Seven Writer Resolutions

Absolute Blank

By Stephanie Lenz (Baker)

It’s that special time of year when everyone inflicts self-guilt for not having done all the things they vowed to do a year ago: Learn another language. Perfect William Shatner impersonation (hairpiece optional). Finally have “The Talk” with parents. Make a steaming batch of matelote from scratch… well, I suppose everyone’s list is different. Wouldn’t it be nice to make some resolutions you can actually keep? Try some of these.

  1. Write every week. Things pop up in life and we can’t always keep a daily writing appointment. If you decide to do creative writing at least once per week, writing 1000 words per session, by this time next year you could have your first draft of a novel completed.

If you intend to make a “write every day” resolution and/or a “start exercising” resolution, why not combine them? Write, then stretch and do some walking to get your circulation going. Do some biking and then write a little while you rest and drink some water. There’s no reason your resolutions should compete for your time.

  1. Set up an e-mail account just for your writing-related work. Use this e-mail address for all your submissions. Use it as part of your contact info. Create folders for “submissions” and “newsletters” and any other facet of your writing life. E-mail copies of your work to yourself (then everything’s stored “off site,” in case anything happens to your hard drive, disks, etc.).

Please don’t include any form of “write” in the e-mail address (ex: “ZuzuWriter@gmail.com”); it can come across as hokey to an editor. Avoid weird and cutesy names too, like “snowbunny76” or “scarletsuccubus” or the like. Stick with something like your real name, like sarahjessicaparker or sjparker or sarahjess.

  1. Keep track of your submissions. More than once, Toasted Cheese has accepted a submission only to have the writer tell us “oops, I forgot to tell you it was accepted someplace else.” After weeding it out, reading, rereading, sending the personalized acceptance letter, it’s very frustrating and, for me, puts the writer on a mental blacklist. The best way to avoid this is to have that “writing only” e-mail account to keep your stuff together.
  2. Submit one story, article or poem for publication. You might get rejected. In fact, you’ll probably get rejected. Rejections are nothing to be ashamed of; we all have tons of them. A rejection says “I tried” and trying is better than doing nothing.
  3. Enter a writing contest. Yes, that’s right. Write for fun and profit! The profit may only be publication, but contests are fun and there are several no-fee writing contests in the writing world. Novel and Short Story Writers Market and Poets Market list all kinds of contests (including ours) so check them out and give one a try. Even if you don’t place in the contest, you have met a deadline and you have a completed story to submit elsewhere. Two goals in one!
  4. Try a writing workshop. You can do it online in your own time (like here at Toasted Cheese). You can find a workshop near you and drop in (or just linger and eavesdrop, like I do). Chain and local bookstores often host writer workshops in-store so ask an employee for a schedule or the group’s name. You can usually find groups and their schedules online. Check out Meetup.com and look for writing groups in your area (or reading groups—see #7). If there’s no writing group near you and you’d like to have a real-life workshop experience, try to start your own group.
  5. Read. If you are a writer, you should be a reader as well. Poetry books can teach us about word economy, metaphor and imagery. Novels and collections of short fiction can inspire us to do our own storytelling. Memoirs and biographies can teach us about character development, believability and entertainment value.

Joining a book club can give you a push. Oprah.com hosts a virtual book club that you may have heard of and they read some interesting classics. You can discuss the book online or just use it as a possible answer to “what should I read next?”

You can also read online. Literary journals, newspapers, magazines and even classic literature can be found quite easily. Many folks have posted their NaNoWriMo novels online. Maybe you’ll discover tomorrow’s literary sensation today!

Keep us updated on your progress and let us know how the resolutions work out for you. We’ll check in with you this year (all right, some may call it “nagging”) and hopefully by this time in 2005 you’ll be able to say “look what I’ve done” instead of “I wish I had.”

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