December 23rd 2013
Writing Resolutions For the Coming Year
Another year is winding down, and I know that this week all of us are more likely to be concerned with family and friends, big meals and gift-giving, than with writing. That’s as it should be.
But for just a moment, I would like to pull your attention — and mine — back to the writerly side of life. I happen to be a big one for New Year’s resolutions, particularly as they pertain to my professional life. I know that Marie, in her excellent post last week, already has brought up this subject in the context of her quest for greater concentration and focus. I have my own demons to deal with.
I have a busy year ahead of me, and as any writer will tell you, busy is good. I have book deadlines on April 1 (no foolin’), July 1, and January 1, 2015. This past week I actually put the finishing touches on a first draft of the book that’s due in April. I have some polishing to do, some revision and wholesale rewriting. But that initial draft is done, and I’m pretty proud of that. And it brings me to my first resolution for the coming year.
Be efficient, be disciplined. I have managed to get ahead of schedule, to work to a self-imposed deadline rather than an exterior one. I need to keep doing that. The only way I can survive the coming year (which will also include promotion of the third Thieftaker book — written as D.B. Jackson — and several short story deadlines) is to pace myself and stick to a strict work schedule. And the only way I can remain on schedule is to remain on task. I can’t putter around on the web, I can’t allow myself to be distracted by all that crap that life will inevitably throw my way. There is room for the life stuff — the family obligations and family fun, the chores that pile up around the house, the friendships I want and need to maintain, the time for myself that I have to build into my routine. But I have to keep the boundaries between work time and all that other stuff clear. If I can do that, I’ll make all three deadlines with ease. If I can’t, well 2014 will be struggle.
Exercise and eat well. No, this is not a commercial for Special K. But the fact is that working well cannot be separated from feeling well. I exercise daily, and when I’m in the house working, I allow myself lunch and one late afternoon snack. That’s it. It would SO easy to give in to the devil on my shoulder. You know, the one that says “Oh, stay in bed for an extra half hour; you don’t need to exercise today.” Or “Nice, another 153 words written — you deserve a candy bar!” I was good this year, and I intend to be good again next year. But I will be the first to admit that it’s a constant struggle.
Don’t give in to jealousy. Sounds odd in a post about writing, doesn’t it? But this is a huge one for me, and it’s something at which I fail year in and year out. My career is going pretty well right now. The Thieftaker books have a following, and I have a least two more books coming out in the series (A PLUNDER OF SOULS comes out in July 2014; DEAD MAN’S REACH will be out in 2015). I have also just sold a three book (at least) contemporary urban fantasy series to Baen; the first book will be out in January 2015. Things are good. But as all writers know, there is always — always — someone doing better. All one has to do is open the pages of Locus (the news magazine of the speculative fiction field) to see that someone just sold a series to the same editor who rejected your last project, or that another writer, maybe even a friend, has just signed a movie deal or hit one of the bestseller lists. There’s even a name for this phenomenon: Locus Envy. Ambition is good. I want my career to grow; I have goals I have yet to meet. But jealousy is an emotional cul-de-sac. Success is NOT a zero-sum game; my focus needs to remain on my own achievements and my own goals.
Read more. While, for me, the financial successes of others in the field can be a cause of jealousy, the artistic achievements of my colleagues are always inspiring. I LOVE reading the work of the talented, brilliant people I know, either personally or by reputation. And yet, too often I find something else to do when I could be reading. I spend way too much time staring at screens — wasting time on the web, killing brain cells in front of the TV. I have a good-sized To-Be-Read pile. I’m going to take a serious chunk out of it this coming year (even as I add titles to it).
Challenge myself. As I mentioned, I have several books to write this year. The first one, the draft of which I have just completed, was a difficult book to write, in large part because it was one of the most ambitious projects I’ve ever taken on. It’s good that it was hard. I want the other two books to be hard as well. It would be simple to replicate the last book or the one before that, to do something I’ve done before with only minor differences. Approaching the work that way would make these deadlines a bit less formidable, but it would also be a cop-out. I want to push myself, to force myself to continue to grow as an artist. Without that challenge, writing would just be another job. It’s the creative ambition, the desire to up the stakes with each new project, that makes it fun.
So, there they are. Five resolutions for 2014. What have you got in mind? Do you make resolutions? What do you plan to do to make your writing better in the coming year?
Happy New Year to all of you; may your 2014 be filled with success and happiness.David B. Coe http://www.DavidBCoe.com http://www.dbjackson-author.com
David B. Coe
David B. Coe (http://www.DavidBCoe.com) is the Crawford award-winning author of the LonTobyn Chronicle, the Winds of the Forelands quintet, the Blood of the Southlands trilogy, and a number of short stories. Writing as D.B. Jackson (http://www.dbjackson-author.com), he is the author of the Thieftaker Chronicles, a blend of urban fantasy, mystery, and historical fiction. David is also part of the Magical Words group blog (http://magicalwords.net), and co-author of How To Write Magical Words: A Writer’s Companion. In 2010 he wrote the novelization of director Ridley Scott’s movie, Robin Hood. His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages. Visit site.
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