Creative Writing Resolutions
By Amy Groening
As the fireworks went off and everyone counted down to midnight this New Years, did you have some resolutions in mind for 2015? Many of us do, even if they’re not “official” or publicized. The New Year represents a blank slate and suddenly you are faced with the endless possibilities of what to start it off with. This year you’ll write more, yell less, eat healthier, pick up a new devotional. One of the most common resolutions for writers is, of course, to write more—but maybe it’s time to get a bit more creative with your writing resolutions this year.
The Writing Rut
Writing more is a fantastic goal—it helps ensure you’re exercising your creative muscles, building stamina, and continuing the search for inspiration. As they say, the best advice a writer can get is to read, read, read, and write, write, write. But maybe it’s time to look at how you’re writing. Let’s make this year about writing stronger, not just more. Take a review of the writing you’ve done in the past year, or several years. Pay special attention to any constructive criticism you’ve received over the years, and do some snooping of your own, too. Are there mistakes you keep on making? Do you have a few bad writing habits? Or are your stories starting to sound the same? If you answered yes to any of the above, then here’s a few resolutions for you:
1) Mistakes you keep on making
I’m not talking about general writing mechanics—although this could easily be the year you learn how to use semicolons correctly (hey, we have a blog article for that!), or finally figure out what dangling modifiers are and how to avoid them. I’m talking about those slipups that end with you writing yourself into a corner. One of my worst ones is a lack of planning. I hate setting up a road map before I begin a project. Often the writing starts off great, and then I hit a dead end 10 pages in when I realize I have no idea where I’m taking this plot line. What about you? Could you improve in any of the following areas?
* plot planning/story development
* character development
Of course these are just a few. Think about your own writing—or your favourite pieces of someone else’s writing. How can you keep your writing edge sharp? Is there anything dulling your creative edge? Tackle it!
2) Bad Writing Habits
Uh…isn’t that what you were just talking about, Amy? These are the mistakes I keep on making, right? Well no, not exactly. There are obvious, straight-up mistakes, things that keep you from writing and improving, and then there are writing tropes that, while fine on their own, become problematic if they are too popular a part of your writing repertoire. Is there anything you overuse in your writing style? Do you have a few favourite tropes that you might want to consider cutting back on? Does your main character snap his fingers every time he has an idea? Teach him a new trick. Do happy scenes always happen on beautiful days and danger always come on a stormy night? Experiment with the weather. Do you throw in a random fight scene whenever you get bored with the dialogue? Find a new way of making things exciting.
3) Do All Your Stories Sound the Same?
When I was younger I pumped out short stories left and right, and even won a few awards for some of them. Clearly I’d found myself a winning concoction of excitement, action, and quirky characters—or I thought. After a while I started to realize that all my stories had the same basic elements:
-the main character is shy and awkward with very few friends
-they are joined by a quirky stranger with some sort of supernatural property
-this dynamic duo is thrown into a problematic situation that results in them having to single-handledly overthrow a group of antagonists.
It wasn’t obvious at first; the specifics of my stories changed a lot. One story was about a little girl whose best friend was her stuffed toy dog (who may or may not have been capable of moving on his own), who got into zany fights with her classmates. One was about a young girl who stumbles upon a magical dragon egg and ends up in the middle of a warzone. They sound different in description but in reality I was writing the same story over and over again. It was a fairly well-written story, but if enough versions of that story got published, readers would start to recognize the rather remarkable similarities between every single one, and probably lose interest.
Try analyzing a few of your stories. Pick out the main elements of them. What makes them similar? What makes them different? Are there any characteristics of your stories that you’re starting to get a little tired of? How can you shake it up?
Call in the professionals
That’s a quick rundown of a few areas you might want to improve in your writing. Of course, becoming more self-aware of your writing is extremely helpful, but getting some professional criticism or instruction for your writing can help you learn about your writing in ways you didn’t even think possible. I didn’t realize I wrote “romantic” stories until my 4th-year creative writing professor pointed it out to me. And I probably would’ve picked up on the similarities in all my plotlines much earlier if I’d had a critique of a short story compilation done. Maybe this is the year to resort to professional help. Sign up for a writing class. Seek out a Writer in Residence—our local library has one. Does yours? Consider getting a manuscript critique done—stay tuned for our in-depth description of manuscript critiques on January 16!
Or, if you’re ready to move on to publishing, make sure to get a professional edit done—our editing services are 10% off this month. Request a free sample edit here.
Talk to Other Writers
Is there something I’m missing here? I bet there is. Why don’t you tell us about it? If you have a tip to share, come on down to our Facebook Page and post some writing resolutions of your own!
About this Contributor:
Amy Groening is a project manager at Word Alive Press. She is a passionate storyteller with experience in blogging, newspaper reportage, and creative writing. She holds an Honours degree in English Literature and is happy to be working in an industry where she can see other writers’ dreams come to life. She enjoys many creative pursuits, including sewing, sculpture and painting, and spends an embarrassingly large amount of time at home taking photos of her cats committing random acts of feline crime.