The tree may still be up, but all the wrappings are cleared and the gifts are stowed, cherished or perhaps in the trunk headed to the returns department. No matter, the holiday of gift-giving is behind us, and now we can set our thoughts on the new year. With it come thoughts for change. Or not.
Whether you're a writer, reader or simply a dreamer, you certainly have considered changes you'd like to make to your routine. I have. However, there are some things I will not alter.
Here are five resolutions I will not make.
1. Add more adjectives to my writing. In fact, I should do the opposite. Using adjectives defeats the effort to "show don't tell". Every word in your story needs to matter.
Susan stepped over the broken glass.
Nouns tells us what is in the scene - glass
Verbs tell us what the character is doing - stepped
Adjectives describe the items - broken
Sometimes these adjectives are necessary. There is a reason for broken glass on the ground. Something caused it to break. The fact that the character must step over broken glass moves the plot forward. The reader wants to know what happened.
However, the word "broken" is the only adjective necessary. Any other adjective would not move the story forward. Does it help to know it's sharp? No. colored? jagged? old? pretty? No.
If you are going to add adjectives to your writing, add those that serve a purpose, that reveal character or plot.
2. Write longer sentences. Unless you are the next Hemingway, I suggest you keep those sentences trim and tidy. Readers can get lost in lengthy verbiage. Try artful compound sentences. Constructed well, they can add poetry to your scenes. As long as each clause itself is simple. It really depends on the mood you are going for.
Jeffrey stood in the doorway. The rain pelted the window.
These separate clauses create tension. If that's what you're after, leave them. Maybe, though, you want mood - dramatic mood. This is better:
Jeffrey stood in the doorway, and the rain pelted the window.
I think that creates more tension. It ties the two actions together. The fact that the rain is pelting means there's a storm outside. Perhaps placing that information in the same sentence with Jeffrey standing in the doorway suggests there is a storm brewing in Jeffrey as well.
Know the mood you are after, and remember - variety is key.
3. Create flawless characters. No one I know in real life is perfect. Perfectly evil or perfectly perfect. We all have flaws. Our characters should as well. Add an imperfection to your character by considering 'what if'.
The Hero - caring, selfless, smart. What if she's afraid of the dark? scared of heights? clumsy? nearsighted? farsighted? Like her admirable qualities, her flaws should add to her transformation or the story's resolution. If Dorothy wasn't so selfish - as teens will be - she wouldn't have fled home or ended up in the problem she did; yet it was her selflessness that helped her get home. Her selfishness transformed.
The Villain - egotistical, aloof, impatient. What if he feeds stray cats or has a grandmother he must check on. This can be his achilles heal that trips him up and allows the hero to prevent him from succeeding. We need to care about them, have sympathy. Bad guys usually have something in their past that caused them to stray. Read through any comic, every villain has a backstory.
4. Judge my writing. Ugh. If you were to write me into a story, this might be my flaw (one of many, alas). Of course, it's good to be critical of our art. After all, picking over lines and paragraphs and pages helps us weed out unnecessary words; this keeps our story tight and in line. But slow down on the judgment, fellow author. I'm guessing others of you might share my hypocritical flaw.
Start by simply writing. Don't nitpick, don't delete, don't search the thesaurus or stop to re-read that scene in Moby Dick that you want to mirror as your character tries to drown himself in the bathtub.
Edit with love. I can't remember who may have told me this, but someone once suggested to me that when I start revising or rewriting, that I do so as a gardener pruning a rosebush. Set the long-handled shears down. Pick up the delicate narrow scissors. Trim. Don't chop. Step back to admire the blooms. Step in closely to trim the narrow bits of dead growth along those few leaves. You don't want a bald rosebush, and you don't want a story devoid of depth.
Move on to my last not-going-to-be-a-resolution.
5. Write less often. Really. That ain't happening, sister. In fact, in the past two years, I've developed a solid regime for my writing.
I write every day. Every. Day. And I work full-time. (Can't quit the day job, yet.) And I have one kid still at home. The thing is, I'm not always writing scenes. I keep a journal where I write down ideas, backstory, research notes, questions, etc. That's writing. I think about my characters and my plot all the time. Seriously. In the shower. Driving. During breaks at work. On the treadmill. My current work-in-progress is always close to my thoughts.
I set goals. The weekend is my real writing time. Any day I am not up at 6:30 for work, I am up to write. Since I'm a teacher, that means fall break, winter break, and spring break allow extra days to write. Summer vacation is when I feel like a real full-time writer. On those days, I set a goal of 1,000 words. I can usually meet that goal because I've been working on my #4 not-a-resolution (arrow points up).
No matter how you ring in your new year, may it be followed by doing the things you love, surrounded by those you love, and filled with beauty, joy and peace. (And lots of words!)