Happy New Year! I hope 2014 brings you (and me) a contract with a big six publisher, and huge success with your best-selling novel. First, however, you probably need to finish writing it.
I made way too many resolutions last year, and so this year I want to go a bit easier on myself. So here are some writing resolutions you might consider which are a little more fun and achievable than the usual "write 2,000 words a day".
Read a lot more.
Apparently I read 26 books in 2013, which was fewer than I had planned, but still not bad. Reading is pleasurable and relaxing, and it really does help make your writing better. As you read, you pick up by the easy process of osmosis all the things you need to know - like whether your hero has pecs or pecks, and keeps his gun hidden in his sock draw or his sock drawer. Both these are mistakes I have come across in my editing work, and the only reason I know which is correct is that I read a lot, and I see and remember the correct version in context.
If you read a lot of good books you will also absorb the habits of good sentence structure, good descriptive writing, and see how expert authors craft their stories. How can you hope to emulate what you've never studied?
Join a writing group.
I belong to two, and I really enjoy them both. We undertake difficult and challenging writing exercises, we critique each other's work, discuss issues around writing and publishing, and we learn a great deal - and have lots of fun - during our monthly meetings. Writing need not be a lonely endeavour. Even if you can't find a writing group nearby, there are plenty available online.
Write 350 words a day, with weekends off.
This is recommended by novelist Chuck Wendig, whose blog I would link to but there's a load of swearing on it so if, unlike me, you're someone who isn't offended by such things you'll have to find it yourself. Anyway, in between the crudity and horrible misuse of the worst words in our language, Chuck make an excellent point, which is that 350 words per weekday is a "one pushup a day" goal. It's easy. This blog post is already longer than that. But you still end up with a 91,000 word novel at the end of the year.
Take Part in JanNoWriMo/Camp Nano/NaNoWriMo.
National Novel Writing Month has grown somewhat. Not only is it now international (I'm proof of that) but it's not just for November any more. Note that your goal is not to win it, but just to take part. To register, to communicate with others doing it, to drink in the advice and camaraderie and, yes, to have a good stab at writing a lot of words in a short period of time.
Stuck on your novel? Write a letter or email to someone. A blog post. A poem. But write something each day. Some days maybe you will write 2,000 words of your novel. Other days you'll just write a Facebook status update. But that's OK if your resolution is just to write, not necessarily to write your novel.
Write one word a day.
At one of my writing groups we set monthly writing goals, and my friend Hellen often picks this one. One member of the group was somewhat confused by it: "Why just one word a day?" The point is that by the time you've sat at your computer and opened your novel it's unlikely that you will stop at one word. Some days, of course, you might (and that word might be "Chapter") but that's fine, you can still pat yourself on the back because you have achieved your goal. But most days you'll do much, much more.
So there you have it. Six easy writing resolutions which don't put you under too much pressure, but can still help you to write that masterpiece this year. Which will you choose?