We all MAKE resolutions for New Year. Some are for personal betterment, some for emotional and spiritual growth, and some for professional gain. We all want to better ourselves and that’s great. But guess what? The New Year is upon us. How’re we going observing those resolutions?
As a writer, what resolutions did you make for 2014? Was it to get a certain amount of short stories published? To win a competition or residency? To score a book deal with a publisher? Or possibly just to finish that book that’s been idling on your computer for X number of years?
Writers are – unfortunately – at the whims of the publishing industry. Writing a short story isn’t like building a birdhouse. You can build a birdhouse, advertise it in something like the Trading Post or try to sell it at one of the various markets, and as long as you’ve done a reasonable job and you’re not asking too high a price, you’ll probably sell it. If you gave it away for free, there’ll probably be any number of takers.
The same doesn’t happen with a story you might write. Your story could be the most brilliant story in the world, it could be the story of the YEAR, but if it doesn’t click with that one reader who’s usually the gatekeeper of submissions at any journal (or publisher), then it’s not going to go any further. We’re at the mercy of subjective appraisals. Offer your story for free, and they’re not going to be interested.
So any resolutions about trying to get published in X amount of journals, or trying to get published in a certain journal, or trying to win a competition or residency, or trying to score a book deal are fraught with peril, if not outright setting yourself up for a fall. It’s important YOU manage expectation. Whilst there’s no reason you can’t do any of these things and it’s awesome to have aspirations, it’s unwise to hedge all your emotional fortunes on success being your outcome. It’d be like going to the roulette wheel and putting all your money on one number. Is there a chance you’ll win and strike it big? Yes. But the odds are small. More importantly, you have no control of the result.
So as writers we need to seize control of those opportunities that gives us the very best chance of realising those dreams.
Do you want to finish something that’s just been sitting on your computer for-seemingly-ever? Well, it’s not going to finish itself. We can’t go out for a coffee and expect it’ll all be done for us when we get back. The only way to finish something is by making the commitment to finding the time and using that time to do so.
Yes, we all have lives, some more hectic than others. Some of us have households to run, kids to take care of, pets to walk, and all that. But look hard enough and there are pockets of time. It might only be a handful of minutes here and there, but if that’s all the time you have to make use of, then that’s the time you should make use of. It’s not about lamenting the opportunities you don’t have – e.g. a couple of leisurely hours every evening – but capitalising on whatever chances you do have and learning to habitually make the best of them. It’s the only way anything will ever get finished.
And once it’s finished, you know what comes next: revise.
At a recent workshop, a leading literary agent claimed there are more writers than there are readers. This figure might be inflated nowadays by bloggers, etc., but that’s still a scary proposition. Think of all the writers out there. Whilst it’s not impossible that you might’ve produced gold first or second up, it’s unlikely. So revise, revise, revise. Revise until you’re sick of it, get feedback on it, then revise, revise, revise again.
In all likelihood, you’re going to get one chance to submit to a particular market. One chance. That market isn’t going to want to hear from you a month after they’ve rejected you because you’re now claiming you’ve reworked your story and it’s even better. They have too much stuff to read to be awarding second chances. Make YOURS stand out from THE pack by revising and polishing it until it shines. Take advantage of your one chance.
It’s the BEST way to be true to any resolutions you might hold for 2014 as a writer.