Now, as tempting as that is to follow, it's not going to help us accomplish anything, is it? Therefore, it's now time to get to the nitty-gritty.
Making writing resolutions that you have a chance of meeting in 2018!
#1 – Look at what you managed to accomplish last year and make a note of things that slowed the process down. These could range from it taking longer than you expected to move forward with the story, that problems arose, be they from characters not acting the way you wanted them to (they can be worse than children!) to not knowing what came next. I have a friend who finished a book without figuring out who had murdered one of the characters. To my mind, that wasn’t finishing the book. To her mind it gave her something for the next book to be about. Not sure how a reader would feel about that, but, hey, maybe they’ll see it her way! For me it would have brought the story to a halt until I sorted it out. As a pantser, I don’t always know the end result, but I do sit down and figure it out before I reach the end of the story. Mostly because solving the mystery is a major part of the story’s ending for me. At any rate, make your list of what stopped you from accomplishing what you wanted to accomplish last year in writing a novel.
#2 – Now, figure out how much time each month or each week or each day, or even how many days a week you will be able to carve out time to do nothing but work on your story. Warning! Don’t make this too big a bite. If you made this same resolution last year and didn’t manage to stick to it, cut it down this year by a fourth or a third or a full half. You’ll still have writing time, just not as much, but it isn’t as likely that you’ll get discouraged and stop, if that’s what has happened in the past.
#3 – If you had a really good writing year, then just see if you can duplicate the same year over again. Having two years of finishing something or reaching a certain point in a story will help you fall into the habit of writing and habit can often rule the day. Personally, I write down how many words I write each day both for non-fiction things like workshop lectures or this blog and for fiction. Knowing that I wrote something and how many words it was, and in which category, shows that I’m progressing, even if not at a rate I had hoped.
#4 – Don’t forget to take events on the calendar into consideration. If illnesses attack you or a family member, redo the resolution schedule. Rather than think you’ll catch up, ease off for a bit. Even if you aren’t the one who was sick, it will take you time to rebound to where you were before it struck, too.
#5 – If you’ve always done things like bake sakes for church or school or charity functions, consider other ways of helping out that are just as useful but possibly not as time consuming. Cut back on volunteer work. Yes, I know it’s important, but so is the writing you want to get done. Cutting back isn’t cutting out. Think outside the box on how to help the same causes but with less time than you’ve spent in prior years. Or remember to write it into your writing schedule goals since it will be time spent away from your keyboard.
#6 – If you haven’t joined a writers group, consider doing so. It doesn’t have to be a national one. Look to online groups like Savvy Authors or local writing groups listed with MeetUp online. Put a call out in social media that you use regularly. Before the Internet came into being, I had a group of writers who were as unpublished as I was at the time that I met through notices in newsletters received through the mail…rather like getting a pen pal but a pen pal who was willing to read and comment back on what I was writing if I did the same for her. Look to see if the local brick and mortar bookstore has writing groups that meet there or ask if you can post a notice to start one that could meet there, or at the local library. Libraries are frequently looking for programs to offer and a writers group can be an extension of the genre reading groups that probably already meet there.
#7 – Don’t get “big eyes” and decide to do something that might take longer to do than you originally thought. A historical takes research, fantasy takes major world building, action/adventure takes research not only into what a quest might be about (and that includes a political situation) but also into what your main characters will need to be able to do. A mystery might entail knowing more about police procedure, spy techniques, historical events, medical elements, and if there is a murder, it really needs to be solved before the final page – and solved logically and satisfactorily. Just preparing to write these sort of tales is time consuming…and that’s even if you’re a pantser and make things up as you go. You’ll hit spots where the imagination needs to pause and facts need to be found before continuing on.
#8 – Make a “loose” plan of action. Decide in what order you wish to accomplish things. If there are a lot of birthdays and anniversary celebrations clumped close together among your family and friends, realize that during this part of the year, your goals need to be reduced for you to reach them. Having a different set of goals different months works just as well, you know.
#9 – Know ahead of time what the type of story you are writing requires. That is, read one heck of a lot of books in the genre niche and take some notes. When I decided to dive into Steampunk it was because the marketplace for historicals set in the Old American West had dried up and Steampunk Weird West tales offered me the chance to use the same landscape, a lot of the historical detail I was already familiar with, but as it was linked to the rise of machines and science…and not machines and science that actually existed in the time period…I found as many Steampunk stories, both British and US settings, and made notes on what each had in common. Actually, that resulted in a number of online workshops I presented and slowed me down on building my own Steampunk world. One that started with a novella idea, grew into a novel length and then leaped into a trilogy, which I’m hoping to finish in 2018. (Actually, I was surprised when someone told me that in the RWA “universe” I was considered the go-to gal for all things related to Steampunk as a result of those workshops.) If you know what readers will expect to find and then dream up ways to create something different yet along the same lines, you’ll start off on the right foot.
#10 – The toughest thing about writing resolutions is not getting discouraged when you hit a block wall – that you know something isn’t going right but haven’t sorted out what it is. Relax. We’ve all been there. And we all know those times are going to turn up again. It’s the nature of the creative arts. But when that happens, sort out what the problem is AND adjust the goal for the year to take it into consideration.
#11 – This will sound strange to some, but I recommend that if you can’t send what you write every time you sit down to a “cloud” as backup, then print it out. Before the “clouds” existed, I not only saved to my PC, I saved to a disk and then when they came into being, to a thumb drive, but I also printed things out. Let’s face it, if the PC goes down and takes the document with it, and the disk or thumb drive refuses to load to a different computer or insisted it was a corrupted file and thus couldn’t be opened, I still had the paper copy to rekey things from. It’s much easier to rekey than to rethink the story, all the description, the dialog, the action sequences…well, all of it!
#12 – Think of your year as an elongated NANO. You have 365 days rather than 30 days. Do the math. There are 52 weeks. If you write 5 days a week, that’s 260 days. If you want to write a 70,000-word long manuscript in 12 months, you can accomplish it by writing just under 300 words a day. On an 8 ½” by 11” sheet of paper with 1” margins on all four sides, double spaced lines, this is basically one page a day on the days you write. The trick, of course, is knowing what’s going to happen to your characters when you sit down. All you need to do is plan out one page at a time and isn’t that called “what I could do during the lunch break?”
What does my own list of 2018 writing resolutions look like? Well, like this:
Read books, take online workshops, about marketing both fiction and non-fiction books, spending at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, on expanding my knowledge of how best to use or do marketing
Spend 30 to 60 minutes on posting and replying to messages on Facebook and Twitter Accounts, and post 5 new items to each of the three Pinterest boards 5 days a week (use HootSuite to preschedule half of them, and weekend ones, to FB and Twitter). Set a cookie timer so I don’t inadvertently go over the time allowed
Make a list of blog topics and “news” items to look for to post related to what I write and my interests (having a plan of “attack” should tighten the hold on these elements)
Spend two to three hours 5 days a week working on the current in progress Steampunk book with the goal to finish it by June and then begin the final book in the trilogy in July, hopefully getting it to a point to do the final bit during the NANO challenge.
Keeping things simple but detailing some of it (not all, we don’t want to go crazy!) is the key. Fortunately for me, with the trilogy to finish, my world building is finished and nearly everything that happens is a result of what occurred in the first book and what will need to be “cleaned up” for a satisfying conclusion. It helps that I have a cast of a dozen major and secondary characters to keep things hopping. But I already know that I find learning about marketing to be insomnia killing (boring beyond measure, that is) so forcing myself to concentrate on learning more for just half an hour a day shouldn’t kill me. Putting a limit on the time I’ll actually spend online will rein in the minutes so that rather than “playing” I’m accomplishing something.
The main theme of my resolutions this year is “have a plan, a time limit, and stick to it!”
Actually, I think this year I’ve come up with the best resolution list I’ve had in years!
Join me here at www.Muse2Ms.com regularly, and visit www.RomanceAndMystery2.com, or www.WritingSteampunk.com to see how things are progressing. You can also find me on Twitter through @BethDaniels1, @Beth__Henderson, and @JBDaneWriter or at Facebook as BethHendersonAuthor, but there are also the Pinterest boards Rory’s Closet, Writing Genre Fiction, and The Well Inked Quill.