How to Achieve Your Writing Goals
by Kimberly Jamison
“Though this be madness, yet there is method in ’t.”
Hamlet, Act Two, Scene Two – William Shakespeare
I have wanted to be a writer since day one. However, it is only as I approach the age of twenty two (still young, granted) that I have realised there is a method to it.
First of all, and it may sound obvious, work out what you actually want to do.
Do you want to complete NaNoWriMo for the first time? Do you want a finished manuscript or a collection of short stories? Do you want to win a poetry competition and have it featured in an anthology? Have an idea of what you want your end goal to be, it doesn’t need to be crystal clear. I know many writers who set out to write the next big epic but found out their story was more suited to a novella or a collection of stories. Your idea can change; don’t be afraid if it does. Just go with it.
Once you have figured out what you want to do, then comes the planning phase. A good tip I always use is to work backwards. If I am writing a novel draft, I will plan the ending. Then I will plan out the middle, then the beginning. I will have many notes and notebooks full of scribbles and ideas that I will put together in one plan. My plan will end up looking like a timeline of events that is split into chapters and scenes.
This method I also use for writing poetry. I work out what I want my reader to feel when they read my final line, and work back from there. The idea slowly starts to form and becomes more concrete.
Another popular way of planning is using the Snowflake Method. This method focuses more on concretising one idea and expanding it outwards. You work on character profiles, one line descriptions and synopsises. You should try out different methods of planning and find what suits you. If like me you have a very linear style and like to think about your characterisation in your head and only write down events, then the timeline way will probably be better. If you like good visualisation and need help to expand your original idea, then it might be best to go with the Snowflake method.
Once you have your plan and you think you are ready to go, it is time to actually write. A lot of writers ironically struggle with this bit. If you are the type of person who works better with a reward system, then split your time into segments. Maybe write for an hour and then get something nice to eat as a treat. If you are the sort of person who will sit down and write for hours, congratulations, but remember to take short breaks because you will eventually run out of steam. Some writers have trouble getting going. Procrastination is something I used to really struggle with.
I obviously have to clean my entire room before I write my masterpiece…I’ll just check my emails and Facebook first…ooh look something shiny…
It got really bad. I had to have a serious think about what I actually wanted. We come back to my first point, what do you actually want to achieve? I did want my novel written, therefore I had to just sit down and do it. Try to sit and write somewhere with few distractions. Whether this means going to your library or coffee shop or writing facing a wall, you should be able to find somewhere. Listening to some music while wearing headphones is a good trick to block people and distractions out. Also, turn that phone off (or on silent.) Most texts or notifications can wait.
Now we come to the dreaded writer’s block. Being realistic, with any piece of writing of length, you will hit it at least once if not a few times. If you are writing poetry, you may have the perfect idea, the amazing moment or feeling you want to describe but for some reason it just doesn’t come out on paper. Please do not let that discourage you. If anything, it means you are a real writer. Well done. Writer’s block achievement unlocked. My best tip for defeating writer’s block is to simply write something else. It won’t tear you away from your great masterpiece, but it might get you back on track. If you can’t think of any ideas of what to write, try visiting sites like Reddit and check out their subreddit Writing Prompts. There are many ideas there free to use, and many people post their responses to the prompts. Even reading some might spur you on. There are some great books with prompts too such as the Write Brain Workbook by Bonnie Neubauer or the Writer’s Toolbox kit which was made by Jamie Cat Callan. Write something else for a bit then try your work in progress again.
This tip can be a double edged sword at times. Don’t let yourself procrastinate by trying all these different exercises to put off writing your own idea. Use them when you need them, or when you need to practise something in particular.
Then once finished, you get to the final part. Letting people read it. Whether you have written a poem for a competition or you want to get a novel published, people are going to be reading it and critiquing it. It can sometimes be hard to not take it personally, but try not to. Getting family and friends to read your work and suggest improvements is a good way of getting used to it. There are many writing groups and classes where people can review your work. Remember, criticism should be constructive. If they see something that needs improvement, they should offer a solution or an idea. If they don’t, or are unnecessarily rude, just ignore them and go to someone else. Don’t take rejections of your submissions personally either. Every writer gets rejected multiple times. Some of the bestsellers of all time got rejected but they all had one thing in common. They didn’t give up. If you think it is worth it, keep trying. Don’t get discouraged.
Writing is hard. It is a hard industry to get into and even harder to make a mark on it. That is why it is so rewarding when hard work pays off. It is a brilliant, fantastic creative industry and community to be a part of. Hard work will pay off, all you need to do is keep going. Good luck in all your writing adventures and I hope these tips help you start to achieve your writing goals.
Kimberly Jamison is a freelance writer whose work has featured in numerous anthologies, including EnDearing Minds and Parenting (Mother’s Milk Books). To read more from Kimberly, follow her blog, The Book Word.