Fool-proofing your writing goals

The start of a new year is a natural time to reflect on the past 12 months and set goals and priorities for the year ahead. We all start with good intentions, often involving gym memberships, diets and projects to complete. But as the year progresses, even the most realistic goals can run up against, well, life. How can you make sure you meet your writing goals this year?

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The ball and chain of perfection

I used to be a perfectionist. I was voted the class perfectionist in 8th grade. Yep, I was a notorious perfectionist. Perfectionism is a good thing, sometimes. But a hell of a thing most of the time.

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Finding your voice

The first time I heard about a writer’s voice I was a teenager, sitting at an awards ceremony. It was getting late and people were a bit fidgety. We were onto the poetry awards. The third place had been presented — he was grateful to the sponsors and his family. The audience was expecting a similarly short and sweet acceptance from the second placer. Nope. She started waxing lyrical about how she had finally found her voice. I think she was on her back porch feeding the birds at the time. She was very passionate about it, and the description was extremely long winded. I started looking at my watch, hoping for it to end. Now, I wish I had listened and taken notes. She was generously sharing what can make or break your sense of self as a writer: the writer’s voice.

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Doing dumb stuff

Have you ever been told “you’re your own worst enemy”? Or “you make things so hard for yourself”? These phrases hold negative connotations. And normally in our own lives we try to avoid situations where we could be accused like this! Not so, your protagonist.

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Dead ends and beliefs

Ever written yourself into a dead end? I do it on a regular basis. It usually goes like this: my plan is in place; the plot looks vaguely comprehensible; the script or book is on its way. Then things take an unexpected turn. I follow the turn, then the next. But then it happens: I reach a place where there is no realistic way things can work out well. Worse: I have no idea where I am or how much I have to rewrite!

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Reversing perception for effect

In film, there is a device called a “reversal”, similar to a peripety in literature. It occurs when you are expecting one thing and the opposite happens. It is a clever device because it quickly shifts the audience’s perception to reveal character. It can also be used to illuminate a plot point using the unexpected.

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Writing painful truths

We all have a friend, relative or co-worker whose life is an endless stream of misfortune and drama. Being there to unpack the mounting job losses, horrible ex-boyfriends or credit card debt is often an exercise in futility. This is because people who float down this metaphorical stream are often unwilling to look inwards and accept the painful truths that might change their course. This is not so for your protagonist.

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Trust your reader

When you invite a reader into your fictional world, it involves an element of trust. Part of this trust involves writing to respect your reader’s intelligence without assuming they have psychic abilities.

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