Happy New Year! I’m a few days early, but close enough. At this time of year, our thoughts naturally turn to what we want to accomplish in the upcoming year, what we want to do differently, how we want to change. As you embark on 2015, consider making a few resolutions to support the writer in you.
1) Set aside time to write regularly: I know this is hard. Life is insistent with its demands. The kids need help with homework. The laundry needs to get done. Your husband misses you. You’re tired. Besides, you just don’t feel like writing right now. But in order to be a successful writer, you need to write! And if you wait for life to settle down or for the mood to strike you, chances are you won’t be doing much writing. As E.B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web, once said, “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word to paper.” I’m not suggesting you quit your job and spend six months at a writing retreat (though that does sound kind of awesome). But maybe you could write for a half hour before you need to get ready for work. Or for two hours on Saturdays while your spouse corrals the kids. Your writing is important! Don’t squeeze it into the margins. Commit to making it a priority this year and set aside specific times to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as is more likely the case).
2) Read some books on writing: There is so much involved in writing a book, from character development and plot pacing to point of view and good use of dialogue. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to use these techniques to craft a compelling and engaging book. Some writers balk at the idea of learning rules for writing, feeling that a burst of creativity is all they need. But writing books aren’t really about rules. They are about learning the craft of storytelling, about knowing how to take your readers where you want them to go, about understanding how to channel that burst of creativity so that you can create something masterful. There are lots of books to choose from, so dive in and learn some new skills! Here are some that I’ve found helpful: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King; The Essential Guide to Writing a Novel by James Thayer; The Art and Craft of Fiction by Victoria Mixon.
3) Attend a writers’ conference: This can seem scary (“Only real authors go to conferences”) and can be a little spendy, but you can get a lot out of the experience. Writers’ conferences are a great way to learn the basics of the publishing industry and to improve your craft. You can network with other people in the publishing industry, including editors and publishers. But perhaps one of the best reasons to go is to get energized and inspired. Imagine being surrounded by people who get you. People who don’t think you’re crazy when you say that you woke up at 3:00 am with a brilliant idea and just had to write. People who understand your joy at reading a perfect sentence. People who get the emotional roller coaster that is a writer’s life (“I love to write!” “I am miserable. Why do I write?”) There is nothing quite as invigorating as finding your people. And seeing how others have pushed through the doubts and difficulties to finish and publish a book can be incredibly motivating. If cost is a concern, consider a regional conference instead of a large national one.
4) Hire an editor: Whether you’ve just finished your first draft and want some feedback on storytelling issues, or you’ve been through a couple of rewrites and several beta readers and want help tightening up the words on the page, a professional editor can really help take your book to the next level. While having your book professionally edited does not guarantee that you will get a publishing deal or that your self-published book will be wildly popular, putting out a book with gaping plot holes or numerous grammar and spelling errors will definitely preclude it. You’ve put a lot of time and a lot of heart into writing your book; you want to give it every advantage you can to help you reach your goals, whichever publishing route you take. There are editors at varying budget levels, so don’t assume it’s out of reach. Just make sure you find an editor with training and experience, and ask to see a sample edit before hiring to ensure you’d make a good team.
Treat your inner writer well this year, and it will reward you with renewed creativity and motivation. Happy 2015 from Ink Deep Editing!