by | Jan 8, 2021 | Jenny Milchman | 6 comments

by Jenny Milchman

It’s that time of year again. Happy 2021, Rogue Readers! I hope that whether these 12 goals resonate with you and become part of some fun to-do’s, or just provide interesting things to consider, they offer a lens into this thrilling reading, writing life that brings us all together here at Rogue Women Writers.

1. January It’s a fresh year, a blank slate, a blank page. I like to use this time to be intentional, envision how I’d like the next twelve months to go. I may not get exactly where I predict—heck, I may not even get close, especially if a curve ball is thrown in like, cough, a global pandemic—but it helps to set my year on course. Readers, what would you like your book year to look like? Do you want to read more, or differently? Writers, what kind of project do you picture taking on with a shiny new year ahead? Reach for the stars. Where do you want to go this year? 

2. February It’s the dead of winter and we need ways to warm up. Readers, what book would heat up your month? Maybe one set in a warm clime—think Randy Wayne White’s series in Florida. Or something with loads of action like Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X books—all that attacking works up a sweat. Thriller writers, turn up the heat on your work-in-progress. Get your protagonist in hot water, more trouble than came before. Insert a smokin’ plot twist.  

3. March Spring is in the air! A change of seasons is a great time to think about changing things up in your reading and writing life. If you’ve been reading one sub-genre, try a different one. Check out a spy or assassin thriller if you typically read domestic suspense. Or a book by a female author if you typically read men, and vice versa. Writers, this is the time to send your work-in-progress in a new direction, or unearth a particularly important clue in the thawing ground of your mystery.

4. April The cruelest month, according to T.S. Eliot. A time of taxes and flowers, rain and sun. April for me is about contradictions. One day it feels like summer, the next winter doesn’t seem to have ended. Take a page from the book of opposites and apply it to your reading life. What two authors have nothing in common? Have fun identifying a pair, then read one book by each. Writers, try working on two scenes or chapters at once—and make them as different as you can. Or just follow Eliot’s example and find a book that exemplifies cruelty—Thomas Harris, anyone?—then create the cruelest character you can dream up. 

5. May This is an easy month in some ways. Warm, anyone tied to the school year knows a break is nearly nigh, and even non-school birds are likely to enjoy the long Memorial Day weekend. Readers, settle in with an old favorite—one of those books we turn to again and again that reminds us of good [reading] times. Writers, time to give our characters a breather. Thrillers benefit when the relentless pace is interrupted every now and then; this lets readers appreciate it when the action kicks in. So give your story the equivalent of a nice, warm May afternoon. Then interrupt it! After all—summer is coming, and it won’t be all sunshine in the thriller world.

6. June Weddings, graduations, big events. Let’s translate that into reading and writing. Concretely, by checking out one of the great thrillers about marriage (try Robyn Harding’s The Swap) or kids at school (Lisa Lutz’s The Swallows is a swoon for me). Or figuratively—find a book to read that will be an accomplishment and milestone for you—perhaps a classic you’ve always wanted to read but haven’t. (Dostoyevsky is one of the first great thriller authors). Writers, could a scene in your work-in-progress use a milestone to further the plot? 

7. July Summertime and the living is easy. Except in the thriller world nothing’s ever easy. Vacation lit is a burgeoning sub-genre (you heard it here first. Well, maybe not first). Readers, check out Zoje Stage’s latest, Getaway. There are great vacay films in the thriller genre—a whole subset of survival ones like Outback and Backcountry. Writers, have you considered setting a book in a new and exotic location?

8. August It’s hot out and we can stand a little chill. Let’s do the opposite of what we did in the dead of winter and consider the cold lit sub-genre. Readers, check out Julia Spencer Fleming’s In the Bleak Midwinter, or S. K. Tremayne’s The Ice Twins or a King classic like The Shining or Misery. And writers, a great way to work the writing muscle is by incorporating weather into your work. I think of it in terms of the senses—a great writer lets us feel, smell, see, even taste the weather. Write a scene and make your reader shiver—physically and figuratively. 
9. September Even more than January, September feels like a new start to me. Readers and writers, take time to look back on where you have been these last eight months, and what you would like to do before another new year comes around again. Steam ahead toward a reading goal like number of books read? Dig into that tome that’s been sitting on your night table or e-reader? Writers, is it possible to complete a writing project if you give a big push now?

10. October This is my favorite month so I’m going to suggest we give that a reading and writing slant. Nothing but fun this month! Carve out your very best reading time. Want to spend a whole day with nothing but a good book and scrummy food? October’s your month. Let the fam know—or tell yourself—that you’re off chore-duty today because you Have to Read. You deserve it. Writers, give yourself a break on whatever part of the process is hardest for you. Are you looking for agents and hitting a wall? Hit the pause button instead. Stuck in the murky middle of your novel? Skip ahead to a scene you can’t wait to write. 

11. November Time to hunker down, for winter is coming. Haul out the afghan and put together a reading list, all the books you haven’t gotten to yet this year. Go to the library or bookstore—if we’re post-pandemic—or online and get yourself some reading treats before the cold weather and/or end of another year slams us. Writers, crawl deep into that work-in-progress, stay there till you’re so bleary-eyed you have to come out. You’ll be amazed at what you’ve accomplished!

12. December No matter what you celebrate, make this month a holiday. Host a book club party either in-person or virtually. Read a holiday-themed book. Authors, a slowdown is coming in the biz and even your editor will probably miss a few days looking out for that book that’s past its deadline. Emerging writers, give yourself a break on querying and use this time to gather trusty readers to critique your soon-to-be-finished book. After all, another new year is almost here to fill with reading and writing goals! 

Readers and writers, inspire us by sharing your ambitious goals for 2021!
Don’t Miss a Thing!



  1. Lisa Black

    Your reflection on April really struck me—it’s going to be a cruel month since my current work in progress, that is causing me stomach knots, is due! What a perfect time to think up a really cruel, breaking out of traditional bounds villain!

  2. Rogue Women Writers

    What a great list of books (many that I have not read – yet) to carry us through the next months. Also, the idea of setting monthly goals for both readers and writers is inspiring. I, for one, am endeavoring to write stories that are different from past endeavors as you suggest for the month of March. Thanks for these ideas for the coming Year — hoping it will indeed be a much better New Year…..Karna Small Bodman

  3. Chris Goff

    You’ve made me think about the book in progress, and about what so want to read. Seems I read mostly thrillers, suspense and mystery these days, with research! Time to choose something more eclectic.

  4. Carla Neggers

    Ooh, inspiring! I’m starting the year with a long TBR list and look forward to adding to it.

  5. Michelle Rodenborn

    Thanks for the fresh takes on new year’s planning!

  6. Jenny Milchman

    Love hearing everyone's fun new year's attitudes! Happy 2021, Rogue Readers and Writers