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10 writing resolutions for a novel year

Writing resolutions, like other goals, are best kept small and easily attainable. Read 10 ideas for reaching your goals this year:

Writing resolutions, like other goals, are best when they’re SMART. Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. Choosing realistic goals and taking purpose-driven steps towards them will ensure this is your year of making great strides in your writing:

10 writing resolutions: Ideas for a productive year

  1. Plan and structure your process
  2. Commit to small, steady targets
  3. Create accountability
  4. Write while practicing self-compassion
  5. Practice giving and getting feedback
  6. Switch off distracting noise
  7. Read what nurtures your craft
  8. Take writing risks and try new things
  9. Save everything
  10. Write now, edit later

Plan and structure your process

You’ve probably heard or discussed the ‘plotter vs pantser’ debate many times before. The debate on whether ’tis better to suffer the slings and arrows of a big ‘what now’ or plan stories in advance and in detail.

First, do what suits you. Second, try something new and shake the habitual if the first option isn’t working.

If you’re not a planner by nature, you could find a happy compromise somewhere between outlining fifteen (or fifty) beats and the process equivalent of a thumb-suck.

Members can join our ‘Getting Started’ writing webinar or watch the catch-up recording) for tips on launching a structured writing process for the year ahead.

See our article on creative ways to organize your story scenes using the Now Novel Scene Builder, too.

Commit to small, steady targets

Our co-founder Bridget once shared wisdom from her mother on tackling hard tasks: ‘How do you eat an elephant? Piece by piece’.

To shift away from dreaming to doing, it is essential to set goals that are attainable and practical.

The benefit of SMART writing goals is you gain:

  • Frequent, small wins that keep you motivated
  • A replicable process for tackling larger tasks via attainable milestones
  • A satisfying action plan (in place of a dream)

A small, daily word target might not seem much in the moment. Yet a month of writing 200 words per day will bring you 6,000 words closer to your goal.

The writing sprints in Now Novel’s Group Coaching course provide a structured way to create space for your writing, in community with other writers who are serious about reaching goals this year.

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Exercise: Create a list of attainable goals

List attainable writing resolutions, according to the time you have available for the first quarter of the year. For example:

  • Write 200 words every day before entertainment or bedtime
  • Create calendar alerts or reminders for important milestones (e.g. ‘Start drafting Chapter 1’)

Create accountability

You may have had great plans for your writing in the past year.

If they didn’t all come to fruition yet, be kind to yourself.

Many writers are grappling with the prolonged stress of the pandemic, or working through the grief of the loss of family members or friends. Or (hopefully) enjoying renewed freedoms.

In times ordinary and bewildering, accountability helps. A writing buddy or coach is someone to check in with, to help you consistently prioritize your writing.

Resolve to stay accountable to your creative dreams and ambitions. You could:

  • Join a writing group online and agree to share the word count you produce weekly with other members
  • Reward yourself for small wins (this doesn’t need to cost anything – it could be a walk somewhere you love whenever you reach a writing milestone)
  • Attend writing sprints where you meet virtually with other writers, turn off your mics, and all write for a fixed time each day

However you keep yourself accountable, try to keep a playful ‘let’s see if I can’ rather than ‘I have to, and it’s a chore’ mindset. Putting excessive pressure on yourself may be counterproductive.

Write while practicing self-compassion

Many writers doubt their abilities (even prize-winners, speech-givers, and all other kinds of decorated wordsmiths). The more we know, the longer the road ahead looks. 

David Robson, for the BBC’s ‘Worklife’ series, makes a good point about why many people are hard on themselves and value this positively:

For many people, the most harshly judgemental responses are the most natural. Indeed, we may even take pride in being hard on ourselves as a sign of our ambition and resolution to be our best possible self.

Why self-compassion – not self-esteem – leads to success‘, David Robson, BBC Worklife, 13th January 2021

Robson shares helpful ideas from an associate professor of educational psychology, Kristin Neff. Statements such as ‘I try to see my failings as part of the human condition’, says Neff, help us reframe setbacks in more affirming terms.

Try to reframe the writing sessions you didn’t make, the chapter that wasn’t ‘word-perfect’ as ordinary, expected imperfections (and not critical losses).

This resilience is so worth working on (though it is a daily effort). It is the backbone of perseverance, a vital trait to work on for any creative person.

Resist saying anything cruel to yourself, about yourself, that you wouldn’t dream of saying to anyone else.

Writing resolutions quote - J Hawes | Now Novel

Practice giving and getting feedback

We often make writing resolutions about ‘butt in chair’, doing the work. Yet the actual writing is only one part of creative process.

Feedback is a valuable part of creative process, and of communication, too. Your readers are a mirror – sometimes cracked or slant, but still reflecting, giving perspectives. Resolving to give and seek feedback will help you grow your writing.

Writing circles, whether meeting in person or virtually, provide a space (ideally) to share work-in-progress with constructive care rather than judgment.

The connections we make with others who also have a passion for words and stories are rewarding and motivating.

Switch off distracting noise

Modern life is noisy. Ask Jonathan Franzen.

Not just the hum of electronics or passing traffic, but ‘digital noise’, too. Tiktoks and Reels, seventeen memes-per-minute in the family chat group.

When you sit down to write this year, try:

  • Turning off notifications on your phone for a set time
  • Putting your writing device in airplane mode if no internet reduces the many tempting distractions of the web
  • Shifting the time or place you write, if the usual isn’t working (Toni Morrison describes rising earlier to claim back writing time from the demands of family life)

Writing before dawn began as a necessity—I had small children when I first began to write and I needed to use the time before they said, Mama—and that was always around five in the morning. Many years later, after I stopped working at Random House, I just stayed at home for a couple of years. I discovered things about myself I had never thought about before.

Toni Morrison, interviewed by Elissa Schappell & Claudia Brodsky Lacour, ‘The Art of Fiction No. 134, The Paris Review
Writing resolutions infographic | Now Novel

Read what nurtures your craft

Learning to be a better writer is also learning to be a better reader. We read and revise our own writing constantly.

Being focused and decisive about what you read is like building your own, purpose-fit curriculum.

When we interviewed Now Novel writing coach Hedi Lampert, she shared how instructive reading quality publications such as The New Yorker was for her own writing development:

You know, I trained myself … Okay, I was always into writing and English at school was a very good subject for me and I loved reading from the minute I could read. But I trained myself to write well for publishing purposes by reading really good consumer magazines.

I would suggest actually reading essays in The New Yorker, and other really revered current publications.

Hedi Lampert, interviewed by Lascelles Marais, ‘Writing mentor interview: Hedi Lampert on creative memoir’, Now Novel.

Take writing risks and try new things

While you don’t have a big publishing contract, there is great writing freedom. You’re not writing to an already-established audience you’ve built yourself, or to a market’s shifting moods.

Resolve to take writing risks and try new things creatively. It could be using an unconventional viewpoint or voice, or else trying a specific structure for a story such as a mirror structure where the story runs to the middle and then resolves its threads in reverse.

Whatever you try, have fun exploring and enjoying the simple audacity of ‘What if…?’

Save everything

We lost many esteemed authors in 2021, including the Gothic writer Anne Rice.

Lithub shared a tribute to Rice with some of her best writing advice, including this wisdom:

You may write two or three chapters of a book and decide you hate it. Don’t throw it away, save it. It’s very easy to do in the computer age—you make a folder for that, you put it away, you save it.

Anne Rice, quoted in ‘“Never think you’re too weird.” Read Anne Rice’s best writing advice.’, Emily Temple, Literary Hub, December 13th 2021.

This matches C.S. Lewis’ advice to save everything – the beloved fantasy author professed having written some of his best work thanks to rifling through old, discarded material.

Write now, edit later

Whether it’s ‘write drunk, edit sober’, or this, less risky option, it’s a good idea to write with abandon as much as possible and let your critical voice surface once you have the skeleton of a story down.

Writing and stopping to edit continuously may lead to ‘analysis paralysis’, where indecision about what you have already steals focus from the ideas, images and character arcs waiting in the wings.

What are your writing hopes and dreams for the year ahead? Let us know in the comments below.

Serious about finishing your book? Join Group Coaching for a six-month, structured writing course that includes outlining tools, writing sprints, and constructive feedback to help you reach your writing goals.

By Jordan

Jordan is a writer, editor, community manager and product developer. He received his BA Honours in English Literature and his undergraduate in English Literature and Music from the University of Cape Town.

4 replies on “10 writing resolutions for a novel year”

My writing resolutions this year are,
1- establish a daily time to write.
2. establish a daily place to write.

When I accomplish these two goals I will then from this new stage be able to see what is next.

Thank you for sharing your resolutions, Stanley! Have you found a time and place? I find early morning in a small room at the back of the house that just has a desk and books and no distractions is best, myself.

I made a breakthrough this year – oops, last year! I finished a first draft for the first time after a gazillion good starts. The difference between this time and all the others?
1) I converted from pantser to planner. I used the three act template (thank you Now Novel for the article on that!).
2) And my first go at this wasn’t detailed enough – 1,000 words all in. The result? My first draft died in the ditch at 70,000.
3) So I went back and expanded my outline, really bullet pointing some of the key things I wanted to happen. Result – I got to 123,000 words and wrote “The End” [you all know that is just “for now”, right – it’s still a first draft and will go through a lot more revisions before I’m done. ]
4) I really celebrated that moment – it was quite emotional after 30 years of not getting there!
5) I was patient with myself and kind to myself most of the time. I said “thank you for your service” to the critic and the doubter, and stopped listening to them. My novel might not get published, but it’s got a lot more chance now that it has a beginning, middle and end.
6) I spent a lot less time (not quite zero, but close!) editing what I’d already written. I tried to really focus on what I was going to say next, not what I’d written the day before. The most important thing about this is that in the past I have created very good sentences, paragraphs, pages even, but until you get to the end, you don’t really know if the beautiful metaphor you’ve come up with actually belongs in the story you end up telling – the editing really has to come once you’ve finished working that out. It’s also much more exciting as you keep getting closer to that final chapter.

I’ve put my first draft in a folder, printed out and ready for the edit, but I’m putting some emotional distance between us.

In the interim, I’ve planned a second novel in a completely different genre, and am about 25% of the way through writing the first draft of that.

If I can do that, I truly believe there’s hope for everyone!

Hi Mark, this is so great to hear. Congratulations on finishing your draft and putting in the additional work you did that got you to ‘The End’. Good luck for the edit and for your second novel’s writing, too.

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