It’s a brand new year and like every year I am beguiled by the idea of New Year’s resolutions.
I’ve tried every year not to choose something over which I exert only a limited amount of influence, i.e. I’ve never resolved to ‘get a book published this year’. I’ve had that as a goal, but skirted around it with my resolutions of ‘I’ll write everyday’, ‘I’ll read a book per week’ or ‘I’ll complete X draft and finish Y short play’. But the goal has always been the same; to get a story accepted for publication, to see my name on a cover.
In fact, 2019 might be the best time to resolve this as it’s actually going to happen! (Did I mention Summer of No Regrets is out May 2 in all good bookshops?!)
So what’s my new goal going to be? Do I even need to have one? Isn’t that like changing the goal posts and never being happy? And what resolutions/aims shall I make? I know not everyone finds New Year’s resolutions helpful, but I find it a good chance to refocus my attentions. A chance to take stock of the past year and list what I intend to work on in the coming one.
When I think back to this time last year, a lot of things were unknown. I’d had a tough 2017 – full of rejections and an emotionally draining first draft. I didn’t hold out much hope for 2018 to be honest and I was genuinely questioning whether it was worth the work/heartache.
But 2018 turned out to be better than I ever expected. My story that had taken all my energy to write was accepted for publication by the amazing people at Firefly Press and my application for a masters was successful, so I’m now a student again. Both of these things fill me with happiness when I sit and think about them. Six years ago these things were a world away from what I thought was possible for me. And that blows my mind.
How about you? Looking back over the last year, what things have you achieved that you are proud of? Have you finished a first draft, got a word count you are pleased with, a story idea you love? Have you had positive feedback or a full request? List them and feel proud of yourself. None of these things happen by accident.
And conversely where would you like to be this time next year? Be realistic and honest. This is your goal, the thing you fix your sights on. Then list the ways you can improve the chances of it happening. If you want an agent and have a great story, make this the year you query widely. If you would love to be published but ‘just’ need to finish that book, plan when in your daily timetable you are going to make that happen. These are your resolutions.
So for me, looking forward to 2019, should my goal be to successfully launch Summer of No Regrets? But what does that success even look like?
- A good party on launch day?
- A mention by a big reviewer?
- Reaching that magical 50 reviews?
- Having an independent book shop champion my book?
- Selling more books than expected? (This is one a tricky one for me – what do I expect? What does anyone expect?)
- A reader contact me having been moved by my story?
Or do I dare to dream for ‘more’? It is, after all, why publishers take on a new author – the hope of a book being ‘more’. It feels wrong to even express that hope, yet every debut author must have a rumble of it inside them.
Once again I sense the danger in resolving to do something that is mainly out of my control. I can do all I can do, take all the opportunities that present themselves but the ‘success’, however defined, is mainly up to factors beyond me – be it luck, market forces, being in the right place at the right time. A situation not unlike being on submission. The chances of it happening are improved by hard work and persistence, but nothing is ever guaranteed.
Perhaps then I need to resolve, like I did last year, and the year before and the years before that, to continue improving my craft. Then, however this year turns out, I’ll still be moving forward with my writing, with building my skills and having fun experimenting with stories. Because after all, I’m a writer first and an author second. The second doesn’t work without me being the first. 2019 is going to be a year of words (and very possibly some exciting new challenges) and I can’t wait to get stuck in.
Happy New Year, keep the faith and let the words flow!