It’s the beginning of brand new year. So, if you are a writer at the start of your writing career, now is the perfect time to make your 2014 New Year’s Writing Resolutions – ones that will help you lower your editorial costs in the long run!
1. Write every day
Writers (and indeed, editors too!) can be great procrastinators. Your house does not have to be spotlessly tidy before you sit down to write. You do not need the perfect writing spot, specialised computer software, fountain pens with a perfect ink-flow rate, or gold leaf, moleskin notebooks. The presence of a muse is not a requirement. What is required is discipline. And concentration. And the sheer pig-headed determination to write or redraft your daily word count quota – whatever you deem it to be – no matter what the day throws at you.
Don’t just talk about writing, do it! Write. Every day. The most rewarding things in life entail hard work, and so it goes with writing. Trying to finalise a novel or a quality short story can sometimes seem like an overwhelming task, so just eat that elephant one bite at a time!
2. Take a creative writing course
New writers often have a great idea for a story (‘What if …?’) but their inexperienced story-telling techniques let their story down and fail to do it justice. They often do not have a firm grasp of writing techniques such as point of view, character development, creating tension, plot development, handling dialogue, story arc, etc. If you are not familiar with these, consider taking a creative writing course or workshop. These can be a one-day affair or might last for a couple of hours a week for several weeks. If you live in Ireland, take a look at the courses listed on the Writing.ie and the Irish Writers' Centre websites. You can also check your local Vocational Education Committee (VEC) website for courses they run, or ask at your local library. A good creative writing course will not only explain the necessary techniques, it will also entail some writing exercises and provide peer and tutor feedback on your exercise work.
3. Read books on creative writing and self-editing
Given their limited duration, a creative writing course can only cover so much. If you want to learn more, then read more. Not just in your chosen writing genre and in general, but also read some of the excellent books available on the creative writing and redrafting process. Online writers’ forums can help you choose the publications most suitable to your specific needs. As a general starting point, I recommend the following:
- From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction by Robert Olen Butler
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
- Self-editing for Fiction Writers: How to edit yourself into print by Renni Browne and Dave King
4. Join a writers’ group
Opinions differ on the worth of joining a writers’ group, but the advice and support you receive can be invaluable when you’re at the start of your writing career. Group members can offer you feedback on your manuscript’s plot, characters, etc., providing you with valuable information for the redrafting process. Do your research and choose a group in which you will feel comfortable and at ease, and one which is sympathetic to your writing genre. Check your local library for details of the writing groups in your area.
If joining a writers’ group is not an option for you then consider enlisting the help of two or three beta readers to read your manuscript and provide feedback. Such readers could be trusted writer friends who will give you honest feedback on your work. Ideally, they will be members of the target audience for your book. Of course, few will be as honest with you as a professional editor will!
5. Redraft, redraft, redraft
Okay, so you’ve finished your novel at last. Except, you haven’t, actually. You’ve only finished the first draft. Now you need to leave it alone for a few weeks before you begin redrafting it, taking into account any feedback you have received on it. The self-editing process is hard work but your manuscript will be the better for it, as will your bank balance. The more errors and plot problems you correct, the less will remain for your editor, saving you a lot of money.
6. Don’t give up!
You may have dreamed of being a writer since your childhood. Make 2014 the year when you stop dreaming and create the reality. Believe in yourself and in your writing, especially on the dark days when you want to give up. At the start of your writing career you may well have a lot to learn about the craft, but good writers never stop trying to improve their work, so don’t become discouraged. Support and encouragement will come from the most unlikely of places. Enjoy the sense of achievement when you reach (or exceed) your daily word count quota. Concentrate on these positives and try to avoid the possible negativity and lack of support from those who don’t get what you’re doing.
Have you made a New Year’s writing resolution different to the above? Are there other books about the creative writing process that you have found particularly helpful? Please do share in the comments section below. Happy New Year and I hope 2014 is a productive year of writing and publishing for you!