by Ruth Harris

With tongue firmly in cheek, Ruth Harris tells us what NOT to do in the coming year to further our writing careers. We both wish you the very best in 2016!...Anne

1) Resolve to discard those notebooks that clutter your hard drive, desktop or desk, pockets, backpack, and purse.

The story idea you can't get out of your mind, the one that wakes you up at night and intrudes when you're otherwise occupied? You’re way too busy to spare a few minutes to jot down a note.

The chapter you’re bogged down on and hate writing? Your muse might be telling you you're on the wrong track but how can the notes you make while writing a reverse outline help?

The dazzling idea or sudden zap of inspiration that flashes through your mind? It’s great. It’s terrific, so why bother to write it down. You’ll remember it, right? Wrong.

Who said that the idea that doesn’t work today won’t work a year from now? If you’ve made a note, that idea will be there when you need it.

2) Resolve to save time and energy (but not money) by not learning to make a style sheet.

A style sheet? Never heard of it. Besides, whatever it is, it sounds like a PITA.

Seriously, you need one.

(Sighs) Well, OK, since you’re being a complete drag about it, tell me: exactly what a style sheet is and why should I bother to find out?

3) Resolve to go on a diet.

High Protein? Low carb? Paleo? Uh-uh. I'm talking about a reading diet. After all, everyone knows diets don't work so why waste your time reading in—and out—of your genre? Why bother to spend your time delving into books that succeed and books that fail and trying to figure out what's the difference and why?

Why should you clog your brain with newspapers and non-fiction? Digital or print, vintage or current, newspapers, magazines, books, and blogs offer interesting, offbeat, shocking, lurid, provocative and enlightening content.

You certainly don't think you might get a great idea for a book, character or super plot twist from a news article about classic movies set during World War II or an account of a kayak trip through the remote outer islands of Indonesia, do you?

4) Resolve to buy reviews. Amazon will never notice.

Think of all the time and energy you'll save:

No wasting time querying book reviewers!

No sending out those pesky ARCs!

No waiting for someone, anyone, to post a review!

No risking the possibility of a one-star slam!

Why bother when you can buy—guaranteed!—a thousand five-star reviews for about five bucks. What's not to like?

Anne has a few thoughts that might help keep you out of solitary in the Amazon SuperMax: Why You Should Never Pay for Amazon Reviews.

5) Resolve to embrace the frazzle.

You know from experience that you do your best work when you are feeling overwhelmed, out of control, and stressed out.

So what if your first chapter doesn't make any sense? So what if your all-in, expensive promo campaign is for the wrong book because you made a mistake on the submission forms? So what if your muse has gone AWOL? So what if your blood pressure is in the stratosphere and your spouse/partner/best friend/roommate is halfway out the door?

How about you calm down and cool down? A walk, a bike ride, a few minutes to get up from your desk and unload the dishwasher: all help. So will a well-chosen yoga tape or some time out for meditation and/or deep breathing to help get you back in primo working order.

Yoga for beginners to get you started (or restarted).

Kundalini yoga.


Over 200 free yoga classes on line.

Time out for meditation.

Controlled breathing.

6) Resolve to spend more time spamming your book on Twitter, Facebook and GooglePlus.

After all, people love to be bombarded with relentless Buy Me! Buy Me! tweets, posts, messages and newsletters. Oh, and don't forget about the DMs!

Everyone will love you and every single person you friended four years ago and haven't heard from since will whip out the money to buy your book.


Heed the chapter and verse from Anne on how not to be a spammer.

7) Resolve to self-publish an unedited, unproofread, and unspell-checked novel.

So what if there are hundreds (thousands?) of typos? What if the grammar is so bad people think it was translated by chimpanzees in a Bulgarian yogurt factory? What if the main character's name changes from Bruce to Suzanne halfway though the book? Transgender characters are on trend, right?

Besides, no one's gonna notice anyway, are they?

Besides, if someone (or someones, plural) does notice and slams you with a few dozen one-stars, you're tough enough to take the incoming. Aren’t you?

Of course you are, because you’re a master of mixed martial arts for writers.

8) Resolve to marry your title and never, ever budge.

Here are some tips on how to choose the right book title.

9) Resolve to ignore social media.

Your book is so brilliant people will slog through pages of Google results just to find it. They will enjoy the treasure hunt, cherish that nugget of gold (aka your book), and shower it with five-star reviews.

Or will they? Why social media is still your best path to book visibility.

10) Your romances sell. Your mysteries don't. You resolve to abandon the romances and write another 10 mysteries.

You just you *know* that if you just keep at it, those mysteries will make you rich and famous.

Uh? You’re sure?

You are? Really?

Well. Whatever.

11) Resolve to take your own sweet time writing your next book.

Masterpieces take a lot of thought, effort and time.

Michael Crichton spent 8 years researching and writing Jurassic Park. It took him 20 years to write and publish Sphere. He liked 'cooking' ideas in his head before he began writing.

After The Hobbit was published, J.R.R. Tolkien spent nearly 16 years working on the sequel. He began writing parts of The Lord of the Rings in 1936 and spent over 10 years writing just the primary narrative and appendices.

Larry McMurtry had the idea for an epic western movie in 1972. When it fell through, he decided to turn the screenplay into a novel instead. Lonesome Dove was published 13 years later.

You've set your sights high. You want to be in Michael's, Larry's and J.R.R.'s league, so you're going to put in all the time necessary.

Besides, speed kills.

Or does it? Here are my tips on how to write faster.

Ian Fleming wrote the James Bond thrillers in three months.

Frederick Forsyth wrote The Day of the Jackal in 35 days.

Muriel Spark wrote  The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie  in one month.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote The Gambler in 26 days while also writing Crime and Punishment (and helping his wife with the dishes).

by Ruth Harris (@RuthHarrisBooks) December 27, 2015

Ruth Harris is a NYT million-book-selling author and former Big 5 editor. She posts here on the last Sunday of every month.

So, scriveners, what resolutions are you making to further your writing career? Meanwhile, whatever resolutions you choose to make (or break LOL), Anne and I wish you all the best for a very, very Happy New Year!


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A must-read for animal lovers.
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Beautiful and inspirational, A KISS AT KIHALI draws on the power of human-animal relationships, the heroic accomplishments of African animal orphanages, and the people, foreign and Kenyan, drawn to careers involving the care and conservation of wild animals. Filled with drama and danger that lead to a happy ending, A KISS AT KIHALI will appeal to readers who love tender romance and who have personally experienced the intense, mystical bond between humans and animals.

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