Miss Write's Advice: Writing Resolutions You Might Actually Keep

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Category: Writing

Our resident Agony Aunt is back with some advice on writing resolutions. If you've got a writing dilemma, don’t suffer in silence! Send your problems over to Miss Write.

Every year I decide that I will finally sit down and write a novel, but despite my best intentions I never manage it. How can I set realistic writing resolutions? Lisa

We’ve all been there, haven't we? It doesn’t matter if we’ve attempted this particular goal numerous times before. This year will be completely different, right? Wrong. Just visualise yourself crying into your blank notebook roughly a month into your new ‘routine’. What do you mean you couldn’t manage 15,000 words today? Shame on you! But instead of telling you the usual positive mumbo jumbo, I’m going to tell you to be more of a slacker. Yes, really. 

Here are five writing resolutions you might actually keep:

 

1.    Set a low word count

I’d suggest setting as low as a word count as possible. Okay, so maybe one word a day is a bit cheeky

We’ve all been tempted to set really high daily word counts, but the reality is, you probably won’t manage it and you’ll end your day with a crushing sense of disappointment. If you’re facing the blank page for the very first time or you’re just desperately trying to get back into a writing routine, I’d suggest setting as low as a word count as possible. Okay, so maybe one word a day is a bit cheeky, but try 100 words to begin with and see how you get on*. Once you’re comfortable with this word count, try upping it slightly. Setting a manageable word count will get you off to a great start and it will limit completely unnecessary pressure at this early stage. 

*You can’t just type the same word over and over again. That’s cheating.

2.    Forget about time limits

Time limits are a very useful motivator (particularly if you've been making excuses for a long time) but when your word count stands at 0, they can also have the opposite effect if you’re not careful. Instead of sitting down to enjoy a bit of writing, you’ll soon be visualising that date in the calendar, clutching your chest in sheer terror. Okay, so maybe you don’t indulge in the histrionics quite as much as me, but it might be worth taking your foot off the pedal a touch. Instead, focus on getting the words down and try to enjoy what you’re working on. I've heard it's perfectly okay to enjoy what you're doing sometimes. Once you’ve made some progress, you can always go back to imposing time limits if you feel it helps you, but you'd be surprised at the positive impact a different approach can make. 

3.    Don’t dive straight in to writing

Sometimes, the blank page really is our worst enemy and if The Fear has stopped you from writing, try combating it by, err, not writing. Yes, you read that right. Instead, focus on developing your ideas and characters. Make a flexible plot outline, write some short descriptions of your characters or just scribble down some rough notes which come to mind. Give yourself some time to play and have fun with your work. That way, once you face that blank page again you’ll hopefully already have a story you’re really excited to tell.

4.    Avoid other writers

Stay away from the #amwriting hashtag on Twitter and just focus on you for a while

Writing groups can provide useful feedback and it’s good to know you’re not alone, but stay away from the #amwriting hashtag on Twitter and just focus on you for a while. Often a 'support network' can provide anything but, leaving you feeling bogged down and intimidated by your own aspirations. Other writers may brag about their daily word counts or just how deep their connection is with their muse, but repeat after me: it doesn’t matter. Shut out those distractions and get lost in your own work. After some time, you may feel ready to open up and engage with other writers, but don’t let it stop you from writing in the first place.

5.    Don’t read your own work

If every author read their work immediately after hitting that full stop key for the day the publishing industry would crumble to the ground. Probably. Some people may re-read their own work to help them get back into the right mindset and I praise this bravery because frankly, the urge to hit the ‘delete’ button is always far too strong. Resist temptation and soldier on. By all means, re-read your work if you need to refresh your memory, but don’t edit. Nitpicking your work at such an early stage will only drive you crazy and before long you’ll be stuck in an endless cycle of ‘finding the right word’ and eventually you'll just stop writing altogether. I firmly believe the first draft is the vomit draft: don’t get it right, get it written. You can sweat the small stuff later. 

Above all, don’t be too hard on yourself. Use these resolutions as a starting point and approach your writing with a long term mindset. Happy writing!

Have you got a question for Miss Write? Add it as a comment at the bottom of this blog or ask away on our Facebook page or @ScottishBkTrust on Twitter, using the hashtag #askmisswrite.

Get more useful tips from our new all-singing, all-dancing Advice and Resources for Writers pages or rummage around in Miss Write's archives here.

Miss Write

Miss Write is Scottish Book Trust's resident writing Agony Aunt. When she's not busy drinking tea, making to-do lists or alphabetising her book collection, she likes to get some writing done.