Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year, A New Start

Amazing how the New Year starts in the middle of winter, not a time we are easily motivated. Here in Montana, it's snowed every day for the past three weeks or so, and everybody's sick and tired of shoveling, slipping and sliding. Even when I lived in North Carolina, everything except the evergreens turned brown and drab. Why not start the New Year in the spring, when the signs of nature's rebirth are all around us?

Maybe renewal isn't supposed to be easy. It certainly seems harder gluing my rear end in a chair to write this time of year. Maybe maybe maybe...

Maybe it takes someone smarter than me to make sense of this. After all, instead of having brunch with Trump, Grisham and Obama today, I was out buying off-season clothing at yellow-tag, seventy-percent-off sales. So take my advice with a healthy dose of salt - the words of another struggling writer who sees the flaws of others a lot clearer than my own.

So, so New Years Resolutions for authors, poets and illustrators:

1. Keep a couple projects going. It's natural to hit a wall now and then so instead of beating it with your head, turn to researching a future story, or editing that junk you wrote a couple years ago, or working on family history. You'd be surprised how life delivers answers when you're looking in another direction.

2. Hang out with other writers. Join a local author's group, attend workshops, sign up for courses to improve your craft, attend readings by local writers and poets, go to book store signings, and watch newspapers for other events.

3. Join a critique group. This is the single best thing I ever did to improve my writing. We have members working on YA, a western, a memoir, a thriller, a humorous crime tale, and New Age sci-fi. But good writing is good writing, and recognizing it in others is the first step in incorporating it in mine. Also, I often don't see faults in my own prose until they're pointed out by others.

4. Find a time that works for you, and write every day at that time, even if only for 15-20 minutes. Putting new words on blank paper is priority one. Editing, researching and designing the dust cover can wait.

5. Read. A lot. For enjoyment and for insight into improving your craft. If you are struggling with dialog, read some Robert B. Parker, Elmore Leonard or Dixon Rice. Seriously.

Have a happy New Year and keep on writing.