Another New year, another round of Writers’ Resolutions

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This weekend we’ll be ringing in the new year. There will be lots of looking back on the past twelve months, lots of Best Of lists being put together, and lots of plans made for 2012. I want to focus on that last and offer an opportunity for all in MW land to share their writerly resolutions for the coming year. Not desperately original, I confess, but hopefully useful.

To be clear, I’m not looking for hopes, dreams or even goals, and certainly not those achievements over which we have only minimal control (landing an agent or a publisher, say, hitting the bestseller list or scoring a movie deal). I’m looking for things which are more directly the results of our own efforts and determination, the things we resolve to do, decisions of a practical nature which will—hopefully—make us better or more productive writers. Perhaps if you force yourself to come up with (and share publicly) your resolution, it might last, unlike those vague promises to go to the gym every morning. And to make it more interesting, I’ll be following up in the course of the year to see if people managed to follow through.

I’ll get the ball rolling.

Resolution 1:
Instead of writing for Magical Words every other week as I have been doing for the last two years, I’m taking over Ed’s slot in addition to my own and will thus be writing every Friday from here on. Hopefully you won’t get sick of “hearing” my voice.

Resolution 2:
Read more. In between every thing else I have to do (including, ironically, writing) reading often gets squeezed into those fifteen-minutes-before-bed slots. I resolve to do better. I need to know my field, to be inspired, to learn from other writers.

Resolution 3:
(Predictably) Write more. The last few years have been pretty productive for me, but I know I can do more and better. To that end I need to be focused in shaping up stories in outline form, more disciplined in hammering them out, and faster in getting to something editable.

Resolution 4:
This is trickier. I need to be more ambitious creatively. I don’t mean I want to be more successful (who doesn’t?), but that I want to be edgier, more exciting, more surprising, more innovative in the core of my work. I must force myself to distrust formula, emulation and market trends in the pursuit of something distinctive and unique.

Resolution 5:
Trickier still, I want to make time (somehow) for painting. I used to do this a lot, but it’s been years now since I’ve broken out the water colors, and I suspect I don’t see quite as well as a result. Writers need to be able to see. I need to recapture that sense of the visual and painting will be my attempt.

I think that’s enough to be going on with. What about you? Feel free to borrow and adapt from mine, but let’s see you stick your neck out and commit to something that all at MW can hold you to in the year to come!

Good luck and Happy New Year.

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32 comments to Another New year, another round of Writers’ Resolutions

  • That’s a smart way of approaching it, A.J. I don’t think we’ll get sick of your voice, though. 🙂

    Resolution 1: I will write something “fresh” every day. Even if it’s just an exercise or a few paragraphs of description. I figured out that I’ve been spending too much time clinging to and fixing what I’ve already written, and that’s why it took me so long to finish writing my last manuscript. This means actually rewriting complete scenes or chapters, not just editing, and even in some cases starting over. None of this fresh writing is a waste of time, because it all counts towards that million words and my personal learning curve.

    Resolution 2: I will read more. While I was caught in the throes of self-imposed revision hell, I let that slide. Not counting the Harlequin stress-reads, the number of books I read this past year and a half has been woefully small. I learn from reading. The words of published authors can teach me.

    Resolution 3: I will submit my work. I’d like to get an agent, but it’s not going to happen if I keep dawdling. This means filling out the excel spreadsheet list of agents to submit to that I’ve started, finishing the query letter I’ve been working on, and then actually clicking send.

    Resolution 4: Health-permitting, I will make every effort to focus on fitness when I can. Daily would be great, but realistically, I know I can manage sword class once a week and then the gym at *least* once a week on top of that. Being strong and fit helps me stay strong and fit, and will hopefully have a few benefits in the area of my waistline. Regardless of that, exercise helps me sleep better and function better overall. It gives me energy. It even helps me think more clearly, which is good for writing.

    I think this is more than enough to keep me occupied, whatever else happens. I have control over all of these things. I also have control over what I eat and I’m definitely paying more attention to that, but I’ll stick with the fitness resolution for now.

    May we all be successful!

    Aside: Watercolours are cool. Randy Milholland of the webcoomic Something Positive has been doing a lot of them recently, often as filler comics or even tales on the side, though his tastes often tend toward the macabre (like the one of Baba Yaga he posted on Wednesday). 😉 They’re beautiful.

  • jiah

    I guess mine are pretty simple.

    Resolution 1: Try to write something every day, but also try to find a balance between reading, writing, and working on my dissertation.

    Resolution 2: Actually complete stories, instead of losing fizz halfway through and moving on to the next idea.

    Resolution 3: Balance my reading habits by including a lot more of classics and contemporary literature as well as the popular literature I’ve been reading more of recently. Not to mention the academic stuff.

    Resolution 4: Try to reduce some unhealthy habits, eat and sleep at regular times, and go for long walks regularly.

    Resolution 5: Watch more movies, play more with colours, glass paint, etc. and generally try to exercise creativity even in leisure times…

    Thanks for the link, Laura. That’s such a cool picture! I guess I should check out his pages more!

  • Way to be up and at it early, guys!

    Laura,
    nice list. The writing something fresh EVERY DAY scares me a bit because it’s such an easy wagon to fall off! If I were you I’d lower the expectations slightly–make it 4 times a week or soemthing?–so that you aren’t tempted to abandon it the moment you miss a day. I’d never stick to something that demands that much frequency; life gets in the way! Fully support the impulse to get your work out to agents etc. You can only polish something so much and success–as you know–demands that you eventually get it out there.

    Jiah,
    another great list. I have the same anxiety about the “every day” clause in res. 1 as I did in Laura’s list, but maybe you are more disciplined than I am 🙂

  • Vyton

    A J, thank you for this post. No, we won’t get sick of hearing from you every week. With a view toward your following up during the year, here is my list:
    #1. Write during the week, not just on weekends. My SO and I were talking about our schedules just yesterday.
    #2. Get the revisions completed on WIP#1 and send out some queries.
    #3. Drag out the water colors. We talked about psinting yesterday as well. I’m thinking about landscapes, but I have also thought about painting something from a story I’m working on. It is a different way of seeing — almost storyboarding?
    #4. Read more poetry.

    Overall, this is pretty ambitious for me, but within the realm of possibility. Happy 2012, everyone.

  • Vyton,
    love the idea of discussing your writing life with the people in the other parts of your life. Too often we treat writing as a slightly embarrassing obsession best kept in the shadows. Taking it seriously is crucial to being productive and that might mean negotiating with the family, if only so they understand how important this is to you. NOT talking to them about your goals is going to generate frustration in you or them, neither of which are conducive to getting stuff done. Also love the reading poetry idea. Nothing hones a writer’s sense of verbal detail and reveals teh richness of language like poetry.

  • I’ve been thinking on these for the past week, and there’s probably a big ol’ blog post in my future about them, but here’s a brief sketch.

    1. 2,000 words per day, 5 days per week. That’s 10,000 words each week, and a hair of 500,000 words in a year. Blog posts don’t count (for me, anyway). Should allow me to get through most of five novels in a year, plus some short stories. Since I’m contracted to turn in two, that leaves me three to write without prompting.

    2. Photography – I bought a spanky new DSLR camera and want to spend some time looking at things through a lens. Changing perspective from time to time helps my poetry, which in turn helps my prose.

    3. Write more poetry. I haven’t written more than one or two poems since my last collection, and I need to train myself back into the sort of mental gymnastics that poetry requires. I find it makes me a better novelist when I’m writing good poetry.

    4. Audition more. I was in one play in 2011, and I already have a small role in one for 2012, but I’d like to focus on some film/TV/commercial auditions and some voiceover work. I’ll have the time, since the day job goes away in three months.

    5. Exercise more. At this point, once a month would be “more,” but I’m looking for something a little more serious as an exercise regimen goes.

  • Wow, John, 5 novels in a year! Are you also going to change your name to James Patterson? 🙂 The numbers make sense, but I don’t think I could maintain that pace for an entire year. No breaks? No vacations? No periods of quiet mulling while the story idea takes shape? Couldn’t do it. Even with the numbers you’re citing I’d consider scaling back your expectations a little. Three or four books a year is more than respectable after all! Either way, best of luck with it.

    You guys are making me feel like an under-achiever!

  • Well, I’m already on the 2k a day kick, though I do take breaks when outside life forces me to, like holidays and cleaning. And I don’t write weekends. My speed has improved tremendously, even with breaks, as far as getting the first drafts done. If I miss word count on one day, I make it up throughout the rest of the week.

    I don’t like to call these resolutions, because I once made a resolution never to make another one and don’t want to break that one. 😉 So, here are the things I will accomplish in the new year.

    #1 Finish my 25k piece before January 31st and have it out to Avon with fingers crossed.

    #2 Finish both books of my fantasy duology, including edits, and have them out the door before my birthday, March 28. My only thought on this one is that it’s, in part, reliant on beta-reader speeds and it will be two novels. Still, I seem to be hitting my personal edits a lot quicker than I used to.

    #3 Keep with the 2k-10k-100k practice and have 2 more novels finished and out before 2013.

    #4 Make time to finish the two paintings I have sitting around and do the other three that are in my head (interesting that so many people on here paint as well).

    #5 Get myself healthy(ish) again. Money problems have made my keeping up with my own health difficult, but we should be in a slightly better position in the coming year (I hope).

    #6 Really isn’t in my control, but hopefully this year I’ll find someone my work IS right for… At least, I’m definitely going to keep trying. I think I need one of those agent/publisher spreadsheets Laura mentioned.

  • Dniel,
    yes, it is interesting that so many of us paint and are keen to get back to it. I like the specificity of your goals, though I would personally need a clearer mechanism for how I’m going to attain them, though maybe your 2K a day writing regimen is enough. Best of luck for all this in 2012!

  • Oh Dear. You have created worthy goals and now I am feeling guilty about *last* year this time. Hmmm. I better take a sneak peak back at that before pushing on into tomorrow. But – I didn’t know you painted. I am very impressed! I hope you dig out the watercolors and find the vision that they must bring.

  • Thanks, Faith. Looking back at what we SAID we would do last year is a great idea! And don’t be overly impressed about my painting. Interest in something does not make, after all, make for expertise…

  • Oooo. Trepidation. AJ – resolutions are EVIL</strong?! Especially since I'm notorious at breaking them.

    Instead, I’ll say I’m going to try to write more poetry (sorry, folks, I don’t paint), and that some of that poetry will be in “form.” As John H. said above, the mental gymnastics of poetry are good brain exercise, and working within form is like training for the Olympics.

    May 2012 be productive and good to everyone here!

  • Grr. I hate it when I don’t hit the closed >… sorry.

  • Ooh! Goals.

    I hope that 2012 is better than 2011. I had some rough things happen in 2011, and I’m kind of glad to be getting out of the year. Pretty much all of it was stuff I couldn’t control, which, for me, makes it worse. I hate it when there is nothing I can do.

    Goal 1> Write an academic paper and article and submit the first to a conference. The second I intend to finish after I’ve presented the material at a conference. I have to do this. I have a course release to do this, so I need to get to work on it! I’m hoping to combine two conference papers (one I’ve given, one I’m going to write) into a longer article.

    Goal 2> I will submit Hell Mary to agents.

    Goal 3> I will start a new project I’ve dabbled in. One of the benefits of the aforementioned course release (though I’m still teaching 3 classes, though that is better than 5) is that I will have more time for fiction writing too. So 3 days a week I intend to write or research (that is work on either an academic or fiction project).

    Goal 4> Like everyone else: fitness. Get back to three-five times a week, and lose some weight, or at least not gain any. I always feel better when I work out consistently, and I find I’m more creative and have more energy too, so it will help with the above goals.

    Goal 5> Like others here–read more. I need to read more. I do read all the time for my job, but I want to read more of what I want to read. I’m reading Bossypants by Tina Fey right now (autobio essays) and it is great.

    Goal 6> I will continue to submit my short stories. I’ve gotten several “this was good but no…” which is nice, but incredibly frustrating. I’m going to keep working until I get a “yes.”

    So Happy New Year to everyone, too. 🙂 May 2012 be a good year. (And in a shameless plug, the 1st is my 36th birthday, so everyone have fun welcoming in my 36th year!)

  • Lyn,
    that’s the power of magical words for you. Thou shalt not critique the resolutions or face the wrath of site gremlin.

    Pea,
    5 courses a semester? Yikes. No wonder you’re fighting to find time to finish stuff. When I have a busy semester I start planning to get the maximum benefit out of the summer. Advanced mental scheduling helps. Good luck with the papers!

  • Razziecat

    I guess mine are pretty simple:

    1) Finish what I start. I learned a lot about focus from NaNo. I will finish the first draft of the WIP by Jan. 31st. I’ll give revisions until, say, March 31st.

    2) Write more short stories. I enjoy it and it helps me get the creative juices flowing.

    3) Participate more in my online workshop–both submitting more and critting more.

    4) Submit something, whether novel or short story, for publication. This is the part of the process that I CAN control so I need to get something out the door.

    That’s enough right now. 🙂

  • Cindy

    I can’t paint either, oh well.

    1. Write three or four days a week.

    2. Finish and send out WIP.

    3. Write more short stories, these are hard for me. They try to grow up to be novels.

    4. Attend a quality writing clinic or workshop.

    5. I would like to attend ComicCon if I can get the schedule arranged.

  • Razzie,
    good point on finishing stuff up and on participating in critique group. These are great strategies for learning and productivity as, of course, is the decision to get stuff submitted.

    Cindy,
    Likewise 🙂 My short stories always turn out to be novels too, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing so long as they grow up right. Feed them whatever the literary equivalent of Wheaties is. Or keep them as short stories, but I can’t help you much there.

  • AJ – Okay, I’ll make it a less painful “Write fresh words regularly”. Committing to a specific number would honestly drive me mad. And I’m counting just taking the time to jot down a thought/impression in my notebook, too – last night, it was the sound of tires on the pavement in the rain. On Christmas Day it was this wild magical idea I had about what *really* happened to Princess Anastasia.

    Lyn, It happens to all of us.

    You’re welcome, jiah! It seems he’s always got something new, there or at rhymes-with-witch.com. In October it was a series called “The Last Trick-Or-Treaters”.

  • jiah

    AJ: So true! I’ve been trying to write something everyday, but I do find myself depressed when I can’t manage to, or even forcing myself to write things which turn out to be utter crap, written just for the sake of filling that day’s quota of words. Maybe ‘regularly’ as Laura put it above would be a more realistic thing to aspire towards! I’m terribly undisciplined, so this resolution is meant to push me towards maintaining some semblance of discipline!

  • Laura and Jiah,
    I remember reading a piece by John Fowles (The Magus, The Collector, The French Lieutenant’s Woman etc.) in which he said that the advice to write every day was puritanical hogwash (or words to that effect) which tried to put work ethic over inspiration. As you know, I absolutely respect the need to produce and quickly, but I do think it’s worth remembering that (as Jiah says) producing crap to fill a quota just doesn’t get you anywhere except another few hours closer to the grave and pissed off by the journey. Maximize the writing time you have and try to get as much of it as you can, but if you have nothing to say on one of those days, you might be better using the time to go grocery shopping or whatever. Maybe an idea will strike while you’re out and your brain is percolating in ways it won’t if you are staribng at the computer screen checking your word count after each sentence… 🙂

  • Vyton

    Lest anyone be overly impressed: what I do with watercolors and brushes could be accomplished easily by a four-year old with fingers. I have fun with it. I do think it helps with seeing.

  • That makes perfect sense, AJ. I’m already doing some of that, which is why I’ve got my notebook. My frustration stems from Real Life getting in the way a lot, but there are only so many hours in a day. Honestly, simply the act of writing fresh stuff, rather than constantly clinging to the old stuff and stuffing putty in the cracks, is going to be the biggest help, no matter the word count or hours.

  • Okay, here we go.

    1. I will finish two academic articles and submit them to peer reviewed journals. If they are rejected I will revise and resubmit elsewhere.
    2. I will finish editing this current WIP by the end of January and submit it to agents.
    3. I will have a first draft of my epic fantasy done by ConCarolinas so I can take Allen Wold up on his offer to read finished drafts that resulted from his plot workshop last summer.
    4. If I’m not moving to a new job, I will take on summer teaching so I can put money in savings.
    5. I will submit a conference paper to either MAP or the ACMRS (medieval conferences.)
    6. I will go on a writer’s retreat to the Mojave on spring break. (I’ve been promising myself I’d go see the spring blooms for three years and not followed through. This year it happens come heck or high water.)

    There. I think that’s going to be hard, given my health and my teaching load, but I also think it is reasonable.

  • Way to stay ambitious but practical, Sarah. Great list.

  • James R. Tuck

    Biggest resolution for me is to switch my writing schedule to a double slot. Meaning that in the morning I will write on one project and in the evening I will write on a second, different project. That way I can be more productive. I find that the manner I work now (one project from beginning to end, rinse and repeat over and over) causes me to lose many hours in the evening because I am “written out” on the project until I sleep. Switching it up between two different projects should make that not happen. 🙂

  • That’s interesting, James. I’m keen to hear how it goes. I need blocks of time where I can focus on one thing, but sometimes those blocks can be in the same day but applied to different projects, though for me they are rarely both fiction, unless one is initial drafting and the other is something very different like copy edits. I’ll ask for an update later in the year!

  • A day late to this, A.J., but wanted to comment as well. My goals for the year are similar to yours in some ways, different in others.

    1. Read more. I have been thinking about this one a lot for the past month or two. I’ve considered setting a goal of some number of books to read during the year, but I don’t want my pleasure reading to take on the manic feel of something I HAVE to do rather than want to do. And so I’m thinking that I’m going to make a list of titles that I want to read this year — 15 or so, in and out of genre. And then will read other stuff along the way.

    2. Do more photography. I neglected my camera this year, and had few sales at the local gallery. I think I’d like to give myself once-a-week assignments for each week of the year — force myself to do something innovative each week.

    3. Devote more time to blogging, particularly as D.B. Jackson. Once every other day for the DBJ blog and once every other day for my blog. That means posting daily under one name or another.

    4. Make better use of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media in anticipation of the release of THIEFTAKER in July. Along these lines, I also intend to write three more short stories in the Thieftaker universe, either to post on the DBJ site, or to sell to magazines/journals.

    5. Pitch two new Thieftaker books to Tor, which means developing plots, working up outlines, and perhaps even writing the first several chapters of the third book.

    6. Find homes for the two contemporary urban fantasies that are currently sitting on my desk, which will mean rewriting both of them to some degree.

    Happy New Year, my friend. Hope it’s a great one for you.

  • Unicorn

    Cindy, I have exactly the same problem with my short stories. Unfortunately, they’re part of Resolution #1: Write and submit a short story.
    Resolution #2: A round of rewriting is not supposed to take longer than the initial draft. I want to finish the second draft of my novel (I’m halfway there) and try to finish the third one, too. Considering that Draft 2 looks like it’s going to take a year, I’ve been seriously sloppy here.
    Resolution #3: Write in Afrikaans, my native South African language. My Afrikaans vocabulary is pathetic, so I only ever get a few paragraphs into the story before screeching to a halt out of sheer frustration because I don’t know the Afrikaans word for “chain mail” or “supernova” or “hurricane” or “amethyst” and that kind of word seems to show up every few sentences. Eventually it just gets too frustrating. I need to work through that.
    Thanks for sharing your resolutions, everyone. Happy New Year!
    Unicorn
    P. S. AJ, I finished “Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact” a few weeks ago. AWESOME!! I enjoyed the book thoroughly. Especially the part where Alexandra fires her earrings at the scrobblers. I hope there’s a sequel!

  • David,
    I like your wariness of turning pleasure reading into work with quotas. I wonder if (for all my urge to generate more product) a similar concern applies to the daily word count. Re. the blogging and social media stuff, you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din. I hate it and am crap at it (the two are probably related). Right now I’ve pretty much thrown in the social media towel where marketing is concerned. I’m just not seeing enough return to justify the time. Your mileage, I’m sure, will vary. Good luck with all the new work, David. I look forward to seeing you at whatever con comes up first.

    Unicorn,
    Had no idea you were South African. That must give you access to fascinating material–environment stuff, flaura/fauna, folk culture, politics. Good luck drawing on it all in your Afrikaans work. And I love the determination to get those first drafts done.

    Glad you enjoyed DARWEN. Yes, the second of the series (there will be at least 3) is already done and will be out in the fall. I expect copy edits next week…

  • AJ,
    First off, I love that you paint. I used to sketch in charcoal and pencils from time to time. Nothing fancy, merely Conan-esq dudes with swords and axes. I hope you make the time for the watercolors. I might do the same with the sketches.

    One thing I noticed, before I get to my list. Is the exclusion of things you can’t directly control. In 2010 and 2011, I included things like, land an agent and publish a story. I’ve never achieved any of these. I just thought if I kept at it, it would happen, but it’s not so simple. This year, I’ll stick to what I can control.

    1) Write something new 3 days a week (pilfered from Laura and modified). Like Laura, I’ve spent much of the last year revising a big project and little time creating new material. I’d like to find time to do both, even if the new stuff isn’t every day.

    2) Read more. Specifically more sci-fi and more YA since those are both areas I’d like to write.

    3) Push for more creative high concept stories. The feedback on my first novel was that the story has been told too many times already. The feedback on the next book has improved, but I’d still like to keep working at this so that I can set my work apart.

    4) Write for games. Since I love computer RPGs and can’t stop playing them every night before bed, I want to learn to write for game developers. If I’m getting a day-job, I’d like it to be writing and game related. (Already volunteered to work with an amateur development team).

    Here’s to a successful 2012 to all. *clink*
    NGD

  • I know it’s late to the party, but I’ve been taking the past couple weeks to think over my goals/resolutions for 2012 and try to be careful about what expectations I set for myself. Now I’ve finally got a pending blog post on the subject, but here’s the short form… I’ve tried to focus my goals on things that are within my control, and which are legitimately accomplishable, but even so my goals all come with a number of caveats, so the long form details out some of the specific escape clauses…

    1) Write at least 2 hours a week. This doesn’t sound ambitious… but for me it is. For the next six months I expect a fair amount of my “free time” to be claimed by pending house projects. 2 hours a week seems realistic and manageable to me. The main caveat is that some weeks I just won’t have any free time for writing, and I know this in advance.

    2) Start writing my novel. I’ve been focused on outlining and research and background notes and whatnot, so far. I intend to actually start writing the first draft of the novel by the end of January.

    3) Produce 2,000 words of first draft per week (subject to caveats in #1).

    4) Write 2 short stories in 2012.

    5) Read 500-ish K words worth of books/novels. Rather than say a certain number of novels, I decided to use novel wordcount as the metric, since novels can be wildly variable in length. I’m about 25K in toward my goal already, or about 5% complete with this goal, so I’m just a little ahead of schedule.

    6) Take a minimum 15-minute workout with some combination of aerobic, stretch, and strength exercise, at least 5 days per week. I’m naturally pretty skinny (approximately right on for my ideal height/weight ratio) but I don’t even closely resemble fit. I reason I can make a 15-minute daily exercise work. Addenda to this: take the stairs to work at least a couple times per week (I’m on the fifth floor of my office building).