A writer’s to-do list for the New Year

As the calendar flips over to January, here’s a quick rundown of goals you might consider in the new year. At least one writer affiliated with the Fairfield Writers’ Blog (FWB) has already adopted them for 2013.

• Put your work-in-progress (WIP) into Scrivener and become competent in that writer’s program. Joanne Hus of our Saturday writers’ group was the first person who passed along a rave about Scrivener; that was several years ago. The program does cost money to download, and there may be other applications you can find for free that are useful. Plus, there’s always the ubiquitous Microsoft Word. As 2013 dawns, though, Scrivener is a key application in many writers’ toolboxes. For example, friends of our Saturday group and the FWB, including Gabi Coatsworth and Linda Howard Urbach, have written about it online (Linda, as usual, with tongue firmly in cheek). If you need any more convincing, in the Acknowledgments at the end of his big 2012 book Telegraph Avenue, Michael Chabon lets us know that, “This novel was written using Scrivener on Macintosh computers.” That’s a good enough endorsement for us.

• Sit down and read the first draft of your WIP from beginning to end, then revise same all the way through. Often you have no legitimate excuse for not finishing your revisions. But not always. Remember a couple of months ago when we blogged about local author A. J. O’Connell’s revision efforts on her novel? Like us, she’s still at it, she reports at her site “The Garret.” But she has a good excuse for not finishing in 2012. In the final few months of the year, she also wrote—and signed a publishing contract for—The Eagle and the Arrow, a sequel to her novella Beware the Hawk. Bravo!

• Submit your short stories, creative nonfiction and/or journalism for publication on a regular basis. Use such helpful sites as duotrope.com, with its search feature of outlets for your work (available to paid subscribers as of January 1, 2013), and submittable.com, the popular submissions management site for many literary journals. “Regular basis” means monthly at minimum. One of the writers in our Saturday workshop followed this formula, through many discouraging rejections. Then three acceptances arrived within weeks of one other. Superstition precludes the FWB from offering any further details, though, until the stories are in print.

• Watch the documentary “Tom Wolfe Goes Back to Blood.” WolfeMovieDespite the mixed-at-best verdict of the reviews of the author’s latest novel Back to Blood, how often do you get to follow a master writer, over a four-year period, doing the work of creating a book? A great opportunity to see Oscar Corral’s film in a local auditorium came and went this past fall at the refurbished Bijou Theatre in downtown Bridgeport, Connecticut. You should be able to watch it via the bigstar.tv website, which requires that you log in.

• Read Virginia Wolff’s To the Lighthouse for its lessons in shifting points of view and communicating characters’ interior thoughts. Too many mentors and fellow writers have recommended this classic to ignore it any longer, despite the fear that it may be difficult.

• Write some fresh articles of journalism and a fresh pieces of fiction. You may not be there yet as you keep refining your WIP, but the time may come to heed a few words of wisdom from novelist Elinor Lipman, who writes delightful domestic comedies (The Pursuit of Alice Thrift, et al.). She heard this once from her writing mentor: “Sometimes the best form of revision is to start something new.”

Happy New Year and good writing in 2013!—Alex McNab