As we’re in the final weeks of 2014 I want to offer my yearly exhortation for 2015. We’re all getting older and time’s a’ wasting, folks. If we want to succeed as writers, we need to take charge of our writing career. In fact, that will be my rally cry for you in 2015: “Take charge of your writing career!”
Here are seven suggestions on how to do that.
- Stay prayed up. Presumably by now you’ve confirmed in your own mind that God has called you to be a writer. Part of that calling is, of course, to write. But for a Christian, that’s only half the calling. The other half is to be writing the things that are within God’s calling of you as a writer. Mostly, we find out those thing through prayer. Expectant prayer. Ask God specifically to guide you in your writing pursuits. Make that a year-long (life-long, actually) commitment to yourself.
- Improve your craft. Each year I urge all of us who write to find a way to keep working on our craft. Take classes, read The Writer, Writer’s Digest, join a critique group. Read the blogs of other successful writers, agents, and editors. Write, write, write. Commit to writing at least three (and probably more) drafts of each project.
- Write out specific goals for each month. Make each goal realistic, but then stick to them. James Scott Bell recently wrote about his experience with this year’s NaNoWriMo:
Deadlines work. Remember what Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, once said? “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” Every writer who has written under contract knows what he means. The “pressure” of NaNo is good for a writer. If you fall too far behind you’re cooked. So you do whatever it takes to keep to a daily word count. You adjust your goals to make up for lost time. Out of NaNo, I’m sticking to a SID — self-imposed deadline. Writing down the date you want to finish and putting it where you can see it daily helps.
Monthly goals are good, but also write out in some detail what you hope to have accomplished by December 31, 2015.
To stay on track, consider finding a writing accountability partner. Share your writing goals with each other and meet in person or by internet every week or two to encourage one another.
- If possible, have two or three projects/proposals/manuscripts in some stage of progress. Perhaps you’re working on just a one-sheet for Project A, while on Project B, you’re at the full proposal stage. Project C might be your work-in-progress—the actual manuscript you’re working on.
- Pick one or two writer’s conferences and plan to attend. If money is a problem start saving now. Come up with creative fund-raising ideas. Perhaps ask your church to chip in with the fees. Most conferences have some scholarship money. See if you qualify or if you can do some conference work in exchange for part of your tuition.
- Stay up to date with the publishing world—including self-publishing. Know what the bestsellers are. Know which authors are writing successfully in the same genre in which you write. Read Publisher’s Weekly or Publisher’s Marketplace online. More and more writers are finding their entry into publishing through self-publishing. Sadly, many are making very serious mistakes. Although I encourage self-publishing as an option, I do not recommend it if you’re going to do a poor job of it. Last year at one writer’s conference I picked up a self-published book and found three major errors on the first page, including the misspelling of the name of famous world leader. Who would buy such a book? Not me.
- Work on your platform. I know very few authors who like platform-building. I don’t like it either. I’d much rather just write. But a platform is important. Starting small is fine. Just do what small thing you can do now and build from there. Eat the elephant one bite at a time.
The crucial thing in all this is to keep your commitment red-hot. Rest assured, there will discouragements and distractions in 2015. That’s life. It’s also another reason to plan ahead and to indeed “take charge of your writing career” in 2015. Start planning now!