Writing Resolutions for 2014: Do Less

I didn’t want to do something totally cliché, but here I am doing it. Earlier, I thought to myself: wouldn’t it be great if I did one of those “Writing Resolutions for Next Year” posts? At first, I thought it would be lame and verge on click-baiting my loyal blog readers. But then, I started to think of all those things I DO want to do differently in my writing life next year and I thought, “Yeah! That Toretto_Beerwould make an awesome post!”

So here I am.

The main theme for this post came from a (sigh) PowerPoint presentation at work. The idea that struck me was from a book called “From Good to Great” by Jim Collins, a “management guru.” The point of the quote was that what makes companies—and by extension, people—great is their ability to tune out the noise and focus on what’s important. One exercise Jim recommends is the creation of a “stop doing list” for the new year. 

The start of the New Year is a perfect time to start a stop doing list and to make this the cornerstone of your New Year resolutions, be it for your company, your family or yourself.

The idea is to list those things you will stop doing so that you can bring the greatest focus to the remaining items. So, in that spirit, here is a list of things I’m going to stop doing, pare down and simplify in 2014.

1. Refocus on the manuscript

At the end of the day, I’m the manuscript guy. That’s where I live and die. But there are so many distractions out there that are writing-related that have nothing to do with the manuscript.

As a self-publishing author I have to edit, coordinate the book cover and proofing, buy ads, promote the work, blog, Tweet, etc. And that stuff  is all a good and necessary part of the game. I see that. But I feel as if I’ve gotten off balance. I feel I need to get back to focusing on the manuscript because that, more than anything else, is what is going to build a fan base and bring back readers time and time again. If you aren’t presenting a quality manuscript, it doesn’t matter how many people you drive to it via your blog, self-made ads, Twitter, Facebook, etc. They simply won’t stay.

2. Scale back on social media

So, what’s a writer to do?

First, I’m discontinuing my Facebook account entirely. I’ve found this medium clunky from the start and I feel like it hasn’t really helped me connect with readers or other writers for that matter. It’s partially the way I use it—very sparsely and with just major announcements. But the fact is I’ve got very little feedback or interest in my Facebook page, so, it’s time to cut it.

Also, I will continue my Goodreads account, but I won’t be actively posting to it. Goodreads is a great way to connect with qualified viewers—readers and people who are passionate about books (unlike Facebook). But I  simply don’t have the time to engage with it. If I didn’t have a day job, it might be a different story.

I will stay on Twitter because it asks little of my time and has been a surprisingly great way to connect with other writers and fans.

3. Reduce postings on my blog

Sadly, I will have to cut back a bit here as well. I’ve decided to change my blog updates from once a week in 2013 to once every 2 weeks in 2014. I wish I could blog every week, but when it comes down to it, every minute spent blogging is a minute I could have spent on a manuscript. It comes at a very high cost.

I don’t see the need to end the blog entirely. It’s brought more people to my work than any other single tool. Plus, it’s fun and I learn a lot by blogging about the craft of writing.

For those who are interested, I’m planning to post every other Friday in 2014 starting on Jan. 10.  

4. Focus exclusively on Kindle for self-publishing

I’ve put my works on both Nook and Kindle. But Nook has produced very little payback in terms of sales and looks more and more like a dying platform. So, that’s it for Nook. I’m planning to make my works available exclusively via Kindle.

This will allow me to self-promote, i.e., give away my books about once every month. Kindle has also proven itself a viable platform. I’ve been able to give away thousands of my titles and I’ve had hundreds of sales. Those figures for Nook, by the way, are in single digits. In fact, Nook doesn’t even let you giveaway books.

PS This one is not written in stone and I’m willing to change it if someone out there is willing to show me why I’m wrong. 

5. Go short or go long

I love novellas. Adore them. But after publishing one of them and having another in the works, I have come to doubt their…marketability.

I know it may be sacrilege to say that marketability matters. That as a writer, an artiste, I should only write for the satisfaction of creating something new. And I do get satisfaction and peace from writing. But every writer wants more. They want recognition, popularity, plaudits. And I’m no different.

I’ve finally come to accept that a quicker, easier way to get these plaudits is to write pieces that people (especially editors) want to buy. Through an accident of publishing history this means short stories and novels.

So, in 2014, I plan to polish off my latest novella…And then…Devote myself to writing short stories (less than 7,500 words) and novels (over 50,000 words). It’s simply a question of marketability.

This won’t be easy because I have a devilish time keeping my fiction terse and short. Getting under that 7.5K mark will be a big challenge.

6. Focus on getting (speculative) fiction shorts published

Nowadays, anyone can self-publish. Which is great and horrible at the same time.

It’s great because if you have an idea you can get it published. The editors aren’t the sole gatekeepers any more. No more John Kennedy Tooles getting their masterpiece rejected by clueless, huge publishing houses and then having no alternative path to publishing. 

It’s horrible because it’s harder to rise above the crowd. With everyone self-publishing you need something that shows that your writing is a cut above. You need a viable third party to say, “Hey, this  is good stuff” whether it’s a magazine, a publishing house or an award-bestowing organization. That give you that rare and most precious of things—credibility. In a way, writers needs publishers and reviewers more than ever. 

7. Keep a record of my writing expenditures

O.K. So this is one thing I’m adding. Fine.

My plan is to simply hold onto the receipts related to my writing projects. This ranges from post office receipts for sending off manuscripts to fees paid to proofreaders and graphic designers. The good thing is that I can include these on my tax returns and get a smaller hit from the tax man.

8. Go to a Con.

I have to go to a Con next year.  I don’t care which Con it is as long as it’s in the U.S. and has an element dedicated to writing fiction like writing workshops. I’m thinking of something like RavenCon or the Big Daddy, DragonCon.

I’ve heard so much good feedback about going to Cons, that I’ve decided it’s time for me to jump in. I will report back here as I zero in on a Con to attend.

Most importantly, attending a Con would let me connect with fellow speculative fiction writers that are looking to breakthrough. And as I learned from the Fast and Furious franchise, “family” is the most important thing.

The most important thing.

In the meantime, if you have any suggestions for Cons in the U.S., please share them!

9. Bring more focus to my reading

My reading diet tends to the old or ancient, literally. I really need to read what people are writing today. And I need to focus on the fiction that I want to write: speculative fiction that is short and top shelf.

To that end, I’m going to scour the recent award winners of the Hugo, Nebula, Bram Stoker, World Fantasy and Edgar awards looking for the most interesting short works. Those are the ones I’m going to read. And every time I do, I’ll be reading them close, picking up all those little tricks that made them so great.

If you have any reading suggestions, please send them my way in the comment section or on my Contact page.

Damn, this became a long post.

Thankfully, all of my resolutions, save two, require me to do less. In the end, all these changes, all these resolutions have one goal: giving me more time to focus on writing manuscripts. And to me, that’s what this writing thing should be all about.

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