2016 is winding down now, and you may be realizing how many of this year’s goals have yet to be accomplished. Instead of becoming depressed by any failures or incomplete tasks, ask yourself what you can reasonably accomplish by December 31 to ensure you feel this was a successful year for your goals. Here are five simple suggestions:
1) One New Learning Experience – If you take your writing seriously, then you are trying to improve every year. One of the best ways to do so is to attend at least one class or conference. I don’t count self help books , even those written by the best professionals, in this accomplishment because you are looking for interaction and feedback on your skills. You want to improve your techniques, and the best way to do so is to identify your strong points and strengthen your weak ones. If you’re on a budget like most of us, try a small and local conference or course. Check with nearby writers group to see what they may be offering. You can also search the internet for a free online course or check to see what is available at your local community college.
2) Two Good Beginnings – we’ve all heard that you must hook your reader immediately. The best two ways to do so is with your title and opening paragraph. Whether it’s an editor, publisher, or average reader the rules are the same. If they lose interest in the first couple of lines, it doesn’t matter how expertly written the rest of your work is. So, spend as much time as necessary to craft an attention-grabbing title and introduction.
3) Three Stories – we all have work, family, and friends vying for our attention. However, the surest way to improve your own writing is to study the craft of others. Even slow readers will be able to read three short stories in the five weeks left of 2016. To keep your interest, try a variety such as a new best seller, an old classic, and at least one in the genre you are trying to publish. Science has revealed that reading reduces stress and exercises your brain, both of which will aid your own endeavors in craft.
4) Four Revisions – whether it’s the two beginnings discussed above, or you’re attempting to complete an entire piece, you should give it at least four good passes before you submit it. As you read over your first draft, keep an eye out for errors. Use a proofreading tool to identify potential problems quickly. Start the third revision after a “cooling off” period. A break will allow your brain to reboot so you can look at your work with a fresh eye. Ask a few outside parties to provide objective feedback for the fourth revision.
5) Five Senses - Many writers focus almost exclusively on what characters see and hear, but what about the other senses? Truly effective writers must appeal to all five — sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. This will aid in creating dynamic characters with an environment that comes alive for the reader.
Writing better is within your reach. It’s never too late to reach your goals, or improve your techniques. I hope you are all able to finish the year feeling like a success!