Holy Guacamole, my dear writer. Can you believe it's 2017?! You are starting a brand new page in the novel of your writing life, and I am determined to help you make this your best writing year yet! So, in the spirit of 2017, I've got a total of 17 tips to help you plan your writing year, transform your writing dreams into your reality, and become the writer you were always meant to be. Are you ready?!
1. DREAM BIG, SET GOALS, AND WRITE!
The first thing to do is to dream yourself a big, beautiful dream. What do you want from writing? To finish writing a book? To become a bestselling author? To change the minds of society? To find internal peace? Ask yourself what you want from writing. Dream up all the best possible things that could happen with your writing, right now.
Then, make a plan to put it into action. Make some Real+Good Goals (SMART+HARD goals) that will help you make progress towards your big dreams. Get yourself a plan, a schedule, and transform your dreams into your reality.
Need some help getting started? Here’s some Real+Good Goals to jumpstart your goal planning for the new year:
- I want to read 12 books by December 31, 2017.
- I want to write 12 short stories by December 31, 2017.
- I want to finish writing my novel / 2 novels / 3 novels by December 31, 2017.
- I want to submit my work to 100 publishers (literary magazines and agents) by December 31, 2017.
- I want to attend a writing conference by December 31, 2017.
- I want to create my own writing retreat by December 31, 2017.
*PRO TIP: THESE SAMPLE GOALS ARE THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG. MAKE SURE TO INCLUDE YOUR WHY AND YOUR HOW WHEN WRITING THEM FOR YOURSELF. You’re much more likely to complete your goals if they’re relevant to you personally and if you have a plan for getting them done. Learn all about how to transform your goals into your reality here!
2. CHALLENGE YOURSELF
If you keep the same routine you’ve got, you’ll never grow. You want to grow as a writer. You want to be the best writer that you can be. And so that means, you’ve got to up your game sometimes. You’ve got to push yourself to go farther, do better, and become that writer you dream of being.
Challenge yourself in your writing process this year. Whether that means you experiment with a new genre (have you ever written poetry, or scifi?), you increase your daily word count goals, you partake in a social media writing challenge (Booktober or posting a snippet of your WIP on Instagram every day for a month), or even join in for the NaNoWriMo fun (or Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July). Whatever you choose to do, plan to up your game just a little bit to help your writing grow.
3. GET INTO A ROUTINE
Once you've got all your goals and plans mapped out, it's time to put them into action. The best way to do that is to develop habits so that it's easier for you to jump into action. Luckily, I've got a whole post for ya on figuring out what YOUR best habits are (your best times, places, methods, and success measurements for writing), and how exactly to turn those magical numbers into a routine that you can do consistently. Soon enough, you'll be commanding the muse to come on your time, the writing will come easily, and you'll have a whole lot of fun as you accomplish all your writing goals. Check it out!
4. RELEASE THE CHAINS OF "SHOULD"
You may think that you “should” write a certain way. Maybe you “should” write in the mornings, or every day. Maybe you “should” write at a cafe in the sunlight while listening to classical music. Maybe you “should” be writing mystery novels.
But this “should” is a dangerous word that keeps you trapped. It will make you feel guilty. It will lengthen the divide between who you are and who you “should” be. It won’t help you and your writing; it only tears you apart.
So get rid of “should” and keep the truth. Write what you want, when you want, where you want, and how you want. Write the stories you want to write. Write in the time, place, and method that works for you. The only thing you “should” be doing is what’s right for you.
And, of course, you “should” be writing.
5. LEARN WHY YOU WRITE AT ALL, AND USE IT TO DRIVE YOU
Sometimes, you’re not going to feel like writing. Sometimes, you’re going to be bored with your story. Sometimes you’re going to feel like it’s all pointless. Without knowing your why, it’s going to be hard to write when things get tough. But when you DO know it, your why becomes one of the most important tool in your writing toolbox, because it will pick you up and keep you going no matter what happens.
The question is: Do you know yours?
Spend some time really thinking about why you’re doing this at all. Why are you devoting your precious time and energy to putting words on the page? What IS the point? What does writing mean to you? What does writing THIS story mean to you? Get yourself focused and motivated.
Then, when you’ve figured this out, put a representation of this somewhere you’ll see it often. Remind yourself of your why. Keep it at the forefront of your mind to help you continue to take action.
6. KNOW WHO YOU ARE AS A WRITER WITH THE REAL+GOOD WRITER'S DNA
The number one thing that FREED my writing and allowed me to be the writer I wanted to be was learning my Writer’s DNA. I took the time and really thought (really really really really thought) about who I was, what inspired me, what I wanted to write, what I read, and why I wrote at all. I reset all those “shoulds” and define what worked for me. I got to know myself and, therefore, my writing. I consciously infused myself into my work, made my writing more authentic and true to who I am. And it was FANTASTIC.
This technique was so powerful and influential in my writing life that I turned it into a whole mini-course so you can apply it to your life too. Join right here to dive into your own Writer’s DNA (P.S. IT’S FREE!).
7. READ SOME REAL+GOOD BOOKS
A well-fed writer is a well-read writer. You can’t improve your writing if you don’t improve your reading. So, read some books! Make a plan of what you’re going to read. Make a goal to read more books this year, or to read more short stories this year.
You also want to be reading books that are relevant to you and your work. Again, in the same vein of releasing the chains of “should” and following your own personal Writer's DNA, you want to make sure you’re reading things that make sense for you. Be deliberate in choosing which books you want to read.
To get a good balance, check out Gabriela Pereira from DIYMFA's tips for building your reading list. She suggests you find a balance between competitive, informative, contemporary, and classic books in order to maintain a diverse and balanced reading diet. I use this every single time I make a plan for what to read next.
8. KNOW THAT YOU'RE THE BEST WRITER YOU'VE EVER BEEN, RIGHT NOW
Guess what: You're the best you've ever been in your whole life. You have never known more about writing that you do right now. You have never been more equipped to write this story emotionally than you are right now. You have every tool you could need. You are prepared. You are ready. You just have to do it. I believe in you. (*virtual hugs).
9. QUIT BEING SCARED OF WHAT PEOPLE WILL THINK, AND WRITE THE STORY YOU WERE MEANT TO WRITE
We are living in a time when a lot of people are being attacked for what they say and think. We are living in a time when some people are speaking their opinions loud and proud, while others are scared to speak a word. We are living in a time where there are a lot of differing thoughts and beliefs, and people are being scared into silence for what they think, how they feel. We are living in a time where being yourself, and talking about who you are and what you think, is really, really hard. This sucks. This can make the writing really difficult. And scary.
But you mustn't let your story and your thoughts and your beliefs be silenced. Your story is important and it deserves to be told. It deserves to be written and it deserves to be read.
Write the story you were meant to write. Write it for yourself. Quit worrying about what other people may or may not think and do it for yourself. We all need to become better at listening, understanding. We need to have more empathy. The way we can start that trend is by reading and writing. We share our experiences through the written word, we learn about other experiences through reading, and then we can discuss, learn, and grow.
Just write. Throw the fear of what others will think out the window and just write. All that matters in your first draft is what you think. Just write. Please, oh please oh please, just write. *More on this soon.
10. BALANCE WRITING WITH THE REST OF YOUR LIFE
You can't grow as a human (and therefore, you can't grow as a writer) if you only focus on one tiny area of your life. As a human, you have to pay attention to everything you do, devote time and resources to all facets of yourself, and commit to being the best human you can be, not just the best writer you can be.
Take some time to pay attention to the rest of your life, not just your writing. As you make all your goals and plans and dreams for writing, don't forget to do the same for other areas of your life: relationships, spirituality, finances, health, career, personal development. Don't just strive to be the best writer, strive to be the best human.
11. FORGIVE THE PAST
Maybe you didn't accomplish all your writing dreams this past year. Maybe you didn’t reach all your goals. Maybe you made a lot of progress and then realized that you’d been heading in the wrong direction.
If you didn’t accomplish all your writing dreams last year, it’s easy to feel a little defeated. Those nasty feelings of failure and self-doubt can creep up on you really quickly. But you can’t succumb to them. If you keep dwelling on what didn’t happen, you'll never be able to move forward. Not everything you do is going to beautiful and perfect and end up on your life timeline in the exact order you’d like. That doesn’t mean you’re a failure or that you should give up. In fact, it means just the opposite: You should keep moving forward.
Forgive the past. Forgive your mistakes, your mess-ups, your bad habits. Forgive what you did and didn’t do with your writing. And let it go. It’s a brand new year. Stay in the present, look to the future. Remember the past, but don’t dwell there.
12. FIND A WORD TO GUIDE YOU
I like New Year’s Resolutions. I really like goals. I like the concrete definitions of what to do and what not to do in order to reach my dreams. And yet, what I’m about to suggest doesn’t live in that same category of black-and-white, definitive concreteness.
This tip is to choose a word to guide you and your writing throughout the next year. Choose a word to embody in every action you take, both in writing and in the rest of your life. Choose a word to live your life by this whole next year.
As a writer, you know how powerful words can be, and choosing a word to guide you will help give you purpose, help you make decisions on what to do and what to prioritize, and help you stay grounded in your quest to reach your writing dreams. While making plans and routines and goals are absolutely necessary to reaching your dreams, there’s something special about choosing a word. This word will help you decide whether to choose this story or that one, to spend time on your novel or to wash the dishes, to submit your work or to revise it a bit longer. This word should help you get up in the morning, spend time with your writing each week, and keep you on track. Choose a word to empower you, motivate you, drive you throughout your writing this next year.
The results of this are very subjective and completely up to your interpretation, which makes it a little difficult to track whether or not you've "lived up to" or "completed" your word. So don't think of it in terms like these; reserve these kinds of terms for your concrete goals. Instead, use your word as a friend to help you make decisions, take action, and keep writing.
If you want some help with choosing a word that's relevant to you, Susannah Conway has got you covered. She'll guide you through reflecting on your past, looking to your future, and grounding yourself in the present moment with a word that covers it all. (Plus, she's got a FREE mini course to help you do it!).
13. FIND YOUR WRITING COMMUNITY AND/OR CRITIQUE PARTNER
A Real+Good Writer never works alone, even if it feels like you do when you’re lost in your own head with a mob of rambling characters. You need someone to support you, a friend to bounce ideas of, someone to read your work and tell you the truth.
If you don’t already have a strong writing community or critique partner, it's time to get yourself one. There are SO MANY writers out there and you’re sure to connect with some of them. Don’t be scared to say “hello” and make friends with the people who are just as passionate (or frustrated, ha!) at their writing process as you are.
I’ve met wonderful people through Twitter, through reaching out spontaneously after reading an article about them, through Facebook groups. Writers are everywhere, and you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your bed to find them. Some great places to start would be Kristen Kieffer of She’s Novel’s Facebook Group and the multitude of Twitter chats that happen every single week.
14. GET INSPIRED
The last thing you want to feel when thinking about your writing is that it’s a chore. You want to head to the page with passion, excitement, inspiration. But sometimes the well runs dry. Get yourself fired up again with something inspiring. Whether it be through buying yourself a new notebook, or decorating your writing space with a great quote, or reading an inspirational writing book (Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird or Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic would be great places to start!), get yourself inspired to wake up and get writing.
15. LEARN NEW WRITING TECHNIQUES
To be a master writer, you’re constantly going to be learning and studying and applying and growing. Make some time to learn new writing techniques this year, whether that means learning a new genre, performing a case-study of your favorite author, joining a writing workshop, or researching how to be a better world-builder. However you need to improve in your writing, always make sure to pay attention to the craft itself.
16. TAKE THE PRESSURE OFF YOURSELF
At the same time that we're talking about all this big, magical stuff, you also have to remember that this is just another year, just another calendar year that humans have agreed on to track the passing of time.
Just because it's January 1st (or 2nd or 15th or whenever you're reading this) and it's technically 2017, it doesn't mean that all your troubles are resolved, all your bad habits are fixed, all your life has dramatically changed. Remember who you are, what you do, and stay realistic with yourself. It's not going to be perfect, and it's definitely NOT going to be perfect right away. So quit wishing it would be.
Take the pressure of perfection and "best year ever" off your back. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. So is tomorrow. Just take baby-steps, one foot in front of the other. Work to get better. Improve yourself. Remember, whatever's supposed to happen will happen, and whatever isn't will not (AND THAT'S OKAY). It's just another day, just another year; all you can do is do the best you can with what you have right now. The good news is, you have the power to do it.
17. WRITE! WRITE, RIGHT NOW!
You're life isn't a first draft. Every day is "published." You are the protagonist in your life story, and the novel has begun. You're going to have ups and downs. There is going to be successes and failures, happy times and conflict. The only thing there won’t be is a rewrite.
So, what do you do about that? You write. Write right now. Live your life as a writer. Be a writer. Write.
Armed with these tips, an action plan, a well-balanced diet of reading, writing, and life, and a big virtual hug from me, you are SO prepared to conquer this year and make 2017 your BEST writing year yet! So go, dear writer, and embark bravely into this new year confident and ready to write! I wish you a year of writing confidence, productivity, experience, and a whole lot of fun. Let's do this!