14 Resolutions for Writers

Okay, it’s a new year, and aspiring writers world-wide are mentally gearing up for finally taking the plunge into Wonderland – being published. Here are some motivational ideas to jot down before you move ahead:

1. Start a project you can finish. Finish something this year: a short story, a series of essays, a short book. Before moving onto the big novel or book, finish something small to keep your momentum going.

2. Write Every Day. I’ve said this quite a bit, but writers write every day. I like the advice given in “The War of Art”: if you really want to be a writer, you need to hire yourself.

3. Learn one new word per week. Eliminate colloquialisms, adverbs and other yucky writing staples by learning some solid vocabulary. I recommend memrise.com for a fun and easy way to install new words in your brain each week.

4. Make a reading list. “If you don’t have time to read,” says Stephen King, “You don’t have time to write.” So, make a reading list of at least 10 books in your genre, and plow through them this year.

5. Wake up Early. For most of us, this is going to be the only way we’ll ever find time to write.

6. Backup your documents. This one’s probably just for me – I’ve lost some good writing material by failing to back-up my documents. Simple, but oh so essential.

7. Start a blog. If you want to be published, it’s pretty much common knowledge these days that you need to show you can attract attention with your writing. Blogging is a great way to do it – start a blog, and write every day.

8. Figure this “Twitter” thing out. If blogging seems way out of reach, consider becoming a micro-blogger – or, a “tweeter”. Believe it or not, many publishers take Twitter followers as a sign you can write, since you’re having to condense info into little, catchy phrases all the time.

9. Learn about your craft. This is painful, because it means repenting. But I highly recommend you pick up The Elements of Style, Writing Well, Stephen King’s On Writing, Robert McKee’s Story, Anne Lammotte’s Bird by Bird, or another book on writing. Or, consider attending a writer’s workshop (and possibly meeting an agent!)

10. Create a writing space. For tapping into the right side of the brain, it’s important to have a consistent time and place you write. Anything can help – creating a writing space is just one more sign you’re taking yourself seriously.

11. Start a writing community. That is, an HONEST feedback community. Surround yourself with folks who will give you the bad news and good news about your writing, and listen when you do the same.

12. Don’t show your work. This is one of my resolutions, and probably my most difficult. It’s almost always true that when you show your big project to someone before its finished: 1. You’ll regret it later because you realized it’s not finished, or 2. You’ll lose momentum through the relief of someone else’s eyes. Keep that tension going until you’re all done.

13. Finish before you edit. This one’s VERY difficult for me, but it’s the only way to get things done. You’ve got to finish. THEN you can go back and edit. There’s no reason to sit and stare at that ugly step-child of a first draft. Finishing the draft now will encourage you to finish the edits later.

14. Start a journal. If nothing else in 2014, start journaling. It’s probably the best way to learn to write, because you start to think in terms of reality. You start to observe, and you learn what it means to be honest about yourself and life around you. That’s what writing is really about.

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  • stevemccoy

    Good advice, Nick. Appreciate it.

    • nmcdonal

      No problem, Steve. Thanks for dropping by.

  • Sarah

    Thank you so much for this excellent list. This year I resolve to do more, if not all, of these things! (#5 can be super hard due to side effects of certain medications, though…)


    • nmcdonal

      Go Sarah! You can do it!

      • Sarah

        Thanks! It’s great to have encouraging community! :)

  • http://www.calebbreakey.com/ Caleb Jennings Breakey

    One writer to another, great list brother! #WriteOn #2014

    • nmcdonal

      #writersunite Thanks, Caleb.

  • Phil Cotnoir

    Good stuff. I will try to implement some of these. Keep up the good work.

    • nmcdonal

      Thanks, Phil – go and do not write no more.

  • What Keeps Me Muslim

    Thank you and number 14 is most useful to me

  • Trillia

    Hi. I have a potentially silly question about journaling. Are you suggesting pen and paper–real journaling? Or were you thinking typing on a computer? I want to implement your list here–so thanks!

    • nmcdonal

      Yes – either way, Trillia. My only caution about using the computer is that if you do your journaling late, the glare – scientifically speaking – can keep you awake, which can prevent you from doing #5! Also, its easier to be distracted on the computer if you’re anything like me.

      • Trillia

        Thanks! Makes sense to me. I’ll see how this goes tonight. 😉 Thanks again.