“Rewrite until it hurts!” – New Year’s Resolutions For Fiction Writers

Written by Jemima 

Have you found yourself wondering if the whole New Year’s resolutions concept is getting a little jaded and tatty around the edges?

If so, allow me a shot at rekindling your passion for pledges to the Self. I know that most of us writers can raise a hand on having made heartfelt promises that have been spectacularly broken, with a mighty tumble before the end of January. Could it be that those resolutions were somehow inadequately charged? What we need, it would seem, is to tap into the thrumming of thousands of years of human history.

The first record of New Year’s resolutions draws us back to ancient Babylonia and the festival of Akitu. Almost four millennia ago, the turning of the year was marked by making promises to the gods – to pay debts, and return what had been borrowed. The mighty resolve for an annual reinvention has trickled and mutated alongside human evolution ever since. When you dig deep and make pledges to your future self, consider the act to be tapping into humanity’s vast collective ancestry. Well… tune in, dear writers, and charge up some resolutions for a bona fide transformation of revolutionary scale! 😜

1. Rewrite Until It Hurts

This New Year’s resolution is the one I plan on making flirtatious eyes at over my seasonal cranberry margaritas. So much so that I’m envisioning printing it out in a triple-digit font size and hanging it above my desk well before the stroke of midnight on the 31st. I don’t carve out enough time for rewriting, or savor this part of the process for the underappreciated delicacy that it is. American novelist Bernard Malamud said: “I would write a book, or a short story, at least three times – once to understand it, the second time to improve the prose, and a third to compel it to say what it still must say.”

So, what are we trying to say?

In truth, being a writer means holding entry passes to two endurance events. The first is getting the words out, and down on the page; the second is honing and polishing those words until they flow over and absorb the reader, without so much as a stutter. Maybe your particular sporting category is more of a baton race – you write, and re-write; write, and re- write. Simply, we mustn’t forget that we are multi-disciplinary athletes, and indulge in a little writers masochism when necessary! 😉🙀

Legendary sci-fi writer Michael Chrichton told us that: “Books aren’t written – they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.

“Seventh!?!”

I hear you exclaim in dismay. But don’t be distressed by the wild and tempestuous art-form that you, as a writer, must tame and make your pet. The rewrite is the time in which we distill our work to it’s purest essence. We cut out the functionless and dial up the clarity. This is where the magic happens, so resolve to embrace it.

2. Be Prolific

Before we get to bringing our rewriting efforts to heal, the material has to actually be there. Critically acclaimed novelist Jodi Picoult pointed out that: “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” For this particular feat of mental hula-hooping, I often draw inspiration from the phenomenal output of Isaac Asimov. I referenced him not long ago, so I’ll draw on another author whose prolific penmanship knew no bounds. Voguecalled Barbara Cartland “the true Queen of Romance”, and write romance she did.

Cartland published 722 books over 80 years, averaging one release every 40 days of her career! As you set out to write – if you feel phased by the scale of the task before you – think of Cartland and know that your writer’s desire will deliver, if you approach the task as an unbreakable resolution.

3. Do Something Out Of The Ordinary

The month of January was named for the two-faced god Janus, who symbolically looked both backwards to the past, and forward into the future. If you envision a more accomplished version of yourself as a writer, look forward through Janus’ eyes and see what makes your future self different.

A new writing routine, or a new space to work in?
A totally new approach to planning and structuring your first draft?

Perhaps resisting the urge to treat your copy as if it’s the One Ring – casting yourself as Sméagol – and refusing to allow anyone else to see it! Talking to other writers, and seeking critiques of your work can be essential and transformative. Yes, that word again – undeniably what New Year’s resolutions are all about…

Ah, I’ll leave you with this poignant excerpt from T.S. Eliot’s poem, Little Gidding:

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice
And to make an end is to make a beginning.

If not the above, what New Year’s resolutions will you be making as writers?

Have a Happy New 2020! Rewrite until it hurts! 🙀😜💃☕️
See you next year, in January!


Next post – 21 January 2020, The Mystery of Deja Vu

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25 Responses

  1. Do you have any tips on how to handle being ignored? I have written several posts lately, which I thought were fantastic and they got very few likes and hardly any comments. Basically I write for my own enjoyment, so I will keep writing even if I get no views, but getting views, likes and comments does make it more rewarding.

    • Victoria Ray NB says:

      I don’t think the posts are ignored… first of all, it is a before-Christmas week 🙂 I think less people are online. For example, I read posts only today lol I had no time for blog-reading, not this week or even the last… have to prioritize: blog & soc media or family & writing.
      I believe people get back to blogs & especially “reading/commenting” in the middle of January.
      At least, I see it so…

      Some of my posts has very little comments too, it’s all about theme & timing (my guess)

  2. masercot says:

    Editing one’s own work is extraordinarily painful because you start getting sick of what you were in love with not so long ago…

  3. George F. says:

    Such sage advice from one so young and beautiful. I’ll take these words to heart…but I have to get past the hump already mentioned by Masercot…I get sick of older posts a bit too fast…wait! I’ll finish the damn story before I go back to the painful beginning…but you keep inspiring Victoria Ray….keep pulling us forward…

    • Victoria Ray NB says:

      Understand;) Im deleting my “old” posts too. I prefer to keep the last 50-60 on the site.
      Thing is… not so many people are reading older posts 🙂

      Glad it was inspiring or at least something to think about…

      And happy holidays 🎄🎄🎄

      • George F. says:

        So NOW you’re deleting your older posts? Ironic, since I just started leaving mine up. Oh well. I like the concept of “permanent storage” since my computer just got hacked and I ALMOST lost everything. (I had all files on a thumb drive…)

  4. I’m afraid to say. Write and rewrite, I guess.
    I wish u all the best and lots of books to come. See u soon.

  5. Eilene Lyon says:

    “a little writers masochism” LOL, so true. All wise advice here, Victoria. And that beefcake photo – oh my!

    Enjoy your holidays and see you in January. Good luck with your resolutions.

    • Victoria Ray NB says:

      Haha 😂 write more – write better 🙂

      Thank you & happy holidays ☃️🕺🍾😀

  6. Sorryless says:

    Doing something out of the ordinary seems simple enough, but oftentimes it proves to be the sticky part of the label.

    Creatures of habit such as yours truly, tend to be superstitious. But this is an excuse, because I think doing something out of the ordinary IS necessary. Gotta stay fresh.

    • Victoria Ray NB says:

      I think you are always adding “extra” to an “ordinary” :)) at least in the posts 👍👍👌⛄️

      Stay happy:) and continue WP journey in 2020! The world needs you!

  7. I like the idea of doing things differently. I think that will be a resolution of 2020.

    • Victoria Ray NB says:

      Agreed 🙂
      More ideas, more books, more sale!!! Yay… 2020 – here we come! 🍾😃🎊🍫

  8. librepaley says:

    Great breajdown, some interesting trivia – and I must pursue the cranberry margarita. Particularly like the point about the tendency to revere the original draft of the text. Truth can be crafted.

  9. parkermccoy says:

    I think Bernard Malamud summed it up perfectly. Three times usually does it for me. I think you can rewrite yourself into oblivion. I write out to see what happens. Then I go over it a few times to strengthen it and then I throw it out to the world. I think consistently churning out material is the key. You’ll get better as you go along but mainly subliminally. At least, that’s what works for me. To each, their own. What a wonderful post. Thanks so much for sharing!

  10. kinkyacres says:

    “Honing and polishing” a great way to enter the new year! Merry Christmas and have a very happy New Year!

  11. You have certainly given me something to think about here. Going to try and do something which forces change. Takes me out of my comfort zone.

    • Victoria Ray NB says:

      ✌️🧡🎈🎆🎄🍀🎊 good luck with anything you’ll start or continue in New 2020!

  12. ortensia says:

    Ok then….after many years I might set some resolution fir 2020🤓

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