Happy 2018! I hope your new year is off to a great start, with all the promise of a fresh start and hope for change that we love at this time of year. Right now, my 6-week-old is sound asleep in his car seat (he hates his crib, but that’s material for a different type of blog), so I actually have a few minutes to spend writing. Pretty good for the new year, right?
But on to the matter at hand. Let’s talk about writing, and specifically how you can improve your writing life over this coming year. First off, have you taken time to look back over last year? If you set goals last January, what worked and what didn’t? I wrote a blog post last January sharing my goals (you can read it here), and while I didn’t achieve everything I listed (priorities do change sometimes), I’m pretty happy with my results:
- I said I’d write 2 blog posts a month for this blog, and I actually did it! *cheers, pats on the back*
- I finished revising The Cursed Ones, but didn’t query because it needs another round of edits and beta reading
- Failed big time on the short stories and drafting my new YA Fantasy, but I did revise a romantic suspense and complete the 1st draft of a contemporary romance
- I challenged myself to enter a contest, and I actually entered three. I didn’t final in any of them, but I did get some great feedback.
I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have completed half as much if I hadn’t set some specific goals at the beginning of the year. Usually, a few times a year, I look back over everything I’m working on and reevaluate/ prioritize, so I know where to focus my attention next.
What about you? Even a hobby writer can benefit from setting some goals, if you’re serious about completing your work. As you’re thinking about your writing life in this coming year, here are some possible goals to consider (based on where you’re at as a writer, of course):
1. Write every day.
But, you might object, I can’t. I’m too busy. I work full time. I have 12 children. I have to run 17 miles a day. My commute is 2 hours each direction.
You get the idea. But here’s the bottom line–do you want to write a book, or not? The only way to write a book, or collection of short stories, or memoir, or whatever, is TO ACTUALLY WRITE IT. And if you make a habit of writing every day, even if you’re only getting out a hundred words, you WILL finish your manuscript.
Be reasonable, of course–you probably can’t actually write every single day, and you have to give yourself grace. But if you make the effort to pull out your notebook or turn on your laptop as close to every day as possible, you’ll be well on your way to accomplishing what you want to do.
2. Build an author website.
It doesn’t take much time in the writing world to hear about “building a platform.” Many writers equate this idea with gathering followers on social media, which is certainly something agents and publishers look at, but don’t neglect building your author website. A website can provide a way for readers to discover your work and learn about who you are, and best of all, it isn’t dependent on someone else keeping it going. What if Facebook has to close up shop? What if your Twitter account gets hacked and you have to delete it?
It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. You can put a free site together using WordPress.com or plenty of other options, and it can be done in a matter of hours. For a small fee, you can buy your own domain name. With a little more effort, you can start a blog or an email subscriber list. Then you’ll have a standing platform on the internet where readers can always find you, regardless of the whims of social media, and you can begin gathering followers who are truly dedicated to reading what you write.
3. Enter a writing contest.
I know it sounds scary. I know it means actually finishing a project, and putting it into other people’s hands. But trust me, if you pick a contest that gives you feedback (or at least your scores), it will be incredibly helpful in improving your writing. And you might be pleasantly surprised with how your work does!
There are tons of contests out there, both local and national, with varying entry fees. My first contest cost $10 to enter and was run through my local library system. And the feedback I got helped bolster my confidence as a writer.
4. Find beta readers and send them your work.
Again, also scary. I get it. There’s not much more nerve-wracking than seeing that new email in your inbox from one of your beta readers. But think about it–would you rather a writing friend point out the ugly parts of your work privately, or the whole world point them out in Amazon.com reviews?
You do need to choose wisely–don’t send your fantasy to someone who only likes nonfiction. And don’t rely on relatives or close non-writing friends, because they might be afraid of offending you. You want to find a few people who enjoy your genre and who are interested in helping/ supporting you as a writer–the kind of people who you can swap work with, and who will be kind and encouraging as they point out all the flaws you hadn’t noticed.
You can’t keep editing the same manuscript forever. At some point, you’ll merely be shifting sentences and words around, without improving the story itself. Every book reflects where you are as a writer at the time you write it. Of course it would be better if you let it collect dust for twenty years as you write other stories, and then revised it again, but then no one would ever be able to read your work.
Eventually, it’s time to get your baby out into the world. If you’re hoping to publish traditionally, that might mean making a goal of querying agents for the new year or submitting directly to a small press. If you want to self-publish, that could mean finding a cover designer, formatting your work, and figuring out how to use CreateSpace.
This last one is where I’m at this year. I have three more or less completed novels now in various stages of editing, along with a new one I’m outlining. I also want to put together a novella to offer subscribers so I can start an email list. But what I’m figuring out about myself is that I enjoy drafting a whole lot more than editing, or formatting, or querying, or figuring out how to start email subscriber lists. That stuff just isn’t as much fun for me as writing!
But if I keep writing forever, and never get my work out there, how will anyone get to read it? And how will I ever get to hold a copy of my book in my hands? It’s time to take the plunge, so this year I’m planning on ushering my romantic suspense Flashback out into readers’ hands. I’ll be blogging more about my plans for this book in future posts.
What about you? What are your goals? Leave me a comment and share! And whatever you decide, write courageously and enjoy the journey!
Image courtesy of pexels.com. CC0 license.