I'm not one for New Year's resolutions--if I'm going to gym it or diet, it's not going to be tied to Jan 1 or any major holiday--but I do enjoy taking some time to reflect as an old year ends and a new one begins, and I've been thinking a lot about writing and how I can grow this year.
It's funny because all my life, my main writing goal has been to publish a book. Well, 2013 was the year it happened. It's hard to believe sometimes, but it did. Of course, I could say, I want to publish a better book, to a bigger audience, and have a huge marketing plan and a movie deal and on and on and on, but for the most part, those things are all out of my control. The cards will fall where they fall, and the only thing I can do is to be the best writer I can be. So that said, here are this year's goals.
#1 Be less lazy. I don't mean sitting on the couch, and I don't mean not writing, but I mean allowing yourself to write below your level (first drafts don't count). I mean those damn sentences you write and think, hmm, I could make this better, but it just seems like so much work or you really want to make a deadline or what have you, and you leave it. Or a plot move that feels just the tiniest bit convenient, even to you. Now, a good editor or agent will catch those things, but I figure the more of them you catch yourself, the more the agents and editors can spend catching other things, or making what's already pretty good even better. So one goal this year is to stop myself when I have that tiny thought in the back of my head that I could do just a little bit better and move my cursor back a bit and actually DO BETTER.
#2 Read what scares me. I have a confession to make. I have never read John Green. It may come as a surprise, because I have a freaking quote up on my site of a blogger comparing me to the contemp master, and I am thrilled about that, but I have not actually read a single one of his books. Don't get me wrong, I've read passages, and I've thought they were just gorgeous, but every time I go to pick up one of his books, I have this thought in the back of my head. You know the kind. Something like ... THIS IS THE YA CONTEMPORARY MASTER. YOU WILL NEVER BE HIM. BETTER JUST QUIT NOW. This is ridiculous. I will never be him, because I am not him, because my books are not his and nor is my writing. And just because someone else creates something heartbreakingly beautiful DOESN'T MEAN YOU CAN'T. There isn't a limit on the amount of emotional beauty allowed in the world. I repeat, there is not a limit on the amount of emotional beauty in the world. And just because someone else is really skilled at creating it, doesn't mean you can't do so, as well. So mark my words. This year, I'm going to read more contemporary YA, and I am going to turn off the comparisons, and I am going to enjoy these wonderful books by my contemporaries. And it might just help me make my writing better.
#3 Write truthfully. My goal as a writer has always been to be honest, but this year, I want more moments of truth in my writing. You know what I'm talking about--the passages that make you put the book down and look up at the ceiling and just think for a second. That make you press highlight on your Kindle. That make you want to tear out the page and send it to everyone you love with words highlighted in bright pink and say, THIS IS WHO I AM. NOTHING EXPLAINS ME BETTER THAN THIS. I want that rawness and that honesty in every one of my characters and every one of my passages. I want even the most minor characters to be achingly real. And I want more of those moments, those stop-everything, this-is-how-the-world-really-works moments. I have no idea how to get them, but I'm hoping that the more I get to know my characters, the more of myself I pour into my writing, the more frequently they'll come.
#4 Be more thankful. I am almost ashamed to say it, but publishing a book can be very stressful. It can make you doubt yourself and hassle your ever-patient agent with crazy questions. It can make you never want to write again. And when the occasional ultra-harsh review comes it, it can make you feel like the biggest failure. But on the very same day, you will be filled with so much joy that a story that was important to you is out in the world and PEOPLE ARE READING IT. You will do an event and look at the excitement and admiration on people's faces and realize that they think you've got something kind of special. You will get your first fan mail and start crying. You will see sales rise and fall and rise and fall, and you will always have this crazy thought inside that people are paying money to read something you made up. It really is quite wild when you think about it. I have hit all of these highs and lows this year, but all I can say at the end of it is that I am so very lucky for the chance to share my writing with readers. And in 2014, more than anything, I want to cherish and recognize this gift, both of writing, and of being heard.
Happy belated New Year, and happy writing! xo, Leah