Writing a novel? There’s first-draft flow, and there’s editing flow. And then there comes a time when you think you might be done, yet the manuscript is still not quite “there.” To sell your work to an agent, and then to a publisher, and finally to a great many readers, put thoughts of flow aside now, and consider the following advice. Each of the guides mentioned is worthy of your careful attention.

The Shortlist:

For full explanations of each tip on the shortlist, click the link above.

Writers and other creative types aren’t immune to the impulse to start anew each time we unwrap a new calendar. I began making New Year’s resolutions back in elementary school, and at best, my resolutions, like most people’s, were always qualified failures. Yet there’s something highly symbolic about believing there’s a right time to start again. Give yourself the edge this year…


  1. Write regularly. That, for me, means at least an hour, five or so days a week. Five minutes here and there when the spirit moves me won’t count.
  2. Stare down rationalizations. No more “but blogging counts.”
  3. Clear the decks the night before, rather than leaving all those piddling tasks for first thing in the morning (my best thinking time). I will reduce my RSS feeds to the essentials, ignore junk mail, let friends wait before responding (though not too long).
  4. Set weekly goals. What worked when I was writing articles and my goals were very market-oriented (much like this writer’s), was to “have something in the mail every Friday.” Now, working on a novel, what counts is accumulating words.
  5. Carry a notebook when keeping or accompanying someone to a medical appointment. Rather than leaf through a magazine, I will make a few detailed notes about my surroundings to use creatively later.
  6. Read only very good novels. When a book I’ve begun reading is deeply flawed and annoying, I will stop reading it. No more “let’s just see what happens.”
  7. And finally, because I’m only too aware that people drop dead unexpectedly, I resolve to ask occasionally: Is the way I’m spending today the way I want to have spent one of my precious days?