Autumn Term – start of a new school year, and a great time for setting new goals. Yes, you can finish that book that’s been hanging around for too long – and yes you will publish it! Turn over a new leaf, and put some strategies into place to keep you on schedule.
1. Set Yourself Goals
Everyone needs something to aim at. Want to publish your book before Christmas? It could be possible – but it depends what stage you’re at. I know you’ve heard it a million times before, but make sure your goals are ‘SMART’:
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Achievable
R – Realistic/Relevant
T – Time Related
Look at your work objectively.
a) What will you need to do to get to publication?
b) What might stop you getting there?
c) How can you deal with barriers in your way – eg. work, family commitments.
d) Will you need outside help, from editors, proof readers, cover designers? Factor in timescales for that too.
Give yourself daily and weekly goals, like, “I’m going to write 1000 words a day every day this week, and finish Chapter 10 by Sunday” as well as a long term monthly goals.
2. Write An Hour Every Day
Presumably you can’t just go and shut yourself away for the best part of four months to finally get your book finished? An hour a day is something that most people can realistically commit to.
a) Try and carve out a regular writing schedule, so that it becomes automatic.
b) Write first thing in the morning, if you can get up an hour earlier and fit it in.
c) Stop wasting time surfing the net, or watching television programmes that you’re not even particularly enjoying. Instead only watch those can’t-miss programmes on ‘catch up’ as a reward when you’ve actually done the work.
d) Print out what you’ve written already, and either edit it, or continue to write freehand, if you can’t face more screen time after a long day in the office. You could also do this in your lunch break, or on the bus.
e) If an hour a day just isn’t possible, make it up at the weekends, and do a good block on Saturday and Sunday, or on whichever days you have free.
3. Revamp Old Work
Have you got half-finished novels lurking in your computer, or printed out in folders around your office? It’s a lot easier to start something than it is to finish – but it’s also easier to build on something you’ve already worked on before.
Go back to something you’ve abandoned, and look at it with fresh eyes. Can you work with it? Or were you right – is it just not worth continuing with? If you do feel you could do something with it, figure out what you’re going to do – chapter plans, SMART goals and work schedules, so that this time, you’ll finally finish it.
4. Join A Writing Group
Meeting up with other writers can be very helpful for your writing. It can seem daunting at first, but the vast majority of other writers will be supportive and helpful- after all, they’re probably going through exactly the same doubts and issues that you’re facing. Just discussing your work with others can help point out problems with plot points, or characterisation you may not have thought about. Having that regular meeting, be it weekly or monthly can also spur you on to write more, and not to fall behind.
The Writer’s Online website has a section for finding writing groups in your area.
5. Join A Creative Writing Class
Do you feel you need more guidance with your writing? There are a wide range of creative writing classes out there for you – some online, some run locally.
Some publishers, such as Faber, or literary agencies such as Curtis Brown have their own courses or ‘writing academies’. As well as offering Creative Writing degrees, some universities also offer evening or weekend classes. Local writing associations and adult education colleges are also good places to find classes.
Find one that’s appropriate to your needs. Some classes concentrate on just getting you writing, with exercises and feedback from the teacher and your classmates. Others are for people that have been working on their own projects for a while, or have a specific goal in mind.
6. Develop Your IT Skills
In self-publishing it helps so much to be computer literate. As well as actually writing your book, there’s formatting and typesetting, uploading it and even designing a cover. Marketing your book via social media such as Facebook and Twitter and other sites such as Goodreads can be the best way to get your book talked about and reviewed, but it can be intimidating if you haven’t a clue of where to start.
Ask friends and family or get in professionals to teach you the basics so you can cope with the things you’ll need to do most often – for example when you’re constantly tweaking your manuscript it can be a pain waiting for help to upload your newest version.
If you are a complete beginner wanting to know more about how to develop your IT skills, you could take a course at a local college or library. Age UK also run courses for older people wanting to learn computer skills, if you contact a local group – more details here.
If you’ve got the basic skills but want to learn more, these days there’s so much you can access online. Just Google what you want to find out about, and the chances are there will be a tutorial, or even a YouTube video to guide you through.
We hope this has helped you feel a new sense of purpose for the year ahead. Do let us know if you have any good tips for rebooting your writing this September.