With summer officially due to start in a couple of weeks, though you'd never guess it looking out my window in Auckland right now, now's a good time to be thinking of the writing tasks you can get done while on holiday. Christmas is a time for family and friends, for appreciating existing relationships and building new ones. It's definitely time for the beach, where I aim to spend a considerable amount of time. But January is also a good quiet time to catch up on writing tasks.
Things such as:
* take that unfinished short story out of the drawer and do an edit or rewrite. A good way to approach this is to set yourself some clear time and space and read it through in one hit - without a pen in your hand, or your fingers on delete keys. Get a feel for it as a complete entity. Ebb and flow, consistency (or not) of voice, development of character, a plot to keep the events moving in directions that add momentum to the previous scenes. Then go through it again with an eye to editing it. First read through is with you positioned as the audience, then the second is you as the crafts-person of the story. You need to be able to get a feel for both roles. Remember you're a reader as well as a writer.
* begin to take some of those story ideas you've jotted down this year and get a couple of scenes written, complete with characters, setting, voice, dialogue. So they go from abstract ideas to pieces you can see/hear/feel in the 'world.' You can't think a story into existence - you have to write it. A good story is organic, grows from its own seeds and roots.
* Contact a few people from your circle of writers and readers and discuss setting up a writer's critique group - or reinvigorate a group that has lapsed. Use some of the lessons we have here on Free Writing Tips page to re-familiarize yourself as to the technical points to look at. (Voice, Point of View, Characterisation, Plot, Structure,Dialogue etc.) It's too easy for writers to get isolated - don't let it happen to you.
* Think of a familiar story that you like and re-imagine it. Change or invent a new context, subvert some of the characters (hero becomes villain, bit-part player becomes main character etc.) Change the tone (comedy to serious or vice versa, serious to satire) Take a narrative from another context (a song, a painting, a poem) and re-imagine it as a story, or take a story and re-imagine it in another form. Do a genre switch (Western to Science Fiction or Fantasy - as George Lucas did when creating the original Star Wars.) These are valuable not just as idea generators but as practice to remember to get away from the familiar, from plots and characters you may create over and over (sometimes without knowing it.)
* Start drawing up a list of your writing goals for next year. Competitions to enter - and their closing dates. Subjects to study, books to read (as a writer, to benefit your craft.) Dates you aim to have your stories (or drafts thereof) completed by. Extra competencies you want to develop (guest blogging, a basic knowledge of marketing, how to make productive use of social media.) Think of what you want to have learned a year from now, what you want to have progressed and/or completed.
But don't forget to get to the beach, or to the mountains, depending on where you are and what floats your boat...