At this time of year many people make New Year’s Resolutions. That’s fine, but it is my observation that few people actually keep them.
I prefer to set some firm goals instead, especially in relation to my writing. I find this far more practical and achievable than some nebulous resolution. I shy away from airy-fairy resolutions like “I am going to be a better writer in 2011.” What does that mean? How do I achieve it? How can I measure how successful I’ve been?
My firm goals are often numerically based – so that they can be measured. For example, here are some of my writing goals for this coming year:
- I plan to average 500 words per day. That’s over 180,000 words for the year – quite a significant figure.
- I plan to average 3 hours of focussed writing per day. That’s well over 1000 hours for the year – another large number.
- I plan to write and submit at least 20 short stories to magazines.
- I plan to write and submit at least 50 poems to magazines.
- I plan to edit and submit 5 picture books to publishers.
- I plan to edit and submit 3 novels to publishers.
- I plan to write and post 200 articles on each of my 3 blogs.
That’s the plan at the moment. It may have to be adapted with changing circumstances but they give me something to aim at. I keep detailed records on each of the elements of my plans so it’s easy to see how I am going.
A special note about items #5 and #6 – the texts of these books have already been written. They just need editing, some rewriting and then submission. If I was to allow myself to have one resolution for 2011 it could be: “The year 2011 will be my year of getting published.” And knowing the way publishers work with their long lead times, this resolution may have to stretch into 2012 as well!
Further reading on this topic:
“When a writer is born into a family, that family is doomed.” Czeslaw Milosz
Write what you know.
Generally that is good advice, especially for writers starting out on their writing journey. Draw on your life experiences and use those in your writing. Your life is what you know best, so it’s a good place to start. A big part of those experiences revolve around your immediate family, so write about them and draw on their experiences too. In your formative years as a writer, especially when you are young, this might be all you have to draw on for your inspiration.
I know that my early stories and novels I drew heavily upon my own experiences and those of my family. Much of this early writing may never see publication; it is part of your apprenticeship in the craft of writing.
As I developed my writing skills I was able to cast a wider net. Now I find I am able to let my imagination soar and take over more and more. I am now less reliant on personal experiences and more on imagination.
To help you develop your writing skills, try one or more of these ideas:
- Start writing a journal about your every day activities.
- Write a page or so about your favourite toy.
- Describe the place you went for a holiday when you were young.
- What happened on a camping trip when you were still at school.
- Think about your least favourite relative; describe why you don’t like that person.
- Write about the events leading up to an accident or tragedy in your family or friendship group.
- Write about your favourite teacher at school.
“It’s never too late to be what you could have been.” George Eliot
Do you want to be a writer?
I have – ever since I was eight years old. I dabbled in writing stories and poems in high school but then became sidetracked in teaching for 35 years. Teaching was always my second choice. All through my teaching career – a reasonably successful one I might add – I continued to consider myself a writer but could only devote serious time to it during holiday periods.
My writing received quite a boost when I bought my first computer in the late 1980s. All through the 1990s I built up a considerable body of writing and had limited publishing successes. I always considered that I would begin to write full time and very seriously when I retired. In part, I have succeeded in that goal. For the last six years I’ve written thousands of articles on my three blog sites. I’ve also written many short stories, poems and a novel for children.
The point of all this?
I agree with the Eliot quote above. Last month I celebrated my 63rd birthday. I’ve just completed the requirements for my Master of Arts Creative Writing degree. The novel I’ve just written will be submitted to publishers in the new year. My best writing years are still ahead of me. It is never too late.
Five years ago I would have scoffed at the idea of having a university degree. It is never too late.
Five years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of writing so much, but now I’ve written nearly two and a half million words. It is never too late.
Five years ago I could only dream of making money from my writing, but now have a steady income from my writing, especially blogging. It is never too late.
Five years ago I had very few readers but now hundred of people around the globe read my words every day. It is never too late.
Good writing: it is never too late to become a writer.
Christmas Greetings to all of my readers.
I trust that you have had a wonderful day with many blessings and much joy. I spent a quiet but relaxing day with my wife, daughter and mother in law. We had a wonderful Christmas lunch and we didn’t eat too much. The weather wasn’t too hot and I even managed a little snooze in the afternoon, the book I was “reading” resting peacefully on my chest. Late in the afternoon we had a lovely hour chatting to our son, daughter in law and grandson in Sydney via the wonders of Skype. It was amusing seeing our 2yo grandie showing off all of his new toys.
I haven’t posted many articles on this site this year. Now that I’ve completed my Master of Arts Creative Writing degree I will be able to bring you many more interesting and helpful writing hints here on this site. Stay tuned for many exciting events here in 2011 and beyond.
I would like to give a big apology to all of my loyal, regular readers. Both of you!
I’m sorry I haven’t updated this site much in recent months. I have been extremely busy working on finalising my Master of Arts Creative Writing thesis paper. This paper consisted of a 40,000 word novel for children (ages 10-12) and a 10,000 word exegesis essay on the writing of the novel.
Last week I finally finished all the last minute editing and proofreading. I had it professionally printed (3 copies) and bound. With a sense of relief I handed it up to my supervising lecturer who organised to have it sent off to two examiners. Now I have a 6-8 week wait to find out if I’ve passed my degree. I am quietly confident of passing because all three of my supervisors approved the final draft, noting that it had improved vastly from earlier drafts.
I found the rewriting phase both fascinating and frustrating. It was frustrating because right up to the final draft I was making changes. Considering it was the 17th draft that I submitted, that’s an amazing amount of rewriting. On the flip side, however, it was fascinating to observe the effect of all those changes. Towards the end of the process I read the whole manuscript aloud several times. Despite being too close to the story, even I could tell how much it had improved in the final stages. Other readers were very positive in their feedback concerning the changes.
One of the most significant changes I made after the 6th draft was to totally rewrite the whole novel, changing it from the third to the first person. This was more difficult than I first imagined because remnants of the earlier third person persisted for several drafts. Eventually all was ironed out and the story is much stronger for the change. Being inside the head of the protagonist is so much more immediate and intimate, perhaps even confronting at times. His unique voice comes over much stronger now.
Now that I’ve submitted it for marking I am going to give myself a few weeks break before preparing the manuscript for sending off to a publisher. I am mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted at present, so a short break – with lots of reading – should refresh and recharge the batteries.
I might even get to add a few more updates on this site in the meantime.