Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Writing Year

In our family, a list of accomplishments, both major and minor, always precludes the dreaded resolutions. This way, you focus not just on how far you have to go but how far you’ve come. Psychologically, this preps you to embrace challenge with open arms. In my experience, talented writers rarely spend enough time congratulating themselves about anything. They just complain about how slowly they write, badly they plot, and self-consciously they vocalize—listing one failure after another.

What fun is that? So. List at least five things you value about your novel or yourself as a writer, such as scenario, plot twists, protagonist, voice, originality, use of verbs, etc.

Now. Take a deep breath. Because it’s resolution time.

·         When Chitra Divakaruni was at Writer’s Institute, she posed this question: “What will you give up for your writing?” Well. What will you? Resolve to write a little more.

·         Agent and writer Don Maass wants tension on every page. Do you provide that? Resolve to maintain increasingly high stakes right up until the climax.

·         Are you revising deeply? That means building character, conflict, and causality—not just making mini-improvements like changing “quiet” to “silent.” Resolve to evaluate, and as needed, repair the underlying structure instead of just the superficial word choices.

·         Are you taking risks? Though you might ultimately discard many experiments, playing with possibilities often creates the most exciting scenes. Resolve not just to get outside the box, but try shredding one whole side of whatever’s boxing you in.

·         Finally, are you writing like a reader? The best way to please your audience is finding the objectivity to evaluate what they’ll see. Are you patronizing or oblique, unfashionably vague or overly precise? Resolve to read your words as if you hadn’t written them.

These are tough resolutions. That’s why you need to remind yourself what’s good about your book and your writing. You deserve that. So does your writing—and your readers.

Tip: The best writers are candid about both their weaknesses and strengths.

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