The Writing Process

Writing Resolutions

Well, here we are again. 2012 is dead, and 2013 is all shiny and new. The much-anticipated End of the World was a bit of a non-event. Christmas passed in a blur of wine and indigestion. And today spent fireworks and party poppers are littering the ground, and revellers everywhere are nursing evil hangovers. It can mean only one thing: yes, it’s time for some New Year resolutions!

Image credit: Carolyn Seelen | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Image credit: Carolyn Seelen | Dreamstime Stock Photos

I’m sceptical about resolutions in general, not least because they rarely make it past the first week of January. Diets and exercise regimes are abandoned; stealthy cigarettes are smoked, and bottles of wine cracked open. In order to really fulfil your resolutions, you have to want to do so, body and soul. This is part of my problem, I think: I lack the resolve to see these things through. Realistically, I’m most unlikely to live on tofu and mung beans or go for a run every morning, and I’m not sure I even really want to.

One thing I’m very serious about, however, is writing, so this year I’m setting a number of writing resolutions. I think my chances of success are pretty good, mainly because I really do want to succeed. Here they are:

Use your time wisely. 

This can be tricky for those of us who have day jobs. Tiredness and other responsibilities can be used as eternal excuses, especially in those miserable times when writing feels like swimming through treacle. In 2013, I’m going to use my time well. No matter how tired I am, no matter how many other demands are being made upon my time, I am going to set at least two hours per day aside for writing. Not research, not surfing the internet, not blogging. Writing.

Image credit: Sherry Tetens Long | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Image credit: Sherry Tetens Long | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Not everything I write will be brilliant, by any means. It’s not at all uncommon to reread a few pages and facepalm, before muttering, “Mental effluent. Mental effluent, pure and simple.” However, time spent writing is never wasted. Terrible writing can be another step on the road towards good writing.

Image credit: Brandon Grasley | Wikimedia Commons
Image credit: Brandon Grasley | Wikimedia Commons

 Take criticism on the chin.

This is one I think I’m pretty good at anyway. Still, there’s no denying it: criticism hurts. Your book is your baby; your love for it is unconditional. However, there’s also a good chance that nobody else will ever love it quite the way you do. This is one of the contradictions that come with the territory. In order to write, you have to be almost excruciatingly sensitive; but once you’ve published, and the reviews start to creep in, you have to be as tough as old boots.

Painful as criticism is, though, there is such a thing as a “good bad review” – a review that at least tries to analyse why the reader thinks something doesn’t work. This is always valuable. Besides, once you published your work, it ceased to be yours alone. Now that it’s “out there”, in the big scary world, people can think and say whatever they like about it.

Goodwill to all writers.

I don’t think of myself as being in competition with other authors. If I get jealous because somebody else’s book is selling better than mine, I’m only doing myself a disservice. (This doesn’t happen often, admittedly, not because I’m selling well by any standards, but just because I don’t pay a great deal of attention.) If I get jealous because somebody else has written the book I really, really wish I had written – and this happens a lot – I’m missing the point rather spectacularly. It’s not about me: it’s about the book.

The importance of author solidarity is something I’m only just beginning to really appreciate. I’m going to help other authors as often as I can, and in every way I reasonably can. Not by telling them that their work’s great even if I think it isn’t, or by spamming on their behalf, but by just generally being helpful and respectful and “paying it forward”.

Never be completely satisfied.

“Good enough” is not good enough. Strive for perfection. You’ll inevitably fall short, but at least you’ll have aimed high, and hopefully achieved more than you would have if your ambitions had only been mediocre.

Perfectionism. Image credit: Lyn Lomasi | Wikimedia Commons
Perfectionism. Image credit: Lyn Lomasi | Wikimedia Commons

If Platonic “forms” or “ideals” exist anywhere, it certainly isn’t on this earth. The “perfect novel” will never be penned, by me or anyone else. However, if I keep the idea of it in my mind, it will hopefully help me to write something that is, if not perfect, at least pretty damn good.

On the other hand:

Be forgiving, of yourself and others.

Nobody’s perfect. We all make mistakes. I’ve made some hideous blunders in the course of my life, but I’d hate it if I was to be defined by those blunders. Occasional lapses and failures, in writing and in life, are to be expected. Telling somebody that you think they’ve made a mistake is one thing – if I’m doing something wrong, I want to know about it – but holding it against them is quite another.

Have you made any writing resolutions, or indeed any non-writing resolutions? One way or another, have a great (and productive) 2013!

12 thoughts on “Writing Resolutions

  1. I share a resolution with you, Mari: I’m going to set aside some daily time for actual writing as opposed to blogging and researching. Looking back over the year, I see that I have made no significant progress at all on any of my stories and novels. I kept sweeping everything aside so I could use my limited time resources for something else.

    In January 2012, I started researching indie publishing (last year’s resolution!), then I took a brief look at blogging, then actually started a blog, then spent enormous amounts of time improving my blog’s appearance and learning how to be a better blogger, and so on. Suddenly, it’s January again!

    With the indie-publishing research behind me, and the blog up and running well, I can at least say that I’ve achieved last year’s resolution. (Being an old fox, I had just the one.)

    Anyhow, let’s go forward together, Mari. Scribblers’ solidarity and all that. Writing glory awaits!

    1. I know what you mean, Thomas: blogging and the like can eat up an enormous amount of time. I’ve actually come to really enjoy blogging for its own sake, but it’s still (IMO) a secondary activity, and should be treated as such. Having said that, I have to say that in the course of 2012 you set up and maintained one of the most intelligent and consistently well-written blogs around, which is no mean achievement!

      Anyway, onwards and upwards to writing glory! (Well, in our dreams, at least… 😉 )

  2. Hey, thanks for being the recipient of your resolutions with the review for Brand Loyalty. I’ve blogged – I went to buy a copy of The Quickening (my memory told me I either blagged a free copy from you or got it on a giveaway) and I felt I should both BUY and READ it as solidarity. Only to be told by Amazon I’ve already paid money for it. Can’t believe it. But it means you WON’T be getting excited by another wee sale from me. HOWEVER I have a few other plans. About which i shall be in touch in due course. Thanks and ciao!

    1. Ciao Cally!

      I’m sorry it took me so long to write the review, when I actually finished Brand Loyalty a couple of months ago. I think it was a case of lots of things happening at once and getting snowed under … anyway, I’m glad I finally got round to writing up a review, because I loved it – yes, it’s one of those novels I really wish I had written (as above).

      I notice you’re putting together plans for the Edinburgh ebook Festival in the summer, and wondered if I might be able to help spread the word, with blogging and tweeting and the like? If I can help at all, just let me know.

  3. I made a resolution to ignore social media and actually write. My resolution lasted three days. Sadly, I have become a geek. The three days of writing is starting to (metaphorically) yellow and my characters have packed and left in disgust.

    Enjoying THE QUICKENING. Will be finished soon 🙂

    When you say Edinburgh ebook Festival, do you mean the Edinburgh Book Festival, or have I missed a trick?

      1. Miss them all the time, I’m afraid. I hear fellow writers expanding on truly excellent marketing ideas and the solitary brain cell that deals with marketing becomes comatose. Could be age, of course.

        It’s not lack of willpower you’re experiencing; it’s the next great idea gestating 🙂

        I’ll certainly take a look at the link – cheers, Mari!

      2. To be honest, I think it’s less to do with marketing than with celebrating ebooks and indie writing in general. I like this approach – but then again, I hate all the marketing stuff and find it excruciatingly embarrassing, apart from anything. I’d quite like to excise my single brain cell that deals with marketing, so that I could just forget about it and write.

      3. I begin to wonder if stopping marketing entirely might be a good idea. There are so many books in the ether and unless one has a large budget marketing is a bit of a black hole for indies. I can’t get to grips with blog tours and although retweeting is always appreciated, it’s mostly preaching to the converted.

        Might try just writing and cut back on the embarrassing self-promotion. Brits don’t do it well anyway!

  4. Mari, I’ve just read the first two chapters of ‘The Quickening’ and I’m really impressed. You’ve got the tone of a late Victorian ghost story beautifully. I love the atmosphere of impending menace. I have never been to Lincolnshire so far, but from this I can tell just how fierce it is! I’m having to read it on screen, as I don’t have a Kindle, but I am really enjoying it anyway!

    1. Thank you, Lucinda! I’m glad you’re enjoying it. I got stuck into ‘That Scoundrel Emile Dubois’ yesterday while I was at the hairdresser’s, and am really enjoying it so far!

      It’s funny, I’ve only been to Lincolnshire and the Fens once, but it obviously made an impression on me. It seemed to me to be an ideal location for a ghost story. I’m actually from the same neck of the woods as you (Wales), only a bit farther south. Reading the bits of your novel set in Wales made me feel a tad homesick!

      1. Mari, you must have a wonderful visual memory, as I’m really getting a picture of the place, though I’ve never been, and as it must have been for so many centuries, before the damage to the wildflower population by intensive farming. Ah, about homesickness! So glad you’re enjoying mine…

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