I was hit with an unexpected burst of mental energy the other day and my brain, despite the fog I’ve been living under since I was sick at the start of December, formulated an ambitious plan for 2023. Did I write it down? No. I’m a writer. Ideas flash at all the wrong times and either don’t get written down at all or get scrawled on scrap paper in some incoherent way that, come the light of day, doesn’t even resemble the glorious original thought.
Nevertheless, the feeling spurred me to sit down and think about what I actually wanted to accomplish with my writing in 2023. As I mentioned in my previous post, I was disappointed by my book’s progress, or lack thereof, this year. What can I do to change that?
The best way to start any plan is at the end. Where do you want to be? What do you want to have accomplished? Once you know what you’re aiming for, you can chart the path that will lead you there.
My target for 2023 is to finish my first novel. I want it to be edited, polished, and submission-ready. So what steps do I need to take to get it from the ugly, holey, disjointed second draft that it is to something shiny, polished, and ready to read?
- Do a read-through to identify large story arc issues. (Structural Story Editing) This will be challenging, but my aim in this read-through is just to identify and note the plot holes that need correcting and the research/decisions that need to be done—no editing allowed in this pass.
- Chapter by chapter, make a list of what needs to be done to address the issues identified in step 1 and a separate list of necessary research.
- Research. I know there is still some research in this manuscript that I have been procrastinating on. I’ve also procrastinated on a few minor decisions that I need to just make up my mind on.
- Tackle one chapter at a time, doing rewrites to address each identified issue. It sounds like a small step, but this one will take a lot of time.
- Get a printed copy of the manuscript, or better yet, a couple of copies (see Step 6). This sounds premature, but hear me out. For deeper edits, I need to see it on paper.
- Beta Readers! This is a big step. My inclination is to want everything to be perfect before I let anyone read it. Still, for obvious reasons, it would be better to have some readers give me feedback before I am too far along in the editing process. It will be harder to make major changes if I leave this step too late. Now that I’m compiling this list, I feel like this step should even come earlier. Ugh. I might have to feel this out once I get stuck into the structural edits. I want the story to be some semblance of readable before I ask for feedback.
- Line Editing. This pass will work on tone, style, and consistency. For this step, I plan to use a combination of reading the manuscript aloud and hopefully using a text-to-speech platform for hearing the book read to me.
- Copy Editing. Time to look at grammar, spelling, and punctuation. My brain will not allow me to ignore this throughout the process, but this will be a final polish of the grammar.
That’s a lot. Now that I see it in black and white, I both regret procrastinating and understand why I’ve been putting this off. It’s intimidating. But the point of this exercise is to break it all down into small, manageable steps. I’ll write each of these bullet points on their own page and break them down further, attaching dates to them to keep myself accountable.
Now, this is the point where my dear readers are going to scoff at my lofty goals for 2023. Editing my novel is not my only writing goal. It should be. It’s a big one. But my brain is fickle, and if I don’t let it have any creative outlet beyond working on the same novel manuscript for a whole calendar year, I will give up. I need to play with new ideas, and short fiction is a great format for that. I enjoyed my writing goals from last year, so I’m going to repeat them.
- Consistent weekly blog posts. Yep, that’s right. There will be new content here at AlyWrites every Tuesday. Look for new flash fiction and poetry, writing tips, and some of my own recipes.
- #Submit2023. This challenge is a popular one over at Writers’ HQ. I’ll still be dabbling in flash fiction, and I aim to submit at least one piece each month.
- Read more. Read for fun. Read to learn. I’d like to read the two writing craft books that were gifted to me this past summer. I’d also like to make more time for reading purely for enjoyment and relaxation—refill the creative cup.
Phew. That’s a lot. I think I need to go lay down.
Here’s a little reminder, as much for myself as for anyone reading this: Be reasonable. Goals are great. Pressure, on the other hand, can be harmful. If something isn’t working or is too draining, don’t be afraid to adjust. And at the end of the day, if you don’t make it all the way to your target, look behind you at all the progress you’ve made instead of feeling like you’ve failed. Progress is success.
What writing goals are you setting for 2023? Please share in the comments. I’ll be sharing my progress over on Instagram for accountability, so follow me over there if you aren’t already.