7 writing resolutions to finish your story this year

The start of a new year is a time to plan new chapters, literally and metaphorically. Here are 7 writing resolutions worth trying if you’re serious about reaching all your writing goals this year:

1. Fill the jar whichever way you can, every week

In an interview with The Guardian, Emma Donoghue (author of Room) talks about the challenge of writing a novel with other competing commitments. Donoghue uses the metaphor of filling a jar to describe the process:

How do those with real jobs, or kids at home, get anything written at all? Fill the jar with the big stones first, I remind myself, then the pebbles, then the sand. The problem is that there’s so much sand, I tackle it first so I won’t get swamped and drown in it…

Donoghue’s jar image is a good reminder that writing a book consists of many tasks of different sizes. If you have a day where you feel creatively ‘blocked’, do productive work such as researching details about a place that will be the setting for a scene in your story. Resolve to keep up momentum by not single-mindedly going after the pebbles – some days sand will do.

2. Create a realistic writing schedule

How often have you bought a year planner to schedule writing time, only to use it for the first few months, weeks or even days of the year?

Make a writing schedule but choose realistic targets. If you want to write an 80, 000 word novel but only have an hour or two per week to spare, accept that finishing your draft will take time. Ticking off days on your schedule and persisting will get you to your goal.

[To get an idea of a realistic deadline for finishing your first draft, use Now Novel’s deadline calculator – you can find it in your member profile section if you’ve signed up. Once you input the number of hours you have to write per week, you’ll get an estimate for when your draft will be complete.]

3. Be kind to yourself about your writing

In the past year we ran several polls where we asked you, our readers, what your biggest challenges were. Many said self-doubt and confidence. This year, resolve to turn off that critical voice as you draft. Instead of picking apart your own work, join a critique community (like Now Novel) so that you can get an external perspective on any scene or passage you’re unsure about, but only once you’ve finished writing it. Try never stopping mid-phrase to tinker.

Also hold off large-scale editing and revising until you either have written a complete draft or have a plot outline for where your story will go. Otherwise it’s easy to get caught in a loop of going back to edit the same passage or chapter repeatedly without moving forward.

4. Work on the part of writing craft you find hardest now

Often when there’s a creative challenge we focus on doing the work that comes most naturally to us. Instead, if you find writing flowing dialogue a challenge or find it hard to be creative with character description, work on these elements of craft daily until you see improvement.

5. Structure your writing and your process

Lack of structure in how you approach each writing session can mean that you waste useful minutes finding your momentum. This year, try a structured approach. Write a brief summary of the core intent and purpose behind a scene before you start drafting. For example:

Event: Hannah and Pete meet in orchestra practice and bond over their mutual dislike of the demanding conductor.
Setting: Conservatory’s rehearsal space. [NB: find visual references]

Setting up purpose and direction from the outset makes it easier to speed along to the core interactions of each scene that weave together your story’s disparate strands.

6. Resolve to make the time for your love of writing

Aspiring writers often email us to say they don’t have time to write. Resolve to find the time, wherever you can. You could, for example:

  • Carry a notebook and write when waiting in doctors’ rooms, in line at the bank or during unexpected hold-ups
  • Set your alarm half an hour earlier and spend 20 minutes writing
  • Use a voice-activated recorder while occupied with other solitary activities to dictate parts of your novel or story

The simple truth is if storytelling gives you joy, you’ll make time for it this year.

7. Allow yourself to skip parts that slow you down

This is good advice author Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn shares here. Even if your final novel will have a linear plot, you can piece it together any way you like. Resolve to work with more freedom but remember to note down unresolved plot points (as Penn advises) so that you don’t have accidental plot holes and inconsistencies.

What are your writing resolutions for this year? Share in the comments.

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