Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

Some of the most common resolutions we make this time of year are to lose weight, get fitter, eat healthier and so on. Many of them can be applied to writing. Here’s how.

Lose weight

An easy writing resolution to start with. Aim to shed some weight from your writing by saying what you want to say in fewer and simpler words. Clear communication is key. You want the words to carry your story rather than attracting attention to themselves. In literary fiction, the words can be a reason for reading, but in most other forms of storytelling, the reader should get caught up in what’s happening so they feel as if they’re living the events instead of being told about them by the author. Make every word work for its place in the manuscript.

Get fitter

Workouts for authors are a good thing. Spending most of our working days seated at a keyboard doesn’t make our muscles happy. There are standing keyboards, desks you can fit to treadmills, and many other devices to overcome this problem. Or you can set a kitchen timer to remind you to get up and move around at regular intervals. Computer apps do this as well. But what about a fitness regime for your writing? When you begin, are you writing ready? Is your mind elsewhere, worrying about family or job worries? Or on what to cook for dinner tonight?  It’s amazing what jumps into our thoughts when we should be focussing on the story at hand.

I recommend having “rituals”, routines you set up that get your mind into the same place as your body. Rituals can range from checking emails to reading over your previous output. Set a time for the rituals to end and work to begin but don’t nag yourself if you need rituals to ease into your writing.  Walking through the door of the gym gets you into fitness mode; so having a set time and place to write tells your mind that it’s time to write.

Your writing also needs to be toned up – with the basic research, outlining and character development in hand. You don’t need to know every detail of your research. It’s OK to put “to come” in brackets and hunt out specifics later. But constantly flitting from draft to research can be another form of procrastination.

Set up a budget

This is a favourite personal resolution you can apply to your writing. Choose a measurable goal you want to achieve and the time frame for getting there, then work backwords to how many words you need to write on a regular basis to achieve the goal. Do you want to enter a contest? Submit to an editor? What requirements do you need to meet? Just as a budget needs room for unexpected costs, your writing budget also needs leeway for life to intervene. Every writer’s word budget will differ depending on the time you have available. If it’s only a few hours on evenings or weekends, be realistic in setting your word budget and keep a diary or wall chart of your progress so you don’t short-change yourself.

What other resolutions would get your writing into peak form for 2012? Share your hints by adding a comment below.


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Comments on: "Resolutions to improve your writing in 2012" (11)

  1. Some fabulous advice there Valerie. I don’t think I could write while I’m on an exercise machine though. I do get up and walk every 20 mins of so though. Oh wait. That’s to forage for food. Something else to change!

    • “That’s to forage for food” – I resemble that remark, Maggie. I have the same problem. Either brain works or feet work, not both at same time.

  2. Make a habit of writing something every day…even if it’s a mere sentence. That’s a sentence you didn’t have the day before.

  3. A treadmill with a desk. What a great idea. I want one. I’m 4 kgs down but stll as verbose as ever LOL So good advice VP. Very clever. As for that cat! ROFLMAO

  4. One sentence a day, I like that. We can all write one sentence. Chances are good that having written one, you’ll think of the next and the next. When I got stuck on plot development recently, I let myself write 4 scene cards in an hour. Several hours later I was still going. Glad you like the desk idea, Jenn. There’s one invented by a Mayo clinic doctor here Google “treadmill desk” for other examples. I resemble the LOLcat, alas.

  5. AmeliaElias said:

    I have wanted a treadmill desk FOR YEARS! They are awesome. I love your resolutions, Valerie! One I’d add is don’t stress that it’s not perfect, just get it out. As an editor of mine used to say, you can fix crap, but you can’t fix a great page. There’s a reason for multiple drafts and rounds of edits. Perfect it then. For now just get it on the page.

  6. AmeliaElias said:

    … that’s supposed to be BLANK page, not great. Autocorrect strikes again.

  7. I’m finding a good ritual to get me into writing is to give myself permission to do free-writing for a few minutes. I might write what the upcoming scene is about, brainstorm ideas or even just write “I really, really, really don’t feel like writing today.” It seems to click my brain into “writing mode”.

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