Welcome to a new year – 2021. It’s the perfect time for fresh beginnings. If you are a writer, here are some New Year’s resolutions for you.
There is nothing special about New Year’s Day. It’s just the day we start counting over.
There is no reason why you can’t make resolutions to change your life today, tomorrow, next week or on June 17.
But, as we start to count over, many people take advantage of that event to also make over their lives. And why not? Any excuse to make ourselves better is a good excuse.
If 2020 was the year we got hit by a global pandemic, 2021 will be the year we tame it. No matter how 2020 has treated you personally or as a writer, now’s a great time to reset. Make 2021 amazing.
Here are 10 New Year’s resolutions for writers.
- Read more.
- Write more.
- Write to the audience.
- Paint a picture.
- Write simpler.
- Get an editor.
- Share your writings.
- Call yourself a “writer”.
- Start making money.
- Remain true to yourself .
They might not all apply to you. As Joan Baez said, “Take what you want and leave the rest.” But do one thing. Once you pick a resolution, stick to it. Make yourself proud.
This is an important resolution, because the more you read, the better you will write. I don’t know how many times I have seen the question, “How can I write better?” posted online. And I don’t know how many times the answer has been, “Read more.” OK, lots.
As with any craft, the more familiar you are with words, literary devices, sentence structure, etc., the more naturally they will flow from your fingers (or pen).
This resolution mirrors the previous one. Practice makes perfect. I don’t know how many times the answer to the question above has been, “Write more.” Lots, again.
Read more and write more. These two resolutions go hand in hand. They mean immersing yourself in your craft, just like immersing a strawberry in melted chocolate. The more you do so, the better a writer you will be. And not just better – faster, too!
Write to the audience.
Sound obvious? It’s not. Whether you are writing fiction, marketing materials, self-help information or anything else, it’s not about you. It’s all about the audience. And the audience is you only when you write in your diary.
In business writing, this means writing to the audience. Write in the second person whenever possible. Write in the first person when you must – when you write about your commitment to the audience, for example. And write in the third person whenever Fiji wins three gold medals at the winter Olympics.
In fiction, writing for the audience means understanding their perspective. You have no idea how often somebody comes to us asking to write a manuscript with the intended audience of “everyone”. If you write to everyone, you are writing to nobody.
Children’s authors routinely ask us to write to as wide an age range as five to 10. At five, kids read picture books with some words. By 10, most are digging in to Harry Potter, or at least Captain Underpants.
Paint a picture.
If you write fiction, this resolution might be about tweaking your prose. You might want to search your writing for adjectives, and replace them with more visual words.
If you write business materials, you might have more work to do in this area. Good business writing is straightforward and explains information really well. But to connect with an audience, it helps to paint a picture. If they see a picture in their minds when they read your words:
- they will “get” your message more easily
- they will remember your message longer
- they will feel more engaged with your message
This article is an example of business writing. Can you spot all the little extras in this article that help paint a picture for the reader?
This is a good New Year’s resolution for most business writers and some fiction writers.
In business (and in government and not-for-profits), people tend to write garbled English. They use big, unnatural words. It’s almost like they are trying to impress readers with their vocabulary.
They create complex and contorted sentences. It’s almost like they are shy, like they are psychologically afraid of being understood.
Write plain and simple, like your grandmother’s life depends on grasping every detail. I’ve written this primer on plain language writing and this list of plain English tips. When customers and leads (and others) see your easy-to-read messages:
- they will understand you better
- they will read more of what you have to say
- they will be more likely to buy, sign up or follow your advice
In fiction, you might not want to be as concise. Still, I’ve read some overly flowery prose, where the author adds all sorts of flourishes and embellishments that contribute nothing to the story. Some writers, especially new writers, might feel the need to show off. Don’t. You just turn off readers.
Never write to impress readers with your writing. Always write so that they don’t even notice your writing. The writer is like a puppeteer. If the reader notices you, you’ve spoiled the performance.
Get an editor.
The image of the solitary writer living in isolation works well in Nim’s Island. In real life, a good writer is part of an effective team. An editor serves the useful purpose of taking your ego and bashing it against the wall.
Oops. I didn’t mean to say that.
What I meant to say, is that an editor takes your words and improves them. Accept that you are good, maybe even very good. But you are not perfect. Since you want to produce perfect writing, a good, or even very good, editor can help you.
Repeat after me: “Editors are my friend.” Get an editor, and study the suggestions they make. Learn from each editor you work with, so that when you get to Heaven, Saint Peter will raise his eyebrows at how close to perfect you are.
Share your writings.
This is a New Year’s resolution for shy writers who still call themselves “aspiring writers” [ shudder]. If it’s good enough to write, it’s good enough to share.
No, they won’t judge you.
Yes, they will judge your writing.
If you ask, they might even give you suggestions. That will help you become a better writer. That’s what friends are for, right? Oh, and by the way, you’ve just retained your first editor.
Call yourself a “writer”.
That whole thing about being an “aspiring writer” is totally bogus.
You are an aspiring sleeper when you go to bed. Ten minutes later, you’re a sleeper.
You are an aspiring writer when you fire up your laptop. Ten minutes later, you’re a writer (unless you opened up social media – don’t!). Once you start to write, you are a writer. Don’t believe me? Read what this brilliant writer has to say on the matter.
You don’t have to be published to be a writer. That just makes you a published writer.
You don’t have to make money from your writings to be a writer. That makes you a professional writer.
You just have to write to be a writer.
Start making money.
If you are not already a professional writer, make this the year to become one. Why fix cars or process survey responses for pay, trying to squeeze in weekend time to write? Make writing your full-time gig. There’s nothing like a hobby that pays.
Just keep in mind that you will still want to write in your spare time. You will still have projects you want to write just for you – as long as you keep in mind the third New Year’s resolution above.
Remain true to yourself.
This brings us full circle. Yes, you have to write for the audience. That’s about making your writing effective. And if you want to be a professional writer, you need to write what others want, since they won’t pay you to write that ode to cheese fondue you’ve been contemplating.
But you still have to be true to yourself. Part of that is writing what you want (still to the audience, mind you) in your spare time. Part of that is also finding clients who want to pay you to write what you want.
Do you like writing fiction? Do you like writing biographies? Do you like writing for the environment? OK, now go out and find clients or employers who will let you do that. At least some of your paid work should reflect your values and your preferences.
Above all, avoid writing something that totally goes against your values. For example, I won’t work on a document that advances a company’s desire to pollute more in the name of protecting jobs. My value system places the long-term survival of our life-support system above that of corporate greed and temporary employment prospects. You need to remain true to yourself.
Let’s make 2021 a great year to be a writer!
I think 2021 will be a great year. The world will face some scary threats. There will be disasters and crises. We will face tough decisions. We will make mistakes.
But we will overcome all of these.
We will survive the threats. We will mourn the losses and build new defenses. We will make new discoveries and create new inventions. We will make those tough decisions and we will even learn from our mistakes. We will take some steps backward, sure, but we will take even more steps forward.
What’s your year going to be like? Will you take more steps forward than backwards. As a writer, you have this golden opportunity to advance your craft and your career, and to move through the year becoming ever more confident, ever more skilled and well ahead of where you began.
Which New Year’s resolutions are you ready to embrace this year?