This was a transition year for me. One from writing at home part time and working part time to writing and working in publishing at home full time. We moved, from a place I love, to Kuna, a small town just outside Boise, Idaho. I miss that place, but in the transition, I learned a few things that have led me to some resolutions, and some advice to authors everywhere, full or part time.
Network. There is nothing like sitting down in person with another author, or talking to them on the phone, away from your keyboard. An in person writer’s group is invaluable. Finding a critique partner like finding a discarded diamond in the gutter: it will change your life and your writing career. So often as writers we feel that we are alone and strange. (sometimes, alone because we are strange) No one will understand you better than another writer who is going through the same things. Find them in your neighborhood, meet with them, talk with them, and share with them. You will all be winners. Find yours this year, if you have not already.
Exercise. One of my biggest concerns going into the New Year is my physical health. It is easy to start working, and sit in front of a screen all day long. Stay fit, eat right, and your writing and the rest of your life will be better for it. Take care of your body, because it houses that wonderful mind of yours, the one that likes to tell stories.
Take time off. My mental health and my work is better when I take time to walk away. Take at least one day off a week (don’t even turn on that computer), and go do things with your family and friends. Story ideas will flow better, writing will feel easier, and those dreaded re-writes and edits will feel less like work. Remember why you do what you do, and take time to appreciate the freedom it provides.
Get help. Hire help, trade for help, beg for help, but get help. Not a good accountant? Find someone who is. Need help with graphic design? Hire someone or trade some of your skills for some of theirs. Need marketing help? Do your research, but consult with professionals. Sometimes the one little piece of advice they offer can save you hours, days, or better prevent you from making an embarrassing mistake public.
Write. Sounds obvious, but there are two aspects to this I have learned this year. First, that stuff written quickly is better. It is more full of emotion, with less thinking. People want to feel through fiction, and thinking is secondary. Write from the heart, and usually that is done faster. Second, writing is why you got into this in the first place. Not to be a social media icon (like George Takei) or a twerking sensation (Miley Cyrus). You got into this to be a writer, so write.
Read. As an author, you read your own stuff over and over. As an editor, I read tons of crap before I find a gem, and I have to dissect even the gems. Want to fuel your passion to write? Read good stories. For every draft you write, for every story you sell, treat yourself to reading a really good book, whether that is one of the classics or a new sensation from an up and coming indie author.
Watch great movies. Great movies are great stories put on the screen Watch, and see how they are constructed. Use what you discover to inform your own work. Besides that, who doesn’t want to laugh at Jackie Chan or watch Sylvester Stallone embarrass himself on screen from time to time?
Lastly, read and watch non-fiction. Call it research. Call it continuing education. I don’t care what you call it, just do it. You will discover story ideas, new developments that will aid your fiction, grounding it better in reality. Browse it in the library. Subscribe to magazines. Watch your friends social media feed for that science gem. But never, ever stop learning.
I plan to do all of these next year, better. Let’s not call them resolutions as much as goals. Tangible, practical, and just plain fun. What do you plan to do? What would you add to this list?