How satisfying is it to start the year off with a set of resolutions you assure yourself you’ll achieve – or, as my character Oliver Clock does in The Likely Resolutions of Oliver Clock, jots down goals in his ‘Notebook of Resolutions’ throughout the year? The problem is, however, that like Oliver, many of us never even start the resolutions we make, let alone achieve them. For all those aspiring writers out there, here are my top ten tips and resolutions that are, hopefully, achievable all year round.

The Likely Resolutions of Oliver Clock

The Likely Resolutions of Oliver Clock

The best tip I can give and the best resolution you could make for yourself is to, quite simply, write – because, let’s face it, you can’t call yourself a writer, if you don’t actually do it. It’s the only way to learn the process, find your voice, find your style, and improve. Trust me, it works!

Conversely, if you want to be a writer, you should also be a reader. Read the sort of things you’d like to write, be inspired by the written word, and learn from all the talented writers out there. Be educated and entertained at the same time.

Beginner writers are often told to write about what you know but I don’t think you necessarily have to. I knew nothing about the funeral industry before writing my novel and that didn’t stop me – in fact, it made it all the more interesting as I loved finding out about it. We all know what it is to be human and drawing on one’s emotional and life experiences is what really drives character. Everything else you can research.

On the topic of research, don’t get bogged down in it. We all know how easy it is to get side-tracked by interesting facts and tidbits of information and waste hours of time on the Internet when it could be better spent writing. Unless, perhaps, you’re writing something like an historical novel, I suggest when you’re starting out to research just enough so you can begin writing and then when you’ve finished, fact-check and fill in the gaps and details where required.

One of my favourite writing quotes is by Anton Chekhov: ‘Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass’, which basically means show don’t tell. Draw on all the powers of your imagination to paint a picture. Sometimes it’s easier said than done but, boy, done well, it will take your writing to the next level.

When I’m writing, I sometimes find it helpful to think about it as if it were a film and use cinematic techniques, such as zooming in, zooming out, keeping the dialogue sparse, ensuring pace changes and focusing on the mood you’re trying to create. Visualisation is a really helpful technique for a writer because the more you can see and feel what you’re writing, the more the reader will be able to as well.

Pretend you’re a cynical journalist and question yourself regularly – about the characters (why they’re doing what they’re doing etc), the plot (why does ‘x’ happen when it does etc), and ultimately, what it is you’re writing about. For if you don’t know or don’t even care much about what you’re writing, then your readers won’t either. As strange as it may sound, by the end of writing The Likely Resolutions of Oliver Clock, Oliver felt like my best friend – someone whom I was helping through a life crisis and when I finished writing about him, it was sad to say goodbye.

Don’t just write but re-write, over and over and over … Then repeat the process. Learning how to edit your work is just as important as mastering the art of writing.

Be open to inspiration always and everywhere. Be the silent observer and don’t be shy to eavesdrop in public – at cafes, in the street, on buses and trains. You’ll be amazed at what real life can throw your way.

Don’t give up. If you really want to write and be published, keep on at it. But if you love it enough, you won’t want to anyway. Happy writing!

The Likely Resolutions of Oliver Clock by Jane Riley is published on 1st February by Lake Union (price £8.99 paperback original)