8 RULES FOR SUCCESSFUL WRITING

I originally wrote this as “A writer’s guide to New Year’s resolutions.” The intent was to help kick-start the new year off right, but I realized from comments and emails received that these guidelines hold true regardless of when you start writing. So, this is most of the original post with a little extra thrown in for good measure. But it is still all about setting, AND KEEPING, those goals to make you a better, more successful writer.

What resolutions did you make about your writing habits, your goals, or that novel to beat all novels that is locked away in your head?

Needless to say, most writers don’t make resolutions for the upcoming year in the writing life—only their personal life. Why? Or maybe the question should be, why not? What we want to accomplish in the upcoming year doesn’t seem resolution material, right? Well, if you’re serious about writing, you couldn’t be more wrong.

If you have to, make two sets of resolutions…personal goals and writing goals. Resolutions are made with the best of intentions but it’s your own self-discipline and drive that determines whether you reach that goal or not. So let’s take a look at some resolutions for the writing part of your life.

  1. Set realistic goals. Sounds easy, right. If one of your resolutions was to start, finish, edit, secure an agent, sell to a publisher, and see it in print all in a year…then your goal was unrealistic and your resolution a failure because it is highly unlikely to do all that in one year through traditional publishing. BUT, and it’s a big but, you choose a self-publishing method…it is an attainable goal. And it requires a lot of hard work and discipline.
  2. Resolve to write something everyday. Remember, I said ‘something.’ It doesn’t have to be your work-in-progress…even though that would be preferable it isn’t always possible. Write something: a blog, a newsletter, a letter to yourself reminding you of your goals and strategies…anything, just write.
  3. Limit your time on social media! One of the biggest time consumers is social media. Don’t get me wrong; staying connected is a must in today’s world if you want to get noticed. But if you let it, it will consume your day and thwart your best laid plans for constructively writing that novel. (If you don’t write fiction, insert non-fiction WIP) In one of my previous blog posts I wrote about having no time to write, if you don’t structure your day, you’ll inevitably get behind.
  4. Structure your writing day. You knew that was coming next, didn’t you. Set aside a limited amount of time each day for social media, networking, marketing, and promotion. There is a certain amount of business that must be attended to daily. Do it and get back to writing.
  5. Take advantage of your “creative moments. You’re an author, you have them. When you have them, WRITE! The average author has 5 – 6 creative hours a day. You know when they are, so take advantage of that creativity and write. Structure you writing days around your creativity. You don’t need to be tweeting, or Facebooking, or promoting, or anything other than writing when that creative side of your brain turns on.
  6. Read more.  Sound simple? Reading takes time out of your day. Time you probably are already thinking you don’t have any more of. Find the time. Read what you write. Find the great authors in your genre and read how they structure a story and their style. Then read a bad author in your genre and do the same thing. You can learn just as much, if not more, from reading bad writing as your can from reading good writing. Broaden your horizons…read something outside your genre from time to time. Maybe you’re an ex-NFL linebacker who will only write action thrillers, but you might just like that romance novel. Okay, so I got carried away…but you get my drift. Other genres open our eyes and can make us better author in our own genre.
  7. Be your own worst critic. Read your own work with a critical eye. At first, it sounds great. Then it sounds lame and you think it isn’t good enough for the trash receptacle. After you finish your manuscript, put it away for at least two weeks. During that period, just read. Then pick it back up and read it again with fresh eyes and notice the difference. The good and the bad will jump off the page. Keep the good, fix the bad, and put it away. Two weeks later, repeat the same process. Now you’re ready to move forward. Two books I’ll recommend here that every author should have on their shelves–The Successful Novelist by David Morrell and Self-Editing For Fiction Writers by Browne and King. If you don’t have them, I strongly encourage you to get them, read them, and learn from them.
  8. Last item…don’t rule out self-publishing. Who really knows what’s going on in the publishing industry today? One thing is certain, though, the traditional publishers are still standing around, scratching their heads, wondering how all these self-published authors are selling so many books. With a good plan, you too can make an impact by self-publishing.

 This list is anything but comprehensive but it should give you a good kick-start toward your own list of resolutions for the upcoming year. Please feel free to add resolutions by leaving comments and sharing them with others. But by all means…KEEP WRITING!


Chuck Barrett

Comments

  1. I reposted this on my blog about writing. I think this is so important. I fall into this trap as well of not putting aside time to write AND letting social media thwart my day.

    Thank you for this. Wishing you all the best of success in 2012

  2. Good advice, Chuck! First time I’m here and I wanted to tell you what a wonderful looking site you’ve got, congrats! And the roadmap you’ve drawn up for us poor writers is perfect…only wish I could stick to it!…Maybe in another life? Still, you’re right, one needs to inject self-discipline in a writer’s life. One needs to tell oneself one needs to…etc etc

    Oh well, I try…

    • Claude, Thank you for the compliment. It certainly takes self-discipline to avoid the many traps out there to keep you from writing. It’s an uphill battle everyday. I don’t post often…but I enjoy hearing from readers when I do.

  3. Hi, Chuck: I love that you listed goals/projections as first, because I truly believe that without them time, and your writing career, can wander aimlessly. Nice piece. Advice never gets old, even the most seasoned amongst us needs these reminders. Good to make your acquaintance on Twitter @CinemaProfound. Now that I’ve checked you out, I’ll return the follow.

  4. Brooke Passey says:

    Thank you for these quick and useful tips! I never tire of articles like this to remind and motivate me to keep going. I especially liked what you said about learning from all kinds of writing–good and bad.

  5. Leann Higbee says:

    Thank you for this advice! Especially the part about social media. As an aspiring writer, I’ve come to realize the importance of using social media outlets to grow and be more aware of the literary trends but it’s also easy to get sucked into it and lose track of time.

  6. Thanks for the great information. I do tend to spend too much time on social media, and I find that the time when I feel creative is always the time when I am either at work, going to work, or have other things to do. So I really need to reorganise my thinking! lol! thanks

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