Start the New Year Right
Are you in any one of these positions?
Started a new novel idea
Have been sitting on a novel idea for a long time but don’t know how/where to start
Struggling to get through the first draft
Desperate to finish the first draft
Whether you have just started a new novel or are in the middle of one, a great New Year’s Resolution is to get it finished!
But, of course, that’s easier said than done. What you need is patience, enthusiasm, and dogged determination.
Here are a few tips that will help you make the dream of a finished draft a reality this year.
Set aside time to write and actually stick to it.
I find it really hard to stick to schedules I have set for myself. The more detailed they are, the harder they are to stick to. If I tell myself I will write 1 chapter every day between 3pm and 4pm, I likely won’t do any writing at all. My brain will say, ‘oh well, 4pm has been and gone so you don’t need to write today’. Wrong.
It’s much easier to set a more loose schedule, in my experience.
I aim to write a chapter a day, working on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. This way, I can schedule my writing time at the beginning of each day.
Don’t give your writing time an end point, if you can help it. Otherwise, you’ll procrastinate looking at the clock, or you’ll be in the middle of a paragraph when 4pm rolls around your brain will suddenly clock off.
Lots of people say you should do a small amount of writing every day. Kudos to you if you can manage this, but when I write, I spend hours doing it (I simply can’t put in the odd 10 minutes here and there), and I simply don’t have enough spare time in my day every day.
Plotting and planning.
I am a firm believer in the organised mind. Plot and plan your novel before you do any writing (unless writing ideas are literally bursting out of you!). You want to keep it all organised and understandable so that whenever you turn to your writing, your notes are clear, readable, understandable, and usable.
If you can (and haven’t done so already), buy Scrivener. It is a total life-saver. Scrivener is a software designed for organising large pieces of written work. It can organise your thoughts for you and makes the planning and writing process ten times easier.
Don’t expect beauty to come flowing from your pen.
Your first draft is not going to be beautiful. You first draft isn’t there for anyone to read but yourself. The purpose of your first draft is simply to get the story onto paper. Lots of people begin their novel enthusiastically and make the mistake of reading over the chapter. The chapter is not at all what they wanted it to be and they end up telling themselves they are not good enough.
Write your draft and don’t look back! You can fix bad sentences, typos, and others problems later. Do your best to switch off your internal editor as you write your first draft. If your internal editor gets too dominant, you’ll end up writing two pages and deleting those two pages over and over again.
I edited my novel, cut chapters, and rewrote chapters about 50 times. I feel it is now ready to go to an editor.
One of the phrases that always inspires me to write: You can’t edit a blank page!
Mix it up a bit.
It’s never good to sit in the same place day in, day out, staring at the same screen or same piece of paper. You need to get up and move a bit.
The same goes for writing.
If you’re tired of staring at your computer screen; if you feel the dreaded writer’s block coming on, switch to paper; switch to that ancient typewriter in the attic, sit outside and write. Do whatever you can to change your circumstances and let your brain relax.
It is also important to get up once in a while, do some exercise, get out of the house, visit a friend…
If your brain is tired, don’t push it or you’ll become frustrated. Give it a rest and do something else.
If you’re stumped for ideas, try using writing prompts. I use pictures and film soundtracks to kickstart creativity. Others use quotations, or they read a book, or go out into nature.
There are many resources that will give you random writing prompts to help your imagination flow.
Try Writer’s Digest’s writing prompts:
This is a pretty awesome article:
Just google ‘writing prompts’ - there are hundreds of them.
One of the most simple prompts is ‘what if?’ Ask yourself:
What if the lonely woman got the courage to talk to the guy?
What if there was a natural disaster?
What if two long-lost friends bumped into each other?
Don’t worry about wasted time.
You’re not going to have a perfect writing day every day. Sometimes you’ll try and try and nothing will come out. Maybe you have a routine that gets you in the zone? A specific food or drink that helps you think? Sometimes these just won’t work.
Perhaps you’re stressed or busy? Perhaps you’re tired or ill? Maybe you need a break? Maybe you need a walk in the fresh air? Or maybe - just maybe - today isn’t the right day for you.
It happens to us all.
Don’t get annoyed at yourself. Keep calm, do something else, and your mojo will come back without you even realising it.
Happy writing, everyone! Keep at it!