Welcome to 2014!
It's a funny thing, isn't it, this need to create a fresh page every time December 31st strikes...? For centuries now, the world over has believed that a new start can be had simply because the calendar tells us it's 1st January. Now don't misunderstand me, I am amongst those who see the new year as an opportunity for a clean slate... but in reality we can have a glossy new beginning any day we choose.
If we only put our minds to it, we can achieve anything we choose. January 1st is almost like a bookmark in time for us, which is possibly why many of us see it as the ideal time to turn over a new leaf. How many resolutions have you made? I've made lots, naturally, perhaps too many but then, I always did like a challenge.
Resolutions and the need for a fresh start are closely linked to plotting and planning a novel. If you are planning to pen a novel this year, you'll need to learn how to plot your tale and how to plan your writing. These are two different things.
To plot a tale, you should first have some idea of what the tale is about. Even if you don't know the ending yet, or perhaps how it begins, you need to have a basic idea of what the story will say. Write down the key moments of your tale and put them into an order. This doesn't need to be the order the events happen in, but the order you wish the reader to come across them.
Once you have a brief outline of key moments, you can begin to thread them together using sub-plots and fringe characters. This is the fun part, making it all fit together.
My advice would be to have a thinly threaded plot line before you start writing. There is a school of thought that says you can simply write away and let the words flow. If this works for you then by all means get writing... but it didn't work for me, so I tend to favour the plotting route. I tried the free flow approach once and it did work beautifully, for a while, then I found I had written myself into a corner and couldn't escape.
You need to plan your writing time, your approach to the project and the details. For example, if like most of us you have another job to do too, you'll need to schedule your writing time into your routine, somehow. It is wise to choose a time that suits you creatively, if you can. If you find your creative thoughts flow best in the evening, pick a day that fits around your existing commitments and label this evening as your writing time. Tell friends and family that's what you're doing, and treat it as a job. You'll need to be disciplined if you want to succeed.
To plan your approach, you need to think about what you need to know before you can write your tale. This is research. For example, your main character may be a doctor. Do you know much about the working day of a doctor? You won't need to swallow a medical book, but you should do a little research into the average day for a doctor, the type of environment they work in, the kinds of people they deal with. Does your doctor specialise, work in a hospital, surgery, are they a local GP in a small town? You need to know this before you can write about it effectively.
To turn to the practical element of writing. I tend to plan how I'm going to write the novel. I work out the scenes, chapters and what will happen in each. I then plan the order I'm going to write these in. Now of course you don't need to keep to this plan, it can be flexible, but there will be days when you're not at your best, and on these days in particular it can be comforting to simply follow a path rather than have to think too much about where to start.
So, to resolutions, if you're going to tackle a literary project this year, whether it be a degree essay, a novel, book of poems, whatever takes you fancy; the best of luck to you and most importantly - don't give up! Nothing worthwhile is ever easy!
I wish you all a happy and healthy 2014.