Thursday, December 25, 2008

Resolutions For Writers 2009

Every December I do a post about resolutions for writers, and every year I add more of them.


Newbie Writer Resolutions
  • I will start/finish the damn book
  • I will always have at least three stories on submission, while working on a fourth
  • I will attend at least one writer's conference, and introduce myself to agents, editors, and other writers
  • I will subscribe to the magazines I submit to
  • I will join a critique group. If one doesn't exist, I will start one at the local bookstore or library
  • I will finish every story I start
  • I will listen to criticism
  • I will create/update my website
  • I will master the query process and find an agent
  • I'll quit procrastinating in the form of research, outlines, synopses, taking classes, reading how-to books, talking about writing, and actually write something
  • I will refuse to get discouraged, because I know JA Konrath wrote 9 novels, received almost 500 rejections, and penned over 1 million words before he sold a thing--and I'm a lot more talented than that guy

Professional Writer Resolutions

  • I will keep my website updated
  • I will keep up with my blog
  • I will schedule bookstore signings, and while at the bookstore I'll meet and greet the customers rather than sit dejected in the corner
  • I will send out a newsletter, emphasizing what I have to offer rather than what I have for sale, and I won't send out more than four a year
  • I will learn to speak in public, even if I think I already know how
  • I will make selling my books my responsibility, not my publisher's
  • I will stay in touch with my fans
  • I will contact local libraries, and tell them I'm available for speaking engagements
  • I will attend as many writing conferences as I can afford
  • I will spend a large portion of my advance on self-promotion
  • I will help out other writers
  • I will not get jealous, will never compare myself to my peers, and will cleanse my soul of envy
  • I will be accessible, amiable, and enthusiastic
  • I will do one thing every day to self-promote
  • I will always remember where I came from


  • Keep an Open Mind. It's easier to defend your position than seriously consider new ways of thinking. But there is no innovation, no evolution, no "next big thing" unless someone thinks differently. Be that someone.

  • Look Inward. We tend to write for ourselves. But for some reason we don't market for ourselves. Figure out what sort of marketing works on you; that's the type of marketing you should be trying. You should always know why you're doing what you're doing, and what results are acceptable to you.

  • Find Your Own Way. Advice is cheap, and the Internet abounds with people telling you how to do things. Question everything. The only advice you should take is the advice that makes sense to you. And if it doesn't work, don't be afraid to ditch it.

  • Set Attainable Goals. Saying you'll find an agent, or sell 30,000 books, isn't attainable, because it involves things out of your control. Saying you'll query 50 agents next month, or do signings at 20 bookstores, is within your power and fully attainable.

  • Enjoy the Ride. John Lennon said that life is what happens while you're busy planning other things. Writing isn't about the destination; it's about the journey. If you aren't enjoying the process, why are you doing it?

  • Help Each Other. One hand should always be reaching up for your next goal. The other should be reaching down to help others get where you're at. We're all in the same boat. Start passing out oars.


I Will Use Anger As Fuel.
We all know that this is a hard business. Luck plays a huge part. Rejection is part of the job. Things happen beyond our control, and we can get screwed.

It's impossible not to dwell on it when we're wronged. But rather than vent or stew or rage against the world and everyone in it, we should use that anger and the energy it provides for productive things.

The next time you get bad news, resolve to use that pain to drive your work. Show fate that when it pushes you, you push right back. By writing. By querying. By marketing.

I Will Abandon My Comfort Zone. The only difference between routine and rut is spelling.

As a writer, you are part artist and part businessman.

Great artists take chances.

Successful businessmen take chances.

This means doing things you're afraid of, and things you hate, and things you've never tried before.

If, in 2008, you don't fail at something, you weren't trying hard enough.

I Will Feed My Addiction. Life is busy. There are always things you can and should be doing, and your writing career often comes second.

So make it come first.

Right now, you're reading A Newbie's Guide to Publishing. Not A Newbie's Guide to Leading a Content and Balanced Life.

You want to get published and stay published? That means making writing a priority. That means making sacrifices. A sacrifice involves choosing one thing over another.

If you can't devote the time, energy, and money it takes to pursue this career, go do something else.

I Will Never Be Satisfied. Think the last resolution was extreme? This one really separates the die-hards from the hobbyists.

While an overwhelming sense of peace and enlightenment sounds pretty nice, I wouldn't want to hire a bunch of Zen masters to build an addition on my house.

Satisfaction and contentment are great for your personal life. In your professional life, once you start accepting the way things are, you stop trying.

No one is going to hand you anything in this business. You have to be smart, be good, work hard, and get lucky.

Every time you get published, you got lucky. Don't take it for granted.

When something bad happens, it should make you work harder. But when something good happens, you can't believe you earned it. Because it isn't true. You aren't entitled to this career. No one is.

Yes, you should celebrate successes. Sure, you should enjoy good things when they happen. Smile and laugh and feel warm and fuzzy whenever you finish a story or make a sale or reach a goal.

But remember that happiness isn't productive. Mankind's greatest accomplishments are all tales of struggle, hardship, sacrifice, work, and effort. You won't do any of those things if you're satisfied with the status quo.

Who do you want on your team? The kid who plays for fun? Or the kid who plays to win?

If you want this to be your year, you know which kid you have to be.


This year I'm only going to add one resolution to this growing list, but if you're writing for a living, or trying to write for a living, it's an important one.

I won't blame anyone for anything.

It's tempting to look at the many problems that arise in this business and start pointing fingers. This is a slippery slope, and no good can come from it.

Do agents, editors, and publishers make mistakes? Of course.

You make mistakes too.

Hindsight is 20/20, so we can all look at things that didn't go our way and fantasize about how things should have gone.

But blaming others, or yourself, is dwelling on the past. What's done is done, and being bitter isn't going to help your career.

So try to learn from misfortune, forgive yourself and others, and make 2009 a blameless year.

Now quit reading blogs and get some writing done.


Ruth said...

I simply love your blog. I never comment, because every time I read it I go straight to writing. Thank you for your words of encouragement and all the good advice.

Jessica Burkhart said...

Great list, Joe! :)

lanna-lovely said...

Awesome list. Now I just need to make and keep a resolution that says I should make and keep my resolutions. :o/


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the inspiration, Joe.

I hope you (and all the other writers who follow this blog) make more sales in 2009

Frederick Smith said...

Love the advice always and the motivation I get after reading your blog. Hope it's a productive New Year for you too!

Unknown said...

Henry Fielding said that insatiability is the true sign of greatness. I suppose in writing that could mean a number of things - ambition, perfectionism, you name it.

Learning to be human with what you do is very, very hard. It'll never be good enough.

Great list, though.

Jessa Slade said...

NPR had a story this a.m. about a study of resolutions. Of the people who made New Year's resolutions, 40+% were still on-track after 6 months; only 4% of those who had goals but didn't make a resolution were still pursuing their goal.

In 2009, I resolve to make the most of my chances, whatever they might be and however they might come. I will not look back and say, If only.

Thanks for the great posts all year.

Anonymous said...

Good choice! All the best for the New Year, Joe.

Bobby Mangahas said...

Good resolutions here. Perhaps I should stick to them ;)

Have a good New Year Joe.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Thanks, Joe.

Happy New Year!


Mary Duncan said...

Thanks, Joe, for putting everything into proper perspective. I've never been one for New Year's resolutions. Mine happen all year long.

My goal, or should I say my path, is to land an agent this year and begin playing like a real author. I have every confidence. Now all I need is an agent!

Miss Mahana said...

Happy Holidays, Joe ... great advice ... yet again, now if only I'd actually pay attention.

Sherryl said...

Thanks for re-posting the previous years as well as 2009. You are so right - blaming and finger-pointing at publishers is such a waste of time and energy. Time and energy we need to be putting into our own marketing and getting our work out there.
I haven't worked out all my goals for 09 yet, but you've reminded me of where I need to be going, and what I need to focus on. Thanks.

Sybil said...

This list is great--I've already linked this post on my blog and referred it on a friend's blog. I like what you say about balance. I agree that for writers balance is overrated and probably detrimental.

JA Konrath said...

Thanks for the kind words, and thanks to everyone for reading (even if you don't comment.)

Barbara Martin said...

Every time I come here to read a new post or reread an older one, it inspires me to keep writing. You provide excellent advice to writers, new and well seasoned.

Your list is great, and I plan to borrow some of it.

Kim Smith said...

Happy New Year Joe, hope it is the best ever.

Robin Bayne said...

Happy New Year : )

Carleen Brice said...

Thanks for the great resolutions! I especially like your emphasis on keeping your goals about what's within your control, and about luck playing such a large part in success. I'm one of those people who believes in at least trying to make my own luck, but I also know that it's grace when it happens and is totally outside of me no matter how hard I worked for it. Happy 09!

Jude Hardin said...

Happy New Year, Joe!

Angie Ledbetter said...

Bravo! Printing out as a reminder when resolutions flag.

Anonymous said...

I had to stop reading so I could remember to comment - but going back to finish - good solid advice here -!

Never Give Up has become a cliche - but I believe in it.

Mary Ann Ledbetter said...

"One true sentence" - Isn't it typical of Hemingway to reduce writing, in all its messiness, to the least common denominator?

And then another true sentence. And then another.

You've inspired me to write my first resolution of 2009:
Write one true sentence.

And then keep writing.

Tolulope Popoola said...

I just discovered your blog today and I'll definitely be back! That's one great list of resolutions for me to keep. Thanks!

Jennifer Roland said...

"I will refuse to get discouraged, because I know JA Konrath wrote 9 novels, received almost 500 rejections, and penned over 1 million words before he sold a thing--and I'm a lot more talented than that guy"

Love the advice!

beybes_08 said...

Well, I know how you feel, starting a story and never finishing it. One day though. One day, I'll finish a book...well..someday. =) Thanks for the list. Very inspiring.

ps3 tamir said...

Bravo! Printing out as a reminder when resolutions flag.