January is a tough month – but a great time to stay in and write. Kirsty McLachlan offers some tips for making this a productive month for writers.
January is a time for change, for inspiration, for doing something new – but it’s also cold, damp and dreary so staying in and writing is the perfect thing to do (preferably on the sofa). At London Writers’ Club we decided to support our community of writers throughout the month of January by launching our first Stay in and Write month – 31 days of writing ideas, inspiration, writing exercises and inspiring advice from editors, publishers, agents and authors. I’d like to share with you ten of the top ways to Stay in and Write in January here.
1. Write from your heart
Write your first draft with your heart. Re-write with your head. – From the movie Finding Forrester
Write a page – a paragraph – or if you have more time, something longer. Leave it alone to stew and then in the evening, go back to it and see what you’ve written. You may have to throw away 90% of the words or just snip at the corners.
2. Give yourself some treats
‘I operate a complex reward system to get me through writing difficult/dull bits; I treat myself like a small child, or pet, in need of constant encouragement and treats. January is too bleak to use the ’stick’ part of the equation.’
3. Do it for love
Write without pay until somebody offers to pay – Mark Twain
When you’re just starting out it’s hard to decide where to begin. So don’t ‘decide’. Just start writing. A blog is a good place to start exercising your writing muscle. You don’t have to have a book deal in mind or have a specific publisher as your target – write to find your voice and your subject and the business stuff can come later.
4. Read out loud
The Shortfire Press was launched this month by publisher Clare Hey. It’s a digital publisher specializing in short story ebooks by emerging and established writers. Clare’s tip for January writing is:
‘When writing dialogue, try reading it out loud. You may feel a bit daft but you’ll notice the way it sounds and pick up any unnaturalness or awkwardness.’
5. Read short stories
One of literary agent David Godwin‘s top tips for writing is to READ. But, ah, it’s tough when you’ve not got much time. What about short stories? The perfect way to discover great writing in short bursts. Some great collections are:
- Angela Carter’s Book of Wayward Girls and Wicked Women
- Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender
- A Winter Book: Selected Stories by Tove Jansson.
6. Write for fifteen minutes a day
Cat Clarke, co-runs, The Lighthouse, a literary consultancy offering services for children’s/YA books. Cat is also a former publisher and now a writer – her book Entangled will be published this month by Quercus. Her writing tip is:
‘Write for fifteen minutes a day. Everyone can find a spare fifteen minutes, and you’ll probably end up writing for longer! Little and often is the key for me.’
7. Be reachable
Be reachable and set up a very small one page website – it will take you an hour tops and just means you are out there. Your site should include the following: your name, your contact details and any other relevant details such as previous writing experience, or expertise in your subject if you are writing non fiction.
8. Write one day at a time
Matt Whyman is a writer of both adult and children’s books. His new book Oink! My Life with Minipigs will be published in February. His top tip for January is:
‘Don’t look at the month ahead and wonder whether you’ll manage. Focus on one day at a time. It’s a method that works when it comes to post-Christmas detoxing, and just as effective for getting a story written.’
9. Ignore your inner demons
Gail Godwin is the author of over fifteen books and has recently published two volumes of her memoirs entitled The Making of a Writer. We all have our inner demons or critics who tell us our writing is no good, so take some tips from Gail on how to deal with our ‘Watchers’:
‘Look for situations when he’s likely to be off-guard. Write too fast for him, in an unexpected place, in an unexpected time. Write when very tired. Write in purple ink on the back of a Mastercard statement. Write whatever comes into your mind when the kettle is boiling and make the steamwhistle your deadline.’
10. Don’t give up, be persistent
You can’t try to do things, you must simply do them – Ray Bradbury
It took short story writer Ray Bradbury years before he reached a level in his writing he thought was good – remember you are a writer every time you write, but sometimes it takes persistence and a lot of drafts before you are a great writer.
January is not the time for drastic diets and tough exercise regimes, nor is it time as a writer to try and set unrealistic challenges or timeframes. Remember to be gentle on yourselves and keep to the ‘little and often’ rule. SIAW is completely free and there is still time to sign up for the daily ezines through the sign up box on the London Writers’ Club website. For lessons on your sofa, our fiction teleclass kicks off on Monday.
What are your top tips for staying in and writing in January? Let us know in the comments below.