I enjoyed some small writing successes in 2016, but I think I should have done better. Perhaps that’s the perfectionist streak in me speaking, but when I look back I see lots of room for improvement. Here are the key mistakes I made:
I wasted too much time doubting myself
I would have written a lot more if I had just gotten on with it, instead of unleashing an inner monologue of “this is crap, you are a terrible writer, this is a terrible story. Seriously, just delete it all right now. You know nobody will ever want to read it, right? You are wasting your time. If you actually complete this shit and submit it, you will be wasting other people’s time. Who do you think you are, anyway? What right do you have to try and be a writer? Just stop. Right now.”
I know I don’t ask to listen to all that negativity, but I could be more effective in dealing with such unhelpful thoughts.
I find it much easier to ignore the diatribe when a deadline is fast approaching, so I must have some control over whether to listen. The voice also pipes up when I’m preparing to submit something, telling me not to bother (especially if I have to pay a competition fee). I let it win too many times.
I didn’t submit enough
Self-doubt aside, I simply didn’t put my work in front of people as often as I should have done. I should have entered more competitions, submitted to more literary journals and anthologies, etc. When I got rejections, I let time slip by before resubmitting stories.
I limited my chances of success by not submitting as much or as often as I could have submitted.
I neglected my major project
In the midst of rewriting my novel, I got stuck. I didn’t know whether the plot was working or if it was worth trying to fix it. Something stopped me from giving up completely, but I set the novel aside for a long time.
Towards the end of the year, I did an online novel editing course with Writers HQ and realised that I wasn’t alone in getting stuck and that I could fix the problem. I created a clear plan for rewriting my novel – now I just need to rewrite it!
While I acknowledge that I didn’t have the tools available to fix my plot problems earlier in the year, I regret neglecting the novel for so long. I’m sorry that I lost confidence in it.
So here’s what I aim to do differently this year:
Prioritise my novel
I need to complete the novel to a decent standard ASAP – for my own sanity, if nothing else! It’s partly a test of whether I can make it as a novelist: the only previous novel I have finished turned out to be a 50,000 word novella after editing. I need to prove to myself that I can write a novel.
Of course, ideally, it will be good enough to get me an agent and a publishing deal… But it’s the completion which matters first and foremost, which means I must prioritise the novel above all my other writing projects and most other things in my life.
Submit frequently and regularly
The more I submit, the more chance I will have of placing in competitions and/or getting stories published. It sounds so simple when I write it out, but takes a lot of effort to put into effect.
I will strive to complete work and submit it, then continue submitting each story until it succeeds.
Consider my choices carefully
I’m becoming more aware of so-called opportunities which give writers a raw deal. These include competitions with relatively high entry fees and a low prize pot, which are obviously best avoided, but there are some grey areas. For example, many literary journals don’t offer payment for publishing stories. They claim that the writer gains “exposure” which can help their careers, but the value of this is uncertain.
I have been published online without getting paid, which I didn’t mind because it was for a website which I respect and I had only one publishing credit at the time. It also allowed me to show my work to people who had expressed an interest, such as acquaintances and friends of my parents. However, nowadays I would have to be convinced that publication has definite benefits for me at this point in my career if I’m not getting paid.
So my goal is to consider which opportunities are best for my career and which aren’t worth the hassle.
If I get the chance to be published in a literary journal which doesn’t offer payment but which I respect and has a good readership, for example, that would probably be a positive step for my career. However, you can bet your bottom dollar that I will try my luck in paid markets first!
My writing goals for 2017 will change and adapt as the year progresses, but I’m driven to do better than last year. I suppose my main goal is simple: improvement.