Happy New Year everyone! I wish you a healthy and content 2017. I don’t make new resolutions, these days – not in terms of giving up chocolate or promising to be in the gym every morning by seven. However I have lived through many years of making resolutions about my writing. Here are the top five I consider to be useful and realistic – and I’m sure some of you have tried and tested effective ones, and it would be great if you shared them here!
Firstly – be true to yourself. Don’t try to mimic other writers because you will never be a better version of them – just as no one can be a better version of yourself. Love Lucy Diamond? Great – read her books and try to analyse how she pulls readers into her stories and makes her lead characters so likeable. But don’t aim to reproduce her style. You have your own voice which – in my experience – will eventually emerge. It may be a long journey to find it, driven by writing manuscript after manuscript, but when you finally have that lightbulb moment and feel the words in your head are translating to the page exactly as they should, it’s a precious thing that – ultimately – will make you stand out as different, on the slushpile.
Secondly – learn to appreciate constructive criticism. This one can be hard! If you are an aspiring writer and someone more experienced has given you negative feedback, try to step away from your personal hurt and clinically look at the comments. And the same applies to a published author who has just received a bad review. If it is personal and insulting then it doesn’t deserve your attention – but if it’s polite and makes potentially fair comments, then consider analysing the negatives and maybe take them on board. I’ve found some unfavourable reviews quite useful in the past as they have given me an insight into where I might be going wrong, in terms of creating relatable characters and plots that keep readers wanting to read on, right to the end. And if the negative feedback is from your editor, during revisions, just remember – she/he believes in you and is simply investing their time in trying to make your book even better than they already believe it is.
Thirdly – Read, read and read more. I failed dismally at this is 2016. But some of the books I did find time to enjoy really helped me to be more adventurous with my own writing. It is easy to get stuck in a rut with your own style if you don’t get a taste of how other authors are pushing boundaries and hitting the pleasure-spot for readers. I try not to let my writing style stagnate.
Fourthly – don’t forget why you started writing. Presumably – like me – it was due to a love of words and crafting sentences together. If it was for fame and fortune (*hollow laugh*!) you won’t survive the path it takes to get published. But if writing is a dream that comes from the heart, then when you get rejected or published and have to deal with deadlines, promotional work, bad reviews etc, just remind yourself that you are doing what you love and leaving behind a legacy of your creativity.
Finally, aspiring authors – don’t do what I did in the early days, and make the resolution “to get published this year”. It doesn’t quite work like that! Instead resolve to achieve something more attainable like “this year I will submit my work to twenty agents” or “this year I will see if I can get one full manuscript request”. Don’t set yourself too high expectations as you will feel you’ve failed, even if, in the bigger picture, you haven’t. Savour small victories, like a positive rejection letter. The road to publication takes many small steps, not one giant leap.
Best of luck and above all else, don’t forget to be kind to yourself. It’s a crazy business, this publishing malarkey, and dealing with it can be a challenge for us sensitive writing souls.