There’s something set within us, some innate need for reflection that happens around the 31st of December into the first week or so of January. Some of us feel driven to make resolutions, and whether or not we keep them, we still make them. Others, perhaps journey through this time with a sense of reflection, noting what they have accomplished throughout the year, what they would have liked to accomplished, and set into motion those steps to achieve their goals for the coming year.
Perhaps you’re like me. I’m looking at my W.I.P. and wondering why more of my work isn’t in print…
Whatever you do, it’s important to keep a couple of things in mind as you ponder the past and plan for the future. As an author I’ve found the following tips helpful in my process:
- Set a daily writing schedule – This isn’t easy to do. Some people actually say it isn’t helpful at all. But I find that the more time I put into my work, the more reward comes out of it in terms of completed projects, tightening up prose, finishing off edits. A daily writing schedule is something I’m still getting used to, but that’s the goal. Words on the page. It doesn’t really matter how many, though it might be helpful to keep track of word count to see how much work you can get done in one sitting. This practice will help me make the next point…
- Keep track of your writing – I’ll admit it, I’m overly fond of spreadsheets. In the future, I may need to join a support group to address the issue, but for now, I find when I use a spreadsheet to track of what I write, how much I write, when and where – my writing develops a different feel than before. I now have set myself up for success in that I see what’s before me and work toward its completion. Keeping track of my writing does something else…It helps me treat my writing like a job.
- Treat your writing like a job – This is the hardest lesson for me. I think because writing is a lonely business. And if you’re struggling to put words on the page – struggling through your edits – if you find writing necessary and personal and at the same time compelling and difficult, well, you can get yourself into a fine mess. Writing, if you’re lucky enough to be an author, is your job. That’s what you do for a living. You may not be able to make ends meet – yet. But for now, your job is what you put on the page. I’m not advocating you quite your day job – only that you must consider writing and developing your craft with the same seriousness and respect as your paycheck job.
- Respect the process – Writing is a lonely business – Did I already say that? It’s true! No one is going to work as hard at your writing or do it as well as you. Your work is your work. It doesn’t happen by magic, there is no formula other than to respect the process. What does that mean? Give yourself the proper amount of time. How much time do you need to become proficient? Some experts say 10,000 hours makes a pro. And there’s truth to this. It takes time to develop your voice in writing – and the only way to do it is to write.
- Know when to call an expert – Sometimes you will just need help moving forward. Tapping a trusted expert to take a non-biased look at your work is both smart and productive. When should you hire an expert? When your manuscript is complete – before you press the publish button – hire a professional editor. I can’t say enough about the importance of this step. Don’t skip it! Why, you might ask, should you hire someone when your cousin, aunt, uncle, step-daughter, neighbor, wife, friend, mailman can do the same? It has to do with a fresh eye, an unbiased report, someone who has absolutely no stake in whether you’re angry with them or not. But you shouldn’t hire just anyone, either. Pick someone well-respected within your genre. It doesn’t make any sense to hire a romance editor to look at your horror novel. Trust me on this one… Another time to hire an expert is when you have your story completed and you know something isn’t right. Or, you’ve gotten a few reviews back, and let’s say, they are less than kind. It’s time to invest in a manuscript overview. Again, an unbiased, professional take on what is going on with your work and – most importantly – how to fix it.
So, while you contemplate your New Year’s Resolutions in writing, consider setting up a schedule, keeping track of your workflow, treating your writing like a job, respect the process, and make use of the experts. I think you’ll find that you’ve set yourself up for a productive year!