Well, here we are. A brand new year brimming with squishy possibilities. Once that shiny ball in Times Square dropped it was like the last 365 days of
waiting for the world to end living day to day were wiped clean. Gone. New slate.
So this is the time we make resolutions. Sure, we’ll break most of them in the first month, but that’s ok because now—right now—is a special time when the world is bright and full of possibility.
It’s with that spirit in mind that I present the nine things that we should, definitely, assuredly, absolutely avoid in 2013. Resolutions? More like persecution, right? RIGHT?
9 Writing Resolutions to Avoid in 2013
1. Only Write When Inspired.
I’m guilty of this as much as anyone. Sure, I should be writing to today but I’m just so…blah. There’s nothing in the tank. Nothing stirring in the down under. What’s the point?
The point, dear friends, is writing waits for no man. Your next great story is sitting there, right down in your kidney, bursting to be set free (I recommend going to the bathroom first), and if you’re not going to force yourself to hit that keyboard it’s going to fester and die. If you’re waiting for your muse to show up and kick you in the crotch, you’re going to be waiting a long, long time (and really, why are you waiting to get kicked in the crotch anyway?).
2. Write the Great American Novel
This is all Salinger’s fault. He went and wrote the elusive ”great american novel” on his first try. Consequently, there’s a whole generation of wordsmiths sitting at their computer, hot chocolate in hand, gearing up to write the seminal work of fiction. The one that changes it all. The one that inspires a new generation of writers. The next century’s “Finding Forester.”
Sure, Catcher in the Rye was Salinger’s first novel, and it wasn’t half bad. But it’s easy to forget that he had a dozen short stories under his belt before he decided to write a book.
Now days it’s easier than ever to sling that word-crack; you don’t have to be a novelist to be a successful writer. Before you (and I, dear friends. And I) lock ourselves in a room and break our brains on a book, dammit, try something short first.
Short stories are a lot easier to burn than novels.
3. Only Share My Work with Family
The publishing world is a cold, dark place filled with soulless agents and blood-sucking ad-men looking to steal my word-cash. Even worse, they’re sitting out there just waiting to reject me.
You know who doesn’t reject me? My mom. She loves my writing. You know who else? My dog. Hell, my four-year-old may not understand all the words, but she still thinks I’m the greatest human being to walk the earth (as long as Mom isn’t awake. I always lose to Mom). And as long as I let them take first stab at my writing I’ll always be filled with sweet, sweet acceptance.
Sure, I’ll never publish, but that’s over-rated anyway.
4. Read Nothing But My Genre
The New Year is a great time to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Something scary. Something like Women’s Literary Fiction. Or Urban Crime Thrillers. Maybe even Cat Detectives (how can you resist? They’re so darn furry).
Anything but your brand of choice.
Hey, I know—it’s great to focus on your novel genre. You need to know the giants in your field, right? But writer beware, because if you swim too long in your own genre pool you’ll eventually get some stunted word babies (and prune fingers).
And no one likes typing with prune fingers.
5. Watch More Movies
I had a baby this year (my wife was involved in some way, but it was mostly me) and missed out on some sweet movies consequently. I had to catch the Avengers six months after theater release like some kind of savage.
Not this year, baby. Never again.
Now, I could use the time to write instead. I could. It’s possible. I live in that universe. But what’s more important, really? Finishing the first draft of my novel, or standing in line for three hours to see Iron Man 3 on release day?
I think we all know who wins that fight.
6. Quit My Job and Follow My Passion
Wow, this is a loaded one.
On the one had, you have Julia Roberts. She quit her job being a famous, awesome journalist, and look how it worked out? She traveled the globe for a year scarfing down spaghetti and frolicking with oiled-up French Men.
Now, on the other had you have reality. Cold, hard, the-IRS-is-watching, reality. Sure, we’d all love to spend a vacation with Javier Bardem, but is quitting your job to become a writer the smartest move right now? Reality suggests otherwise. Reality suggests that instead of dining on rich Italian food you’re more likely to consume a dangerous quantity of Ramen Noodles.
Instead of lounging on the beach, drinking mojitos and watching your novel break the Amazon top five, you’re probably going to be at Starbucks, stuffed in the corner, balancing your laptop and your soy latte on one knee while a nanny tries to wrangle five ADHD children into ordering their drinks.
And lets not forget healthcare. That’s a whole other blog.
7. Write in Marathon Sessions
I can hear what you’re thinking: “But I did eight hour writing sessions during NaNoWriMo and I came out just fine!”
No. Trust me. You didn’t.
Yes, you (and I, my good friend. Always I) spent some heady days during the month of November locking ourselves in a bedroom with nothing but a bowl of M&Ms and way too much French Roast. Only to emerge a day later, word-count triumphantly in hand, reeking of stale chocolate and burnt coffee.
But November is one month. We’re talking about a whole year of resolutions. It’s not practical (or healthy) to write in eight hour increments. It might feel great at the time, but more likely than not you’ll find yourself drained the next week and unable to look at a computer without getting the caffeine shakes.
It’s best to stick to the old adage: “An hour a day keeps the word-ghouls away.”
8. Buy That New Laptop
As a rule, writer’s are easily dis—
Writer’s are like children at DisneyWorld. Overexcited and in need of a nap every four hours. We especially like shiny things. The newer the better. And we can’t write without them.
I need that new laptop. My book will finally be perfect if I get the fastest processor. Sure, I can technically write on my current computer, but it doesn’t have face unlock technology. I know I’ll be inspired if I get the new Inspiron.
Well, you’re never going to quit that day job and travel with Julia Roberts if you keep wasting your money on frivolities. So close that NewEgg tab and just say no.
There’ll be a better one next month.
9. Stop Querying. It’s a Waste of Time
Ah, here we go. My favorite.
This year we should all just stop querying agents and publishers. I mean, look at all the time involved. I have to look up each agent, follow each crazy, Draconian submission guideline, then I have to wait two weeks to hear back.
If an agent doesn’t respond to my query within the first day with a reasoned, thoughtful letter showing they read my full three chapters and took the time to appreciate the novel’s imagery and ground-breaking characters, I’m going to cross them off my list. Sorry, Mr. Agent. You don’t get to appreciate my genius any more.
That’ll teach them.
“Happy New Year 2013“ Creative Commons via ell brown
“Dark Knight Line“ Creative Commons via ste3ve
All other images courtesy of stock.xchang
Babies are kind of weird. On paper, at least. You gestate a parasite for nine + months (during which time, said parasite will make its presence known by kicking/punching/sitting-on-your-bladder at 2am), and eventually lose it through an excruciating
torture-session delivery, which usually results in tears and lots of people staring at your privates.
Sounds like writing to me!
But how? How does (possibly) pooping yourself while delivering an eight-pound, green-tinged, crying-machine relate to story-telling? Well, if you can ignore the absurdity of a man describing child-birth for a moment (it’s cool, I’ve seen Knocked Up five times), I’ll tell you.
Oh yeah…this is where it’s at. The lights are low, Marvin Gaye is a’ croonin, you just got a bag of chicken fingers (or Big Macs, I’m not judging), and things are looking good. The music swells, the sweet-hot scent of hot-sauce and fried-chicken fills the air, intoxicating, seductive. And that’s when it hits you…
“What if marmots secretly ran the government?”
Conception. The starting point. Sometimes it only takes a moment (it’s the quality of the idea, dammit, not the duration), and you’re suddenly presented with nine months of commitment. Hey! It’s your own fault for listening to Marvin Gaye and eating chicken–-you know how you get.
And once conception hits there’s no going back. This idea is yours, so best get used to it. You’re stuck with those Marmots—even if it takes two weeks to get the test results—so start preparing.
-The First Trimester, or Idea Gestation
Oh boy, what have I gotten myself into. Those Marmots seemed like such a good idea at the time! Now I can’t even eat a chicken-finger without seeing their furry little government-running faces. I’m afflicted at all hours, haunted by the idea. At work I can’t concentrate; my boss keeps asking me what’s wrong. At night I toss and turn, kept awake by the sounds of chattering Marmot teeth.
Damn you, Marvin Gaye!
It’s tempting to freak out, but remember: everyone’s been here. All writers go through this stage, where the idea is more curse than blessing, where sleep eludes you, where the smell of sweet, sweet hot-sauce makes you gag (maybe you should have gone with Big Macs). But it’s OK, because even though you haven’t figured out the details, the setting, the questions (but they don’t even have thumbs!?) there’s something exciting about the unknown. The promise that something is coming. So don’t rush it, take your time and let your story grow at its own pace.
Before you know it, it’ll be time for…
-The Second Trimester, or The First Draft
Alright, finally—the fun part. Your stomach has finally settled, the hot sauce is back in your pantry, and you’ve made your piece with Marvin. It’s time to write!
You’ve spent the last few weeks rolling the idea around your brain-space like a friggin Magic Eight Ball, and now it’s time to stop obsessing and get that crazy on the page. Luxuriate in the feeling, smile, relax, give yourself permission to indulge in that nascent idea-gravy and just write. This isn’t the time to think (stop it, Poindexter), that comes later. This is the time to get whimsical, to walk around your office in a tri-corner hat, yelling at imaginary Marmots and ordering strategic gopher assaults.
Damn this is fun.
It should be fun. As writers we only get a brief opportunity to indulge in our collective insanity, and this is that time. Enjoy it, because the second trimester doesn’t last long.
-The Third Trimester, or Revision.
Ugg. Are we done yet?
Revision can be fun—but it’s probably not. And if you’re one of those people walking around with your swollen idea-baby telling me how special you are, and “Aren’t you so excited,” shut your word-hole. I’m not excited. I want this freaking story out of me.
The easy part is over, now it’s time to work. This is the most crucial stage of development, when your story really needs your attention. I know; you’re exhausted. Well, eat some ice chips and get your butt in that chair, because you’re a writer, dammit! This kid is coming out, and when it does you want five-fingers, five-toes, and a lot of crying. Your story isn’t going to get there on its own, you have to midwife those Marmots. You have to give it the right food (grammar), the right vitamins (structure), and a little Mozart (Umm…Mozart. It works).
This stage is tough. But, you know, that’s a good thing; creativity should be tough. If it was easy everyone would do it, and then who would you have to feel superior over? Plus, there are perks: you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, you can eat whatever you’d like(I gained ten pounds? Shut up, I’m editing), and everyone says you have a glow. It’s probably because you haven’t showered in three days, but who cares? You’re almost ready for…
HOLY CRAP THIS STORY IS COMING OUT! I’M NOT READY, I HAVEN’T IDEA-PROOFED THE HOUSE!
The amount of revision is going to vary, but no matter how long you take eventually that story is coming out. It’s tough to know when you’re done editing—there’s always something that needs fixing—but you can’t revise forever, and there comes a time when those Marmots have to run free.
It’s scary. It’s painful. It’s easier with drugs (or alcohol…not every metaphor works). Breathe…you’re almost done. Time to send that baby to the agent/magazine editor/kindle!
Enjoy this moment, because it’s rare. I’m going to let the analogy break down for a moment (no need to get macabre) and say that not every idea gets this far. It’s hard-work, midwifing a story, and if you’ve made it to the end you should give that idea-baby a pat on the head (watch the soft spot), because your writer-canal is long, dark, and full of twists and turns. If your story survived the journey that probably means it’s ready to come into the world. Time to cry, poop, and join a little-league team (Analogy back!).
So, congratulations, proud parent! You have a beautiful baby Marmot.
Now get ready for the terrible Twos.
“Cranky face“ Flickr’s Creative Commons via Jippolito
“Marmot” Flickr’s Creative Commons via Sistak
“Non-Magic 8-Ball“ Flickr’s Creative Commons via 60 in 3
“Mozart“ Flickr’s Creative Commons via bioxid
“Martini“ Flickr’s Creative Commons via cowfish
Sorry for the delay, everyone, but slight change of plans: baby plans, that is.
I was planning on having my normal Friday post yesterday, but my beautiful wife decided that going into labor was more important. And that’s difficult to argue with (and dangerous), so instead of a post on writing, blogging, or gopher hunts, you get a baby.
Back to your regularly scheduled blog posts next week