By Paul Goat Allen
A new year is the perfect time to set some new goals, or establish better habits that will improve and enrich your life. Writers, in particular, are very much goal-oriented, self-motivated people who thrive on setting lofty goals and striving to achieve them. For those of you hoping to make 2024 a memorable year for your writing, here are five resolutions that, if kept, are guaranteed to make you an exponentially better writer by year’s end!
5. Finish something, anything, and submit it.
If you’re like most of the writers I know, your problem isn’t starting a project, it’s finishing it! Pick one of your projects—a novel, short story, poetry collection…—and make it your mission to not only finish it in 2024 but submit it for publication. This is a simple objective, but if this is the only goal you achieve this year, it’s still a significant accomplishment.
4. Leave the past behind.
While some writing projects are worth pursuing, as noted above, some are not. Many writers I know (myself included) become emotionally attached to one specific project; for example, a novel they’ve been tinkering with for years and have yet to even come close to finishing. I call this the Walt Whitman syndrome. Whitman revised Leaves of Grass at least five times, forever stuck in a revision loop and never satisfied with the final product. I know it might be tough, but put that project on the back burner for now. You can always revisit it down the road. It’s a new year. Start a fresh new project with a new storyline. I think you’ll be surprised by the narrative freedom and burst of creative energy you experience without the old albatross hanging around your neck.
3. Write every day.
This is a big one. Almost every bestselling author I’ve interviewed—and I’ve interviewed hundreds—have spoken about their writing routines. Many have attributed their success, and productivity, to simply having the discipline to put their butts in the seat and write for a predetermined amount of time every day. Find a good time to write—early morning, late at night, whatever—and just do it. No excuses. Every day. Even if you think you’re writing garbage. Make writing a daily routine and you’ll be amazed at what happens after a few weeks of consistent writing.
2. Read more.
I interviewed Joe Hill back in 2016 for Goodreads, and when I asked him about his daily writing schedule, his response was profound: “Some writers say they won’t read novels while they’re writing novels of their own. I think that’s crazy. I care a lot more about my reading than my own writing. I feel like reading 40 pages a day is at least as important as scribbling my 1,500 words.” Stephen King—Joe’s dad—famously wrote this: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
It’s so true. The best writers are usually the biggest readers. The more you read, the better you write. Period.
If you write historical romance, for example, it would behoove you to know your category: what the classics are, what’s trending, what’s selling now, etc. It’s also advantageous to read outside the category you write in. When you understand how romance, horror, and thriller novels are structured, and what elements make the storylines work, you can put that knowledge into your writing toolbox to utilize when needed.
1. Live a karmic life.
Anyone working in publishing knows that karma is real. The quality of a person’s actions can—and does—influence the outcome. I’ve seen it countless times over the last few decades: simply being nice, thoughtful and kind will pay huge dividends. I can list dozens of writers whose careers have been positively impacted because of their pleasant personalities and ability to get along with people. I can also list a few authors whose careers have been sabotaged by their own egos or unprofessional behavior. I actually have a list of authors that I will never review or interview because of past bad conduct.
Be nice to people. Help a fellow writer if you can. Cultivate strong relationships. Whenever possible, I always try to promote noteworthy authors, be it through a review, an interview, or a simple Instagram post. When you have the chance to help a writer along his/her journey, do it—because you never know when you’ll need someone to help you. We’re not in competition with one another, we’re a community trying to lift each other up and help each other gain some semblance of critical and commercial success and fulfillment.
Let’s not forget the recent controversy surrounding debut novelist Cait Corrain, who was dropped by her publisher after she allegedly created fake profiles on Goodreads to post negative reviews (aka review bombing) on upcoming titles by fellow authors, books that would’ve been released around the same time as her debut novel (which has been subsequently pulled from publication). Corrain has reaped the bad karma she sowed—and will presumably be doing so for quite some time.
Trust me on this: creating a little good karma can go a long way—and you can start by sharing this post on social media! 😉
Paul Goat Allen has been reviewing books for more than 25 years. In addition to his work for BlueInk Review, his writing has appeared with BarnesandNoble.com, The Chicago Tribune, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and more. He also teaches in Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction graduate writing program.