Starting the novel is easy. How do you keep writing it?
Here are the last three bits of advice that I recently gave a former student who wants to write his first novel. This is the same advice that I would give to anyone. The first bits are to start him writing. Today is all about how to keep writing.
These are the bits of advice every writer—fiction / nonfiction, prose / poetry, book / film / playscript—needs to succeed.
11] Set achievable writing goals.
Think weekly then divide into daily. Write your planned new words every day—
no exceptions except injury or major events (celebrations like family holidays and weddings and graduations and the like).
a] When I became serious about publishing—and it took me a year to
change my mindset from hobby writer to pro writer, a journey that I boiled into 7 lessons and shared in my book Think like a Pro—I started with 1,000 words daily as my minimum word count. That’s about 2 hours (think 2 500-word essays) (and practice has allowed the words to come faster). Since that first true writing year, I’ve upped my word count, and I celebrate every time I achieve more than my new minimum.
b] You can break up your writing sessions into smaller increments. Few of us are lucky enough to indulge in long daily writing sessions. Be realistic. Consider your daily obligations. Pick an achievable goal—less than you truly want, such as 500 words.
c] Maintaining this simple weekly word count will be the HARDEST thing you have done and will ever do. Maintaining it is CRUCIAL. The building word count of the manuscript helps you feel success. Fall off? Hop back on. Any extra words make up for the falling-off days—which will happen.
d] Don’t yourself when a bad week occurs. Every day is a new day. Every week is a new week. Returning to your devotion to writing is essential. The longer you are away, the harder it is to return. Writing every day makes much easier your recovery from the bad days and the bad weeks.
12] Track events.
Track what occurred in each writing session by outlining it afterwards on a simple legal pad. This has a dual benefit:
a] You don’t get bored with the story by planning too much beforehand.
b] You have a running list of events and basic info about scenes. When you finish, you can store this basic list, updated, with the final manuscript—which is helpful when you need to return to the MS months or years after.
Drum Roll, please.
Here’s the last bit of writing advice to help my former student to keep writing—as well as anyone else that these 13 bits of advice will help. Of course, with all advice, take it or leave it. What works for some will not work for others. However ~
13] End each session and begin each session with a jot-list.
a] The ending jot-list will list what should occur next. Never write until the words run dry. Write for your allotted time, then make notes about what will happen next.
b] Start a session by reviewing the ending jot-list then MAKE A NEW ONE before you start writing. Handwriting this list of words and phrases seems to engage the brain more than typing it does.
c] You may not be able to hit all of the ideas in the next writing session. Those ideas will then head into the next session—or will be held in reserve for the appropriate upcoming scene. Always transfer the ideas over. Never trash them.
- Your impish writing muse will not be amused if you trash ideas that she’s given you. Don’t offend the muse; she’s got prickly thorns.
d] These ending/beginning lists do not count in your daily words.
e] When you away from the writing session, going about your daily life, your impish muse will tickle your subconscious brain, and new ideas for your story will continue to develop.
There. That’s the 13 bits of advice for anyone wanting to start writing and keep writing a novel—or a nonfiction book.
The advice works for any type of writing, including emails at work.
Not-so-Shameless Self Promotion
If you truly want to write your first novel—or you want to complete that manuscript that you shoved into a drawer a few years ago because it wasn’t working, then Discovering Your Novel can help.
If the problem was characters, then try my Discovering Characters, just published, followed by Discovering Your Plot, which will present as many plot structures that I’ve encountered as well as their deficiencies and the plot structure that I personally find most helpful when analyzing all stories and when considering the writing of your own stories.
And if you are struggling with the transition from writing as a hobby to writing seriously so you can become a professional writer, you will find the seven lessons in Think like a Pro helpful. I have two different covers, the guiding lamp and the floral version.
Want something to keep you on-track with projects and word counts? Try the Think/Pro planner for writing, with daily word counts and project tracking, monthly & seasonal reviews and previews, and additional tips and guidance to help you with the transition from newbie to Pro. Here’s the link to the cover that matches for the floral version of Think like a Pro.
All links are to Amazon because I’m busy. As always, all the writing is AFM, all mine. Think like a Pro and the Think/Pro planner are available in print as well as electronic editons; the Discovering set is not yet available in paperback—that will happen in 2020. . .because I’m busy. 😉