I have never been one for New Year’s resolutions. Partly because designating January 1, as the beginning of the year feels nonsensical to me—the New Year starts in the spring—duh—not in winter. But since I wasn’t consulted when Western civilization adopted the modern calendar, January 1st it is. The other reason I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions is because most people seem to give up on them by the end of February. But this year I’m going to try some New Year’s Writing Resolutions. Who knows? Putting them in a post like this might actually help me stick with them.
Resolution 1: Finish the first draft of the YA novel I’ve been working on forever!
I’ve completely rewritten the first third of the book at least five times because I kept changing the plot—and then the characters, then the locations, etc. Total word count for all those versions is probably pushing 600,000 at this point—or more. (Aaaaarg!) The problem is that when I started the book, I had no idea how little I knew about plot and structure—so the story kept changing. Obviously, pantsing it just doesn’t work for me.
But now, with the help of The Anatomy of Story, by John Truby (a fantastic book on story structure) and my writing buddies, I feel like I have a solid plot that hangs together while hitting the major plot points, characters who make sense to me and work with the plot, as well as settings that add to the story. So, at least in theory, I should be able to charge ahead. Except for two or three little issues, which lead me to the next resolutions.
Resolution 2: Stop getting hung up on the wordsmithing.
I love a great turn of phrase. I love writing that packs an emotional punch with just a few perfectly chosen words. But I get way too hung up on how my writing reads—way too soon. Instead of just forging on, and accepting that some sections are going to be rough on the first pass, I’ll waste hours trying to make those pages sing. It’s an incredibly destructive habit. (Yes—all the words and pages need to pull their weight in a final draft, but I’ll never get to a final draft if I can’t learn to plow through the parts that read like drivel in the first draft.)
Resolution 3: Learn to write narrative summary.
Coming up with scenes or little situations that illustrate a bit of information for the reader rather than just telling the reader a fact, is one of my fortés. For example, if I was writing about a short character, I can come up with a dozen scenarios that demonstrate her diminutive stature without every saying it. Most of the time, that kind of showing instead of telling is a good thing, but if the fact that the character is short isn’t important to the plot, I’ve spent two to six (or more) pages on a scene that doesn’t add to the story, rather than just getting the information out there in a couple of words and moving on.
The problem for me is that though I know (or think I know) when it’s appropriate to use narrative summary, I freeze up when I try to write it. For some reason my brain just shorts out. I stumble and trip all over myself trying to phrase the telling parts so they read and segue well and wind up taking too long to make a little point, or to show the passage of time. This may not be a big issue for anyone else, but I think it’s my biggest writing challenge. But this year—I’m going to spend at least half an hour a week tackling the problem until I stomp it into the ground!
In the end, I don’t know if I’ll keep any of these resolutions, but I’m sure going to try. It might be that January, when there are less distractions calling to me from the great outdoors, will turn out to be the best time for setting writing goals and the writing tempo for the rest of the year. Guess I’ll find out.
Good luck on your own Writing Resolutions!