Thursday, December 18, 2014

Jumpstart Your Writing in 2015 by Caroline Starr Rose

I have nothing to share about writing that is earth-shattering. What you’ll read here you probably already know. But like it is with all important things in our lives, it doesn’t hurt to hear certain things more than once. Here goes:

Read widely
Often writers are told to be well-versed in their genre. This is excellent advice, but reading shouldn’t end there. Picking up books in genres other than your own brings freshness to your writing and strengthens what you ultimately create. This nourishes you as a reader, too.

Study craft
None of us ever arrives. Our writing will improve if we continue to read craft blogs and books and take advantage of classes, critique groups, or conferences. Here are a few books I’ve read recently, am working on now, or plan to pick up this next year:

The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction -- James Alexander Thom
Writing the Breakout Novel -- Donald Mass
Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them -- Francine Prose
Writing Irresistible Kidlit -- Mary Kole

Take time away from writing
Make sure you are doing things outside of writing. Now that I write full-time, it’s very easy to stay detached from the rest of the world. Make an effort to engage your surroundings, whether that means tuning in to nature as you walk the dog or making a point to get involved in a new activity.

Play with words
I find first drafts terrifying. One way I ease in is to tell myself I’m simply experimenting with language. Give yourself permission to approach writing playfully, whether you’re working on a “real” piece or simply collecting words that pique your interest. Enjoy the rhythm of words, poke at meaning, stretch old metaphors into something new. Your writing will benefit from it.

Avoid the comparison game
This is probably one of the hardest bits of advice to follow but one of the most beneficial to your writerly well-being. There are so many ways to get sucked into comparing, from measuring the number of blog followers you have against a friend’s to tracking the amount of time it took others to secure agents. It’s easy to think once you’ve “arrived” with a book deal, these worries fall away, but they don’t: there will be friends with bigger deals, with more push from their publishers, or better reviews and general buzz. Envy finds us at every level.

Choose to see your writing journey as yours alone. It’s not something anyone can do for you; there’s no way your experience will mirror another’s. Just like we all have something unique to contribute to the literary world, we all will go through different struggles and triumphs.

The only thing you will get out of the comparison game is disappointment.

And to negate everything I’ve said earlier...give yourself permission
In a world where instant information is available at all times and opinions are everywhere, you’re bound to come across conflicting advice on how to draft, edit, revise, submit -- do anything in relation to writing. For some of us, this becomes paralyzing; even if your approach works, you might worry that you’re not doing things right.

Give yourself permission to write in a way that works for you, whether that means writing daily or just on the weekends, editing as you go or waiting until your first draft is done. Though some advice seems to dictate otherwise, there’s no right way to write. Give yourself permission to alter the way you write if what you’re doing now isn’t working. Your patterns, needs, and abilities could change from manuscript to manuscript. Or they might not. And that’s okay.

Want to write to the market? Go for it. Want to try a story that can’t be categorized? Give it a try. You have permission to do as you wish with your writing. While there is no promise of success with this approach, there’s tremendous liberation in letting go of the “rules” we’ve absorbed consciously and subconsciously.

You’ve got a new year ahead of you. How will this affect your writing?


  1. Hey, where did last year go?!
    I sure plan to take more time away from writing. Thank goodness we now have a dog! I also plan to finally finish the middle grade ghost story that's been hanging around these parts since around 2012... How's that for giving myself permission to do two contradictory things!

    1. Enjoy the fuzzy muse! They help with both the work and the necessary distraction. :)

  2. Sound advice! Happy New Year, Caroline!

  3. Caroline, I struggled all fall with figuring out how best to spend my time now that I, too, am a full time teacher. I think, if I added them up, I ended up spending more hours on writing related things than I ever spent working as a teacher. In other words, I never let myself be "off-duty." I need to work on doing a better job of that in 2015. Nobody works well 18 hours a day, every day!

    1. Here's to some rest time!

      I'm loving these slow days right now. Perfect for reflection and anticipation. May they be the same for you.

    2. And...just stumbled on this on another blog:

      "There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.” ―Alan Cohen


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!