We made it.
We got through the dumpster fire that was 2016 and finally reached 2017.
With each new year comes new year resolutions, but if you’re like me, most years your resolutions don’t last more than 30 days.
At the start of 2016 I wanted what most people want: to exercise, eat healthier, sleep more. You know, the usual things.
But more than anything, I wanted to become a published author.
So instead of making a scattered list of how to improve my entire life, I decided to just focus on writing.
I would read at least one published book a month. I would write almost every single day. I would connect with other writers who were on a similar journey.
I vowed to do everything I could to become a better writer and a published author. Now that a year has passed, I can see the results of those writing resolutions.
I started 2016 terrified as I tried to get an agent with my first book.
Now I’m starting 2017 revising my second book with two amazing literary agents.
I’m so close to finally becoming a published author that most days it still feels like a dream. But I’m not telling you this to brag. I’m writing this because I want you to see that when you go for it — and I mean really go for it — you can reach your writing goals and achieve your publishing dreams.
When it comes to finding success in creative writing, it doesn’t happen over a few days or a few months. It takes time. It can take years. But if you work at it, it will happen.
I’m sharing my progress with you because when I started this blog in 2015 I had no idea what I was doing. I just knew what I wanted to do and hoped I would learn how to get there along the way.
We’re still in our Rules of Revision series and we’ll get back to that soon, but to celebrate the new year I wanted to share with you the top 5 things I did last year that helped make my writing dreams a reality and now has me one step away from achieving my publishing dreams.
Step 1: Be Honest With What You Want
On first glance this might seem like one of those fluffy first steps, but as writers we spend so much time lying to ourselves that it's necessary.
The reason we writers lie to ourselves is because we're scared s***less.
We're terrified we're not good enough to be writers. We're scared we can't achieve our dreams.
We're so afraid to admit what we want to do with our lives because then not doing it feels like failure.
If you want to make 2017 your best year yet, the very first thing you need to do is STOP BEING AFRAID AND BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF.
Look in the mirror and admit to yourself what you want.
Is it to publish one book? Is it to publish a dozen? Is it to make a living as a full-time writer?
Whatever your goal is, be honest with yourself for once and figure it out.
If you aren't honest with yourself about what you want, then you can't figure out how to get it.
And if you can't figure out how to get it, 2017 will be another year that passes with no tangible progress towards your dreams.
Step 2: Do Your Research
You've done the hard work. You figured out what you want to achieve with your writing. You can finally admit to yourself what you're working for.
Now the next step is to figure out how to get there.
Assuming that you want to publish at least one book in your lifetime, the first thing you have to do is figure out whether your writing goal involves self-publishing or traditional publishing (click here to figure out which type of publishing is right for you).
If your dreams are to self-publish your novel, Jenny Bravo of Jenny Bravo Books has a great list of self-publishing resources to help you figure out what's actually needed.
If you're pursuing traditional publishing like me, then here are the things you need to do:
- Improve your writing craft until your words kick-ass
- Come up with the "write" idea
Improving Your Craft
In my humble opinion, the writers who achieve their traditional publishing goals are the ones who work hard to become good writers and don't give up no matter how many books it takes.
At first glance, becoming a better writer sounds like something impossible to achieve. But with a concrete plan, you can make it simple and fun!
I'll share a plan on how to improve your craft when we get to Step 3!
getting the "Write" idea
Now this part is a little harder to "research" because the write idea is about the right inspiration.
Examples of world-famous "write" ideas are:
- Teenage vampires vs. werewolves (Twilight)
- Kids battling to the death (The Hunger Games)
- A boarding school for wizards (I won't insult you by pretending I have to name his one)
When the "write" idea comes to a writer who's honed their craft, magic is made and success stories are born.
But the problem with a "write" idea is you can't force it. Below I'll tell you how you can find it with a plan!
Step 3: Outline A Plan
The reason you do your research is so that you can create a concrete plan.
A concrete plan doesn't say "write a book"
- Complete Book Outline by February 1st
- Complete First Draft by writing 500 words a day from February 1st - March 3rd
- Complete Second Draft by revising 250 words a day from April 1st - June 1st
A real plan breaks down the desired goal into concrete steps, and then gives each step a specific deadline.
You know if you have a real plan when everyday you know what you should be doing to move closer to your dreams (or what you're procrastinating doing by watching America's Next Top Model).
To give you a real example, below is how I planned to improve my craft in 2016:
- Read 12 popular YA Fantasy & Sci-Fi Books (1 book/month)
- Analyze each book to learn what the author did well
- Attend a writing conference
- Write almost everyday
(You can steal these strategies for yourself by checking out my posts below:
- 3 New Years Resolutions Every Writer Should Make
- One Thing You Can Do Write Now To Become A Better Writer
- 4 Ways To Read Like A Writer
- How To Write Everyday in 3 Easy Steps
Now you can't plan to get the "write" idea. Just because you schedule "have best-selling inspiration" on your February 1st google calendar doesn't mean it's going to hit.
You can't plan inspiration.
So what can you do?
1) Learn how to make a good idea a great one
You don't know when the write idea will strike, but you can learn how to make a good idea a great idea.
Below are some resources to help you do that:
2) Plan to write a certain number of stories a year
No one can tell you if the "write" idea is going to be your second book or fifth book or tenth book.
But if you keep writing, it will be one of your books.
So no matter what your publishing goal is, make a concrete plan for how you will improve your craft and commit to finishing at least one new book in 2017.
Step 4: Connect With Other Writers
No matter how old you are, making friends is hard.
But making writing friends is surprisingly easy.
We're nerds. We're book nerds!
We love stories as much as you do.
We struggle with all the self-doubts and concerns about writing that you do.
We think the most important distinction between humanity is what Hogwarts House you're in (shout-out to my Ravenclaws).
When a story lover meets another story lover, magic happens. And lucky for you, there's 2 easy ways for you to get connected.
In addition to the writing community I created on this sight, in 2016 I found a loving writing community on Twitter. And though it's had its ups and downs, this community has been a constant source of support, motivation, and friendship.
I'll write a blog post in the future about how to maximize Twitter to connect with other writers, but a few quick ways to get started and understand what Twitter is like (since I had no idea what it was until last September):
- Follow your favorite authors
- Follow literary agents who represent your favorite authors/people in your genre
- Search for conversations to join by using hashtags like #amwriting | #amrevising | #amquerying
- Participate in Pitching Contests
It's strange at first, but after you get involved with Twitter you'll start to find your writing people.
You'll send a tweet. You'll like 1,000 book things.
You'll meet other writers who are as dedicated to their goals as you are, and you'll make friends who will help you on the way to achieving your writing dreams.
Another way to connect with writers is to join our site's Facebook Group, The Write Place!
THE WRITE PLACE is a group for writers at all stages to connect, learn, and grow. The goal of the group is to take the aspiring writers of today and give them the tools, motivation, and support needed to become the published authors of tomorrow.
In our 300+ member group, our writers:
- Get their writing/publishing questions answered every week
- Find Critique Partners and Beta Readers
- Get motivated to achieve their writing dreams on a weekly basis
Step 5: Take Care Of Yourself
Step 5 applies to all areas of your 2017 life, but it's extremely important for your writing goals because as writers, our creativity needs fuel.
When we're empty, we can't create. And if we can't create, we can't write.
One of the biggest changes I made in 2016 wasn't only putting my writing first, but it was putting myself first.
I won't lie and say I slept as much as I should have or ate a respectable amount of dominoes. Even as I write this blog posts, it's 2:00am and I'll probably keep working until 4:00.
But I started kickboxing. I scheduled me days. I made the tough decision to cut toxic friends from my life because they caused me stress and anxiety.
Writers tend to be empathetic people (we have to be to feel all the things we put into our stories).
One problem with that is empathetic people tend to put others first. Our instinct is to elevate everyone else's needs and wants above our own because we care about people so much.
Now my advice to you isn't to get rid of your empathy, put on your boxing gloves, and stop sleeping.
It's just to find concrete ways to take care of yourself so that you can create, write, and live a happy life.
My best tip for this is to evaluate everything in your life on one principle: adder vs. detractor.
An "adder" is a thing, person, or activity that adds to your physical, emotional, or mental wellbeing.
A "detractor" is a thing, person, or activity that detracts from your physical, emotional, or mental wellbeing.
It's virtually impossible to live a life free of detractors. But if you want to figure out how to take care of yourself, consider maximizing the things that add to your life and minimizing the things that drain it.
Simple, real life example. I have a huge sweet tooth and while candy makes me mentally happy, it's a big physical detractor. In 2016 I made a concrete effort to snack on green grapes (they kind of taste like sour patch kids!)
This was a simple change, but it meant I was snacking better on a regular basis and it made a change in my health.
Another real life example was changing jobs last year.
I had a full-time job that took a lot out of me and put me in a constant negative state. I was terrified to make a change, but switching to part-time teaching allowed me to be a happier person, sleep more, and write the book that landed me my dream agents.
Sometimes maximizing your adders and minimizing your detractors will be as simple as switching an item on your grocery list. Sometimes it will involve a huge change like your job or cutting negative people out of your life.
As you start finding the adders and detractors in your life, be reasonable and honest with what you can do to maximize the things that make you happy and minimize the things that cause you pain.
You won't get them all, but making a significant effort to take care of yourself will help you create and write the way you really want to (and it can help you be a happier person in general!)
That was a jam-packed blog post, but I'm excited about all the things that helped me last year and I don't want to hold back in sharing those things with you.
I'll continue next week with the Rules of Revision Series, but for now let me know in the comments: