So now that I’ve spent my last 5 entries or so being self-indulgent, I figure I’ll wrap it up with this one for a bit and move back to regular stuff. I accomplished my New Years Resolutions (I’m not gloating, it was the easy stuff I went after,) and I want to come up with a list of Writing Resolutions. Things that I want to follow through on, and do more of. I have a list resembling this somewhere lost on my hard drive, so if I put it up on the Internet I’ll not only be able to find it, but also be shamed into forcing myself to follow my promises. Now, I wish I had the discipline to write a list like this and follow it to the letter, but I really don’t. As such, this will be more of a general guideline. A mission statement. If you have any suggestions as well, feel free to let me know!
1. Write at least 500 words a day.
This one shouldn’t be too hard. Between the projects I have set up and my various beginner friendly freelance projects, I shouldn’t have a problem writing more than that, but I figure shoot low in case of bad days, possible burn out from the night before, or simply days out spent with my family and friends. The main exclusion will be when I have absolutely no access to a computer. I’m horrible at freehand writing and when I go camping rarely carry more than a small notebook and pen to jot down ideas. If I forced myself to write in that I’d end up filling the notebook in a day with the handwriting of a First Grader. Then I wouldn’t be able to read most of it to transcribe it anyways.
2. Keep better track of projects
I’ve already started this, but I’m the kind of person that jumps from writing project to writing project as soon as an idea pops up in my head. Now, I usually come back to anything I’ve put off, but often enough forget the direction I was taking the piece, or forget that it exists until I stumble upon it while searching for another project. Due to this, I’m not only going to track my progress of each assignment on Trello, but also start consolidating my work into a single folder and back it up regularly. I have so many different versions of the same project just saved in random locations that I spend more time searching for the most current one than I spend writing the damn thing.
3. World building
When I started writing I focused on short, isolated stories. It was easy enough to just sit down, think of a horror situation, and just start writing, letting the story develop as I wrote. Then I tried to start a novel. I made it about 60 pages in before I realized I had no idea where I was going, what the motivations of those outside of the protagonist and antagonist were, and even the general rules of the setting I was writing in. “Wait, did I ever establish how many people lived there? This is starting to sound like a backwater hamlet rather than a city.” I might come back to that project someday, but now I’ve been world-building in Scrivener (which I love, love, love!) for my newest novel project. I know the school of thought that the characters should surprise me, however they can’t surprise me if they can’t even figure out what the hell the rules are. So, now I’ve been allocating more time to brainstorming and noting characters, locations, and factions than I have starting the actual story. I realize now I’m better off for it.
4. Read more blogs
Starting my blog, I received a couple of followers that did not consist of my mom or friends that I just about forced at gunpoint to hit the follow button, and it was a huge inspiring boost for me. But, I was guilty of sparsely browsing the updates they published, rather than taking the time to read things that didn’t sound like they’d be my cup of tea. A little while ago, while taking a break from a finished story and just making adjustments to my WordPress site, I happened to start looking at the updates of the people who had followed me and the featured ‘Freshly Squeezed’ page. Holy shit, I had been missing out. I just sat there and read personal accounts of world conflicts I had been interested in, advice on story creation, the trials of trying to get published, and even just a daily record of the positive things in life. I found myself reading nearly every post before I realized I had burned through all my writing time for the night. I didn’t agree with everything, but loved seeing the viewpoints of the people who had dreams that mirrored my own. I had liked and followed so many new people I was worried that the WordPress stats algorithm would consider me some kind of stalker weirdo. When I started with WordPress I pictured it more as a way to display my writing, I never really thought of it as a community or tool that also presented content to me that I normally wouldn’t encounter. At least while doing my normal Wikipedia browsing. You know, the kind where you start with Bigfoot, and somehow end up at the entry regarding the Chicago Pile nuclear tests.
5. Experiment with different types of writing
I primarily write short horror fiction. My website and Facebook page were set up with that in mind. Then I wanted to write about other things: thoughts,feelings, opinions. I didn’t feel comfortable putting anything else on my website because it was my “Horror” website. Then, once I started redesigning my site I realized I can still do horror while working in other fields. Before, I felt guilty using my space for anything but my short stories and so I included a ‘More Words’ section for the rare pieces that didn’t fit the mold. I was kind of shooting myself in the foot with that, restricting my writing experience to one genre and style. So, ‘More Words’ was changed to ‘Daily Words’ and moved to the front of the menu as I’ve found myself writing more and more entries based on myself or things that aren’t strictly fiction. Not only am I working on my novel, my short stories, journal style entries, and freelance projects, I’m scaring the hell out of myself by considering dipping my feet into non-fiction. I just realized it’s nearly the 150th anniversary of Sherman’s March to the Sea during the American Civil War, and I’ve found myself drawn more and more into the politics of a conflict I had just given an iota of attention to before going back to my WW1 and WW2 history reading. So, I’m researching for that now too. That’s a long, long term project, but something that’s been driving me lately.
6. Just enjoy writing
As soon as the website went live, I started a Facebook group for it. I spent my time trying to figure out the best way to gain exposure on Facebook for my website, even paying $5 here and there for featured posts. I spent so much time worrying about the metrics that I didn’t realize that I didn’t really have a large amount of material on my site, and that the writing I was doing wasn’t being completed and published even weekly at the time. I started jotting down my thoughts and stories on the computer since I actually wanted to. I loved telling tales, and (as I am a nerd and proud of it) ran tabletop RPG’s and found creating the stories and setting the most enjoyable part of the process. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to make a living from this and have my work be recognized by a huge community, but for now that’s not the important thing. For now I’m just developing my skills and having fun doing something I told myself I could never accomplish.
So these are my resolutions. They’re common sense and pretty simple over all, however I had been forgetting why I started putting my name out there in the first place. I used to wake up in the morning with my laptop, coffee (which I barely like), and soothing instrumental music providing the soundtrack to my work. Because that’s what writers did. I’ve figured out that I’m not that kind of writer, and accidentally broke my laptop, relegating me to my desktop computer. This has probably been the best thing for me. It forces me to sit in an office chair without TV in the background or in bed where I would fall asleep more often than not. So, I’ve exchanged my laptop, coffee, and smooth instrumental for a sparse workplace, Pepsi and water, and modern fast Bluegrass music which I didn’t even realize I liked.
In the future when I come back and read this post I’m sure I’ll have developed other, better techniques and ideas on writing that might directly conflict with what I have here, but that’s the fun in learning. When I submitted my first story to a fiction contest, I chose an older piece I had written just as I started, and the whole cliched mortification at how bad it was sunk in. I had developed my style and skill a little in such a short time that I spent as much effort cleaning the story up as I would have writing an entirely new piece.
To everyone: thanks for reading, and inspiring me. To future me: have fun looking back at this and cringing at the awkward language and grammar mistakes you’ve learned about in the mean time.
P.S., I love Scrivener, I can’t say that enough.