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Sunday, January 5, 2020

Resolutions for writers

cj Sez: Here we are starting a new year, a whole, new decade…awesome. I hope your holiday celebrations were everything you wanted them to be.

   I’ve never been someone who can keep a New Year’s resolution, but today I’m going to again propose some for 2020 that seem doable, at least for the first few weeks, because they all relate to writing.

   Anne Lamott, in her national best-selling, how-to book Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life wrote:
“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’”

   That’s some of the best advice ever for writers . . . take it one word at a time, one paragraph at a time, one chapter at a time, until you (surprise!) reach The End.

   You won’t always feel like writing, not every day, and there will be many days that what appears on the page will look like pure crap to you. The thing to remember is, you should expect that your first effort is ALWAYS a crappy draft. The goal is to write down the nuggets of your story—on blank paper or on a blank computer screen. Doesn’t make any difference if the spelling is correct, or the grammar, or the format. You can fix all that later. (I love editing, scratching through words or whole paragraphs with a red or purple pen...lets me take out all my frustrations on that crappy draft.)

   There are people who have a good idea for a story. They read a book and say, “I could do that. if I had the time.” I say, if you really, really (notice there are two “really’s” here) want to write, You. Will. Make. Time.

   Writing a novel takes dedication and discipline. Think of it as a commitment, a business, a job or a second job. If you don’t have children who rightfully own your time on-demand, maybe you could separate yourself and let the family know you don’t want to be disturbed when you’re creating. 

   Not a morning person? Write at night. Too pooped at night? Write before the rest of your family gets up. The important thing is to make a habit of writing. If you’re also working a full-time job, no problem. Before I retired, I always found that when I was super busy at work, I was more efficient with my time at home.

   Regarding research:  Do your story research one day and write the next. If you try to integrate the two, you’ll surely find yourself down one of those marvelously interesting but time-consuming rabbit holes, having not written one word on your novel. That also means No Facebook, No eMail, and No Twitter while you’re in your writing place—they’re for marketing your book or your personal time.

   Do set a realistic goal when you sit down to write. Maybe it’s five pages or one chapter or “x” number of words a day. Whatever it is, make sure it’s a goal you know you can reach.

   I don’t subscribe to the idea of “writer’s block.” I believe we get tired and frustrated trying to make that first crappy draft perfect. I suggest taking a break. Read a book, take a walk in the park, a trip to a coffee shop, a visit to a library or book store. Take time to re-energize and refresh your mind.

  Okay, enough preaching to the choir.
   My short story, "Call me Kate" is included in the Mobile Writers' Guild anthology, VALENTINE'S DAY PIECES. Be sure to watch for the release on Amazon. 

   And for your listening/viewing enjoyment, here’s a little Weird Al Yankovic ditty especially for writers:

   That’s all for this week’s post. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

P.S.   Autographed print copies of my books and short stories, including the 2019 FINALLY HOME anthology, are available at the Haunted Bookshop. TO ORDER (and support an indie bookstore) contact The Haunted Bookshop here: The Haunted Bookshop  Angela Trigg, the awesome owner and an award-winning author in her own right (writing as Angela Quarles) will be happy to ship you the book(s) of your choice. 
   If you’re in Mobile area, do stop in at the book store; it’s a neat place to browse. These friendly people make a point to shelve the books of local authors, and my latest story in VALENTINE’S DAY PIECES anthology will be available there soon. 

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