New Stories for the New Year

by Kim Wright

The nerd in me loves New Year’s Day.

Not New Year’s Eve – the paranoid in me once talked to a psychic who seemed quite sure I had once, in a previous lifetime, been pushed off a potato truck in Ireland by drunken revelers on New Year’s Eve and left to die in the snow. Not that I believe in such things. Not exactly. But it’s true that I’ve never liked snow or potatoes and I feel a vague unease as the countdown to the ball drop nears. (“Too many drunks,” I mutter and even on those years when I’m among them, I don’t feel really safe.)

But I digress. The subject of this essay is New Year’s Day, that sobering dawn filled with fresh starts and new possibilities and promises to oneself that this year is going to be different.

In my developmental editing business, the Story Doctor, I am predictably thronged with requests at two times of the year.  The first is early September, when that “back to school” feeling seems to kick in, no matter how old you are, and the other is right after New Year’s.  The January emails I get often have a similar theme, which is “This is the year I’m FINALLY going to finish that damn book!”

Most of us are haunted by a TDB. Your personal That Damn Book may have 400,000 words or just be an idea that won’t quit nagging at you, but the desire to finish projects is very strong this time of year and, while it makes one a little restless and uneasy, I think there’s real energy in this sense of reentering a manuscript with renewed determination. If you can harness that energy, it gives the winter a sort of magic for writers.  The empty space of January, February and March stretches out before us, giving us more time and fewer excuses.

So what do you need to turn this resolution into reality?  I’d say two things:  A solid, mathematical, downright nerdy plan and a circle of writing friends to keep kicking your butt when your commitment lags.  Structure and support are the non-negotiables when it comes to making writing a consistent part of your life.  How much do you need to do each day, each week, each month? Who will you show your work to, in what volume, and when? When will you take breaks, when will you finish, and are these dates on your calendar?  Taking some time to consider these questions now will mean that when you face that big open prairie of the blank page on January 1…it may still be scary.

But at least you’ll have a map and your posse at your side.

Kim Wright is the author of five novels—Love in Mid Air, The Unexpected Waltz, The Canterbury Sisters, Last Ride to Graceland, and The Longest Day of the Year. She is also an experienced nonfiction writer who has won awards in the field of food and travel writing. She teaches in Charlotte Lit’s Authors Lab, as well as at other regional programs including the Flatiron Writers Room in Asheville. As the Story Doctor she specializes in the developmental editing of novels.

New Stories for the New Year: Ready to get unblocked? To find a writing schedule that really works and finally finish that draft? In this class, we’ll look at how published writers meet deadlines and keep producing work no matter what their mood, their self-doubts, or the distractions life throws at them. (Hint: Willpower has NOTHING to do with it.) We’ll explore the myth of motivation, how to establish a protocol that works specifically for you, and even tackle the thorny issue of a work in progress that just isn’t progressing. Do you double down and force yourself to finish, or is January the perfect time to explore new ideas and make a fresh start? This class is lively and interactive, so be prepared to ask plenty of questions and freewrite on a variety of prompts designed to make writing fun again. Members $45, Non-members $60. Thursday, December 19, 6:00 – 8:00 pm, virtual via Zoom. Register Here.