Goodreads Blog

Ready to Write in the New Year

Posted by Cynthia on January 05, 2017
Did you make a New Year’s Resolution to write a book this year? Great! But as soon as you sit down and stare at the blank screen, you realize it’s a lot harder than it seems (and oh, won’t that internal editor ever quiet down?). We rounded up some of our favorite authors who shared their advice about writing, where they found inspiration, and their best tips about sticking to that writing habit to help you get this year off to a "write" start.



Find inspiration in books

"It was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. One of the main characters, Jo March, is a headstrong tomboyish writer. I identified with her at a very young age, and was inspired that she wrote. It made me feel like that was something I could also do, to merge imagination and energy within the written word. From then on I have always written. Even if only a few lines a day."
-Patti Smith, author of Just Kids
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Work hard if you want to make a living

"I write for my living, which is a good inspiration - no words, go hungry, sell the children off for medical experiments. Inspiration, of course, is everywhere. In things people say, things they do - everywhere. The hard bit is putting it all together in a 100,000 word book that makes sense."
–Jasper Fforde, author of The Eyre Affair
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Make time for your writing

"I was able to dig my heels in and just say, "My time is MINE for a while" because it's easy to try to peel off creative time and let it go the minute someone else needs it from you. What i did, secretly, is invented a writing partner named Janet, and put her in my calendar as "Janet writing session." So whenever someone asked me if I could do something for them that day, I'd say, "Sorry, Janet is coming over to write with me." Is that creepy or cool? Who knows."
–Felicia Day, author of You're Never Weird on the Internet
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Get inspired by the things around you

"Well, inspiration can come from anywhere. Any idea that fires the imagination, a like a line of dialog that occurs to me in conversation, an aroma, a moment on the street -- the thing is, you have to write whether you're inspired or not. If I only wrote when I was inspired it would take me ten years to write a book."
–Christopher Moore, author of Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal
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Get that inspiration on a page

"I think the things that make me write are a bit like Cheshire Cats popping in and out of my existence. Inspiration in general is usually something I can't anticipate. I take inspiration where I can, and devour it in one piece like I'm starving. Not because I think it's something fleeting that will never return but because I think the best inspiration is the kind that makes you feel urgent. Like you're racing against yourself to get a story on the page while you still remember what that magic feels like."
-Roshani Chokshi, author of The Star Touched Queen
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Allow your imagination to run wild

"We're all trained as kids to stop thinking the ridiculous things and be sensible, and writing is about recapturing the possibility that there are invisible mousemonsters that sneak onto buses and chew the furniture and they are kept in line by a young woman with a magic accordion. It's about permitting yourself to touch the weird in search of the amazing."
-Nick Harkaway, author of The Gone-Away World
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Write something—anything—for 15 minutes a day

"Here is my advice: I get out my kitchen timer and set it for 15 mintues. I am not allowed to stand up until the 15 minutes are over. During that 15 minutes, I write something. Anything — a letter, a poem, a list of people you hate, a prayer, all my favorite words, a childhood memory, a dream. Something. I might even sit there for 15 minutes writing, "I don't know what to write!" but I learned long ago that a "bad" day of writing is still a good day."
-Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love
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Take a time-out from distractions

"I take long walks, which means no phones, no one making demands or asking questions, no e-mail, no TV or music in the background. The silence allows my mind to explore, travel, and imagine."
-Lisa See, author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
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Use music to get yourself in the right mood

"It can be hard to switch gears abruptly from real life to fiction. It's hard to leave a fun breakfast with friends and sit down with a big smile on my face and write a tragic death scene. I use music to trigger and sustain a mood. I have a collection of songs that I use like a painter's palette; I pick a song that fits the tone of the scene I'm working on and play it on loop until the mood shifts. Although anything with vocals will scramble my linguistic center so it all has to be instrumental."
-Isaac Marion, author of Warm Bodies
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Tap into the joy that comes with writing

"I've certainly experienced writer's block and when I do, I read a lot more, hoping to trigger some inspiration. When I have no other choice, I force myself through the block. I make myself write because I am happier when I am writing."
-Roxanne Gay, author of Bad Feminist
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What advice, inspiration, or thoughts do you have on writing? What's your writing resolution for 2017? Share in the comments below! Browse the list of featured authors taking questions, and ask them for their personal advice about writing.

Next: The Author Publishers Herself in this One... and Wins a Goodreads Choice Award

You might also like: Elizabeth Gilbert's Top Ten Tips for Writers

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Comments (showing 1-14 of 14) (14 new)

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message 1: by David (new)

David Johnson I used to get stuck when writing a scene because I couldn't find the exact wording in my head. I would sit and stare at the computer screen, writing, erasing, and rewriting in my head. Now I've found the best thing to do is to keep hammering the keys and write the scene, then I can rewrite and edit when I do a read through later. This technique keeps me from wasting time staring at the screen.


message 2: by Craig (new)

Craig Nova As a Goodreads Author, I thought this, which I produced for the Atlantic Monthly, might be useful. Craig

Here’s the link:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainm...


message 3: by Lynn (new)

Lynn Wilson Another thought - do your research! Immerse yourself in the topic, visit locations, talk to experts, sit and watch, observe and plan! This is the exciting part!!


message 4: by Lorraine (new)

Lorraine Margaret I feel compelled to write about anything that fascinates me, so I can explore my emotions and thoughts about it. I often take myself off to a coffee shop and just start writing the first thing that enters my mind, however uninspiring it is, and after a few minutes my subconscious mind takes over and does the job for me. If I relax my imagination roams wild and free. Tension inhibits that creative flow, so the most important thing is not to get stressed by the need to write and remember why I do it. I love it!


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message 5: by Dwayne (new)

Dwayne Fry I write in all sorts of places. Coffee shops, libraries, home, motel rooms, pretty much anywhere I can. I find that mixing up the writing locations helps get me focused.


message 6: by Fennel (new)

Fennel Hudson I've written a blog for writers here that is designed to inspire you keep going: http://www.fennelspriory.com/blog/wri...

Best wishes, Fennel


message 7: by Sheila (new)

Sheila Cronin Patience is part of writing and self publishing. Just as it takes time to research and write a book, it also takes time to read a book--editors, beta readers, etc. It takes time to absorb a book, write a comment, tell friends, sell a book club on it, get a bookstore interested, promote & market, and above all, think. Being patient is not a waste of time.


message 8: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Shannon Love these tips! Keep them coming!


message 9: by Greg (new)

Greg Seeley I hope this is different than 'voices in my head". I have a general idea of where my story is going to go but then I need to get into my "zone" and wait for my characters to appear. I watch them act out the story, listen to them, and then write down what they do and say as an unseen, unheard observer. Sometimes I feel as though I am invading their privacy but hope they won't mind! Possibly sounds a bit nuts but it works for me. They rarely disappoint me or, I hope, my readers. Greg Seeley - Goodreads author -"Henry's Pride"


message 10: by Paulette (new)

Paulette I carry a small spiral notebook with me everywhere I go, then if I hear a sentence I like or get an idea, I can write it down to use in a book later.

Sometimes my chapters are just series of these lines, and I later go back to fill in the blanks. I actually edit a chapter every time I go to continue to write in it (I have to remind myself what I wrote, so it stands to reason that I would edit it...again and again).

Just write anything...you can always go back and edit it (several times, if needed).


message 11: by James (new)

James Alexander I had the same experience - in fact I had a full scene in mind, and didn't want to write it down. But when I did make myself write it something new and way better came out.


message 12: by Louise (new)

Louise My husband, Stephen Dando-Collins always works from his synopsis. But...he is a good chess player, he knows what moves he must make in advance. Although I am a visionary, and very empathetic with people, the 'chess playing part' often finds me at a stalemate, despite me knowing how the plot comes to a denouement - the end. So, I chastise myself, and force myself to sit and write, putting a character on the page, then the imagination kicks in when I begin to envisage when, where, what, and why are they there. But it must all add to the plot and drive it forward. Then switch the world off.......Louise Dando-Collins


message 13: by Merrilee (new)

Merrilee Robson I had started writing a novel several times and hadn't finished. When I was writing Murder is Uncooperative, I wanted to finish it. I told all my friends I was writing a book and having them ask me "How's the book coming?" kept me at it.
Murder Is Uncooperative by Merrilee Robson


message 14: by S.A.A. (last edited Jan 17, 2017 03:54AM) (new)

S.A.A. Calvert I am not an inventor of twisty plots, so what I have relied on over the years is Character and Place (deliberately capitalised). I try and make my characters real to me and avoid throwaways as much as I can.
1. Write a 'bible', listing each one's foibles. Build up the back-story that doesn't come onto the page. Make them real people, with real motivations and failings. After a while, they will become real to you and start writing themselves.
2. Put a sense of 'place' into your work. The reader should be able to see, hear and smell where they are in the story. Work from somewhere you know, and make it real. Use local knowledge, or run it past experts or natives. I remember one story supposedly set in Newcastle, which is apparently south of York and where they eat rutabagas and zucchini. None of those is correct.
3. You have an opening to grab the reader, and an ending clear in your head. How you get from one to other should be a natural progression. Let the tale write itself, let your cast speak.
4. Do NOT be in a hurry to write the Big Scene and forget to take/lead your readers to it first. Don't rush!


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