A Guest Post by Katrina Monroe
Smell that? It’s the acrid after-stench of burnt Christmas cookies consumed, wrapping paper mutilated and false gratuities exchanged, the foul pang of dried out evergreen needles, half-picked turkey carcasses and molding green bean casserole leftovers.
That’s right. It’s New Years.
And dragged along with the New Year like an ugly cousin—New Year’s Resolutions.
Most people make the typical lose weight, drink less, eat healthier, and generally have no fun at all resolutions. Writers, however, have our own set of deluded promises we make.
But those promises need updating. Below are five typical writerly resolutions and my 2016 alternatives.
1) Write ALL the words.
Not so much a resolution as a promise to spew forth an innumerable amount of words, regardless of quality or relevance to a project. Writers write is the mantra plastered all over the internet. Yes, we write. The point, though, is to write well. Instead of writing ALL the words this year, maybe only write MOST of the words. A slowed down pace might be what’s standing between you and that perfect sentence.
2) Read ALL the books.
Because we have time to hunker down in a tent with a leaning tower of paperbacks for the entire year, yes? I can feel you shaking your head. No, you say. Of course not. And you’re not alone. This year, try focusing your reading efforts on a genre you don’t normally pick up. Read non-fiction. Memoirs. Cyper-punk erotica. You’ll be surprised at what can inspire you.
3) Finish everything I start.
There’s some merit to this one. You can’t grow as a writer if you don’t actually finish projects. But just as I’m a firm proponent of not wasting time reading a book you’re not interested in, I believe that not all ideas begun should be followed through. There’s a difference between being stuck at the 30k word mark—that black hole that is the Vast Middle of your novel—and beating a plotless thing to death out of some sadistic need to get to The End. Some books aren’t meant to be written. Others are. Find those, and pour your soul into them.
4) Learn from the masters.
When you figure out who they are, let me know.
Seriously, though, there’s only so much you can learn from another writer, no matter how talented they are. Basics—what needs to be in a plot, what character tropes to avoid, etc.—can be taught. Style can’t. Most beginning writers find themselves mimicking the styles of their favorite writers. It’s not bad; it’s how you learn.
Writing is a largely solitary ambition. While it’s great to have a circle of writers you support you and help you through the business end of the process, finding and establishing your own style has to be done alone. So, instead of learning from the masters
this year, learn from yourself. Free write. Think about what you think is missing from novels today and fill that void.
5) Publish a book.
That’s the point, though, isn’t it? You write to publish.
No. You don’t.
At least, most of us don’t. We write to write. Because there are stories inside us that need to be told, either on paper or played out in our minds for our own entertainment. The publishing bit is what comes after.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t have the goal to publish. I’m saying that goal should be secondary. Instead of resolving to publish a book this year, resolve to write a book that’s worth publishing, and you would be proud to put into the hands of perfect strangers with itchy review fingers and an Amazon Prime subscription.
Katrina Monroe is an author, mother, and drinker of whatever whiskey you’ll put in her hand. When she isn’t writing funny(?) books with questionable morals, she’s attempting to lure you over to The Dark Side of Fiction. She would like you to know that the Dark Side has cookies.
She encourages readers to follow her on Twitter (@authorkatm), or email her at authorlady22(at)gmail(dot)com.