Everyone comes into a new year with the best intentions to do something different about their lives. Make a change or start fresh. But halfway into a month or two, we either procrastinate on the resolutions we swore we would do or the bit of progress we did make gets abandoned before the year even ends. I am certainly guilty of this, like so many others, but you get to a point in your life where you have to decide if the goal you want to achieve is still something you really want deep down inside. I’ve reached that turning point with my writing.
There have been many times I said each new year would be the year I would finish my manuscript for my YA fantasy novel, only to fail miserably with half the year gone with nothing to show for it. Not even a little effort. Or there might be some effort, but then the momentum gets lost and I’m back to where I started—no where close to having a finished book that allows me to move onto the next stage of the writing process.
This time I’m cautiously optimistic that 2020 will be different. I’ve been keeping up with my writing, done a rough outline of how I hope the book will progress (but not being strictly committed to what’s there and remaining open to a change in direction as it comes), been taking one-day writing intensive workshops to sharpen my skills and help me with the process of writing a novel, and I personally re-evaluated how I want the next 10 years of my life to go.
The reason I feel hopeful I’ll get further than I’ve ever gone before is because I’ve done more than simply tell myself “I’m going to write this book.” I’ve gone out of my way to invest time and money to pay for writing classes that I didn’t necessarily need to do, but wanted to. If I take these classes and then come home without applying any of what I’ve learned, then what was the point? It was time and money wasted, and I never personally like doing either of that. The classes have been a good source of inspiration and further motivation to keep going even if the writing isn’t always brilliant or I will face road blocks along the way in figuring out where to take my characters and story next.
Then there’s reassessing how I envision the rest of my future and what I still desire to achieve. Despite the on and off nature of my novel writing, I’ve always known being a published author still remains. When I think about what I could be doing for the rest of my life, it always comes back to a vision of me holding a copy of my own book, seeing my book on store shelves (or being sold online), and traveling all over to do book tours and signings. What I never saw for myself is working in an office job for the rest of my life. Like anything else in life, it’s just a temporary stop along the road until I reach my final destination. When a passion like that keeps burning deep down inside, you know you have to finally do everything you can to make that dream a reality. It starts by taking the step and staying committed.
Working in conjunction with my “more writing” motto for the year is also “read more books.” The best way to become a writer is to read. The one consistent piece of advice I’ve seen successful writers always say, aside from keep writing, is to read. Reading other people’s work is the best source of research you can do as a budding writer working on their own book. There have been stacks of books sitting in my room that haven’t been read or takes me ages to finish reading because I don’t prioritize it enough during my downtime. Now I’m balancing some of my downtime on the weekends, and some weeknights, to reading. Since the genre of fiction I plan on writing for is YA fantasy, the main books on my plate have either been YA fantasy novels or adult fantasy. By reading these books I can take notes on style, tone, character development, and world building. And at least this kind of research also doubles as fun leisure when I’m not working my regular job during the week.
I know it’s still too early to tell if I’ll end the year having accomplished my one goal, but as long as I keep telling myself to not be afraid of the empty page or writing garbage, I’ll have achieved at least one part of the writing process—a completed, imperfect manuscript.