New Year’s advice for writers – including myself

Top tip number 1 – stop talking, start writing.

Top tip number 2 – do your morning pages. I learned about these a couple of years ago when I read Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. Write three pages longhand first thing in the morning. Not a story, not a chapter, just three pages of whatever is on your mind. You’ll feel stupid. It’ll seem to take ages. But after a few days of discipline, you’ll find that your stories are starting to come alive on those pages – little insights and connections that you hadn’t made before. You’ll also find that other things in life feel just that bit more under control.

Here’s Julia Cameron talking about the pages: http://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/

And here’s a cynical Guardian journalist responding: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/oct/03/morning-pages-change-your-life-oliver-burkeman

Top tip number 3 – read more books. Santa very kindly bought me some classic sci fi this Christmas. My first read of the year: We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, a proto-1984 in a future society ruled by logic, mathematics and efficiency. I’m now onto read #2: Plan for Chaos by John Wyndham, not well known. I’m about one third of the way through, so no spoilers, but it’s a great noirish conspiracy mystery with amazing slangy dialogue. Oh, my pre-Christmas read, recommended to me, was Room by Emma Donoghue. Well worth it if you haven’t read it. Beautifully written, compelling and shows how to create a world within four walls.

Oh, reading more books helps you learn about writing. What works, what doesn’t, what you like, what you don’t, structure, pacing, language. You know, useful stuff.

Top tip number 4 – set aside time. Everything wants to get in the way of writing. My biggest mistake last year was to let it. Now I’m realistic enough to know that I won’t (won’t be able to / can’t) write every day. But equally, I know I have to dedicate time week in week out. So I’ve set a little personal goal of a certain number of hours per week. If I make it, great, pat on the back, and the reward of having written a lot (and perhaps a cheeky glass of something). If I don’t make it, well, so long as I get close, I’ll still have written quite a bit. Momentum is everything in writing; purple patches come when you’re writing the most. Write more and you’ll write more / better. More better. Yeah.

Top tip number 5 – share your work. Getting feedback on your work is vital to understanding how to make it better (or if it’s perfect ;-)). I’ve been a bit rubbish at this so am taking steps to address it in 2015. I’ll be back on the schedule at Elephant Words very soon, publishing little weekly bursts of short fiction.  I’m also going back to the F2K sessions on the Writers Village University site – brilliant for honing specifics about a character or a situation and for getting feedback on your style over a 6-7 week period. I also plan to get more extracts from my longer fiction posted on here for your consideration, and to get back on the short story circuit. A couple of years ago, I even threatened to do some readings….

Top tip number 6 – find someone to hold you accountable for all of the above. Um, I guess that’s you guys. Please shout at me if I don’t keep this website up to date!

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