This time of the year always seems to be the busiest no matter who you are or where you live. With one year ending and with the holidays just in front of us, the days start counting down and things just get crazy. But to me it’s also a good time to reset my writing goals and re-establish habits I want to follow in the new year. As part of that resetting practice, I turn to some of my past experiences and practices. Here are some ideas:
Revert to old tried-and-true ideas.
For me, something old means NaNoWriMO. For years I have stopped everything else to give my attention to writing in November as part of NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month. It’s an online challenge that I’ve participated in every year for the past ten years. While I can’t say that I’ve always come out with a complete novel by November 30, I’ve always come close and it’s good to have so much writing done in just one month’s time. The goal is more than 1600 words a day for the entire month and there are plenty of activities and challenges and writing ideas that can help to get a novel started — and hopefully finished. There are online challenges and local writing groups around the country sponsor write-ins in nearby locations.
Re-establish writing habits.
This is another reason I do NaNoWriMo. With the cold mornings, this is one of the best times of the year to sit inside and write on weekend mornings. Think of those cold days when you don’t want to go out too early. Establish an early morning writing habit and give yourself a goal of a couple of hundred words to write before you go out. The day will be warmer and you’ll have some words written. Doesn’t it sound great to simply sit inside at the keyboard or with a notepad and pen and get some of that writing done? Even if it’s putting together your plot points or outlining a story, this is a good time for doing it.
Research at all times.
This is one of the best times of year for indoor research. If you’re going to go shopping, don’t just shop! Use the time to people watch while you’re sitting around waiting to have presents wrapped or even as you are shopping. Last year my friends and I spent a morning at an upscale department store while one shopped for a bracelet for her mother. I sat in the nearby shoe section and people-watched. Why? I was taking notes, of clothing, of speech patterns, of so many different things. I was watching the slow, deliberate movements of the sales woman as she took an expensive scarf out of the display case, or the harried shoe salesman as he came back with an armload of boxes.
Then there are those little arguments we might have with family members that are quickly forgotten because they were silly, but remembering the tension or writing down some of the details or feelings can also be used later in a story even as it calms the soul.
Recall past adventures.
This is one thing I love to do with family gatherings. Getting others to talk about crazy holiday gifts or adventures can be fun. And then I take notes for later use. And of course there are also crazy shopping adventures. It’s a good time to LISTEN to holiday shoppers and hear their stories. Crazy adventures, vacations, even family arguments—they can all be turned into future holiday stories. Keep a notebook and pen handy or make notes into your phone or tablet but be ready to get down the basics of those great holiday stories. Last year we had a niece who got stuck on a train coming across country. She had some wonderful stories to tell about people she met on the train while they were all stuck in various places.
Look for something new to learn.
Last year for me, it was to think like an artist. Whenever I go out with my artist niece, I noticed how she always kepts a little sketch pad with her. Wherever we would go she was constantly taking out her pad and drawing and that is something I have often done myself. In those above instances–when I am waiting, I take out my own little notepad and write down my impressions of what I was seeing and the ambiance of the location. As writers we are artists – setting the scene, bringing people and locations to life with our words. It pays to practice and we should be doing that year around. But what I learned from her was more than looking and listening for later use, it was to do it right there, right then while I was on the scene as though I was painting a word picture of the exact moment. It made for a great beginning of a scene later in my fiction.
Finally, look forward.
What this means is to look for new places to sell your work. The publishing world has changed a lot in the past few years. While it may be more difficult to become published through a traditional publisher, there are smaller places you can submit. You can also elect to do your own publishing through Amazon or other sites.
This is also a good time to get those holiday stories written for next year’s crop of books. The holiday books on the shelves this year were prepared over the course of the last few months so if you want a holiday story published, do your research now and get it written now. This year’s holiday events are next year’s stories. Publishers will begin preparing next year’s holiday stories in a few months. If you write them now, you’ll be ready to submit. And what better time to start writing them than right now – when you’re feeling that holiday mood? Or what better way to re-commit to next year’s goals than getting something accepted now? Good luck with your holiday stories!
This week I’ll begin a class at Savvy on writing your next book. We’ll look at openings, writing dialogue, making the plot work and getting characters onto the written page so if you’ve been wanting to start a new work, it’s a great time to get going!
Creating Memorable Characters: Let’s Write a Story (Volume 2)
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