How Are You Strengthening Your Writing Muscles?

What new things are you doing this year to build your strength as a writer? Going to a conference? Taking a class? Sticking to your New Year’s resolution? (What was that resolution, by the way?)

Please share your experiences in the Comments.


20 thoughts on “How Are You Strengthening Your Writing Muscles?

  1. I like to call it a goal, rather than a New Year’s resolution, which is too discouraging if I don’t meet it: My second novel is 99.9% ready for publication, so my goal for 2018 is to finish my third novel.

    The major new and exciting thing I’m doing this year to strengthen me as a writer: we are selling our traditional house and purchasing a work/live loft in a converted textile mill that only houses artists and writers. In addition to gaining a collection of artistic neighbors, I’m also getting my own writing space—an area partitioned off with walls and a door I can close. (For the past 24 years, my writing area has been a table located in the busiest part of our house, where the front door, living room, and dining room converge.) As a tradeoff for stealing the partitioned space for my writing room, I am relinquishing (most of) the remaining loft to my husband for his art projects.

    • Wow, exciting changes ahead for you all! It sounds like you’re moving to a veritable hive of artistic energy. Congratulations!

  2. Finish a craft book (including exercises!) cover to cover. I get going on these things and just lost steam. Currently struggling with: Building Great Sentences by Brooks Landon. I think the word ‘tome’ was invented specifically to describe this book.

    Read more, better fiction. Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad put me on this track.

    Do what I don’t like. In my case, it’s make an outline. I promised myself I’d do this last year in time for NaNoWriMo, but the train jumped the track on Plot Twist Bend. This year, with a shiny new locomotive and sturdier rails, I might make it.

    • “Building Great Sentences”? That title alone is tough going. Thanks for visiting us today, Doug!

    • I just wanted to offer a caution on doing something you don’t like. I am very much for expanding one’s horizons and attempting to work outside of one’s comfort zone so as to learn continuously.

      Last year, I spent a year working with a developmental editor who approaches story from the opposite spectrum from my own natural inclination. I am a die-hard outliner, she was more of a “let’s see what happens,” kind of free-spirit. I chose her for that specific reason so I could learn to understand and appreciate that approach and (hopefully) add to my toolbox.

      After a year of doing it the way I don’t like (i.e., not outlining but just going with the flow), what I discovered was that is not how my brain is wired. It literally almost destroyed my drive to be a writer.

      It’s taken four three months of re-examination and study to get back to a place where I feel comfortable with my own process. The point is, try something you don’t like if your curious, but don’t force yourself to do something that doesn’t work for you just because “people” say you should. You know what works for you and what doesn’t. Don’t fall into the trap I did and go too deep.

      • Logan, amen to that. Thankfully I discovered the false promise of outlining early on. I think using anything but sitting down with a key board to be a waste of time. It’s a lonely spot to be in but the imagination works clearer alone than with others. Plus I don[t jump up and buy books i’m not familiar with its author. I’ve fund a number or authors I enjoy and I stick with them. Why edge out on thin ice I may not like.

  3. I’m going to the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival – for 22 days! two week-long classes, one on revision, one on plot, and two week-end classes on short story and dialogue. Can’t wait! I’m sure somewhere along the way my head will explode

    • That sounds like an invaluable deep dive into the creative process. I’m envious!

  4. My resolutions were to: (1) write new text (revision not qualifying for this resolution) in unfinished writing projects for an hour at the beginning of each day before I do anything else, and (2) more religiously make notes of ideas for new and unfinished projects/stories and add them to my writing task lists, as they occur to me, for weekly review and action.

    Thank you. Your post was helpful in reminding me to redouble my efforts to carry out these resolutions.

    • Revisions don’t qualify? Aack! That IS guaranteed to build muscle. Thanks for visiting us today, David!

  5. My goals were to find good recently published books, done!, and to finish a manuscript by October, going swimmingly.

  6. This sounds just like DougB’s comment above, but I am also working my way through craft books, and I’m reading more (in my case more of my genre, horror). Also, I’m striving to make better outlines for my next two books, the second outline to be ready in time for NaNoWriMo.

    My 2018 NYR’s: Write three first drafts and do one second draft while simultaneously working on the craft. I tend to break my New Year’s resolutions into twelve-week goals, and so far I’m on track. I’m kinda stoked about 2018 to tell you the truth!

    • Sounds like you’re tearing up the track, Priscilla! Keep on keepin’ on!!

  7. Literally building muscles is a good idea for those of us who spent a good chunk of our day sitting on our rears. Walking and letting the ideas perk or just being mindful of the world around is a good thing. So is going to the gym and keeping the back strong for the surprisingly physical stress while we sit on our rears.

    • Also, showers. Some of the best ideas strike during a nice, long, contemplative shower! 😎

  8. This might be the antithesis of the original question, but … my New Years Resolution (and the thing I’m trying to do to build my writing muscles) is to boycott all workshops, seminars, class, courses, books on craft, and any other learning experience.

    The point is to minimize the distraction and the clutter and focus on actually getting words on the page and finishing something submittable. I certainly don’t believe I’ve learned all there is to learn, but there comes a time when the fear of missing out on some brilliant lecture or book needs to be put aside in favor of getting the work done, and I’ve been allowing myself to be led by that fear for too long.

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