The Writer’s Toolbox – I Resolve

There’s something about writing that speaks to the essence of the human person. Or else perhaps It’s the desire to create a tangible legacy, a readable witness to our goals, dreams, and aspirations. Or maybe It’s as simple as keeping ourselves accountable. Whatever the reason, last week New Year’s revellers picked up pen and paper?or turned to their keyboards?and began the first writing task of 2014: New Year’s resolutions.

Did your resolutions include any writing-related goals this year? Whether you’ve resolved to revisit the draft you put together during November’s NaNoWriMo, turn that longtime idea into a self-help book, or just refine your essay-writing techniques, here are some steps to make this year’s writing resolutions stick:

Ring in the new: It’s never too late to learn new writing skills?or revisit those grammar lessons you barely remember from fourth grade. But there’s no need to make a major commitment like a class (unless you want to!). Take it in little bits: subscribe to helpful blogs or podcasts (Grammar Girl is one of my favorites) or get a book and work through it page by page. And of course I’ll continue offering tips and tools in this column. By the end of the year you’ll be amazed at how much you’ve picked up.

You are what you read: You may be what you eat, but your writing is what you read. Or it can be if you focus your reading with an eye to improvement. If you want to become a better fiction writer, read excellent fiction and pay attention to the way the author crafted plot, characters, or dialogue; if you want to improve your essay-writing technique, read scholarly works and focus on structure, reasoning, and clarity.

Writers write: One of the best ways to improve your writing is by practicing, and this is true whether You’re a budding novelist or a student with a stack of papers looming this semester. If You’re looking to write books, short stories, or poetry, find a writing prompt site and challenge yourself to timed free writes on new topics or in new styles. If It’s your academic writing that needs improvement, practice outlining or seek the guidance of an expert. A tutor or writing coach can work with you in person; or check out AU’s Write Site, a fantastic (and free) resource for AU students.

Edit, edit, edit: No one can write a perfect draft?not even Ernest Hemingway, who famously said, ?The first draft of anything is shit.? Plan to go back and edit everything you write, working through it carefully to ensure It’s clear, concise, readable, and as error-free as possible. This applies to research papers and essays too, so be sure to schedule in time to edit your drafts before submitting them.

2014 is a blank page metaphorically, but hopefully it will include some actual writing as well. Try working a few of these suggestions into your resolutions, and 2014 could be your best writing year yet.

Christina M. Frey is a book editor and a lover of great writing. Chat with her on Twitter about all things literary @turntopage2.