Christmas is over, no doubt about it.
You can see it: people walk around with that dazed expression they get when they are really, really stuffed and have a hard time coping with normal life. Half their minds are still on the huge dinners, the eggnog and all those cookies.They are virtually walking sugar coma. It’s a good thing so little happens between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. It’s a time to digest, and adjust.
Which, by the way, makes me wonder: why pick New Year’s Eve to make resolutions? It’s such an arbitrary point in time. Why not do it on your own birthday, or your wedding anniversary? Since the resolutions are personal, why shouldn’t the date be personal?
Me, I hate New Year’s Eve. I’ve never understood why everyone celebrates, except to use it as an excuse to throw a party. But celebrate?
What are we supposed to celebrate? The year that’s over? Well—it’s over, isn’t it. Over and done with, so why celebrate?
And the one yet to come? We don’t know what it will bring, so, same argument.
It’s just this feeling of standing on the cusp between two defined periods of time, and reflecting on what we should have done and didn’t, and what we should be doing in the future, and probably won’t.
Or maybe we will.
See, I’m trying to turn this into a blog post about writing. So I’m going to ask you now:
Did you achieve your writing goals in the past year?
Did you start that novel you’ve always wanted to write?
Did you finish the novel you’ve been slaving over for years?
Did you learn an important writing lesson?
Did you secure an agent, or better yet, sign a book deal?
Can you call yourself an author instead of a writer now?
Me? My year was fabulous, but it also taught me an important lesson: it’s all about pacing yourself.
My first novel, The Distant Shore, was released in January, and its sequel, Under the Same Sun, in October. In the midst of all the editing, marketing, blogging and tweeting about these two; I was busy writing the third book in the series, traveling all over the US (I live in Germany), trying to stay halfway healthy, and living a normal, daily mom, wife and homemaker life. I told everyone I could easily write two books a year, get them published, and do that for…oh, let’s say, the next ten years or so.
I’m fifty-six. And no, I can’t.
This was the lesson 2012 taught me: you can’t force a writing career.
The moment you decide to be a writer, the first thing you have to learn is patience. NOTHING works in this business without patience.
First, you must be patient with yourself: writing a novel is not like knitting a scarf. You don’t just purl one loop after another, you have to make up things. You have to invent a whole new world, people, and their lives, and at the end of the day, it has to be good writing, too, or else. Maybe writing two 130K word novels a year doesn’t work for everyone—it certainly doesn’t, for me.
Then, you’ll have to patient with your editor. Because, you see, you’re not the only author in the world, and they might want to take a lunch break now and then.
The publishing process takes a long, long time, and that’s a good thing. You want your book to be perfect when it hits the market, don’t you? No typos, no plot holes, and it better have a lovely cover, too. So—give that publisher a break, and the time they need to develop your manuscript into a book that will end up on the counter of the bookstore, and not on the last, dusty shelf.
So, if you don’t have any writerly New Year’s resolutions, or are still thinking about them, please let me make some suggestions:
Be kind to yourself. No one else but you can push you over the edge. And no one else will, either.
Set goals, but see to it that you can keep them. One book a year is really good enough. Quality is more important than quantity.
Finish your project, and don’t start anything else until you have. You’ll get lost if you do.
Submit already. Send your book to agents or publishers. Take that risk! They are actually waiting for you; it’s their job.
And here’s a really important one: once you have secured that book deal and the editing process starts: chillax. These professional editors, they know what they’re doing. Trust them. Which doesn’t mean you should let them walk all over you! But if it’s only grammar—trust them. They probably know better.
There you have it, the lessons I learned last year. I’m looking forward to the new one, and the adventures it will bring. This much I can tell you though: I’ll write only one book.
Maybe, or possibly, two.
Happy New Year, now get writing!