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January 6, 2012

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The New Year has arrived, and with it, gazillions of resolutions.  Writerly ones included, of course!  I get tons of emails this time of year from folks recommitting to their book writing goals, which is a great thing.  The love of the written word, and how we all connect with it, always warms my heart.


But like dieting resolutions, scaling back a hair will help you successfully meet them.  So, let’s put our writing resolutions on a diet, so that we can put our power behind making our dreams come true, and focus on the crux of the issue. 


Number One:  Slow Down.  Everyone wants to be published yesterday.  That in itself isn’t a bad thing—it’s one of those goals that keep you slogging through the slough of despond, as John Bunyon would say.  But I can promise you this is one of those instances where the tortoise beats the hare.  The number-one thing I see that trips writers up is rushing.  I always cringe when someone comes back to me with revisions quickly—because I know before seeing them that everything will have to be redone!  Hurrying will leave cracks in the walls of your story’s structure someone will drive a Mack truth through.  And it’s a true creativity killer. 


Number Two:  Take a Publishing-News Fast.  Let’s face it—the news from publishing is mostly depressing.  Major imprints closing down.  Editors losing jobs all over the place.  The latest news of print sales falling 9 percent last year makes your heart plummet, even though this slack and more has been taken up with e-book sales.  Some of us have no choice but to follow the business end of things, but you don’t—you can take a nice long fast from this and let your creativity soar.  Whenever I’m writing, I let publishing go take a long hike—in the opposite direction from the path I walk. 


Number Three: Let your Creativity Soar!  Write, write, write, and write.  Don’t self-edit as you go, just tag along behind your characters and see where they take you.  Follow every thread, no matter how whimsical it seems.  In fact, the more fantastical in the creative phase, the better!  Run with it.  Laugh, play, dance with the drama.  You will go into book editing and revision way on down the line (so you never have to worry that you’ll be embarrassed later about some bone-head move now).  For now, be free! 


Number Four:  Damn the Naysayers.  And those are legion!  Let their lists of all the ways you can’t make it in publishing roll off your shoulders.  Easier said than done?  Nah.  Just let them ramble on and as they’re doing so, say (silently), whether to your own demons or those of your mother-in-law: “You’re probably right.  But at this minute, I’m immersed in novel development; I have a scene, chapter, story to write.  I’ll get with you later.” 


Number Five:  Remember that Writing Well is a Journey.  This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.  Our point isn’t to be published next week.  Our point is to write beautiful stories with characters who leap off the page, and with whom we all want to tag along for their journeys.  All we’re looking for is progress, growth, the ability to see that what you’ve written today was better than yesterday, or last week, or last year . . .   And I can absolutely guarantee that if you write, if you read and study your craft, and write again, you will get better. 


And one day, maybe even in 2012, you will look up and realize:  I am a writer! 

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