We hope you had a wonderful Christmas authonomy. To tide you over till our return in the new year, the wise heads at authoright have got four top tips for how to get your novel into shape for 2013.
As December draws to a close, yet another New Year beckons. And that means having to make the obligatory resolution; for many of you it will be the same as the last, and possibly the one before that: 'finish writing this darned novel!' But all too often we make promises to ourselves that we almost invariably cannot keep. A pledge, without any backbone, won't magically make you write any faster or more successfully than before. So here are our tips for keeping your literary resolutions in 2013.
Tip one: Set realistic deadlines. A deadline alone is a fairly toothless tool, so you must devise a way of enforcing these targets. One way to do this might be to join a writer's group, this will not only give you a place to discuss your ideas and get feedback on your work, but it will also enforce writing deadlines upon you. Another method is to take part in NaNoWriMo (National Writing Month) which, unfortunately, is November, but many authors have found that it teaches them a bit of self-discipline and after the month is over it is much easier to stick to their writing targets. Alternatively set something very achievable and use it to build momentum, such as writing a set number of words each week.
Tip Two: Always be ready to write. If you don’t fancy lugging a laptop around, make sure you at least take a smart pen (that won’t run out!) and a note book everywhere you go. There’s nothing more frustrating than suddenly being struck by genius when you’re in the supermarket or taking public transport; if the mood takes you you need to be ready to indulge it. And often a change of scenery can stimulate the mind into creativity which you want to be able to respond to, rather than struggle to regurgitate your prose later on. If you've hit a wall with a particular project, just write anything, anywhere. Write about the people you see when you’re out and about, or the place in which you find yourself, describing the weather, the scenery anything that catches your eye. Response writing will get your juices flowing and help you to hone your descriptive flair very spontaneously. Having a notepad with you at all times means you can fit in some writing during those few spare moments in an otherwise busy day, and you won't miss a moment of inspiration that might appear unexpectedly: a sentence, an idea, a description, or a character you see in the street might make his way into your book. The best fiction takes something from real-life so don't be too narrow-minded, allow everything you see to inspire you, and record anything that even slightly interests or amuses you – you'll regret it later if you don't.
Tip Three: Write something. The author Philip Pullman (who writes in his shed don’t you know) once told me that he forces himself to write at least 1200 words a day. It’s a ritual, a habit and not a lot of words to work towards. The significance of this daily effort is to stimulate creative muscle memory, making the job of writing much more fluid. The psychology of this ritual is not to be underestimated; it’s about making writing essential to your everyday life. Another friend wrote every night for half an hour (he wrote all day on the weekends) because he worked 16 hour days as a lawyer, but knew he had to write something each day otherwise he’d get out of the habit. Your writing doesn’t have to be a chapter for your novel, it could be a blog post or a beautiful diary entry or maybe even some short scenes or stand alone dialogue. You might come up with an idea you can put to good use at a later date. Writing just for the sake of it is always worthwhile; the more you write, the better you become at it - perfected through practice and perseverance.
Tip Four: Relax. As discussed in one of our previous posts, first drafts are never perfect, in fact they're not really supposed to be. So don’t give yourself a hard time if not all of your output is gold standard. The more pressure you apply to your own writing the less you will enjoy it and that stress will come out on the page. You will never get it absolutely right in one attempt, so just get your ideas onto the page. Pausing to consult the thesaurus or think of a better name for a character will interrupt your flow and your writing will be worse off for it. Save the minutiae - perfecting sentences and finding better words – for the second draft, and you'll find you make much better progress with your first.
We hope these suggestions will help you keep your New Year's Resolution to finish - and publish - your book, so that this time next year you can resolve to do something else instead! Happy New Year authonomy!