Please consider a donation to help fund Vision: A Resource for Writers

Lazette Gifford,
Margaret McGaffey Fisk,
Assistant Editor

Issue # 55
January/February 2010

Table of Contents

Advice for Young Writers
This Year I Will...

By Elizabeth Chayne

Copyright © 2010, Elizabeth Chayne, All Rights Reserved

New Year's Resolutions: you and I know all about them. They're the things you make on January the first, break before January the fourth, and then make you feel so guilty for the rest of the year that you promise yourself that next year you will...

Yet here I am, suggesting that you make a writing resolution for the year. What? Another promise to yourself that you can break before the end of the first week of the year? But, well, making and trying to keep a resolution is definitely better than not doing anything at all. And, yes, you may find yourself breaking it, but guess what? Breaking a resolution once doesn't mean that you can never make the resolution again. You can make February Resolutions. And March ones. Even January the fifth ones.

Some samplers to get you started are listed below. You can pick one or two, or, if you're feeling up to it, try them all!

1. Read some books you don't usually read. Maybe you hate sci-fi, or mysteries, or sword and sorcery books. Maybe there are specific reasons for your hatred, or maybe you just hate these books on principle. It doesn't matter. Try some of the books you hate. Why? Because the books got published. (I'm not saying that all books that get published have to be good, but since someone took the time to write it and edit it and publish it, there must be something good about it. And if there is something good about the book, it just might be something you'd like to try in your own writing.) Oh, yeah, and there's also the chance that you might find that you actually like some of the books you thought you hated.

2. Try reading some magazines, too. Yes, try to read some magazines you haven't read before. If you read fashion magazines and pretty much nothing else, then take a trip to the periodical section of the library. Read the fiction magazines, or the science magazines. You'll learn a lot of things you never knew before. Read the short stories and try to guess the plots. Learn about new discoveries and apply them to your stories: someone inventing time machines? Surely you can work that into a story?

3. Try writing something you don't usually write. Yes, another "try something new" resolution. If you usually write fantasy books, try your hand at mysteries. If you usually have teenage boys as your main character, try a story with a teenage girl, or a middle-aged man as the main character. Why? Because, like reading different books, sometimes trying different genres aids you in understanding different types of writing. You may find that you're actually good at writing poetry, for example. As a beginning writer, you should try as many genres and styles as possible (both reading and writing them), so as to find your own unique voice.

4. Schedule some writing time. Now, here's one of those resolutions you might find hard to keep: schedule some time (daily, weekly, or monthly, whichever works for you) to write. You don't have to be writing a novel. Writing in your journal, or jotting down a poem is okay. The time doesn't have to be hours and hours either: set your alarm clock for half an hour, or forty minutes, grab a pen and start writing. After the time is up, you can go on if you want, or you can put your notebooks away.

5. Pay attention in English class. What? "Pay attention in English class?" Yeah, right. So it may not be what you want to do, but English class really is important to a writer. Well, all of your classes contain information that might come in useful as a writer, but English class is the one that will definitely come in useful. Grammar, spelling...enough said.

Most stories begin at the “New Year's Resolution” moment. That is to say, they start at the place where the main character decides to make a change, or where things change for the main character. After all, you'd hardly want to read a story where no one ever changes.

This year, focus on your writing. Take risks. Venture down unknown paths. Who knows, you may be writing the start of your own writing story!

  • Writing Exercise: January
    • Take an old, clichéd essay topic and do something new with it. Examples:
      • My Birthday Present
      • My Family
      • What I Want To Be When I Grow Up
      Try to view the topic from alternate angles. You don't have to write about a birthday present you liked; you can write about one you hated, or one you thought was useless but later came in handy. The essay doesn't have to be 100% true: you add fantasy elements or write in the third character if you wish.

  • Writing Exercise: February

  • Find some inspiration this month by listening to conversations that take place around you. Whether you're on a bus, or at the lunch table, there are bound to be people talking. Take the snippets of conversation that intrigue you, and use them as the first line of a story (you can use them in the middle, or the end, if you prefer). Try not to seem like a stalker, though!

    Bio: Elizabeth Chayne works as a writer and writing tutor. She can be reached at

    There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.
    -- Oscar Wilde