10 Top-Tips For 2016
Another year is over, and a new one is already upon us. Did you achieve your writing goals in 2015? Or did the year pass you by too quickly, with life getting in the way of writing success? Don’t let another year fly by, without achieving your dream. Make sure you are continuously moving forward; whether it is getting that novel written, growing an audience, or keeping an eye on new trends. Here are some tips to help your writing progress in 2016.
1) Write. It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But it so often needs saying. First and foremost, above all else, if you are a writer, or if you wish to be a writer, then you must write. Personally I advise every day, even if it is just a little bit. Just a few sentences or a paragraph, maybe just a few rough notes, or a to-do list. Write something. Even if it is a blog post or a secret diary entry detailing your fears, just do it, just write something, anything. Just write. The more you write, the more you need to write. This is true. The more you exercise your craft, the more your head will fill with more. No excuses. No moaning. Just do it. Write and don’t stop. Let it become your addiction.
2) Make time. You have to demand the time and then guard it fiercely. When I started writing again after a long break where small children and work took up all of my time and energy, I had to give up other things I thought I cared about. TV went, reading magazines went, falling asleep on the sofa after the kids were in bed, went too. It turned out I didn’t care about those things as much as I thought. Once writing had a hold of me again, that was it. It had its hooks in and was not going to let go. Good. This is how it should be and this is how it needs to be. If you only have an hour a day, that’s fine. Grab it with both hands and make it count. Whatever time you can get, hold onto it and use it every day without fail, no excuses.
3)Find a writing group. This can be online or in real life. You need people around you to kick your backside along every now and again, offer feedback and inspiration and genuine advice. Friends and family may not be useful for this! Writers who attend groups are far more productive than those who don’t.
4)Treat writing like a job. I know, it sounds boring, and writing is meant to be fun, isn’t it? Well, yes and no. It is fun and should be fun, after all it is your passion and your dream, but if you don’t treat it seriously, it won’t happen. I resisted this idea to start with, but now I embrace it entirely. Whatever time you dedicate to writing, imagine it is your job, and you need to turn up, work hard, and get results. You can’t just slack off or call in sick. You have to go, whether you feel like it or not. You will be amazed at the difference this makes. I do all my writing in the evenings, and get anything from 1-3 hours. I give myself Saturdays off, and it does feel liberating not to put the laptop on for that one evening. But the rest of the week, I mean business!
5)Write weekly to-do lists to keep you on track. Daily ones become stressful, weekly ones are more flexible. Every Sunday night, sit down and write a list of goals you would like to complete this week. From writing a few new chapters, to emailing bloggers who might review your book, whatever it is, write them down. It feels very satisfying to tick them off, and it helps keep you focused. You won’t forget to do something if you write it down. If the list is not completed by the following Friday, then just add the things you missed to the new weeks list, and carry on. This way you will always do everything you intend to do, but in a relaxed and realistic way.
6)Know Your Audience. Another idea I resisted to begin with. I wrote what came into my head, and my audience would surely find me, right? Wrong. It’s hard to sell books, very hard, and it does help if you know who you are writing for and what type of people will like your book. This does not mean that people outside of this target audience are to be ignored, or repelled. Of course not. Many of the people who have really embraced my books have been far from the type I imagined would, but still, growing an audience is hard work. There is so much to choose from out there, it helps to narrow it down a bit. Who should you aim at specifically and how should you do this?
7) Not finished your book yet? Start building an author platform anyway. I’m serious. Do it now, or you will wish you had later. This doesn’t have to be all online, this can involve real life as well, such as having business cards made up to hand out, or getting involved in local author events and groups. But online is where the bulk of it will happen these days. Don’t worry about the fact your book is unfinished. Drag people along for the ride. Start a blog and post extracts. Join Twitter and Facebook and get them linked to each other and also to your blog. That way anything you post on your author page about your writing will get automatically tweeted, and vice versa. This will help you grow your followers and likes. Look at Wattpad for posting work in hope of getting feedback. Again, share posts to your blog, Facebook and Twitter to save time. Start storyboards on Pinterest, or boards for books you like and books that are similar to yours. This can also be linked to Twitter and so on. Your book does not have to be ready and published to start growing an audience, and making connections. You can start now, and the sooner the better.
8) Go for long walks. In my experience, the best and only way to conquer writers block, is to walk. If you have a dog, take them and get away from other people, away from roads and noise and distractions. If you don’t have a dog, walk anyway. Get out in the fresh air, get close to nature, just exist, and before you know it your mind will naturally start to wander. You will find ideas coming and going in waves. Whenever I struggle with a chapter, or feel I don’t quite know a character, or if I feel intimidated by the ideas I’ve had to begin with, I walk and walk and walk. It all happens on walks! Conversations, dialogues, insights about characters and why they behave as they do, new plot twists I never saw coming, brand new books, sequels, you name it! It gets a bit stressful when it really kicks off, because I get scared I will forget something on the way home!
9) Be careful with your money. We’re not all rich, and we don’t all have lots of spare cash to spend on professional book covers, editors and promotional packages. There are so many sites out there now set up to help authors, and a lot of them want money. This is not to say you can get it all done for free, and if there is anything you should spend money on if you do have it, it is a professional editor, but do be wary. There are a lot of people making money out of writers these days, and you should think very carefully and do your research before parting with your hard earned cash. There is a lot of promotional work you can do yourself for free; you just have to be smart and consistent and determined about it. Social media is free, running a blog is free, and I would highly recommend playing around on Canva.com for graphics, book covers and so on, which is also free!
10) Think Local AND Global. Don’t neglect either. Reach out locally, hand out cards, leaflets, put up posters, join groups, seek out other creative types and keep an eye on local events, book fairs, clubs, contests and so on. It will all help to spread the word, and also help you make those all important connections. Think globally because this is the way forward, the next thing to tackle. Consider having your books translated into other languages, and in audio form as well. Keep an eye on trends in other countries, and make your book eye catching and compatible with the ever growing trend of reading on a smartphone.
Above all else, decide on your goals, write them down and stick them somewhere you can see them every day. Don’t let 2016 be another year where writing gets pushed into the sidelines and neglected. Don’t fall out of the habit, or make the mistake of thinking it is a waste of your time. Everyone deserves a dream, but making them come true takes hard work!