I’m usually not one for New Year’s resolutions—it’s been years and years since I’ve done them—but I’ve got goals for 2018, so I’m on it this time. I’ve adapted some of mine for writers so you can have your most productive year ever!
Set your intention
Ok, so “intention” sounds a bit woo, I get that, but replace it with “goals” and it sounds a bit better, right? Basically, you gotta plan where you’re gonna go, so what do you really want to accomplish this year? Finish a manuscript? Publish a book? Get a killer review in a major publication? Figure out what steps you need to start going in that direction, and make a plan to get there.
Carve out time
You have to make time to make things happen, whether it’s waking up early before the kids are up, staying up late at night for a couple of quiet hours of uninterrupted writing time, or scribbling ideas or dialogue on your lunch break. Find a time that works for you and dedicate it to your work.
Find more useful measurements of progress
Look, saying you’re going to write 8,000 words a day is awesome and a lofty goal, but a) is that sustainable to do every single day, and b) is it worth counting those words if you’re just banging them out for the sake of hitting your number and you have to scrap all but 400 of them by the next day? Set realistic milestones to hit or simply assess your output for the day: did you have a character breakthrough? write a really freakin’ great sentence (I do a crazy run around my house when I nail a sentence like that)? wrote your way out of a plot corner? does it just feel like you’re consistently moving forward with the manuscript? Celebrate these moments that matter for your work, not arbitrary word counts.
Try something new
Do you always write in first person? Try third. Write a section or a chapter in a different character’s voice and see what they notice, and how that might affect the way you write your main character. Grab a writing manual and test out a different system for outlining or plotting. Maybe these things won’t work for you, but they’ll help jolt you out of your standard way of writing and hopefully give you some new insights on your process and on your story.
Don’t compare to others
This one is hard, because you want to stay connected, cheer on your friends, and see what’s going on in your genre, but sometimes it’s really crushing to your own self-esteem to see other people finish writing a book in no time at all, killing the social media game, or getting great reviews everywhere. (I mean, you’re happy for them, but there’s that “why not me?” feeling too.) Recognize that everyone—you included—works at their own pace and has their talents based on their own experiences, and that you have your own unique strengths to bring to your work. Stay focused on meeting your goals, not trying to catch up to someone else.
Sometimes you need to be online for research or for a break after a productive writing session, but we all know what a time suck the internet is, especially when procrastinating seems SO much more fun than writing when the writing is hard or in a rough spot. Make it a habit to go offline when you’re ready to write so you get used to writing without doing a quick email check or a skim of your socials. Just square bracket anything that you need to look up online later (e.g. [RESEARCH] and keep writing past it. I’ve written about my very favourite internet-blocking app before here.
Get the perfect setup for writing
What’s it going to take to park your butt in a chair and stay there? Make sure you’ve got everything you need for writing, whether that’s old-school index cards and pens or Scrivener ready to go on your computer, an ergonomic chair/keyboard/mouse, a mug that keeps your coffee warm for hours. Clear your space of distractions, have everything you need at your fingertips, and write.
Read for fun, not just for research
It’s so easy sometimes to get sucked into our work and only focus on that—the research, the writing, the revising. Make sure you take some time away from the work and read for fun. It’ll help you not burn out and shifting your brain to something else is a nice escape but can also get the juices flowing when you go back to your own story.
Take care of yourself
Along with reading, exercise and fresh air and human contact are all necessary for writers too. Don’t neglect these essentials when in the throes of inspiration or in the panic a writing deadline. Stay healthy, mentally and physically.