangling back in chapter eleven, and explain where the middle sags. They’ll show you where you forgot to include internal conflict in a scene full of external conflict. In other words, they’ll help you make your writing much better.
· . . . Network with other writers. Join a writers group in your area. Don’t have one? Start one. Your local library is a good place to begin, or post a bulletin on Meetups.com. Attend a writers conference where you can meet writers at your same skill level, as well as network with professionals in the field from whom you can learn. And by all means, support other writers. Write a positive review on Amazon.com or Goodreads.com of any novels or books you’ve loved, especially if those books are written by new or up-and-coming authors. One day, you’ll want someone to return the favor and write a review of your latest novel.
· . . . Submit. Writing a novel and having it professionally edited will do you no good at all if you allow it to molder on your laptop. Whip out a polished query letter (which, of course, you’ve revised, edited and proofed), and send that manuscript out the door. Realize up front that you’ll receive rejections, and know that you may have to send out a few hundred queries to land an agent or publisher. Still, you must submit your work in order to have it traditionally published, so you may as well get started this year.