The 12 Months of Writing

So, another year almost done and your writing’s not moving on as much as you’d like? Don’t be too hard on yourself – we’re only human. Maybe it’s time to bring in the clichéd elephant and eat it in chunks …

Tackling just one thing a month can have surprising results by this time next year, and – how convenient – there happen to be 12 things here for you to try (OK, I’ve cheated a bit on the first one).

1       Promise yourself you’ll do these two things throughout the year: 

  • write for 15 mins each morning when you wake up – ‘free writing’ is fine
  • carry a notebook/tablet with you everywhere, for capturing ideas, snippets of conversation, observations etc.

2      List three things you’d like to have done with your writing by this time next year. If you like, write these in a letter to yourself.  Whichever way you do it, keep it safe – you’ll be looking for this list next December.

3      Look at the bigger picture.  Do you number your drafts and versions? How do you store or file any work you’ve completed?  Where do you keep a record of places you’ve submitted to?  It’s time to get a system – one that works for you – and stick with it.

4      Go back to an unfinished piece you’ve had nagging at you for ages – what do you need to do with it?  Maybe it’s not actually a story, perhaps it’s the start of a novel?   Or maybe it’s flash fiction?  Don’t just put it back again – make a decision, then schedule a time for acting on it.

5      Look through your ‘raw’ notebooks and select a line or scene that particularly jumps out at you. Work it up into a first draft … poetry, prose, whatever comes at this stage. Just write.

6       Submit something to a competition. You’re spoilt for choice, so there’s no excuse. Remember though that most of them need an entry fee. Be selective. Think about whether your writing ‘fits’, take the judges into consideration, and read the Terms & Conditions carefully.

7       Join the conversation – leave a response on someone’s blog or join an online forum.

8       Buy three random pieces of cheap bric-a-brac from a charity shop without thinking about the items too much.  Write their history. Who owned them before?  What’s their story?

9       Book a day just for you and nurture your creativity.  Go to a gallery, museum, a workshop, people watch in a café, take a journey by bus or train and eavesdrop.  Just soak stuff up.  Don’t put any pressure on yourself to produce something – just look, listen, make notes, and see what comes from it.

10     Visit your library and borrow a book on writing, buy or subscribe to a writing magazine/journal. Look for ideas, inspiration, tips etc.  Note details of courses that grab you, workshops and events, and choose one you can book onto.

11     Go to a literature festival – there are dozens of them to choose from now, all over the country, from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. Don’t just stick with authors you already know – try someone different.

12     Go to an Open Mic night – and put your name down. What’s the worst that can happen?

Elephants really aren't that scary ...

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