Monday, January 9

Writing Resolutions for 2017

Writing Resolutions for 2017

I usually don’t make writing resolutions, but this year is different. There are several things I would like to improve and the New Year is as good a time as any to start.

1. Make more time for writing.

Mornings are not my best time. It often takes me an hour before I’m fed, sufficiently caffeinated and ready to write. I want to get that time down to, say, half an hour. And I think I can do it if I’m more organized, more focused.

Which begs the question: How does one become more organized? There are a lot of techniques one can use but one thing I’ve found helps is to record everything I do for a week. It’s difficult at first—I’ll forget to keep track—but after awhile I get better. At the end of the week I’ll have recorded enough of my activities to get a fair picture of how I spent my time.

Whenever I do this exercise what I discover always surprises me! In the past, one of my big time-wasters has been, believe it or not, research. I used to do a lot of detail work on my first draft then, when I end up cutting half the material, all that precious time I spent researching is wasted.

What I do now: On the first draft I use a placeholder for what I don’t know. If a sentence makes it into my second draft, then I do the required research.

My resolution: Have my butt in my writing chair half an hour after I get out of bed.

2. Embrace my voice.

First of all, what do I mean by "voice"?

In researching this article I came across a wonderful description of what we mean by “writer’s voice.” Rachelle Gardner writes:

“To me, your writer’s voice is the expression of YOU on the page. It’s that simple—and that complicated. Your voice is all about honesty. It’s the unfettered, non-derivative, unique conglomeration of your thoughts, feelings, passions, dreams, beliefs, fears and attitudes, coming through in every word you write.

“Voice is all about your originality and having the courage to express it.” (What is Writer’s Voice?)

Developing One’s Voice

I’ve talked before about the advantages of writing a Zero Draft. One of these advantages is that since this is a vomit draft—a draft I will never, EVER, show anyone else—I’m free to explore (and perhaps develop!) my voice, my unique writing style.

After all, no one will see my zero draft and, if anyone does sneak into my office and take a  peek ... well, then they can hardly complain!

(NSFW -> Chuck Wendig wrote a terrific article about a writer’s voice: 25 Things Writers Should Know About Finding Their Voice)

My resolution: On my zero draft, take more chances. Be more expressive.

3. Try something new.

I’ve been writing non-fiction since 2010 in the form of blog posts. For most of that time did I think about publishing a nonfiction book? No! Why? I have no idea.

We don’t know whether a particular kind of book will be popular until we’ve tested the waters. That doesn’t mean writing and publishing the book, it means getting in touch with your readers and asking them what they want. What are their pain points? What can you help with? Granted, this method isn’t foolproof. Sometimes folks will say they want something but then your book doesn’t sell. That’s okay! It’s part of the learning process. I believe that old saying: If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.

Also, you often don’t know what you’re going to be good at before you jump in and do it. So try new things! Experiment.

My resolution: Try one of the things from the following list.

Things to Try:

- Try writing in a new genre. Or, if you’ve only written fiction up to now, try writing non-fiction (and vice versa).

- Make your creative work available in a different medium. For example, if your books are only available as a Kindle download, make them available through CreateSpace as well. If you don’t offer an audio version, record one of your books as an audiobook. If you’ve done all that but you don’t podcast, give podcasting a try!

- Make your creative work available in other locations. For example, if you haven’t used Kindle Unlimited, try it! Or if you’ve only sold books through Amazon, take one of your books and branch out. Offer it through Smashwords, Kobo, etc.

- Try new ways to market your books. Never tried BookBub? Do it! Never used free days (or discount days) on Amazon? Do it!

- Try different price points. If you’ve only offered your books for $1.00 each, try $2.99. Or, alternatively, if you generally sell your books for $2.99 each, try a higher price point. Or try to get new readers by offering your work for free, at least for a few days.

- Write about something that terrifies you, something that makes your heart beat faster and your palms sweat.

- Write every day. Set a schedule and write at the same time every day for a certain amount of time. To start off, this might only be five or ten minutes. After a few days of meeting this goal, increase your writing time by a minute. Do this until you’re writing, say, 1,000 words a day. At that rate it would only take about 2.5 months to write 80,000 words!

- Read eclectically. Read in a genre you normally don’t. Don’t read the newspaper? Read it! Don’t watch TV? Watch some! Don’t see movies? Go see one! But don’t read (or watch) passively. Be critical. Dissect the stories. Diagram them. Read critically.

- Experiment. If you prefer writing in the first person, try writing a piece of flash fiction using the third person perspective. Alternatively, if you prefer writing from a subjective viewpoint, if you like laying your character’s thoughts and emotions bare, try writing from an objective (fly on the wall) perspective.

Or try writing in a genre that is more ‘hard-boiled,’ one that traditionally favors an objective perspective, switch things up and try something like free indirect discourse. And vice versa. Urban fantasy or horror often employs a subjective viewpoint so that the reader will feel all the thrills and chills the viewpoint character does.

- Mingle. Reach out to other writers in your area. Go to a writers’ convention (if you do, I've found it helps to print out business cards with your name, email, website address and social media hangouts).

If none of these options appeal to you, create your own! I’d love to know what your New Year’s resolutions are.

Every post I pick a book or audiobook I love and recommend it. This serves two purposes. I want to share what I’ve loved with you, and, if you click the link and buy anything over at Amazon within the next 24 hours, Amazon puts a few cents in my tip jar at no cost to you. So, if you click the link, thank you! If not, that’s okay too. I’m thrilled and honored you’ve visited my blog and read my post.

In the Shadow of Lakecrest, by Elizabeth Blackwell, reminded me favorably of Mary Stewart’s work. As a teenager I loved Stewart’s writing but then wandered away. This book was, for me, like re-discovering the kind of stories Stewart created. It was a lyrical, immersive, read. From the blurb:

“The year is 1928. Kate Moore is looking for a way out of the poverty and violence of her childhood. When a chance encounter on a transatlantic ocean liner brings her face-to-face with the handsome heir to a Chicago fortune, she thinks she may have found her escape—as long as she can keep her past concealed.

“After exchanging wedding vows, Kate quickly discovers that something isn’t quite right with her husband—or her new family. As Mrs. Matthew Lemont, she must contend with her husband’s disturbing past, his domineering mother, and his overly close sister. Isolated at Lakecrest, the sprawling, secluded Lemont estate, she searches desperately for clues to Matthew’s terrors, which she suspects stem from the mysterious disappearance of his aunt years before. As Kate stumbles deeper into a maze of family secrets, she begins to question everyone’s sanity—especially her own. But just how far will she go to break free of this family’s twisted past?”

That’s it! I’ll talk to you again on Wednesday. Until then, good writing!

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