Writers’ New Year’s Resolutions

Don’t be tempted to look back at last year: let go and look forwards as it’s not 2011 any longer. Most writers make write more, read/research more, submit more type resolutions, but how can you make yours workable and last beyond the first week of January?

Research/Read More

All reading is research for writers either because you’re reading what’s already published in your target market or because you’re reading outside your target market to expand your writing skills. But you can’t spend 24 hours a day reading a book (at least not every day for a year).

There are not-so-obvious opportunities that can be turned into research with a bit of imagination. Stuck on public transport, sitting in a pub/cafe/park? Watch people (don’t be too obvious about it though). Pick someone at random and notice what they’re wearing, how they move, what they’re carrying and create a back story for them. Look at your next piece of writing, how can a character’s accessories, clothes and movements show us key aspects of their character without the writer having to tell the reader?

Again, without being too obvious, try eavesdropping and get a feel for how people speak. Use it to inform the next piece of dialogue you write.

Spend More Time Writing

How much more? How are you going to create more time to write if your schedule’s already packed with a day job, household chores, family commitments and a nightly appointment with prime time TV. Spending time poised with notebook and pen or staring at a blank computer screen is simply presenteeism and not time actually spent writing. Focus on making the most of the time you do have and make sure the time you have is actually at the right time for you to right. If you write best in the evenings, you’d be better off shifting some chores to the morning so you can relax and write in the evening.

If procrastination is your enemy, in that you have time to write but don’t spend it writing, focus on why. Singer Katherine Jenkins and TV presenter Gethin Jones recently called off their engagement after much talk of “not being able to find time to get married”, yet Rachel Weisz and Daniel Craig who arguably have similarly busy schedules found time to get married. If you need to write, you will find time to write.

Write More

Not a good resolution for poets. There’s no point writing more if the quality suffers and quality will suffer if you pressurise yourself to write (unless you’re the type of writer who needs deadlines and targets otherwise you’d never get your ideas on paper). Be specific and create measureable targets.

Do More Social Media

Not without doing some research first. Remember allocating time to social media means less time for your poetry/short stories/novels, so make time spent on social media useful time rather than another means of procrastination.

Send Out More Submissions

You can’t control what editors will or won’t accept but you can control how often and how frequently you submit work to editors and publishers. However, no editor will take on low quality work so don’t increase the frequently of submissions if it means you’re sending out work still in early draft stages just to meet a target.

Have a Plan B. Instead of sending out poem X to magazine A, plan to send poem X to magazine B, then C, then D, then E, etc, but not simultaneously. Most poems are rejected because they are the wrong fit for the next available issue of a magazine and editors are overwhelmed with options. If you have a list of potential magazines for a poem, you are more likely to send it out again rather than stuff it on the rejects pile and not look at it until the rejects pile threatens to topple over.

Remember 2012 lasts a year

Don’t front load all your resolutions in January – spread them throughout the year. Seasonally, it’s more logical to continue with ongoing projects in January and February and start new projects in March/April when Spring arrives and it feels more like a beginning.

Remember to plan seasonally themed projects six months in advance. Editors will start planning their Christmas issues at the end of the summer so your Christmas-themed pieces need to be sent out over the summer. Similarly if you have a piece that hits an anniversary, send it out well in advance.

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