5 Realistic Ways We're Going To Be Better Writers In 2012

Not a big fan of resolutions for the year to come. They tend to be very complex and lofty things that have no shot of being attained. A couple of reasons for the failure: 1) People never seem to have a plan for reaching the resolution. 2) They tend to be focused on very complex things that require multiple steps to achieve. Not a formula for success.

Take the "I'm going to be a better friend, spouse, parent, etc." resolution for instance. Have you considered why you're a bad one? Are there concrete measures you can take to get "better"? Is it realistic to attempt to undue a lifetime psychological maladjustment in a year? Probably not. 

That's why I give you this, dear writerly cohort:

5 *REALISTIC* Ways We're Going To Be Better Writers in 2012

5. Read More & Read Different

The first part is easy. Just read more than we do right now. Well, unless you're one of those book-a-week freaks. If so, you should probably change this to "drink more coffee", cause you're going to be losing a lot of sleep.

I'm a slow reader, so my personal goal is 2 new reads a month. I probably average this over a year already (some months I might get in 3, others only 1), but I think if I actually strategize for 2 each month I might end up reading more as a result. 

The second part is a challenge to read outside of your comfort zone. So why not pick 1 of those monthly reads to be dedicated to reading the classics (if you're behind like I am). Or maybe read in a genre you don't write in? 


4.  Finish Something... I Mean Really Finish It!

Remember the 200,000 words we jotted down during NaNoWriMo? Why don't we polish them up a bit? Then find some folks to read it. Then polish it some more. Then find some more folks to read it again. Rinse. Repeat. Rinse. Repeat. Then *GASP* query some agents about it, submit it to a contest or maybe even publish it. 

Perhaps you didn't do the November Writing Sadist Workshop thing, or that project is just too big of a mountain to climb. I bet you've got something else you've been working on. If not, surely you could crank out a couple of short stories, a collection of poems--something. The point is this: make 2012 the year you write something and see it as far as you can possibly take it. 

Yes, it might end in rejection. Yes, it might only sell a couple of copies on Amazon. However, just going through the steps of editing, rounding up readers, etc. is going to push our writing to great new places.

3. Get Crafty

Writing, like most things, will yield only as much as we put into it. (Sometimes, it doesn't yield as much as we put into it, but that's a therapy lesson for another day.) As such, it's important that we invest in learning the actual craft. The nuts, bolts and such. That goes for everyone at every stage of the game.

So next year we're finally going to read that book about saving the feline everyone keeps yapping about. We're going to sign up for an online (or real-world) workshop. We're going to go to a conference, talk shop with a real, live author, join a critique group or do some other activity that's going to further our knowledge of placing words on paper/screen. We don't have to do them all, just vow to do something.

2. We're going to quit being so damned hard on ourselves.

Every writer does it. You think you're trash. EVERYONE is better than you, even your friends who don't write are better than you. Your six-year-old niece got her letter to Santa printed in the paper and you're jealous because she has more publication credits than you do.  Every person on the planet knows you've been working at this writing thing for years, and they wake up every day thinking about what a massive failure you are.  STOP

We're not giving in to that crap next year! Once a day, once a week--or however many times we have to do it--we're going to find a mirror (ignoring our coffee-stained sweatshirt and bed hair) and say, "I'm doing this for me, because I love it. I have talent and I'm going to get better."

That's it.

1. Not giving up

This is perhaps the easiest resolution ever. And it's the most important. Just don't quit writing. Yes, yes. Listen to all of the writing wisdom: Write as often as you can. (As Dr. Seuss might say, "Do it in a blog, do it in a song, do it until the Flarfel Beasts begin to yawn.") Set goals. Revise like the Devil. So on and so forth.

Most of all, we can't give up. Not next year. Not the year after that. Any deadlines we make in terms of our pursuit of a writing career are made by us. Thus they can be undone by us. I've done it. I've said, "If I'm not published by XYZ I'm trying something else." It was a dumb thing to do two years ago and it would be just as dumb to do next year. 

If you check back with me in 2013, if I'm alive and well, I'll be writing. You do the same.

With that, I'll bid you all a very Happy New Year! Thanks for all of your support, as always. I hope to see you around the Webs in 2012, and not outside staring at the giant meteor that is sure to destroy the planet. Stupid Mayans think they're so smart...


Best Holiday Wishes To You

Hey all,

Just wanted to say Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy Holidays and peace on earth to you all. My two year blog anniversary is coming in the New Year, and I can't tell you how much I've appreciated your support and encouragement. I truly wouldn't be doing this without you.  

I'll be taking a brief blog break over the next several days to entertain visiting family, but I plan to have an active start to 2012. Love for you to join me!

In the meantime, I hope the Season is all you want it to be, and that the next year will be your best yet.

How about some music to go along with the warm wishes?


Blog Science - Blogging Like a Pro Even If You Aren't

It's beginning to look a lot... well, you know the rest. :) Have you nailed down your gift shopping yet? The crowds are likely going to be ugly this weekend, so for the sake of your sanity I hope so.  If not, grease your wheels with your favorite warm beverage, a good breakfast and get to it! Just play nice... It might be me you're cutting off and/or yelling at in the parking lot.

Like my waistline this time of year, I've let the old blog go a bit. As such, I'm looking for ways to inject new life into Ye Old Web Diatribe Device to start the new year off on the right foot. One thing I've decided to do is start a new regular (hopefully) series on the science of blogging. 

Not that I'm going to speak from a position of expertise. 300 followers do not an army--or a Kardashian--make, after all. I'm just going to talk about things I've noticed and/or tried in the name of blogging. Hopefully it'll prompt some discussion and we'll all learn something. At the very least it'll give me something to talk about on more than a semi-annual basis. (Okay, I haven't been THAT bad. But it feels like it.) 


There, I said it. It's painful to admit, I think, because it isn't supposed to be difficult for a writer-type. Our lives are consumed with figuring out how to communicate thoughts and ideas via words. Consequently, filling a blank screen with a few paragraphs 2 or 3 times a week should not be difficult. Or at least it shouldn't appear to be difficult. There's proof. The best blogs seem effortless:

They are ALWAYS clever. 
They are ALWAYS important.
They are ALWAYS on topic.
They are ALWAYS on schedule.

To make it worse, the Web is chockablock full of these ace blogs. Don't know about you, but my blog reader list is absolutely running over with folks who make this stuff seem like cake. Seriously, I think some of you must have teams of ninja elf idea generators chained in your basements. Their only job is bring you great ideas for blog posts. If you don't like them, you feed them to the Kraken. (The idea, not the elf. This is a family blog...) You make it look that easy.

Me? I've got no elves or ninjas (or Krakens .... damn). I've only got me, a desk, a computer, coffee, two extremely lazy dogs and a HUGE small case of inferiority complex. My post generating process goes something like this:

Self - "Oooo, a new comment on one of my blog posts!" 

*Clicks to check e-mail*

Self - "That's really sweet, but I wrote that blog post like a month ago. This person is seriously late to the party."

*Hits 'reply' to fire off a thank you note. Types 3 paragraphs of exceedingly witty e-mail before realizing they don't have an e-mail account linked to Blogger. Curses. Decides to go directly to the blog post and click their profile to leave a comment on their blog. Realizes that month old blog post was actually the last time I posted. Curses.*   

Self - "I've got to post something new. Like now!"

*Checks Twitter feed for interesting topics. Spends 4 days drafting 15 page opus-post on the dangers of over-indulgent writing. Gets distracted reading other blogs. Realizes someone else said exactly the same thing about over-indulgence two days ago. Curses.*

Self - "Guess I'll blog about how screwy the publishing business is right now. Again."

My point is that this isn't exactly a painless process. I also suspect I'm not alone in thinking so. So if blogging isn't easy, but it's supposed to look easy, what's to be done? 

Here are some things to try that'll make people think you know what you're doing, even if you don't: 

(NOTE - I probably fail on some level at all of these. See # 5 to get the point.)

1. Read Other Blogs: Read the good ones. Read the bad ones. Learn. Learn. Learn. Don't just read for content. Read for presentation. Read to see how others infuse their 'voice' or style into their blogs. Good habits rub off, just like your momma said. Apply any and everything that looks like a good idea. The key to looking like a pro is emulating one. 

2. Routine: Yes, blogs can become stale very quickly (both in the reading and the writing of) when they get overly structured. (Think about bloggers who post daily and every day is dedicated to a specific thing. If you're not a content blogger, I'd advise against that.) However, having some sort of schedule or routine creates the feel of something dependable and professional. Pick at least one post each week that will have a reoccurring theme, refine it until you do it very well, and then never let it die. A percentage of your followers will come back every week just to read that one feature, and they'll typically look around to see what else you've been up to. (I know, because I do it as a reader.)

3. Title Your Posts Well, & They Will Love You: When you have 200 to 300 blogs in your reader list, you just can't get to everyone all the time. What do I do? I cherry pick, of course. Looking at most recent posts, I usually start with the bloggers I'm most familiar/friendly with and then I look for interesting post titles. I'm not suggesting utter sensationalism in your titles for the sake of getting a click. (I've seen this, and it ticks me off a little.) You have to deliver on what you promise in your titles or that one click won't yield a comment. Worse still, you might even lose a reader. Try for something catchy AND relevant.

4. Always Make A Point: Speaking of titles, always have a point to a post. I'm not talking about preaching, either. I'm talking about having a clear idea of what you're hoping to communicate when you start writing. It can be a GIGANTIC concept, or could be to simply tell people that you really loved the most recent book you've read. Either way, simply knowing what you want to say before you start will always yield a more polished result. Understand that you'll sometimes nail it, and other times miss. The effort you put into trying to convey a message will always be evident, however. 

When you're done drafting, re-read your post and make sure your point is conveyed.

5.  Never Quit: Blogging isn't an exact science. Readers are fickle. Some will leave you if you talk about having a martini, others will love that you're a wino. You're not going to fit everyone. The way to get around this is to keep putting yourself out there so the people you do fit can find you. You don't get to be a great shrimper by casting out your nets once a season, calling it quits when you only drag back an old tire and a handful of shrimp. You keep trying new areas, new tactics, until something works. Blogging is the same. You'll fall off the horse. You will. You just have to keep trying. Nothing says professional like persistence and dedication. After all, you can't raise a garden by sittin' in the shade. 

What about you? What do you do to make blogging easier? 


In Case You Didn't Already Know Enough About Me...

Did a fun little interview over at Reece Hanzon's blog that I wanted to share with you fine folks. Stop by and make fun of me if you get the chance.

Hope you're all having an awesome week!