31 December 2012

"This Not That" New Years Resolutions for Writers

by Carrie Bailey

My first instinct today was to bore you with a long explanation of my New Year's resolutions as a writer. But, then, I realized you had done nothing to deserve that and so I've decided you're going to be spared...sort of. Instead, I'm going to explain why some New Year's resolutions are better than others in much the same way mint flavored ice cream with chunks of chocolate fudge is better than mint with tiny bits of shaved carob.


Finish My Manuscript vs. Write Regularly

We can argue this one indefinitely if you disagree with me, but I will always choose to make writing a habit over the more goal-oriented desire to finish a specific manuscript. The fact is that sometimes you've got to abandon a work and develop your skills so that you can come back, pick up that manuscript and realize that it was crap.

It doesn't matter how much you love a project or how much time you've devoted to building its character or location sheets. The amount of effort you put into a story is not directly proportional to how it will be received once it is finished. Okay, that hard truth aside, those masterpieces that we wrench free from the darkest corners of our soul also often demand shelving until a particular element has been completely researched. Take the time to read the books or the movies that relate to your story, if you aren't opposed to the influence, find the facts or information you need and never hesitate to delay finishing your book about Argentina if you've got a flight booked to Buenos Aires nine months out.

Writing regularly, on the other hand, has one great advantage. If you make it a habit, you may eventually overcome those obstacles that prevent you finishing one story or another while finishing other pieces. Don't get tied to one manuscript. Get tied to the life and pursuits of the writer's life.


Write More vs. Join a Writing Group

Okay, I only brought this one up, because I loathe the resolution to write more. It makes no sense. I have the calluses to prove that wrote all the time last year and although I did benefit from pounding keys day in and day out, I can't say how that was measurably different from what I achieved the year before. But, no, I didn't keep a tally of my total yearly word count...as it were.

Joining a writing group did make a MASSIVE difference. It helped me to better assess my strengths as a writer and incorporate other people's experience into my immense and growing inner database of what beliefs and qualities define self-limiting writers. Is that all? Yes, because, I found the wrong group...for me. They enjoyed writing, but they weren't hoping to quit their day jobs or even publish, which I do find important. This year, I'm going to keep looking for new friends and mentors. Being stateside again, I'm going to attend a few conferences, workshops and go to book signings. Because, if writing has taught me anything, it's that career-minded authors benefit immensely from powering down the laptop and learning about the industry...offline.


Make an Author's Vision Board vs. Submit Work to X Number of Publications and Contests

My top resolution for 2013? Write outside.
At some point, we have to stop and ask ourselves why do we want to be published. Did we imagine that we were going to sit at our laptop, pour out our thoughts, crack open our imagination tools and then next year we'd be riding around the Caribbean on our very own shiny white yacht? Was that why we wrote? Was it for the personal gratification? To prove to our parents that we didn't waste money on our liberal arts degrees? To become popular since it was so cruelly denied us in high school?

Whatever your personal motivation for writing may be, it forms the basis of a vision. That vision of your life as an author ought to be articulated clearly, as clearly as any scene from one of your better stories. And it doesn't hurt to collect a few images that represent this vision best whether they're magazine cutouts or a powerpoint project or a movie or a drawing or whatever. I confess. I do it every year and usually, despite my doubt, most elements I define as my vision then manifest in my life.

Why is this better than having a tangible goal like submitting to X number of publications? Because, when you know what you truly want. You tend to stop following other people's paths to achieving that goal and forge your own, but remember: be careful what you wish for, because while it may in fact happen, vague visions never manifest the way you expect.

Of course, that said, once you have a cohesive vision for your writing career, tangible goals are important. It's a matter of which comes first. Don't adopt the goals you think you should have. Adopt only the ones that will lead you to what you truly want to achieve with your writing.


  1. It's so interesting to see this post because I've been finalizing my Resolutions these last couple of days, and rather than "write more," I've chosen a weekly word count to aim for because I work better with hard numbers (5,000 words a week, for the record).

    My second resolution is to attempt to submit to more markets than last year. I'm phrasing it as "attempt" because I don't want to be rushing work through editing just to meet a goal. As long as everything I send out is the quality I want, I'll be happy no matter the number, but with 5k a week as a goal, I'm hoping to see more work that can go out.

    I'm going to attend a few conferences, workshops and go to book signings. Because, if writing has taught me anything, it's that career-minded authors benefit immensely from powering down the laptop and learning about the industry...offline.

    This was a major thing I learned when working at Ooligan. Seeing the day-to-day workings of a press and talking to other professionals was a huge boon to figuring out how the industry works and how I fit into it. I can't recommend getting out and talking to other people with your same goals to learn things you never knew you needed to know.

    1. Ooooh, Gayle, you've got to post more about the day to day workings of a press. Share the knowledge with your beloved fellow writers.

  2. Hey Carrie!

    So, this is a great post, and you should know it served as the latest newsflash to me that I need to really ask myself, besides the writing, what do I really want to gain from writing as a career?

    I used to think it was free time back in my 9 to 5 days. Maybe it's still that, but there's so much more. I do want to travel, I do want to have a great place of my own, ideally shared with a wonderful woman with whom I share tremendous passion and compatibility. And I only want to have those things if I'm making my primarily living and life doing the thing I love the most.

    Lately, though, all I've been seeing is the work, like my book launch on February 1st. I can't see past that, I stopped looking past that, and your entry, Carrie, is the latest reminder I've really needed to scale back to see the big picture. Thank you!

    And I hear you: writing more is a meaningless resolution, as you've said, because that's something we'll always be doing anyway. Even "write better" is suspect as a resolution because that also happens the more work we do.

    My writing goals that I blogged about recently were mostly the big ones that we usually decide are "unrealistic", but, hey, may as well dream big: get my book on the NY Times Bestseller List, and publish my next one.

    Seriously thinking of adding a Caribbean yacht to that list.

    1. And when you get that yacht, you're inviting me over for coffee?

      I'm glad this has had some meaning for you :). I was playing SIMS 3 and they had this author career track for their little people and I really struggled to make the guy a best selling author, but then watching the lifespan of a Sims author come and go, I said to myself... what is a good life? Because, you see, my character stayed inside writing constantly and went too few parties while his partner was friends with everyone. And the more I think about it... the more I do insert other desires into my vision of myself as a career author... someone who will share the excitement of my successes and hug me when I get rejected... and of course a yacht. But, I grew up by the sea and my father is a sailor... so no matter what I did... a yacht would be a great way to enough my success and hard work. Man, I love day dreaming. Now, time to write.

  3. I don't do new year's resolutions, because I know I'll never complete them and that I need shorter-term goals, but your first option is something I've been going back and forth between lately. I keep setting a goal to finish my current novel by the end of June or November or January, but somehow I'm just not getting there. While I agree that sometimes novels just need to be thrown out, I also think that maybe sometimes we're just setting the wrong goal. When my goal for the day is to write a scene or two or just to sit down and write something, I've found that I'm inching my way closer and closer to finishing. So, for me the write regularly is the better option...although, I have to change "regularly" into something more specific like "write 5 days a week" or "write 1500 words a week." And then eventually, I know I will finish.

    I also think that writing groups are awesome in that they are good motivation to "write more" (at least for me). Although, while I think it's good to hold on to your "day job" as a writer, I think it can be a very good thing when writers in my group are working toward publication...maybe it's just nice to have people around me with a common goal?

    Good post! Thanks for sharing.