As we move into a new year, you’re probably honing in on some writing resolutions. But let’s do things a bit differently this year. Forget the stupid cliche shit like “I’m going to write every day” and “I’m going to finish and publish my novel.” Instead, let’s focus on things that will improve the literary community and really make you a better writer. Here are ten things every writer should do this year:
Donate to a literary magazine
There are boatloads of great literary magazines out there, and most of them need your help to stay alive. Many lit mags are self-funded and operate entirely on donations, and each year the cost of running a lit mag goes up. Throw a few bucks to your favorite lit mag this year. Let’s keep great lit mags alive, and this will help more of them be able to pay contributors.
Buy and read a book that’s outside your comfort zone
Do you mostly read the same genre and the same authors? This year you need to pick up a book that’s not in your usual wheelhouse. Doing so will enrich your mind and give you some different perspectives both on writing and on life. There’s no need to discard your favorites or sign some ridiculous pact that says you won’t read books by certain authors anymore. Just find a book or two that’s not usually on your list.
Write something out of your comfort zone
If you always write the same thing, you may get into a rut and find it hard to become a better writer. This year, try writing something different. If you’re a poet, write some fiction. If you only write long fiction, try some flash. If you’re stuck on “literary” fiction, then dip your toe into some genre. Writing something different won’t just make you a more well-rounded writer. It might open up a new opportunity for you. You might also really enjoy it.
Submit to a writing contest
You’ve been thinking about it for awhile, but for one reason or another you’ve always held off on submitting. Maybe you thought you wouldn’t win, or maybe you just didn’t finish your submission in time. No excuses this year. Find a writing contest and send in your best work. You might not win, but it will make you a better writer.
Read for a lit mag
If you really want to contribute to the literary community while also greatly enhancing your own writing, reading for a lit mag is pretty much the best thing you can do. You’ll read hundreds of unique voices and get a much better sense of what makes a good–and bad–submission. There are always calls for readers out there, or you can contact your favorite lit mag and ask if they are looking for readers. While you probably won’t get paid for your efforts, the rewards will make you rich.
Share the works of other writers
You always post your own stories on social media. And maybe you post stories from a few of your friends. But what about all those other great stories you read? It’s time to share more work. If you do it, others will follow, and soon Facebook and Twitter feeds will be filled with great literature instead of pessimism and garbage. Let’s make some stories other than “Cat Person” go viral this year!
Buy some of your friends’ books instead of just liking their posts
You’re a good friend. Every time you see a friend post about their book, you like it. But how often do you buy it? From my personal experience, fewer than 10% of people who like a book announcement will actually buy the book. Sure, part of it comes down to limited funds. After all, you can’t buy every book that pops up in your feed. But make more of a commitment to buy the hard work of your friends. After you buy a book, post a picture and a review. Encourage others to buy it (if it’s good). Who knows? Maybe your friends will return the favor someday.
Submit smarter, not more often
Too many writers take the approach of “more is more” when it comes to submissions. They vow to submit their work every day or shoot for X number of rejections per year. Submissions shouldn’t be a pure numbers game. If you take a more strategic approach, you’ll get fewer rejections and more acceptances. How do you do it? Only submit when your work is actually a good fit for a publication. I’ve covered this topic extensively here. If you play your submissions right, you can probably send out your work half as often and get published twice as much. Just know that it won’t be easy and that you still will face some rejection. But overall, you’ll be more successful.
Attend more readings
Another great way to support the literary community is by attending readings. I’m not talking about readings by big-time authors that require admission fees. I’m talking about small readings at indie bookstores. Readings by writers who haven’t made it big yet. While you’re there, buy some books and meet those readers. This is a great opportunity to expand your network, become friends with great people, and gain new insight into the lit community.
Read more than you write
As has been said a million times before, the best way to become a better writer is to read more. If you write for an hour a day, then read for two hours a day. How much you read and write will obviously depend on your schedule. If need be, cut out some writing to make room for more reading. I promise you that the writing you do will be better and more efficient if you read more.
What other writing resolutions do you have for the new year? Share your own in the comments.