Friday, December 18, 2009

Resolutions for Writers 2010

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 search for 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 and social networks
  • 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.


As A Newbie's Guide to Publishing closes in on its 500th blog entry, I can't help but reflect on how much the publishing industry has changed in the seven years I've been a part of it.

Here are some new resolutions that reflect these changing times.

I Will Be Wary. The medium in which stories are absorbed is changing in a big way, and it will continue to change. 2009 will go down in publishing history as Year Zero for the upcoming ebook revolution. Writers should explore this new territory, but we need to understand that Print is still King, and any goals and dreams a writer might have regarding publication should be focused on getting into print.

That's not to say that ebooks shouldn't be explored and experimented with. They should be, and in a serious way. Erights are a very long tail--one that can potentially continue long after our lifetimes.

Don't forsake print for ebooks without understanding what you're giving up, and don't give away your ebook rights to get a print deal.

I Will Be A Pioneer. Remember the old saying about how to recognize a pioneer? They're the one with the arrows in their backs and fronts.

I've tried to be forward-thinking in my career, rather than being content with my role as a cog in a broken machine. Your best chance for longevity is to question everything, test boundaries, experiment with new ideas, and be willing to change your mind and learn from your mistakes.

Your job is to survive, by any means necessary. So pull out the arrows and forge ahead. Discover the difference between determination and stupidity by being an example for one or the other or both.

Though this may seem at odds with the previous resolution about being wary, it's actually quite simpatico.

Q: What do you call a wary pioneer? A: Still alive.

I Will Read Books. I'm surprised I haven't mentioned this in previous years. If you're a writer, you must be a reader. I don't care if you read on your Kindle, or on stone tablets. Reading, and giving the gift of reading to others, is essential. Period.

I Will Stop Worrying. Worrying, along with envy, blame, guilt, and regret, is a useless emotion. It's also bad storytelling. Protagonists should be proactive, not reactive. They should forge ahead, not dwell on things beyond their control. Fretting, whining, complaining, and bemoaning the state of the industry isn't the way to get ahead.

You are the hero in the story of your life. Act like it.

Now quit reading blogs and get some writing done.


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Reading is probably the most important for a writer--believe it or not I've run into far too many wanna-be writers who don't even read in the genre they are writing in.


Professor Beej said...

Just so you know, I'm stealing some of these. Specifically, the one where I always have three stories out while working on a fourth. My numbers may be lower due to time constraints, but I think that's a very fine goal.

Oh, and obviously, finishing my damn novel. First and foremost.

Thanks for the heads-up.

L.J. Sellers said...

Thank you once again for saying it best. I'll print and post this by my computer. Back to my current novel, which is almost finished.

Robert Burton Robinson said...

Thanks again for being here for us, Joe.

I have been following you since the summer of 2006, which is when I started my crazy writing experiment online. Now, four novels, two novellas, and a bunch of short stories later I'm still reading your blog every week.

It gets pretty lonely in Writerville. So, it's always fun and comforting to drop by Joe's Newbie Writer's Bar and hang out with fellow strugglers.

Keep up the great blog posts, and the great writing. I loved reading "The List" and "Truck Stop" on my iPod Touch, by the way.

You are an inspiration to us all!

Marcie Steele said...

Great post Joe - as ever. All the very best for the New Year. x

Mel Sherratt

Beth said...

Fantastic lists and resolutions. I'm printing this out as well--right after I finish editing my damn novel.

P.S. I totally agree about adding reading to the list. If I don't read, I don't write. Period.

P.P.S. I may use a few of these on my blog but I'll credit you, oh great one.

V.R. Leavitt said...

These are GREAT! Thanks for posting. I've been coming up with my annual list this week too. :-)

Conda Douglas said...

Excellent, useful post, Joe, thank you.

Marie Simas said...

"You are the hero in the story of your life. Act like it."

Fucking classic.

I love you, Man.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

This is simply fantastic! Thank you for sharing. I'll be forwarding it on to my crit group.

I'm taking the next couple weeks off from writing (well, as much as I can stand) to READ. I have a huge stack, and I'm determined to get through it.

AND, I just realized you are in Chicago as well (I'm in Palatine, northwest suburbs). I went to a SCBWI conference at Harper College recently and was surprised how vibrant the Chicago writing community is. Go, us!

Thanks again for the great post.

Robert W. Walker (Rob) said...

Is this it? Is this the Best you can do, Konrath???

Karen Harrington said...

Very nice, encouraging post. I hadn't thought about having a target goal about the number of submissions to have out at any given time. I just realized that I have 3 out currently, however, so I'm going to celebrate that for 2009 and trump myself in 2010.

Debbi said...

Nice. You are awesome.

Cam said...


Awesome to know that you received 500 rejections and wrote 9 novels before getting published - it really puts things in perspective. I'm on about rejection 15 now, and am getting ready to start query round #2.

I still think that your best resolution was #1 from 2006 - I will start/finish the damn book.

I recently got bit by the writing bug again, and that is without a doubt the most important thing. Without a finished novel you have nothing to query for, nothing to edit, nothing to get critiqued, nothing to hype on your website, market, etc... #1 Finish the f-ing book.

MikeH said...

"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."

That's the advice I need to take. It's so easy to let things slip and put it down to "well, I'm not really doing this for a living." If I want to, I have to act like I am.

Thanks for the tough love ;)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for these inspiring, motivating resolutions! I will use them as I continue to plug away at my own book. Feel free to visit me at and please pray for me! Thanks!

God bless, Anne Marie :)

Marti said...

I want to thank you for all of the wonderful writing you do, in your books and here on your blog. May you have much joy and success in 2010.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you!

Linda Acaster said...

Thanks for your candid approach. I came upon your sites in November and find your attitude inspiring. Returning to being published after a BIG gap you've become a mentor without my realising. It's much appreciated.


JoePike said...

Always love the resolutions posts Joe.

Here's a link to an interesting article concerning e-readers.

The author agrees with you Joe, saying that when the price point of e-readers like Kindle reaches $100 that's when they'll really take off. He also says editors have no right to complain about their low pay for long work hours since they've refused to embrace technologies that would improve their productivity.

Finally he shows a cool new piece of technology - Intel now has a reader for the visually impaired that scans text from paper books, and reads them in an acceptable audio voice.

Danette Haworth said...

Thank you for A Newbie's Guide to Publishing--always relevant and on target.

Karen McQuestion said...

Love this! Thanks so much for sharing more Konrath wisdom.

Jude Hardin said...

Happy holidays, Joe!

Anonymous said...

This is a great list of resolutions. Thanks for the reminders and good luck in 2010.

vinesqueen said...

You are the hero in the story of your life. Act like it.

This hit me hard. Thank-you. said...

Sometimes a few years of hard work pays off in another way: you write the perfect blog post.

And you just did. Thank you!

Christine said...

Love this post! Thanks so much for sharing!!

M.L.Daniels said...

I love the Writer's Resolutions, and I love your blog! First time but I'll be back!! Happy New Year!

Erik J Kreffel said...

Thanks for the continued kick in the pants. I had the pleasure of meeting you briefly a few years back while working at my B&N. Your article in Writer's Digest encouraged me to query and query again. I'm still not traditionally published but I have three books out with Lulu and several more in the works. And I've recently dipped my toes into the Smashwords pool and am pleasantly surprised at the rising crest of ebooks. Yet one more way for us to get our words out there.

Thanks again.

Linda said...

Wow. The last day of 2009 and I find you thru Scobberlotch. I have dear friends who read your Jack Daniels series faithfully (they've unfortunately been buried in my TBR mountain for far too long).

Wow. The resolutions. What a way to start a new decade for me. The last one brought job changes, Hurricane Katrina, relocations and yes, the dropping of my writing WAY too far down on my daily task list (so far down in fact that is wasn't even ON the list some days/weeks/months/years).

NaNoWriMo this year kicked me back in gear, and thanks to you and these resolutions, 2010 should see the rough draft of my entire trilogy and the manuscript for book one being queried.

This may have been my first visit, but certainly will not be my last.

Bless you for your inspiration!