Believability; It’s Not an Option

This week I started work on the Revision Project, as I’m dubbing it. For those of you just joining us, the Revision Project refers to the massive overhaul I’m giving my previously published short stories before re-releasing them. I won’t go into the details of why I’m doing this again, so if you’re curious, check out the post where I explain my reasoning at length.

Anyway, reading these manuscript dinosaurs in preparation to give them their much needed facelifts, I’ve realized just how much I’ve learned about myself as a writer and about storytelling in general over the past year. Largely thanks to this blog. Nothing makes you understand a process faster than having to break it down and explain it to someone else. I learned that during my martial arts training, but apparently it’s equally true for writing. Which is why seeing those old works through the filter of fresh perspective brought to light a common theme that plagues them– a distinct lack of authenticity.

This is particularly true for The Bardach, which was my earliest endeavor and admittedly the weakest of the three. But there are moments in all of them that feel superficial to me now. Like we’re just grazing the surface, floating over the action like we’re peering down at it through a snow-globe. And it got me thinking. Why is that? When I wrote them, I didn’t feel this lack of investment, even after the rose-colored glasses of creation had worn off and the overly critical ones of the editor returned. So what’s changed?

I said in my article about storytelling for demo teams that story is about conveying an emotional message. That’s a dramatic difference from the way I used to view it. I used to focus primarily on plot. The characters were in an integral part, of course, but the narrative focused more around the action than anything else. I wrote like a film director rather than an author, worrying about how to convey the cinematic dance of camera angles instead of creating fully realized, three-dimensional characters. That’s not to say that I wasn’t able to weave a story that had impact. I think Confessions managed that. But emotional depth wasn’t necessarily my strong suit. Then along came Unmoving, a story so completely focused on the inner turmoil of the lead character that it forced me out of my comfort zone. It made me grow as a writer. It made me redefine my idea of storytelling.

I feel this is a common journey for newer writers, and especially younger writers. When we first start out, we try so hard to mimic the examples of storytelling we’ve been exposed to– film, TV, video games, books– that we end up missing the point. We manage to learn the basics of narrative– how to craft an action-packed plot, write witty/natural-sounding dialogue, paint settings with just the right amount of detail– but we never learn the one thing that really resonates with readers. Believability.

There are two types of believability in storytelling. The first, making sure all the details and logistics of your story make sense, is a pet peeve of mine and has already been ranted about in a previous post. So we’ll jump right to the second type– emotional believability. This is what takes a good story to a great one. Take a moment and think about all the books that have ever moved you. Now think about why. I’m probably not far off in guessing that the answer had to do with feeling invested in the characters, in their struggles, their emotions? That’s what I mean by emotional believability. It’s an authenticity that speaks to the core of human nature, to themes that transcend genres and are universally understood. It’s the ability to translate personal experience onto the page, and it only seems to come with maturity.

There’s a reason they always say “write what you know.” Personally, I never subscribed to that. I’m a fantasy writer, so how am I supposed to write what I know when what I know is too dull and ordinary for the worlds I like to hang out in? It’s not like I can go to the zoo and observe the behavioral patterns of a unicorn, now can I? So I always threw that phrase out like wasted salt. Until now. Now I get it. It’s not about writing what you know in the literal sense, (although it can be, depending on what you’re writing), it’s about using your experiences to infuse believability into your story, to fully immerse your readers into that character’s existence, to move them.

Now, I’m not saying that younger writers can’t craft a great story. I’ve read well-done work written by all ages. What I’m saying is that there is a definite difference between the way someone writes when they’re new to writing, or life, or both and the way they write after they’ve been around the block a few times. But rather than argue theory, or semantics, or what-have-you, how about I just give you an example from my own writing. Examples always trump convoluted discussions in my opinion.

As some of you may know, I’ve had the privilege of being stalked by a panic disorder for most of my life, but it wasn’t until about two years ago that I actually suffered what can be officially declared a “panic attack.” As in a complete freak-out, hyper-ventilating fear-fest of doom. (I know, I make it sound so dramatic, huh? 😉 ) But panic attacks have appeared in my writing far longer, making them the perfect candidate to help illustrate my point.

Here is an example from The Bardach: (Note, this was written before I had suffered one myself.)

Amyli shook her head to try and clear it from the fog that suffocated her thoughts and followed her study partner down secret corridors she had never known existed within the Temple’s simple construction. Even encased in the thick stone of the walls, she could hear the screams of the dying. And suddenly the walls themselves seemed to be closing in, the air thick and stifling. She stumbled and clutched at Calinfar’s hand.

“Wait, I can’t!” she gasped, trying to breathe, one hand against her chest. Calinfar stopped immediately.

“What’s wrong? Amyli?” He grabbed her shoulders once more, releasing the injured one quickly when she winced. Welling tears glistened in her vision as she gazed into his concerned face and suddenly everything that was happening washed over her with the force of a burst dam.

Aside from the various other quality issues in that excerpt, did you notice how superficial it was? You get the idea that she’s having a panic attack through my attempt to describe it with overly-used, clichéd phrasing and imagery. But you don’t feel it, do you? It’s over too fast to really elicit more than a shoulder-shrugging “meh” from the reader. You’re not invested in Amyli’s emotional state, even if you had read the context leading up to it. You could take it or leave it at this point. Nothing about that moment will stay with you past the 10 seconds it took you to read it.

Now, here’s an example from Unmoving: (Yes, that’s right, a rare tidbit from my work-in-progress.)

The resounding clap as the wood violently met its frame shuddered through me, and I knew what was about to happen. In an effort to avoid the oncoming storm of remembrance, I stared at the flurry of peeling white paint her exit had sent drifting to the floor. But that only made it worse.

Instantly, the images I had tried so hard to forget crushed me like an avalanche. I saw snow swirling in the darkness, heard the squeal of tires trying to find traction, the snap and whipping sound of the seat-belt, smelled the sickening mix of burning rubber and dirty slush. Her screams pierced the memory like a relentless soundtrack, echoes of terror I could never outrun.

I braced myself and waited for it to pass, for the tightness in my chest to diminish and the invisible stranglehold on my throat to ease. Every time I felt the wave of adrenaline crash over me, I wondered if this is what it felt like to drown.

See the difference? That was written after I had experienced the horror of a panic attack for myself. You can feel it now, can’t you? (I hope so anyway.) The words have a sense of urgency, the descriptions are more realistic, the emotions believable. Even without the context prior to this, you can sympathize with him. That’s the difference a little life experience can make.

So the point of this long-winded ramble-thon is this: believability isn’t an option. If you want to write something that resonates with readers, you have to learn how to create that deeper level of immersion. How you go about learning that depends on you. You can wait for life experience to cast the slant of a more mature perspective on things. You can mooch off other people’s life experience, using research and interviews to beef up your knowledge of things you aren’t familiar with. Or you can fake it ’til you make it, as they say, and just keep writing, letting practice hone your ability for you. However you go about it though, strive for authenticity. You’ll know when you find it, and your readers will love you for it. Guaranteed.

How to Work With a Freelance Editor

The writer/editor relationship is an interesting one, built on trust, open communication, honesty…things which, let’s face it, most of us suck at. So it’s not surprising that for a lot of writers, it can be one of the more intimidating steps on the road to publication. It’s scary to send your manuscript, your baby, off to an agent or editor– otherwise known as Total Stranger Whose Sole Purpose is to Rip it to Shreds. But editors are not the enemy. In fact, they’re your best ally. And, as someone who toes the line between writer and editor, I can tell you that the process is just as nerve-wracking from the editor’s side of the fence.

Yes, our job is primarily to pass judgement on something you’ve slaved over for years. But it’s also our job to polish, refine, and help you present your work to the real jury– the readers– in the best form possible. Like jewelers honing an uncut diamond into the sparkly perfection adorning someone’s engagement ring, we hack and chop and tweak your manuscript until it shines like the brilliant gem you knew it was. We invest in your work, not nearly to the level that you did, of course, but enough that we care about it’s success. We want to see it make the bestseller’s list almost as badly as you do. Because the reality is, it’s success reflects on us as well. Which is why it can be just as scary for us to take on a client as it is for the client to hire us.

What if they don’t like our work? How will they react to all the changes that need to be done? What if the book flops because of me? These are just a few of the anxiety-producing thoughts that can run through an editor’s head. Not so different from the nail-biting that ensues while you wait for our verdict, is it? But this relationship doesn’t have to be a stress-producing, hair-graying, fear-fest. It all depends on the approach. This is the part you will be hard pressed to find information about. There are plenty of other posts that explain how an editor works, what the average rate is, how horrifying a process it is for the writer, etc. But very few will tell you the best practices for actually working with a freelance editor. Until now.

Things That Make a Writer/Editor Relationship Work Smoothly:

  • Open Communication. Yep, there’s that phrase again. But this is the heart of working with an editor. Be clear in what you expect from us. Do you just need a proofreader? Tell us that. Do you want a full, comprehensive, brutal strip-down type of edit? Tell us. If you have specific areas of concern in your work, yep, you guessed it, tell us. We’re not psychics, so don’t be afraid to provide directions. It helps ensure that we meet your expectations for the level of editing you wanted.
  • Ability to Accept Critique. So often, writers hire an editor thinking there’s nothing wrong with their manuscript beyond maybe a few typos, and that they’ll get to bask in the editor’s glowing review of their brilliance. And then they find out they’re wrong. They take the criticism of their work personally, bristling on the defensive and completely discounting the editor’s opinions. But no manuscript is ever perfect. That’s why you hire a second, or third, pair of eyes to look it over. So expect feedback. Harsh feedback. I’m sure you’ve heard that you need a thick skin as a writer, and this is why. Try to remember that as much as it stings to be told that your favorite scene really should be cut, that it’s not an attack on you personally or your ability to write. It’s a suggestion that will strengthen your story the way liposuction strengthens self-esteem.
  • Payment. This probably seems like something that shouldn’t have to be said. But sadly, it does. Editors don’t work for free. If you want that kind of superficial feedback, then what you really want are Beta Readers– people that will read your manuscript and offer the bare minimum of feedback in exchange for a free copy of something unreleased. Don’t get me wrong, Beta Readers provide an invaluable service too, and I firmly believe that any work should be read by as many willing eyes as possible before it faces the gauntlet of publishing. But they’re not editors. An editor will spend hours of detailed work, reading and re-reading passages, reorganizing and honing the text on a word-by-word basis, working with you on trouble areas and answering questions. Depending on the length of the manuscript, this can take a significant chunk of time. Time they couldn’t devote to other means of bill paying. Would you expect a lawyer to work for free? A contractor? An accountant? No? Then why would you expect an editor to work for free? Suffice to say that if you plan on hiring an editor, expect to pay a decent wage for that person’s work. Or expect it to very quickly become a point of contention that can ruin an otherwise working relationship.
  • Provide a Reference. Think of this like a review. You know how important those are to the success of your book, right? Well references are equally as important to an editor’s continued success. If you were happy with the result of your time with the editor, let them use you and your work as a reference. It actually benefits you both. It will boost the editor’s portfolio, allowing them to attract new clients, but it also acts as free advertisement for your book. Win-win, no?

Those are the basics. A lot of them are really just common sense, or should be. The writer/editor relationship is just that, a relationship. It involves two human beings, and is subject to all the follies that implies. Realize that, and you should be able to conduct yourself in a manner which generates professionalism, mutual respect and even friendship.

But there’s one thing I haven’t covered, and I would be remiss if I didn’t– how you go about finding that perfect editorial partner. Since you aren’t working with a traditional publishing house, it’s your job to vet their qualifications. And as Dr. Gregory House used to say on Fox’s House, “Everybody lies.” Especially in job interviews. So here are a few things you can look at beyond the obvious resume and references.

Things to Look for When Hiring a Freelance Editor:

  • Samples. I mean samples of their own writing. A lot of freelance editors are also authors in their own right. So see if you can find a sample of their work. It will give you a more solid feel for their understanding of the craft, as well as a sense of their particular style and voice. The second can be a good indicator on whether or not you will work well together. If someone’s writing is too dissimilar from your own, you might end up with a clash of vision. But if they are similar to you, then chances are good they’ll be able to see your work the way you do. Plus, you don’t want to hire someone whose own work is riddled with typos and errors, do you?
  • Willingness to Listen. Just like you should have an open mind when it comes to receiving criticism, your editor should be open to listening to your concerns, opinions and ideas. So pay attention to the way they correspond with you initially. Are they respectful? Do they seem open to what you have to say? Or do they seem pompous and full of themselves, coming off like you should be honored they’d be willing to work with you? There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence. You want someone that seems sure of their abilities, but not someone that seems like they know everything about everything. A good editor will take your directions into account and add them to a list of things they already look for.
  • Contract. Always work under a contract. Always. This is a no-brainer for serious freelance editors, so if the candidate you’re considering doesn’t seem interested in talking shop over the details of a contract, you’d be wise to save your money. Contracts are the easiest way to keep everyone on the same page. They should detail not only what the editor will provide, but how much they are charging, the payment terms, the deadline (if there is one), and a clause protecting the author’s rights to the work. Any editor worth their salt will negotiate the terms of the contract well before any money changes hands or any work is started.
  • Gut Instinct. First impressions are often correct, so listen to your gut instinct when considering candidates. Oftentimes, something intangible will warn you away from someone who won’t be a good fit. The same goes for finding that perfect editorial soulmate. If you find yourself being drawn to one person over the others, go with it. There’s probably a reason and you might even end up with that coveted writer/editor relationship every author dreams of. And if not, hey, that’s why there’s a termination clause in that contract you signed. 😉

I hope I’ve helped demystify the process of working with an editor at least a little bit. It really isn’t that hard. All you have to do is remember that the editor isn’t out to get you; isn’t hell-bent on destroying your work and watching it burn in a massive bonfire while they laugh at your misery. Quite the opposite. Your editor believes in you, in your work. They wouldn’t have taken you on as a client if they didn’t. So trust that they’ll make your work the best it can be. When everyone behaves with respect and professionalism, the end result could easily be the bestseller both parties hope for.

The Next Big Thing: A Sneak Peek at Unmoving

No, I’m not delusional, thinking my little, (as yet unfinished), project is going to rival the likes of The Twilight Saga, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games or 50 Shades of Grey. (At least, I’m not that delusional publicly.) I was tagged in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop by Jon over at Jumping From Cliffs. Normally, I’m not one to participate in chain-letter-esque things, preferring to walk the dangerous line of deleting/chucking them in spite of their explicit warnings of death and dismemberment should you do so. What can I say? I’m a daredevil like that. But this one seems benign enough, and offers a chance to show love to some of the bloggers I follow regularly. So I’ll participate. This time. (Plus, I must admit to feeling like a giddy school-girl whenever someone links back to my work, so I felt I had to pay that forward. Earn some Karma points, make someone’s day and all that jazz.)

What’s in it for you guys? Well, before I send you bouncing to some of the awesome blogs I’ve found over the past year, I have to answer ten interview questions about my latest work. Which means, you’re about to get a rare sneak peek at Unmoving, my nemesis of a manuscript that will probably never be finished. Seriously, they’ll bury it with me under a headstone that reads, “Here lies Kisa, the girl who needed two lifetimes to finish one book.” But enough cynicism. On to the questions! 🙂

What is the working title of your book? 

This story has had three titles over the course of it’s life, which is extremely rare for me. The first, and I can’t believe I’m about to admit it to the world, was Sleeping Handsome. Awful, I know. That’s why it never made it to the light of day. It was supposed to be a pun on Sleeping Beauty, which is what it’s loosely modeled after, but still. That’s no excuse. I’m blushing from embarrassment now. Great.

The second title was, The Man Who Can’t Be Moved, back when I thought it was just going to be another short story. After my normal brilliance at title selection failed me, I took the easy way out, naming it after the song that inspired it. But it always felt wrong to essentially steal the title, even though, technically, titles can’t be copyrighted. So when I realized that I couldn’t tell the story the way it needed to be told in 6000 words, I re-examined the themes I wanted to explore, searching for something that resembled the song title while still encompassing the darker tones of my version. Unmoving seemed to do just that. Similar in feel to the song, but vague enough to reference multiple themes in the text, it seemed like the perfect fit. So Unmoving it is. Officially. For now.

What genre does your book fall under?

Contemporary/Urban Fantasy.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Loosely based on Sleeping Beauty, Unmoving is a tale about what happens when you choose wrong at defining life moments.

Where did you get the idea for your book? 

From a song. “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved,” by The Script, to be exact. Don’t ask how I managed to get something so dark and emotionally complex out of such a sweet song, because I really don’t know. I just did. It would take me far too long to explain my strange creative process, so instead, I’ll just refer you to the post where I rambled on about it for days. If you really want to know more, it’ll all be explained there.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? 

I have to give credit to my husband for this one. And not because Derek is in any way, shape or form modeled after him. Just to set that record straight right now. I do have characters that contain elements of him, but Derek isn’t one of them.

We’re both big Script fans, (well, I’m a huge fan; he just indulges me to avoid the fight over the stereo), but I was never that fond of “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved.” It’s a good song, but it just never held my attention the way “Breakeven” and some of their newer ones do. He loved it though. (He’s totally going to hate me for admitting that to world, too. Love you, babe!) I think it’s still one of his favorites by them. So if it weren’t for him forcing me to listen to it over and over again when I probably would have rather skipped it, I’m not sure Unmoving would ever have been born. Although, it was pretty much everywhere for a while there, so knowing me, it would have spawned eventually anyway. He just helped it along.

I hope he likes what came out of it, though. He’s always surprised and kind of horrified, I think, by how badly I can mangle some of his favorite songs when they decide to become Spawners.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 

I’ll let you know when I’ve completed it. 😉

Currently, I’ve invested about 3 years and am maybe a third of the way through. To be fair, though, I did take some significant chunks of time off to work on other projects, and had to rewrite the opening scene about a hundred times. It’s incredibly hard to find the perfect balance of jackass and sympathetic hero. But once I found Derek’s groove, things smoothed out. Some. If I’m lucky, I might have it finished by the time I’m 50.

What other books would you compare this story with in your genre? 

Hmmm…I’m not sure I’ve really read too many that are similar. Honestly! I’m not trying to be pretentious and think that I stumbled on something original. I just haven’t crossed paths with titles that are like this one yet. But if I had to, I guess I could compare it to the following:

  • Sleeping Beauty: For the obvious reason that the core premise of Unmoving is a modernized version of the fairytale with a gender twist.
  • Beauty and the Beast: Fans of this fable will recognize the idea behind the confrontation with the witch, and a few other elements. I started out aiming for Sleeping Beauty, but apparently I had to throw my favorite fairytale in for good measure.
  • A Christmas Carol: Odd comparison maybe, but when you read it, you’ll see. There are definite echoes of the whole Ghosts of Christmas thing.
  • Inception: Yeah, I know, not a book. But I loved how complicated and layered that movie was, and while you see that style of storytelling a lot in film, I’m not sure I’ve ever run across it in literature. Maybe that’s because you can’t really do it with words, but I’m going to try. It’s good to have aspirations right? Even if they are slightly delusional.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 

I don’t tend to think of my characters like this. Partly because I’m a freak and I see them in animation rather than live-action, and partly because I feel like it would potentially color the way I write them. I don’t want other people’s traits and quirks bleeding into my characters from those played by the actor I’ve chosen. But, I suppose, just this once, I’ll play along. If only because it will give you, the readers, a visual frame of reference for the way I picture the characters.

Ian Somerhalder, from “The Vampire Diaries”, has the right broody snarkiness to play Derek, the main character. Plus, he’s pretty pleasant on the eyes, right ladies? 😉 Elaine, (the love interest), is supposed to be the exact opposite of Derek. She’s fair and bubbly and everything positive that he isn’t. So we need a blonde, I think. Someone like Katherine Heigl or Candace Accola (also from “The Vampie Diaries”) would be in the right vein. (Yeah, obviously I’m a big Vampire Diaries fan, what of it?)

As for the witch, she’s a chameleon, appearing in several different versions throughout the story, so we’d need several different actresses to play her. And some bright green contacts. But I think I’ll leave that decision up to the casting director, if and when, it ever comes to that.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 

My current plan is that the Synchronicity Series, of which Unmoving is Book 1, will be self-published. My reason is that this series is very intricately tied together. Each book contains scenes pointing to the next one where the seemingly separate stories cross for a brief moment. Like Easter Eggs on a DVD, readers will be able to figure out which set of characters will be featured in the next book and see scenes from the previous one from a different perspective. Which is why I don’t want to risk the uncertainty of traditional publishing, where they may only ever take the one book, or take them out of order. Since the series depends on it’s sequence, that really wouldn’t work out so well.

Also, it’s Urban Fantasy. And the rest of my millions of plot bunnies are not. So while I’m currently working in this genre, I don’t want to be pigeon-holed into it. I feel I have some potentially awesome ideas in other genres that deserve to be heard too. So my grand scheme is this: self-publish the Synchronicity Series, and pursue traditional publishing with everything else. I hear this kind of hybrid approach to publishing is becoming popular, so we’ll see if it works. I just can’t quite give up my dream of walking through the aisles of Barnes & Noble and seeing my book on its shelves, you know?

What else about your book might pique your reader’s interest? 

How about the blurb? Since that one line synopsis is pretty vague and I’ve never really divulged details before, here’s an added bonus– the blurb that would potentially grace the back cover. (Disclaimer: It’s still a work in progress and I kind of just pulled it out of thin air, so read it with a forgiving eye please. I’m sure the final version will be much much better.)

After a horrific car accident cost him the woman he loved, Derek Richards checked out of humanity, turning off all emotion except callous disregard. But when a confrontation with a homeless woman leaves him literally turned to stone on a park bench, he is forced to relive every defining moment in his life, every decision he made for the wrong reasons. Had Karma been watching him all along? And is it too late to change his ways?

Now it’s time to play tag. Below are 5 blogs that I follow on a regular basis, some because they’re informative, some because they’re inspiring, and some because they’re just plain entertaining. Why 5? I’m only allowed 5. Those are the rules. But I feel like bending them, so I’ll also point you to the handy widget on the bottom right of the page.  (If you’re reading with an RSS, email, or some other feed system, you won’t see it, I’m afraid.) There, you’ll find a list of 19 blogs I happen to think are pretty awesome.

And don’t forget to check out Jumping From Cliffs, the person who sponsored this lovely sneak peek of Unmoving. If I hadn’t already linked back to him, twice, he would have been included in the list below. His sarcastic wit has me laughing on a regular basis. Have fun blog hopping!

  1. Catherine Howard: Catherine, Caffeinated (Superb resource on all things self-publishing, with a bit of sarcasm on the side.)
  2. Katie Jennings: She Writes With Love (Some good posts about marketing for indie authors.)
  3. Publishing Crawl: (A collection of authors, agents & editors that write about everything from writing, to new book releases, to publishing.)
  4. Robert Watson: An Orthogonal Universe Blog (Still kind of new, with only a few posts, but I happen to know that he has a fantastic novel releasing soon that you should all check out. This is called The Next Big Thing right? 😉 )
  5. Jay Kristoff: Jay Kristoff– Literary Giant (I love his sarcastic sense of humor, but be warned, his blog’s not really intended for those with sensitive ears. If you don’t mind a little profanity in your snark, then enjoy!)

A Writer’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year again. The well-meaning crowd into gyms, flocking like vultures on a carcass for a few weeks, until the lure of their previous lives becomes too strong, rendering those automatic, monthly gym membership debits an obsolete waste of money. Loose change and random dollars find themselves stuffed into jars like nuts stashed by a squirrel, where they’ll remain unspent until about March. The Goodwill sees a sudden influx of clothing, electronics and random crap as Purge-fever strikes across the land. Yep, it’s resolution time.

But “resolution” doesn’t have to be a word that elicits a groan of agonized dread, or instantly calls up geeky visions of pixels on a screen. Believe it or not, resolutions can actually be your friend. They don’t have to be some grand creature of good intention. In fact, they shouldn’t be if you want any hope of actually keeping them. After all, they’re really just goals disguised in a longer, more pretentious-sounding word for intimidation factor. Goals aren’t scary, are they?

Personally, I find them highly motivating. When I meet them, that is. They give me a clear-cut mission, something to work towards, a path through the aimless. The trick is making them specific. And New Year’s Resolutions are no different. Everyone has the standard “lose weight/get in shape,” “get out of debt,” “fall in love,” “spend time with family,” resolutions. But those are also the ones we never keep. Why? Because they’re a vague description of some ideal we’d maybe kind of like to get to. They don’t give us any direction. No instructions. No plan. Of course we can’t keep them!

We’ll try valiantly for a few months, until we decide that we just don’t like sweating as much as we like donuts; that the mountain of debt isn’t going anywhere until we win the lottery; that love is a fickle bastard who likes to play practical jokes; and that there was a reason we didn’t hang out with the relatives.

Instead of focusing on unattainable, murky-type goals, narrow the playing field to one specific region– say, writing. Think about what you’d like to achieve over the next year. And don’t just throw out things like, “I want to write more,” “I want to get published,” “I want to stalk Stephenie Meyer.” (Ok, maybe not the last one, but you get the idea.) These are no different than the goals I listed before. Instead, break those vague resolutions down to their individualized steps. Like a to-do list on steroids.

You want to write more? Great. How much? Define it by word count, pages or chapters, but define it. You want to be published? Awesome! What do you need to do to get there? Write a query letter? A synopsis? Both? Figure out the small steps that will ultimately lead you to your goal and make each one its own resolution. You want to stalk Stephenie Meyer? I’d suggest investing in some psychiatric help instead. But that’s cool. I’m pretty sure you can still read this from the computer lab in jail. 😉

The point of a New Year’s Resolution isn’t to put so much pressure on yourself that you fail the second you write it down. It’s more about defining the larger tasks you want to accomplish within a year’s worth of time, rather than on a day to day basis. So don’t make them so specific that you’ve gone through the whole list within 5 minutes on Jan 1st. But don’t let them be so broad that you’re left without a sense of direction either. That perfect balance in between is the key to a successful resolution.

Let’s give it a try, shall we? Below are my personal writing resolutions for 2013. Notice how each goal is specific enough to give me a plan of action, but not so specific that I can accomplish it quickly. Chances are, I won’t meet most of them, (because let’s face it, I’m better at planning and organization than I am at follow-through), but at least I defined them into plausible chunks I could attain if I applied myself. And that’s the first step.

Writing Resolutions 2013

  • Finish the rough draft of Unmoving
  • Upload Chapters of Unmoving every two weeks to Wattpad & Authonomy
  • Revise and Re-publish The Bardach, Spinning & Confessions via Createspace/Amazon KDP
  • Compile brief synopses of all plot bunnies
  • Write, Edit & Publish one new short story

Now it’s your turn. What are your writing resolutions for 2013? Share them in the comments below! 🙂

(P.S. A big Thank You to everyone who entered the Holiday Giveaway. The winners have been chosen and notifications will be going out via email. Congratulations to those who won; keep your eyes on your inbox to find out if it was you. 😉 )