Tuesday 3 January 2017

New Year's Resolutions

by Paula Harrison

Budle Bay in Northumbria - I wish I was there and it was summer already!

As soon as I discovered I'd been allotted the first Slushie blog of the year, I thought - I can do New Year's Resolutions for writers! But the fact is I don't make New Year's Resolutions. I never have. There's something about having a bunch of rules that I'm meant to stick to that just makes me want to go out and break them all immediately. I think this is a pretty good reflection of my rebellious attitude to authority that even if the rules are set by me they still annoy me!

Maybe it would trick my cantankerous (my mum always used that word!) brain into cooperating if I thought of them as Writing Goals. But what should those goals be? Depending on where you are on The Writing Journey, different goals may suit you. You may be contemplating putting your very first story down on paper. You may be about to edit and revise a project that you spent a lot of time on in 2016. If you're working full time or have a lot of family commitments then getting a small number of words down on paper each week is a very real achievement. Whether you call them goals or resolutions you should make them manageable. If you set yourself a goal that's very difficult to reach you could become demoralised and give up.

I think part of the problem with being a writer is that it doesn't look very much like other kinds of work. First of all, if you're not published you have to give yourself permission to be called a writer. Surely writers are people who can show you their nicely-bound book and are earning money by writing? This is not true. If you write and you've made writing a part of your life then you are a writer. FULL STOP. Also a lot of the "work" is what's going on in your head. So you can be working just as hard while in the bath or cooking the dinner as you are when sitting at the computer. If you installed CCTV in my house for the day, not only would you see me eating these smarties (diets be damned!) but you'd also see me wandering about not looking productive a lot of the time. Typing very fast on the computer is only part of it.

So what are my writing goals for 2017? Well, I need to complete the edits on the second ROBYN SILVER book (published by Scholastic) by the end of this month, and I have another book I'll be handing in shortly after that is partially complete. But more than anything else, I'm excited about a new project I'm working on which I've just sent off in sample form to my agent. Before getting my first contract I went through a spell of several years where I wrote different stories without feeling that I was getting very far. I tried to soldier on. I told myself that every story deserved its chance - that I would send each one out like a message in a bottle and that maybe one day one of them would reach someone who loved it. If I could rewind 6 years and speak to my younger self I'd say that it's important to celebrate each success no matter how small it seems at the time. It could be finishing a new draft of a story or receiving a positive review from a critique partner. Each milestone is important even if you can't see round that bend in the road.

I wish you happiness and peace in all your writing endeavours this year!


  1. The art of the manageable goal constantly eludes me! Happy new year, Paula, and yes, celebrate each and every success. Keep on writing, everyone!

  2. I never make resolutions either but I do look back and celebrate what was achieved during the last year. Sometimes it's quite a surprise, it seems such a lot even when I think I'm not working hard enough at the time. My only goal for next year is to meet my publisher's deadlines which is a first for me. Happy New Year!

  3. Thanks Paula - all good thoughts! I agree that the thinking time is important, although there does have to be SOME typing as well - it's very easy to go too far the other way and to call yourself a writer while never putting fingers to keyboard!

    For me, the only goal or resolution I'm interested in at the moment is to maintain a state where I'm actively looking forward to my next creative session, rather than dreading it. So far, so good.

    1. That's a great goal! That's how I ended up writing chapter books actually :)

  4. Just to add: I've just read that the person who won the children's category in the Costa this week received 217 rejections before getting published. Now that is stamina!


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