Writing Craft Growth and Goals for 2011

Happy holidays, everyone! For the last week of the year, I'm turning the discussion over to you.

How has your writing craft improved over the last year, and what aspect of your craft to want to focus on for the next year?

I will go first. Over the last year, I've developed a sharper eye for ferreting out awkward sentences and unnecessary words. Interestingly, I think blogging was better practice for learning clean prose than long form fiction, although I do think the benefits transfer.*

Next year, I'd like to focus on character development. I just finished the first draft of my novel last week (woot!), and in the second draft I'd like to give the characters more dynamic range. Expect some blog posts on this soon. :-)

Okay dear readers, your turn!

*And of course, someone's going to leave a comment pointing out awkward sentences in this post :-)


  1. Your sentences seemed perfectly non-awkward to me! :-) Character development is something I've been working on a lot this year...and planning on working on a lot next year too.

  2. I did something very similar on my blog last week. It's a great exercise to get to know your strengths and weaknesses:


  3. I'm going to post my 2011 goals in a couple days.
    By "dynamic range" I got a picture of characters singing louder. I honestly don't know what you mean by that.
    I'm thinking you mean something like making them more unique and real to the reader.

    Next year I'm going to focus on being more productive with my time. :)

  4. *sigh* what's the point of making up brilliant literary terms if nobody understands them? :-) I was thinking about showing the characters in situations that cause them to act in different ways -- so they don't just have one mood/style/way of behaving. I'll try to blog less confusingly about it next year...

  5. This year I think I've learned how to structure my stories better before I write the first draft, so they don't turn into aimless, messy piles of you know what. Thank you, Damon Knight, Gene Wolfe, and a bunch of others I probably forgot.

    For next year, I'm developing a pretty comprehensive plan to work on all the aspects of writing I can think of. It's modeled roughly after Ben Franklin's plan to cultivate thirteen virtues in himself. My list currently has ten aspects, so if I stick with it I should cycle through about five times a year. I might have to divide the ten aspects into smaller chunks as well, since they're on the vague side right now. I shall see how my experiment goes and make adjustments as I go.

    I'm also going to try and follow Franklin's plan as well, since it can't hurt to cultivate virtue at the same time as developing my writing skills, right? His number four applies to my writerly habits quite often: "Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve." Now I should stop procrastinating about my latest story...

    By the way, I've enjoyed your blog so far, Livia. It's not often that I see a blog from a writer/neuroscientist.

  6. Over the year, my writing probably hasn't increased much. I think my plotting and story arcs are better than they were. Maybe.
    But my biggest problem, and probably my focus for next year is my habit of cramming so much information and perfect scientifically correct facts into the story that it becomes boring.
    So, I think my goal is, write less boring.

  7. I've learned to tell a story more in my own words - but that's because I've learned so much in the past four years of writing this danged novel that I kind of know what to do, enough so that I can relax and just tell the story. So the next goal is to STOP REVISING. Sell the sucker.

  8. I posted my resolution(s) for 2011 and they are:

    - No more coulda, shoulda, wouldas. I coulda done that if I tried. I shoulda done that and it would have made such a difference in my life. I woulda done that if only I had (fill in the blank).

    - Don’t mistake motion for progress. Progress means you actually accomplished something. Motion is spinning your wheels on unproductive activities. There’s a difference.

  9. these are great writing goals, will like my writing to have more depth.

  10. I've gotten better at description and scene-setting. And I finished my first novel! (At least for now.) I would like to become a faster, more efficient writer. Maybe I can complete my next project in a more reasonable amount of time!

  11. In 2010, after two decades as a journalist, I learned to write book.

    I've always been able to write tight, concise sentences, so that wasn't an issue. Teaching myself to write convincing dialogue was much more difficult. But I have struggled — and continue to struggle — with finding the voice for my 13-year-old Vietnamese protagonist. Finally, with the help of a brilliant editor (my wife, and she is the best editor I've ever worked with) and some terrific beta readers, I feel like I'm close. I've started looking for an agent.

    For 2011, I hope to move from a middle-reader to YA adventure, which I think will be a more natural fit for my style. I want to find my voice early, and really settle in so I can create a brilliant plot.

    Best luck to all of us!

  12. This is an area I'm focusing on this year as well. I think character development is one of the hardest parts of craft (willing to bet most published writers would say they struggle with it too). Counterintuitively, maybe, I find the characters that are most like me the hardest to define and develop.

    Good luck with your goal this year, and congratulations on finishing your first draft - a HUGE accomplishment!

  13. Congratulations again on finishing your first draft!

    As for me, my writing craft has improved by leaps and bounds over the past year (even if I sometimes fall back on cliches that are tried and true). I'm much more adept at identifying weak writing, and have gained many new ways to improve such prose. Also, instead of individual scenes, I now see the bigger picture: the character and story arcs, the obvious plot holes, the passages which serve no purpose.

    Unfortunately, I've incorporated almost none of this into my novel so far. Therefore, the aspect of my craft I'll be focusing on most in 2011 is this: Butt In Chair. (Also, Eyes Not On Internet.)

    Best of luck with your revisions, Livia!

  14. My main issue is procrastination. I should write, but I end up commenting on blogs and tweeting and stuff.

    So, um...hi. Happy New Year! :)

  15. Last year, I learned how to better organize my stories up front with a mutable outline done on notecards. It allows me a happy medium between outlining and discovery-writing. This year, I'd like to get better at picking the right moment to jump into a scene, thereby avoiding unnecessary lead-in.