It is 2017! As you begin yet another year, you may be looking back thinking about all the writing you would have liked to have done last year, but for some reason didn’t. Well, 2017 is here and with it a chance to start afresh, take on new challenges and to set yourself new goals to achieve.
Now, here’s the thing: there’s no point setting yourself goals that you know you can’t achieve. So, try setting yourself a goal that’s realistic to you. Also, plan how you’re going to do it. Don’t just say I’m going to write a novel in 2017 or I’m going to revise the novel I wrote in 2016, you need to break it down a bit more. That way you might actually get it done. So here are some tips for setting and achieving writing goals. And for the record, I practise what I preach so I will be doing these things, too.
1. Allow Yourself to Work How you Work Best
There is much discussion about whether you should outline a novel, just go out and write it or do something in-between. I personally fall into the something in-between category, but whatever category you fall into, that’s fine.
If you’re going to just go out and write the novel, it may be worth making sure it’s definitely a good, solid idea, so that you don’t end up starting over again. Many successful writers work in this way and find that it works well for them. So, get writing.
There are many people who will tell you they know the best way to write a novel, but the truth is, they only know what they believe to be the best way for THEM TO WRITE A NOVEL. We as writers are a weird and wonderful bunch, which is amazing because it is those qualities that allow us to shut ourselves up in rooms for hours and come up with truly bizarre ideas. So, we need to embrace that by planning and working in whatever way suits us.
So, what I’m saying is, if you want to start writing right now in January with little more than a fresh idea, good for you. If you want to plan in January and start in February, good for you. If you want to spend half the year planning, have a crazy month of speed writing the novel then edit, good for you. If you want to do something entirely different, then again, good for you.
The key is finding something that will work for you and sticking to it.
Also, if you have a project from 2016 that you want to get finished then that is amazing, too. Most people spend years writing a novel, particularly if it’s their first.
You can totally ignore everything I say here and that’s fine, so long as you do what’s best for you. I am not trying to tell you how to write, because there is not a right way, there are just certain things that help. This article contains mere suggestions, because the main thing that helps is working how you work best, because that is how you will get most done.
2. Write What You Want to Read
Writing is actually hard work. And to all those people who think writers moan too much about just having to write, which is something they love anyway, then go away and write a novel and then come back and tell me what you think of the process. Because, writing is hard.
So, you need to make it fun and one of the best ways to make it fun is to write something you would want to read. That way you’ll be passionate about it and hopefully you’ll enjoy it more.
Also, if you intend to try to publish the book, many professional writers say that it is easier to pitch something you’re passionate about.
3. Work on Your Project Regularly
I highly recommend the write every day method. And before you say you haven’t got time. Make time! Just a little bit.
Now, let’s be very clear about this. Writing every day does not mean you have to write reams and reams every day. It just means you have to spend a little bit of time, no matter how small that is, doing something related to your project.
That could be anything from writing a chapter, to editing a chapter you wrote the other day, to brainstorming some ideas. But the key is this: face the page every day, then it won’t seem so daunting.
Even if you write one hundred words a day, that’s seven hundred words a week and about three thousand words a month and about thirty-six thousand five hundred words a year, which is better than nothing.
Yes, you have a life. But life doesn’t stop for writing. There’s never a good time to write. So, either you get on with it or it doesn’t happen.
And if your friends feel like they don’t like you any more because you’re spending time writing, you might like to evaluate why you’re friends with them. You have to make your writing a priority, which means ensuring other people understand it is a priority. If they care about you, then they should respect what you want.
4. Remember that The First Draft is Only the First Draft
First drafts are never going to be perfect. That’s just the rule of first drafts. It is as constant as the grass being green and the sky being blue. It’s never, ever going to change as long as our Earth exists So, don’t try to write a perfect first draft, because you can’t.
Different people have different ideas about how good they want their first draft to be. But the important thing to remember, is that it doesn’t need to be perfect. After all, you have the second and the third and the fourth and the fifth and however many drafts it takes to get that.
Does this sound daunting? Yes, it probably does, but if you break it down and just get on with it, you’ll be closer to finishing the process than you’ll be if you sit at the start of it worrying about how daunting it is.
Writers are nice people. We do like helping each other. Anyone in a writing group knows what it’s like to go to a writing group for the first time, because logically speaking if a person is at a writing group, they were the new person once.
If you can’t find a writing group near you or would rather seek advice from the comfort of your own home or from somewhere else entirely, there are plenty of writing communities to be found online.
Alternatively, do your friends write? You only need one other person to start a conversation about writing and you may find that you can really help each other. And if your friends don’t write, you can always encourage them to start.
If you don’t have time for a writing group, make time. There will be days where you feel too tired to go, we’ve all experienced that, but try and make yourself go and make the most of it.
And if you’re thinking you should be writing, not out socialising with other writers. Let me tell you something: I started going to a writing group in April I have written more this year than I have in any other year.
Besides, our work is always constantly in need of improvement and the only way you’re going to improve is by sharing your work with other people.
And you will develop if you let yourself, I sometimes look back at work I wrote in 2015 and think: why on Earth did I write that? That’s partly because we writers are very hard on ourselves. But it’s also partly because I am a better writer than the writer I was then and I will endeavour to be a better writer than the writer I am now this year.
And a key part of that, is the time I have spent last year with other writers trying to learn what I can do better.
6. Don’t Ever Give Up
As I said earlier: writing is hard. You will have days where you want to burn your project and forget you ever had the idea. There will also be days where you want to start something new. Ignore all of these things.
The thing is with writing, is so you have the idea, it’s amazing to start with and that’s what gets you through the start. But you will inevitably get to a point where it has lost its appeal. If you want to finish a novel, then you have to push through that point and not give up.
It is okay to have other ideas brewing in your head. It might even be useful to set yourself aside some time to write them down, but do not let them distract you from your project.
Also, if you start to feel your project will never be good enough: just get it written. A finished project is better than no project. You can fix something that is broken but you cannot fix something that doesn’t exist.