It's that time of year again. Christmas and the fun and frivolous stuff has come and gone, January 1st and the start of 2011 is just around the corner. (Am I the only one who keeps writing 20011?) Any minute now - well, any day now - there will be a brand new month and year and we will all be ready with new calendars, new diaries, new plans, new hopes (or not so new) and . . . new resolutions?
Or will they be the same old same old resolutions? Lose weight, be more disciplined, work harder, achieve more . . .
I always have ambiguous feelings about resolutions, about that whoel'Brand new me . . .' syndrome. On the one hand I love the idea of a fresh new start, or working to a new regime, of the pages of a diary being fresh and clean . . . And some years are ones you're pretty glad to see the back of. So there's this new one, looking all fresh and lovely like the snow when it has just fallen - not a footprint in sight. And then in two minutes - or a few days anyway - it's grubby and messed up, trampled with foorptints and splashed by passing cars.
And I'm not sure we really need that 'brand new me' thing either. I'm sure I could do with what my husband calls 'being put in a bag and shaken up' so that I don't just go along in the same old same old rut. But I'm OK with the me I am - I don't think I need a radical revolution. Or even resolutions. But of course at this time of year I do think about this - and as this is my last post as a general correspondent for the Pink Heart Society (not my last post ever - but I'll come to that) and as I have the Writer's Wednesday spot I wanted to come up with a few Resolutions for Writers to look forward to the new year with.
I'll just preface this by saying something I think is important. I've seen a lot of writers - published and unpublished - struggle hard this year. There have been changes in publishing, in the numbers of books bought, the lines published (Check out M&B's new RIVA line for example.) I know authors who have felt that somehow they've taken a wrong turning, who feared they would never write again, authors with problems getting on with editors - and vice versa - and of course in the middle of all this was the big New Voices contest. And boy did that bring a few zits to a head- or pots to a boil or whatever! There was so much reaction to losing/not being on a list/not being able to understand why everyone loved my chapter - but not the editors etc etc etc. Some of it unfortunately drowned out the cheers there should have been for the longlisted writers, the short list, the winners. And even the winner has still to prove herself and get that book through. There may well - no - there will be revisions - and maybe more revisions - and maybe more . . . Any author who thinks that submitting a book is the last stage is fooling herself.
I've been there. Luckily my last book has just been accepted and the revisons were - as the editors say - 'tweaks' - the book before that was a different story and yes, the struggles don't go away completely when you have 5 or 10 or 55 or damn nearly 60 books accepted.
So with that in mind, I thought about resolutions for writers- not ones like 'Write every day' or ''write 2000 words a day' or even write 2 or 4 or 6 books a year. But resolutions that I hope will help each author keep her head and her balance (the mental one as well as the physical) - and that hopefully will make the writign year of 2011 a hapier and healthier one for all of us.
So the first resolution I have is the one that was given to my dear friend and fantastic writer by her very first editor on the acceptance of her very first book:
1. Keep your life.
You need a life, experiences, friends, travel - whatever - to give you material about which to write. Your imagination will provide a lot but it will only take you so far. Life gives you the 'food' for your books.
2. Refill the well between books
- that imagination is a great tool but it does need feeding. All the best writers I know are great readers - books/magazines/newspapers- and film /plays/TVviewers. They travel, visit places, talk to people. If you're just staring out on your first - or 6th book - you may think your imagination will never wear out but it's like a muscle it needs toning and training and feeding.
3. Pace yourself.
You might think you have the subjects for 6 million books just bursting to be written and you might be burning to write them all - but burning can lead to burnout and the trouble with burnout is you just never see it coming. It just hits WHAM! And you don't know what happened. I've seen it happen to lots of people - some really great writers - I've teetered on the edge of it myself and had to take care to step back carefully and rethink, regroup.
As part of this is the next resoution - in fact the next two
4. Respect your own process.
Some people write fast and furious, they dash off into the fog and just hope there will be a path to follow. Some plan down the the last meticulous details and programme the BookNav carefully before they put a word on the page. Some people can write stunning first chapters that make everyone think this is an amazing story . . .except they haven't yet worked out the story that is gojng to follow on. Some (like me) write a truly messy, unformed and ill-shaped first chapter because they want to get into the story and then they come back and reqrite the first chapetr to fit when they've worked out what the book is about.
Some of us sit and watch others turn out (that's turn out not churn out - a very different process) book after book after book (or so it seems) while we are still working on one. That's because we are all individuals and we all write differently. Just as we can only write as ourselves and not some pale copy of Penny Jordan or Michelle Reid or Liz Fielding - or even Kate Walker - we can only write as we write at the pace we write because that's how our creativity works. And as lomg as it's working you don't want to damage it. Which is not the same as saying that you can't try different ways of doing things. If you're a plotter then maybe flying by the seat of your pants mught be exciting . . .or it might drive you to desperation
5. Enjoy the journey
Some books are easier than others. Some books slide off the fingers onto the keyboard without hesitation or even it seems very much thought - but they are rare. And sadly, they're not always successful. Some have so much blood sweat and tears in them that you imagine the book must drip red when it's pucked up off the shelf. If you enjoy the journey - the process of writing, the thrill of creating, the challenge of learniing more about this process then you'll find you're using your time positively and profitably whether you end up published or not. But if you hate every moment of it, keep asking yourself why you are doing this - see editorial critiques as restricting you rather than challenging you then why are you doing it? Perhaps it's just why are you trying to write this particular thing - or perhaps it's time to condsider whether you should be writing at all.
But of course the only answer to 'when should I give up trying to write' is when you can.
So those are the resolutions I'm hoping to put into action for myself as a writer in 2011. I hope some of them will help you.
What about you? Do you have special resolutions you hope to live by/achieve for the New Year? I'd love to hear all about them
Oh - and that 'last column' but - this is the last column that will appear in this form. From January 21st I will have a new regular column on the third Friday of every month - and that will be called A Date With Kate. I have a brand new logo too - but Blogger is giving me trouble uplloading pics at the moment so I'll hope to add them later. But what I'd love to know is what you'd like me to write about in my new monthly column - do you have ideas? Questions? Thing you wantg to know? Please let me know and I'll try to fit in as many suggestions as possible.
Until then Happy New Year to you all and I hope that 2011 is a fabulous year for you all.
Kate Walker's latest Presents title - The Good Greek Wife? - was out in Presents Extra in October and is still available now on Amazon, eHarlequin etc. her next Presents Extra titlei s The Proud Wife (her editor has been on a 'title with Wife in it kick!) is out in March in the UK and April in America. (No UK cover image available yet - but jhere's the USA cover.) Her latest book, part of the The Powerful and the Pure mini series has just been scheduled but is awaiting a title - but yes, Heidi etc this is the /Wuthering Heights/Heathcliff book! Details to follow
You can get all Kate's news and read the latest updates over on her web site or her blog.