We often talk about people being on a ‘writing journey’. Even the most established, prolific and famous writers are still honing their craft, learning new skills, trying new things, and progressing along their writing path.
Basically, it’s never over!
So wherever you are on your writing journey, here are nine essential tips to supercharge your fiction writing this year – and every year.
1. Set goals
You may have it in the back of your mind that you’d like to write a book ‘one day’. But without goals, ‘one day’ will never come! Be more specific. Set a word count and a deadline. And promise yourself rewards (banoffee or chocolate are good rewards).
Have you already set goals for this year? It’s not too late. Here are some examples to get you started:
- I will write a 75,000-word first draft by Christmas.
- I will finish my outline in six weeks.
- I will do five x 10-minute word sprints each week.
- I will submit my picture book manuscript to two agents this month.
Make a promise to yourself about your writing and hold yourself accountable. Write your goal down and put it somewhere you can see it every day. Picture book author Shelly Unwin used a vision board to achieve her publishing goals. And author John Birmingham keeps track of his projects on a whiteboard.
Take a moment right now to think about your writing goals. What is realistic? What do you want to achieve? What will you need to give up to make it happen?
2. Try morning pages
In her bestselling book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron recommends doing Morning Pages. Basically, start each day by just writing, writing, writing, anything that comes out of your head and on to the page. No one needs to ever read them and they don’t even have to make sense. This practice can help you to clarify your thoughts and set you up for greatness for the rest of the day. And it’s wonderful to start you off on a daily practice. Most published writers commit to writing almost every day. Remember, if you don’t start writing, you will never finish!
3. Writing sprints
If churning out three pages of stream of consciousness isn’t for you, try writing sprints instead. Often, people are so afraid of the blank page that they can’t even start. If you find yourself finding it hard to begin, set yourself a timer. It doesn’t have to be long – even five or ten minutes is enough to get writing. Pop the timer on, switch off your inner critic and just write. Once you start, you’ll find that it’s easier to go on. Get into the habit of doing this at least once a day.
4. Join a writing group
Speaking of community, check in your local area to see if there are any writing groups. Some people are scared to join a group but they can be incredibly beneficial. They are opportunities to provide feedback and support to each other, give and receive constructive criticism, and share opportunities.
If there’s nothing nearby or if you can’t get out to a regular group, there are also online communities. Our So you want to be a writer Facebook group is a good place to start. Everyone is super friendly (no trolls!) and you can feel free to ask questions about your writing. People have also used the community to find beta readers or critiquing partners.
5. Enter a competition (or more than one!)
Competitions are a great incentive to help you finish a story. There’s nothing like a deadline to motivate you! Some people think that competitions are not right for them or that they’re a waste of time. But really, whether you’re writing romance or kids fiction, sci-fi or literary, there’s a competition out there for you. It’s a chance to be read by published authors or publishing industry professionals. And of course, you might be shortlisted or win a prize.
6. Sign up for NaNoWriMo
November is National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for short. During Nanowrimo, people commit to writing 50,000 words – or roughly 1667 words a day. Yep. It’s as crazy as it sounds.
The great thing about signing up for NaNoWriMo is that it doesn’t matter if you win or not. There are no prizes for crossing the finish line – just the deep satisfaction that you did it.
Many writers – like Margaret Atwood, Hugh Howey and Marissa Meyer – use Nanowrimo to get out that all-important first draft. Remember, November is for writing, editing comes later! Make a commitment to yourself to at least try. Every word you have written by the end of November is a word you didn’t have at the beginning.
7. Join a book club
Just about every successful writer will tell you the same bit of advice – if you want to be a writer, you have to read. And usually, they’ll add that you should read widely, outside your own genre, authors from different backgrounds and with different experiences. They might also say you should try to read critically.
Getting outside of your own reading rut can be tricky. If you’re not sure where to start, try joining a book club. You might end up reading books you absolutely loathe, but you will also find new gems that you love. A book club gives you the chance to talk with other people about what worked in the story and why. And you might also make some new friends.
8. Do a course
Doing a writing course is the best way to really kickstart your writing journey.
Of course, we would say that.
But even if you’ve been writing for years, there’s always something you can learn, whether that’s improving your dialogue, becoming a better self-editor, or making your characters more believable.
A course like our 8-week Novel Writing Essentials will give you exercises, expert advice and the opportunity to make the most out of your story. There are ongoing deadlines and weekly workshopping. No excuses – you have to show up for your story, for yourself and for your fellow writers. And by the end of the course you will have written at least 20,000 words.
Find out more here.
9. Share your successes
Writing isn’t easy. You can hide yourself away for long stretches of time or squeeze in furious bits of scribbling between chores. Either way, you have to work hard! So it’s super important that you are proud of each and every success that you have.
Finished a first draft? Scored an agent? Submitted your first story to a competition? Whatever it is, shout it loud! Put it on your social media or blog. Don’t be afraid to love what you do.
Every Wednesday, we invite our community to share their writing-related posts in our Facebook group. Check it out here and we hope to hear about your successes soon!
By Nat Newman
Nat Newman is a freelance writer.