This is the time of year that many people dust off their dreams and make resolutions to help them achieve their goals. I did that several years ago and set out to follow my dream to become a writer. In case you're just starting out, I thought I'd offer what I think are six of the most important resolutions for aspiring writers, in no particular order.
- 1. B.I.C. This stands for Bottom In Chair. The best way to write a book is to consistently sit down and work on it. We often make excuses that keep us from reaching our goals. "I want to write, but..." You fill in the blank. This is my biggest challenge. Anne Lamott has a wonderful article in Sunset Magazine called Finding Time that addresses this problem. Set a goal for yourself, whether that be a certain number of hours a week or a desired daily word count.
- Go to a Writing Conference. They're expensive, yet I firmly believe that I cut YEARS off of my quest for publication by attending my first Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. I received encouragement and mentoring from professional writers, learned about the industry, met agents and editors, made lasting friendships with many up-and-coming writers and received a good spiritual kick-in-the-pants to keep going. I didn't walk out with a contract, but I met the woman who would later become my agent. You might choose to attend a smaller regional conference or a large national one. Do your research and decide what is the best fit for you. I can also personally recommend the ACFW Annual Conference and the Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference.
- Work on your on-line presence. You don't have to become a blogger or spend hours a day on FaceBook and Twitter. You do want to get your name out there and present yourself in a professional manner. Make sure that your facebook profile shows your face--not your child, dog or garden gnome. People want to connect with other people. Don't make the mistake of having your Twitter account as "HotMamafromOakland" or something equally crazy. Also, be cautious about what you post and the tone that you use. Would you be embarassed if your grandmother read it? How about an editor? Be yourself, but be discreet.
- Send a certian # of queries. I'm hesitant to write this one because I hear stories about writers who send gazillions of queries to everyone and their dog. I believe you should focus on meeting professionals at conferences and carefully researching their guidelines. I prefer the precision strike over carpet-bombing. But, I also know there are writers out there who NEVER submit because they're afraid of rejection. So, this resolution is for you. It's time to get in the game.
- Commit to learning both the market and the craft. These two items go hand-in-hand. You need to learn about the market--what is selling right now, what do professionals think will be selling in a few years, what are expected word counts for various genres? At the same time you need to be studying the craft of writing. Become thoroughly familiar with point of view, plotting, character, and story structure. Learn the rules and learn when it's permissible to break them. I like to do this by taking classes at conferences and by reading writer's blogs. You can also study how-to-write books and take college courses. Keep in mind that many college courses are not really designed to teach marketable writing, so--again--do your research.
- Join a critique group. You can do this either locally or on-line. To help you decide what you are looking for in a group or to help you start your own, I recommend B. J. Taylor's book, The Complete Guide to Writer's Groups That Work. If you are a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, they sponsor on-line groups and can also help you find groups meeting in your region.